Death AND Goodness in the Land of the Living

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Psalm 27:13-14  I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

What does despair really mean anyway?  The dictionary defines despair as losing all hope.  Have you ever been there? Does that describe how you are feeling today?  If so, I believe that it is by no accident that YOU are reading this right now! David declares in the above Psalm that he would have been in the same place you have found yourself in (without hope) had he not BELIEVED that he would see the goodness of the Lord this side of Heaven.  He made a choice to believe that He would see God’s goodness even though His circumstances did not change right away.   Believing meant he had to wait on God.  I know we do not like to wait. ever. But believing followed by waiting is key.  I believe that our God super-naturally and graciously imparts to us just what we need to push through and push forward when we choose to believe.

Believe + wait = strength + courage + hope + peace + trust + Joy

Though, at the moment, you may not be able to see anything “good” IN your circumstances, we know that God IS good and because God is good, His goodness CAN be experienced in the midst of our darkest moments, in the here and now, no matter what that “now” looks like!  As Christ followers, we believe to see not see to believe!  SO, look for Him, wait for Him….EXPECT to see His goodness revealed even BEFORE your mess changes.  I understand that some of your hopes and dreams may not be alive and well in the land of the living.  I get it! Actually, you may be having to grieve the death of some of them, BUT God!!  Friend, no matter how painful, hurtful,  devastating and unwanted your losses or you mess may be, GOD desires to pour out His goodness upon YOU, His beloved daughter!

Psalm 23 is often quoted at funerals and rightfully so,  but I have come to love this scripture in walking through my own valley of the shadow of death.   Death of my marriage,  death to my dreams and death to what I thought my life was supposed to look like.  Despair tried too many times to count to take up residence in my heart and mind.  Believing that God was with me and that His Word trumped my feelings and despairing thoughts helped me to rise up from the ashes in the valley and keep walking through the darkness…  Sometimes, actually many times,  it took the prayers and encouragement of my faithful friends and church family upholding me and pouring God’s love into my broken heart.  That, my friend was part of God’s goodness that I was blessed to experience.  His goodness is there all the time, we just have to have eyes open to see it!

What about you?  What hopes and dreams have you had to grieve over?  While the enemy roars defeating accusations to your vulnerable self,  God’s Word for you declares that there is reason to HOPE in this valley of death.  HE is our shepherd, HE walks with us in the valley and He comforts us.  He brings us through to bring us out and when we come out we are never the same.  As God’s chosen daughters, His invitation to walk us THROUGH brings transformation and treasures we take with us as He leads us OUT.

Psalm 31:19  says “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind!” I want to draw your attention to the word ABUNDANT.  You could easily exchange that word for plentiful, liberal, bountiful,  or even galore.  Let me ask you, do you fear God?  Are you His child? Do you take refuge in Him? Then this promise is for YOU! God has an abundance of  Goodness galore…that is stored up just for you! Stored up means it is ongoing, it will never run out! It is there when you need it! OF course, the devil would like to shout to you otherwise and cause you to lose all hope and stay and live in his prison of despair.  Don’t do it! Believe God’s Truth and live in freedom that keeps you free no matter what you are facing! HE is with you my friend, and HE will not fail you, no, not ever! EXPECT to see God’s goodness galore, WAIT for it. Be strong, be courageous, TAKE refuge in GOD and HE will bring you through this valley with goodness and mercy as your faithful companions.  Rise up dear sister, and believe that you WILL see God’s goodness in your midst! There are many rising with you!

No Turning Back

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After a lengthy season of engaging in travailing prayer for a specific heartbreaking situation, weariness can set in. Especially, if what you have been praying for seems to be going way south…. heading in the opposite direction of what you have been praying and believing. You have done all you can do. You know you are praying according to God’s Word. You have believed with all your heart and still, you wait. However, the winter season has been long. Your wait is losing its strength and your hope of change is fading. Maybe you are praying for the healing of a close loved one or friend and you hear the devastating news that it is time to remove “life support” or maybe you are told that hospice has been notified.  Maybe you are praying for a spouse whose choices have destroyed your marriage and you can know longer deny the evidence that God is preparing your heart to let go. Or maybe it is a son or daughter who is headed down an extremely dark path that has left your heart immensely broken as you struggle to find a way to rescue them only to finally accept the fact that you can’t rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued. Oh, help us dear Jesus! How do you keep from being taken under by discouragement? How do you NOT take on offense towards God? In these times, deep seeded discouragement begins to wrap itself tightly around your bleeding heart and instead of healing the wound it only works to squeeze all joy and hope out until there is no peace. 

I understand. The struggle is real. After one phone call, overwhelming joy that I enjoyed just minutes before, quickly dissipated. Discouragement and hopelessness became my companions. I felt myself starting to cave into my own pity party. It was at that moment that I felt this question evade my broken heart. It was if Jesus was asking me, “What if you don’t get what you are praying for? What if the very thing you want to happen more than anything never happens? Will you STILL trust me?” It reminded me of the question that had been placed before me in the past, “What if I never answered another prayer, will you still love me?  Will you still allow me to be your Father?”  These are the moments that question our faith and cause us to wrestle with our beliefs, motives and even our own selfishness. Will we stay committed when we don’t get our way or will we turn away from Jesus just as many did because they did not understand what he was doing?    

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)  And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:60-69 

There have been hard moments in my wrestling when I have been reminded of the above scriptures.  Sadly, I understand those who thought His sayings were “hard”.  I understand the disappointment of things not going as they thought they should.  I understand the offenses that can come from not understanding His ways.  God’s Word tells us that some disciples turned back from following Jesus because they were offended by Him.  They did not understand so they let their misunderstanding lead their heart away from the ONE who could save it.

Jesus then turns to the twelve disciples and basically asks if they want to turn back, as well.  There is something about His question that causes me to pause.  To camp there a while.  My heart tries to imagine what Jesus was feeling at that moment.  Rejection is hard…even for Jesus.   As I think about the times I have asked that question in my own mind regarding relationships that I have had, I feel grief.   Going through a divorce magnifies those kind of thoughts and demands losses you never saw coming.  It is heartbreaking.  So is life.  Rejection is just part of it.  I am thankful to know that Jesus understands.  He gets it.  That is enough for me.  That is all I need to know to surrender my losses to Him and let them go.   I appreciate Peter’s response to Jesus.  He was not offended by Him, only committed to Him.  No turning back for him.  In my own wrestling and in the midst of unanswered prayers, I too, like Peter realize that no matter how much I don’t understand His ways, Jesus holds the words my heart needs to hear.   His invitation to surrender and stubbornly plant my messy self in the safety of his loving sovereignty and amazing grace trumps the bate of offense that satan offers.

More than answered prayers, more than things going my way, more than understanding the why’s of life, I need Jesus.  Not so much for what He can do for me this side of heaven, but for what His extravagant love has already done for me that guarantees my happily ever after in the next.  What love!  He has proven Himself faithful to me in the past, no matter how my heart perceives the trials and tribulations that may be in my future.  God is STILL trustworthy.  He is STILL faithful.  His plans are GOOD.

Matthew 11:6 says, “And blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is he who takes no offense at Me and finds no cause for stumbling in or through Me and is not hindered from seeing the Truth.”

Friends, allowing ourselves to become offended towards God is a real issue.  It can happen.  How will you respond when your prayers aren’t answered that way you wanted?   What about when you don’t understand…when the questions come?  Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we do not take on offense towards Him and allow it to take root in our hearts.   Throughout my seasons of heartbreak, I can boldly proclaim that I have been sweetly blessed! God’s Word to me has never failed to lead my heart through the valleys and dark places I never thought I would travel.   It has not at all  been easy but I decided a long time ago that there is NOTHING worth losing my relationship with the Lord, nothing! Not unanswered prayers, not misunderstanding, not offense, not bitterness, not divorce, not disappointments, not brokenness, not pain……NOTHING!

What about you?  Sweet friend, can I encourage you to search your own heart?  Do it before the hard things come.  Determine that you will not let ANYTHING cause you to turn back as many did.  Allow God’s Word to be the compass of your heart and NOT your misunderstanding of His higher ways.   Remember His faithfulness to you in the past.  Remind yourself of how very much He loves you.  Let His truths be your anchor in the wrestling.  Just like Peter, let’s follow Jesus and determine to not turn back…ever.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18

 

 

Faithfulness in the Midst of the Messiness

 

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Not so long ago, I found myself in a hard place. Maybe you can relate.  It’s one of those times when your whole life seems off kilter. You try, you pray, you surrender, you try some more and STILL can’t seem to have peace and respond in a manner that lines up with who you are as a daughter of God. Well, it was in the midst of that hard place that God showed my stubborn self what my problem was. You see, I was praying for God’s help…I wanted to choose HIS ways over my own and to be faithful and obedient to His Word with my actions, yet I failed many times over. Why? Because I kept allowing my thoughts to center around what was right BEFORE me instead of the ONE who was FOR me! It doesn’t work! Faithfulness comes only by keeping our eyes on GOD and desiring obedience to His Word MORE than attempting to control our circumstances. Honestly, we can say all the right prayers but if we get up from our knees and go right back to focusing on our mess then our strength and courage will be quickly depleted.

Can I encourage YOU today? Sister, if you KNOW God has called you to remain FAITHFUL where you are, don’t challenge your obedience by focusing on the situation, the difficulty, the person, or the pain. That is just a set-up for defeat. Instead, focus on GOD and you WILL move forward in PEACE and in HIS strength and favor!

As a wife, mom, friend and daughter of God, walk worthy of your calling! Yes, it may be painful and difficult, however, if you are at a hard place where you KNOW you can’t move one inch forward without the Grace and presence of GOD almighty then get ready to experience Christ in a brand new intimate way! This is called growth. Your burdened heart WILL experience beautiful blessings as you push through. Don’t miss them. Stop long enough to SEE them, to see HIM….Jesus in the midst of your mess. He IS right there with you!! Focus on HIM!

It is SO easy to get distracted, to become so preoccupied with what is right in front of you that you forget what God has previously showed you about the season that you are in. I get that!

Your marriage may be difficult.
Your child may have broken your heart.
You may be sick in body.

Dear one, I do not know what your facing this very moment but what I do KNOW is that the ONE who calls you to be FAITHFUL is the FAITHFUL One! He will equip you, empower you, and sustain you to respond in faithfulness to who you are as His beloved daughter! The TRUTH is, in Christ you have ALL you need to be who He has called you to be right now, in this place, in this moment, in THIS season!

Friend, there is beauty and blessings to be found in your midst, all you have to do is change your focus and be willing to be obedient to God right where you are.

Faithfulness brings favor, fruitfulness, and freedom!

Let’s be intentional with our thoughts and walk in faithfulness in ALL areas of our lives starting today, no matter what our messy looks like! Because our messy invites God’s mercies as we choose to act in obedience to HIS Word… to God be the Glory!!

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24

Now the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

As a prisoner for the LORD, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1

Our New Normal

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It has been just short of two years since my divorce.  For the first year and a half, thinking about entering into a new relationship has had no appeal.  Instead,  I lived with an intentional guarded heart as I  poured my time and energy into my children and in the quiet moments, gleaning over all that had previously transpired.  It was a precious season of healing and blessings in spite of the many court dates, the attorney fees, the forced bravery and the utter unbelievable craziness that had unfolded. However, within this defining journey, came the realization of how very distracted my mind had been throughout the longevity of my marriage, by the way, which never served me nor my children well.  I was overly occupied with fighting for my marriage and for my husband.   This is not a bad thing…for a season.  However,  being on this side of that battle shows me that I was fighting a war I would never win without losing myself in the process. I am not talking about the lose-yourself-like-Jesus-sacrificial way but the lose-yourself-like-your-heart-doesn’t-matter kind of way. Yet, I was determined.  Many of my days consisted of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about doing all I could to keep my family together while dealing with my own personal brokenness and pain.   Were my children taken care of? Was I a good mom? Yes and yes! I loved them the best I knew how at the time.   Actually, they may not even have noticed how distracted and even broken I was, after all,  it was normal to them as this had been life as they had always known it.  I had learned to wear the mask well and hide my messy self behind my stubborn faith and relentless hope that things would get better.  However, I know in my heart that my preoccupation with my, then husband, and his issues is what occupied a huge space in my thoughts and with my actions.

It is interesting and yet, sad to me how we can learn to live with brokenness and weeping wounds, for YEARS for the sake of marriage, children, reputation, and what you think is the “biblical” way for those who claim to follow Jesus.  The pain is always there no matter how hard you try to pray it away.  However, God is so faithful! He is right there with you in the middle of your mess. He is so very gracious to His daughters whose only desire was to grow up, get married, have children and live their happily ever after.  Am I the only one?  I don’t think so!  Maybe you are reading this right now, and you can relate.  I can tell you, my God never left me.  His sweet presence enabled me to rise, if only my head at times, from the pit that had become so familiar in a twisted yet comfortable way and I am utterly thankful! He saw every gut wrenching tear and I am wholly confident that He even divinely protected my heart from things that I still to this day, do not know a thing about.  AND, I am okay with not knowing.  I know enough.  Exposing lies and secrets became my dreaded challenge time and time again.  However, the uncovering of hurtful things never got easier, never.

My prayers for my, then husband, and our marriage were not answered the way I, and so many others had prayed and hoped, and I am okay with that now, too.  He had his issues and I had mine.  We were both broken, just broken differently.  By God’s undeserved and extravagant grace, He rescued me.  The lie that I had held close for so long was gently and unashamedly exposed.  To let go of my marriage was not, by no means, giving up on God NOR my faith.  It was quite the opposite. Trusting that my God had brought me through only to lead me out took MORE bravery and MORE courage and challenged my faith way beyond what this girl could ever muster.  Instead of gaining a healthy marriage, I gained something so much more than I even have words to express.  I gained Christ. Yes, I know… I was His daughter throughout but I have undeniably experienced a deeper level of his amazing grace, his presence, his love, his strength, his faithfulness, and his blessings like I had never experienced before.   All this in the midst of my broken, unpredictable and unintended journey. That to me, is worth SO much more than answered prayers.  What I have experienced is something that no earthly relationship can ever compare to, at least that’s my broken girl story, for now. 

I am not shameful of who I was all those years.  I tried. I tried REALLY hard to be the best wife I could be and the best mom I could be.  I strived to do everything I could to fix us, to fix him, to make it better, to hide the hurt and to survive.  I was not at all perfect nor was I a “holier than thou” kind of wife.  I had my sins, my struggles, and my shattered heart that wanted control so that I would not get hurt, again.  I own it.  AND I have released it, forgiven by my Father whose extravagant love for me overshadows the broken girl that I have been.  If not for the grace of God, where would I be?

Subsequently, the first year following my divorce I found freedom.  Freedom to be the mom I had always longed to be buried beneath the insecurities, the confirmed suspicions and a wounded heart.  My kids captured my complete attention.  They are who I built my life around.  Them and Jesus.  We needed each other.  They needed to know by my priorities that they had someone in their corner.   Someone that they could depend on. Someone who would love them, invest in them, and love them unconditionally.  And I needed to know that I could do this single mom thing with the Lord up girding me, day in and day out.  Life as we knew it had forever changed; new home, new school, new job, new friends, and only the three of us.  And yet, our faith was our constant companion.  Our God never changes even when we feel ripped to shreds in the confines of the crazy and the messy.  Even when our heads were bent low attempting to escape the new labels and scary statistics that the world threw at us, particularly me as a single mom.

Since then, we have pushed through, we have stood together, strong though broken.  We have experienced God’s sweetest blessings through the relentless support of family, faithful friends, church family and Pastors. We have proven that life can go on after such brokenness and that we can even laugh, smile, and enjoy our space again. The beauty of God in our midst is the light that has invited confident hope in the darkest places of our hearts.  It has not been easy.  I will not candy coat any of it. There has been more hard stuff and more brokenness to walk through that caught me blind sided.  That. is. life.  My “word” for 2017 was surrender and that is exactly what I had to do time and time again.  Hitting the carpet in abandoned surrender was truly my survival arsenal.   AND yet, again, God has been so faithful.  HE has been our Anchor that has held us steady through the most horrific storms.  I am abundantly thankful!

A new season is within reach! I am looking forward to the future God has for me and for my children with expectancy and anticipation and maybe, just maybe I will find love again and if not, that’s okay, too! My God is faithful!  My God is enough! I am one blessed girl that has learned that trusting God does not always mean our marriages will be saved or our journey will look like what we had desired or even prayed for. 

What about you?  Has your life taken you on an unintended journey?  Have there been gut-wrenching prayers that seemed to go unnoticed and unanswered?  Sweet sister, God has heard every single one!  You and I can be fully confident that our loving and gracious Father is creating beauty from our ashes, purpose from our pain and preparing us for our eternal ever after!  So be it, Lord!