There is nothing-no circumstance, no trouble, no-testing that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a GREAT PURPOSE, which I may not understand at the moment. As I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will ever cause me to fret-for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is- that is the rest of VICTORY!!!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It is good........

Have you ever had a picture hanging on your wall and regardless of how many times you tweak it, it always seems to be higher on one side or lower on the other side. Every time you walk through the room you slightly raise one corner this way and the other that way and you step back and think for a few minutes it's fixed. However, once again as you walk away and glance back over your shoulder you find it's still not perfect. It drives you crazy and annoys you, it grabs your attention whenever you are near. You feel like its a losing battle, it's exhausting and so instead of just being content with the slightest imperfection of its alignment you revisit and fix it again and again.

You tell yourself, ok, that's good, that's enough, it's finished. But honestly the enemy says otherwise, he interjects in those moments where your heart tries to be content and says "it could always be better, you can always do more and the work is never finished." As I lay in my bed at night the imperfections of my day ring loudly in my ears, I struggle with believing that it really is ok, that it's good and enough. I think of all the ways I have fallen short, I start beating myself up and wondering why can't I just do it right for once. Whether it be a task I'm working on currently, my job as a wife, mom, or friend, even just my ability to handle the circumstances thrown my way for the day it's obvious I could have done better.

Does this sound familiar, do you too struggle with this tug of war battle? We can often be our own worst enemy. We place these unrealistic expectations over our lives and continually tear overselves down when we don't reach them. After talking with a friend last week she challeneged me that each night as I lay my head down on my pillow to really try and be content with my day, to look back over the events that had unfolded and to say "it is good." As we read in Genesis God created the heavens and the earth, the birds and the trees and at the end of each day He said "it is good." He never said, "it's ok I guess but I really should have.........."but He said "it is good."  

Genesis 1:31 (AMP) "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (suitable, pleasant) and He approved it completely."

I love this translation of Genesis 1:31 because it not only says "it is good" but he said that "He approved it COMPLETELY." He had not one ounce of discontent but was COMPLETELY satisfied. Each day it is our responsibility to live to the fullest, submitting each moment, task and opportunity to the Lord by putting our best effort into all of them, that's it, that's enough and that's ok. It may not always turn out how we had hoped but continuing to beat ourselves up is from the enemy, it's placing this unrealistic expectation over ourselves.

As we read on we find that once God was satisfied with His work He then rested. Genesis 2:2 "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." 

There are moments where we must passionately peruse the tasks the Lord places before us for the Gospel but there are also moments where we need to allow ourselves to rest in His presence and be satisfied with sitting in His lap instead of tirelessly chasing perfection. God doesn't want perfection, He wants broken pieces placed at His feet with an expectant heart for His love and grace to consume us and fill us.

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me all who are burdened and I will give you rest."  

Over the past few weeks there have been things happen that are completely out of our control but yet I still wanted to take fault in them. I still wanted to take responsibility in fixing them and instead of just removing those standards from myself I felt angry that I couldn't just do something about them. I even denied myself the ability to be imperfect, to be broken, to be hurting. I was so badly chasing days 1-6 that I denied myself day 7, a day of rest, a day to melt in His arms and not worry about doing something but just being comforted by the comforter. The thoughts within my head said over and over "why can't you just get yourself together, why can't you fix it, this person would have handled it much better." Instead of reaching out my empty hands and allowing God to use the pieces that were left, instead of it being enough I kept trying to move the edges of the picture just slightly to fix it on my own. I allowed the unanswered parts of our circumstances to pick and nag at me, I struggled to gain control and to just get it right.

I don't know what your facing today, I don't know what responsibilities God has placed in your life but I do know that if your doing your best than it is ENOUGH. As you go to sleep each night, look back over your day and say to yourself proudly, knowing you did it with your entire heart "it is good." Allow your efforts to be approved completely by Him and on the days that you need it the most give yourself the grace to just......REST!

Jesus, we thank you that through You we are enough. We pray that each morning as we face the day that you would work in our efforts, work in our hearts and help us to give our very best and know that through Your eyes "it is good." We pray that in those times where our own expectations try to take over and the enemy tries to drag us down that we would be reminded that You are pleased and proud of us. We commit each effort to You daily God and believe in our hearts that our work is approved COMPLETELY through You. In those times Lord where our hearts are overwhelmed I pray that you would remind us to rest in Your safety and security. We love You Jesus and trust You with this battle today. Amen

Friday, April 26, 2013

Abandoned to Your Will Jesus.....

In the moments where the hurt cut so deeply the only salve to sooth my soul is Jesus. When the winds rage around me and my mind swarms with confusion I find myself pressing tightly against His chest and the tempo of my being flowing calmly to the melody of my Saviors heart. There are moments where my humanness wants to cower in a corner in fear and my heart tries to resist the troubled waters of my circumstances. At times I even feel like I want to run and fall apart but then in the midst of my broken desperation His strength rises up within me and the longing in my heart to glorify Him and become more like Jesus leaps forward. "Lord, I don't want to waver through unbelief regarding Your promises, but I desire to be strengthened in my faith and give glory to You, God, being fully persuaded that You have power to do what You promise" Romans 4:20-21. As difficult as our suffering in this life can be it's in those moments where our strength runs out, its in those moments where we feel like we have fought tirelessly that we realize the closeness we have found in Christ.

"I'll lift my empty hands come fill me up again. Have Your way my King, I'll lift my eyes again." Sidewalk Prophets

I love that verse in the song "Help Me Find It" because in those moments where we are so incredibly broken and all we can do is lift our empty hands, our hands that are ready to receive the blessings God has for us. "Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10. In this life there are often moments that take us off guard, there are moments where we don't have the answers and we can't be in control but as we abandon ourselves before Christ "He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine" Ephesians 3:20

Right now I don't know what the future holds for my life and our family. I know we have a difficult battle ahead and so today I put my trust in Jesus the author and perfecter of my life. I cry out to Him and trust that through Him we are MORE than conquerors and although the battle wont be easy I know God will sustain us every second of the way because in His word He promises to "never leave us nor forsake us"  

"Lord, I pray that one day I will begin to consider my precious losses gains for the sake of Christ as You use my suffering, my life, and my testimony. Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I want to gain You, Christ, and be found in You" Beth Moore.

"The cross that Jesus commands you and me to carry is the cross of submissive obedience to the will of God, even when His will includes suffering and hardship and things we don't want to do. It is a willingness to totally, absolutely, irrevocably, and finally yield our lives to Him because we want what He wants more than what we want." -Anne Graham Lotz

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fearfully and wonderfully made.....

The more I learn the more I am completely amazed at how intricate we are as humans. When God created man it wasn’t a black and white stick figure sketch on scrap paper, but a three dimensional being with a fierce protective outer body and delicate inner pieces encompassing depth, feelings, and impulses. There are more than 200 types of cells that make up the human body all formed with different characteristics based on their specific function and design.  

Psalm 139:13-14 "For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my mother’s womb I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful."

Before we are even born there begins this miraculous process and level of functioning within our bodies that involve some learned behaviors or cognitive skills and others that are done unconsciously. As our hearts beat 60-80 times per minute we don’t sit by and push a button to control each valve as it opens and closes to pass blood through our bodies and organs but instead it’s an unconscious process. It’s like a gigantic control center tucked deep inside where secret codes and signals are transferred carrying out various levels of functioning until all those sections work together as a whole. 

One of the most complex systems within our bodies is the nervous system. The nervous system makes up all the electrical wiring in our bodies to transport nerve impulses and signal emotions, reflexes, and directions for our organ systems functioning without us even being aware it’s happening which is one of those unconscious phenomenons. A few nights ago Scott, my husband, and I were watching a show called “Brain Games” on the National Geographic Channel. Sitting there I was completely blown away at how our human bodies develop an instinctual response to certain stimuli based on patterns or cognitive thinking. The most fascinating was the different ways our sight develops a response pattern. 

They showed different videos which highlight a particular image in the center and then blurred out all the objects on the outside of the center. It represented what is called “Intentional Spotlight” where our brains focus solely on the object at the center and completely misses very important details on the outside. They did another study called the “Oddball Effect” where a series of pictures were shown. They used two images, a kitten and a boar. They flashed the picture of the kitten 3 times in a row each for 1 second then they showed the boar once and then the kitten again once. Because the boar showed a break in the pattern our minds made us think that picture was displayed for a longer period of time on the screen when really they were all the same. Scientifically this whole thing is amazing to me how our human minds compensate and develop a pattern of thinking and unconscious reaction based on a particular chain of events sequentially. 

When we go through hard times in life it’s easy for us to have the same reaction over and over. We develop this pattern of protection against the pain and we find ourselves focusing only on the big roadblock in the center, we develop that “intentional spotlight” and although in our hearts we know God has a purpose for everything else surrounding us we get caught up in what’s right before our eyes. We struggle to see the big picture and forget that the very God of the universe who loves us more than we can ever imagine sees every piece of the puzzle and has a clear and precise view of the entire picture before us. We develop that “oddball effect” where the very thing that takes up so much time and energy in our lives seems to completely consume us. Even when so many other good things are happening around us, even when God is showing us blessing after blessing the enemy holds up that one picture of the very thing that is breaking us down and that’s all we can focus on. The good news is that God can break every pattern of negative thinking, God can step into the most hidden places of our being and seep into our minds and transform our thoughts. God can take that impossible situation and set you free from the chains it has over you and open your eyes to a beautiful picture of hope and purpose. 

“Leap up at the sound of this promise! Believe it. Let it go down into your souls. ‘The Lord looseth the prisoners’ (Psalm 146:7) He has come to loose you. I can see my Master arrayed in His silk garments. His countenance is as joyous as heaven, His face is as bright as a morning without clouds and in His hand He holds a silver key. ‘Where are you going, my Master, with that silver key of Yours?’ I ask. ‘I go,’ He says, ‘to open the door of the captive and to loosen everyone who is bound.’ Blessed Master, fulfill Your errand!’ Charles Spurgeon

Throughout this past week the enemy has tried to cloud the vision of my heart and cause me to loose sight of all that God is doing. He has tried to cause my eyes to only focus on my trouble at the very center and forget that God sees the big picture over my life. The enemy has tried to defeat me, overpower me, crowd me into a dark corner cut off from the very things in my life that pour joy and purpose into my life and just when he thought he could win, just when he thought he could lock me away as a prisoner to defeat there stood God at the door of that prison cell and in His hands was a key, a reminder that because He sent His Son Jesus I NEVER have to be a prisoner to the hurts of this world EVER again!  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Most Beautiful Reveal....

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:11

A few summers ago we decided to take on a family project and grow butterflies. We started with larvae that turned into caterpillars that turned into cocoons and then eventually we had the most beautiful monarch butterflies. It took a while to get from start to finish but when that first butterfly hatched from its cocoon and the beauty of its new life spread its wings for all to see it was worth the effort. I remember thinking throughout the process though of how much effort, time, and patience it took to be still through their transformation. There were parts that were yucky, parts that seemed boring like there was nothing happening, and even along the way a few didn’t survive. But we sat nearby patiently waiting their big reveal.

Life can sometimes feel like that long, painful process of transformation. We know that God has this big beautiful plan and reveal eventually but it’s hanging on through the hurt, its hanging on through the seasons, it’s about having faith that because God is who He says He is, because God is faithful and “works all things together for our good” that He will come through. As we have faced a difficult week this week I honestly have struggled with understanding Gods purpose over this season of our lives and then I was reminded of the butterfly bracelet I bought on vacation last summer. 

 At the time I thought it was beautiful and wanted a memento to remind us of our trip together as a family but tonight as I wear it on my wrist I am reminded of the promise that we have through Christ, the promise that regardless of how tough the journey seems, how steep the mountain becomes God is working passionately on each intricate piece of our lives and transforming them to fit perfectly together for a beautiful reveal.The even crazier part is that I have had a cross lamp sitting in my living room for 2 years and tonight as I was sitting and thinking I looked over at the softly lit lamp and noticed painted beautifully right in the center is a blue butterfly. 

 Thank You Jesus for Your whispers of hope tonight, my heart is moved.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All in a name......

There is something sweet about the name of Jesus. When I speak His name my heart is overcome with peace and safety. When asking what I love about Jesus I feel overwhelmed because I can't just pick a few characteristics and encompass them in a tiny box, but I can bask in the concept that what I love most is that He is ever changing. The love of Christ knows no boundaries, no rules, condemnation, fear, anger, sadness or pain. The love of Christ keeps no records of wrongs, imperfections, shortcomings or brokenness. The love of Christ is unconditional.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" Ephesians 3:17-19

When I first asked Jesus to come into my heart I saw Him as this higher authority sitting above me just waiting for me to fail, I saw Him as an angry and unforgiving God who couldn't wait to scold me when I fell short of His power and authority. I saw Him as a rule enforcer and I often felt like I was chasing my own tail trying to measure up but yet falling short and having to start over. After awhile I wondered what all the fuss about being a follower of Jesus was about because from what I had experienced it was exhausting and miserable. I saw an overflowing joy radiate from others around me and I thought to myself "seriously, who wants to be happy about being fearful and constantly trying to be perfect. Then I realized all along I was trying to fall in love with the wrong God. I had to start over and realize that when I mess up God isn't waiting to punish me but His heart is broken because of the sorrow I'm subjecting myself too. I had to realize that Jesus is gentle, tender, gracious, merciful and loving.

In Jesus, God put his whole heart on display for the world to see. In Jesus, my love for God is renewed. In Jesus, the fullness of God's bigheartedness is revealed. I don't know what it is about him, but something about Jesus steadies me. His words breathe life. His actions impart hope. His life inspires action. It's not just his selflessness-that he would die for the redemption of others. The very act of coming to this world as one of us-the incarnational element of Christ-is so revealing, so compelling. Jesus gave up the comforts, pleasures, and beauty of heaven to be reduced to human form in a rundown stable in a less than popular area of town. He was literally born into the stench of this world, and he embraced those in it. He went after the untouchable, the unapproachable, and the questionable" Margaret Feinberg

That is what the sweet and loving name of Jesus means.......

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flawless beauty........

As I stare at the little Mason Jar sitting on my mantle I see hues of red and yellow bursting from within. Six beautiful red tulips with their petals stretched open and three yellow daffodils freshly picked from my backyard, my heart smiles. Honestly, I don't know anyone who doesn't love fresh flowers. For me when I see fresh flowers I see this flawless beauty and growth signified. I especially love walking by a vase of flowers for days and days and watching each day as the petals open themselves up to the world more and more until its hidden center is exposed. Its a process though and watching the flowers go through stages I am reminded even more about the delicate mastery that it takes to grow such beautiful flowers. 

I must admit I have tried for the past 4 years to grow flowers outside of our home and it seems like regardless of what kind of flower I use or which spot I choose to plant them I am terrible at it. They always start out beautiful and I have this anticipation and optimism that "this time they are going to last." Then the next thing I know I am too busy to water them, or the sun is too intense or not intense enough and I end up ultimately with shriveled up green leaves. It seems so simple but it takes patience, and perseverance and somewhere between dropping them in the ground in June and mid July I am DONE!  One thing I have learned though is that even if I spend all the time in the world watering the flowers, trimming the dead ends and making sure they have the perfect amount of lighting the most crucial detail for the whole process is the foundation that I start with. Its not what I do mid July but what I do the very first day I put the bulbs in the ground. 

Matthew 13

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Sower

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  

Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:19  
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

The Parable of the Sower is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament. I think back over different times in my life and trials and struggles I have faced and the honesty of this Parable echoes forth. If we were to act out this Parable on Sunday morning and break it down to the 3 scenarios described I could find myself easily fitting into all three roles at one time or another in my life. As a teenager I heard people talk about Jesus but it just "wasn't for me." I merely allowed the enemy to prey over me and peck at my imperfections and struggles because I wasn't ready to allow Christ to be Lord and protector over my life. When I was 18 I decided to give my life over to Jesus and there was this excitement and optimism in my heart but after awhile my talk didn't match my walk. I wanted to love Jesus and allow Him to lead my life but I wasn't ready to surrender all the "stuff" and allow Him to really move into the depths of my heart. This was what the Parable described as "someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy, but since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the world, they quickly fall away." After a series of difficult events in my life about 5 years ago I found myself at a fork in the road. As I glanced out over my life I realized that although I played the "part" my foundation wasn't in Christ. When the paradigm started to slightly shift and the chaos started to swirl around me, when my circumstances became difficult and started to waiver so did my trust in God. It was in that fork in the road moment where I had to decide whether or not "this time it was really going to last."
Like my flowers planted in June I had to decide from the very beginning whether the soil which I would plant those roots in would help promote growth or only be temporary nourishment that would eventually lead to death. Although we still have to fight against the odds towards growth when we plant our roots deep in Christ He will grab a hold of us and hold onto us through whatever storms come our way. "The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" Isaiah 58:11. When we choose Christ as our foundation and really spend time pruning and watering that relationship He will continually nurture us, love us, be patient with us and always stay right by our side and help us to persevere and grow into the most flawless and beautiful creation that we could ever imagine. 


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Calm the Storm...

After an exhausting day yesterday at the doctors I wanted nothing more than to put on my sweat pants and veg out and get away from the chaos. With so many emotions and so much information I felt a little on overload, still believing that God would grant us wisdom and direction in His timing although I wanted Him to make sense of everything right now. As I crawled up next to my 7 year old daughter Macie before tucking her in bed we started reading in Matthew.

We began a 6 month reading plan a week ago to help us read through the New Testament so Macie and I have taken the challenge together. It’s a lot for a 7 year old and me on some days but it’s helped her with reading and me with being accountable each day because I know she is looking forward to it and counting on our time together in the word. So far we have read about Jesus birth, Passover, Jesus Baptism, gathering the disciples, healing various people and it’s been amazing but as we read through our assigned reading last night my heart was reminded of His promises. It’s always amazing that regardless of what we are facing in life we are loved by a purposeful God who knows how to use His word to penetrate the very depths of our hearts and comfort us with His hope that passes all understanding.
Matthew 8: 23-27 “Then Jesus got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

There are times in life where it feels like God has left you, it feels like you are sitting in a boat in the middle of fierce winds and crashing waves. Everything within you trembles and shakes and it’s a constant battle to quiet the fear that keeps creeping up. With a difficult surgery and recovery approaching soon for us I feel like we are sitting in a little rowboat and the rope that was tying it safely to shore has been cut. As we float slowly away from the safety of shore the clouds start to darken and the winds begin to blow, we know a storm is on the horizon but we continue to hold on. In those moments where fear starts to creep up within my soul the hope of Jesus is ignited. Just when I feel like He has left me He stands up in the middle of that little rowboat and calms the storm within my heart and quiets the chaos of my circumstances.

“When the waves rise against me and the wind tries to draw me away
I will stand on the mountain, safe in Your arms I will sing I will sing

Be still my soul, be still
Be still my soul, be still
Wait patiently upon the Lord
Be still my soul, be still”

-Kari Jobe “Be Still”