Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Life Stinks

Have you ever wondered why you’re just not happy?  Why your heart is so restless?  Maybe you keep saying or thinking things like: 

I want a new job.  I want a new spouse.  I want more money in my bank account.  I want a bigger house.  I’m so tired of this health sickness.  Why can’t I exchange my kids at Wal-mart like I can a pair of shoes? 

It may be that we are miserable because we’ve chosen to be.  I know, you just got upset, because if I only knew what you’ve been through or are going through.  Beloved, I’m not trying to downplay the pain you’ve been through.  Yet, I also believe some of us are miserable and we don’t have to be but we are because of the attitudes we have chosen in response to our pain.  Life is full of unexpected circumstances, things far beyond our control.  It’s a choice how we respond to those circumstances and I believe we can actually have joy and be happy even when we’re experiencing pain and disappointment.  It’s called contentment and it comes from trusting God and not putting our hope in our circumstances—but in His Word. 

God has really been teaching me what contentment means lately.  Contentment means that I don’t have everything I want but I choose to trust in and thank Him for His sufficiency in my life resting in the fact that He has given me everything I need to be completely happy and content. 

Do we really believe that God is enough and that His love can truly satisfy?  Because if we did, we’d stop striving for more and we would be much more thankful people.  Thankful even for the painful stuff, because we believe by faith that God is using all of it to draw us closer to His heart and grow our faith.  God always acts of out love for us.  Always.  Yep, even in the struggle and in the pain, He’s acting out of love.  Don’t believe me, peruse the Scriptures that talk about suffering and see what God has to say about it.  I think you’ll be surprised to see the element of hope and goodness, which God tells us, comes through it. (Rom. 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, Gen. 50:20, James 1:12, Heb. 12:5-11, Rom. 8:18)

The more I rest in the Father’s love and complete control over my life, giving up my restlessness, and choosing to always be thankful the more satisfied I find my heart to be.  It’s here we find, that we don’t have to keep running and striving anymore because He is enough—more than enough. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Joy Through Pain

I’m tired.  I’m hungry.  I ache.  I’m hot.  I’m a punching bag.  My stomach feels like Gumby, but I’m not Gumby…I’m pregnant. Yes, this is the beloved last trimester of pregnancy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely ecstatic that I am pregnant and I will endure because I am waiting for the amazing day that I will meet our precious baby and hold him in my arms.  Wow, that makes it all worth it, doesn’t it? 

I keep thinking about how this relates to our walk with Jesus (sorry people this is just how my brain worksJ). 

I believe when we desire deeper intimacy with Jesus Christ there will come a time when life gets really hard.  It’s like having a baby and going through the last trimester and birth.  We have an Enemy, he doesn’t play by the rules and he wants us to give up on going deeper with Jesus.  So when life gets tough, the pain becomes unbearable, the accusations, the guilt, and the shame gets stronger and stronger—that’s the Enemy trying to deter you from walking into deeper intimacy with Christ.  He knows your freedom is sure in Christ so he’ll do everything he can to bring you to doubt God, filling your heart with unbelief and despair to keep you stuck.   Beloved, your God has deeper freedom for you through His Son.  Press on, trust, and rest!  Remember who you are in Christ, an overcomer and more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37, Rev. 12:11).

The reality is, if we want to become like Jesus and grow in intimacy with Him, we will suffer and struggle. 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

God uses what Satan has intended to harm us to make us more complete in Him.  THAT’S THE TRUTH.  God is in complete control of our lives and nothing He allows is beyond His control.  Surrender it all to Him, stop holding on, let it go and let God transform your pain and grow your faith.   He can and will use it for His great glory and for a deeper intimacy with Christ.  Like the pains and discomfort of labor, it is totally worth it.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Faith, Doubt, and Desiring a Sign

Have you ever had to be double sure about something?  It’s why double check we locked a door, turned off a stove, or take two pregnancy tests (not that I’ve done that…).  There’s something in us that isn’t easily persuaded, but drawn to skepticism and doubt. 

So when it comes to our relationship with God and this whole walking by faith thing, let’s just say it doesn’t always come easy.  Remember the story of Gideon? THE Angel of the Lord came to Gideon and told him, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14)  Gideon then goes on to talk about how small his clan is and how he is the least in this father’s house.  (Don’t you love it how God chooses the people who appear to be the weakest and least capable to do His mighty unexplainable work?)  Gideon then asks God for a sign, so God gives him a sign by consuming his sacrifice with fire.  Ok, so you think Gideon would be ready to rock n’ roll for God, right?  Nope, he’s still a skeptic.

What comes next is the part of the story I think we are a little more familiar with.  Gideon tests God with the fleece and not once, but twice.  Three times Gideon asks God for a sign and every time God showed up.  Now, I’m not one for testing God and I don’t believe God will always answer our prayers for a sign.  I believe the majority of the time He’s going to ask us to trust Him in faith, to wait, and watch for His hand of provision, like the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea (Ex. 14), the priest who carried the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River (Josh. 3:14-17), or the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16).  Don’t know the stories; look them up, God called these people to a pretty radical faith and I believe He’s calling us to the same kind of faith.  Sometimes God will show us a sign like Gideon and once He does, receive it as a gift and move forward with your God into the impossible.  However, don’t get upset if He doesn’t, stay close to Him, keep praying, seeking and believing.  Beloved, He is faithful to His Word.  Don’t forget, God used Gideon even though he was the least in his father’s family.  Do you feel weak?  I don’t have any doubt God can use you to do something mighty; He’s all about using people who think they can’t do it.  So, what is God calling you to?  It could be a place of service, a new career, forgiveness of those who’ve hurt you, or a place of deeper surrender in your marriage or family.  Obey Him in humility and dependence and just watch Him show off His great glory. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Pregnancy Story and the Fear of Loss

So, it happened.  I got scared.  I became afraid of losing our baby boy.  I talked about this fear before due to my miscarriage and how I was sure it would happen again sometime throughout the pregnancy.  Well it did.  It happened.  A few things led up to it, things out of my control.  Things that happened to others around me and this conversation at the doctors office 5 weeks ago…

“We couldn’t get a good look at his heart, but everything else looks fine.  If you didn’t have your appointment with Dr. Abrams (the high risk doctor) in two weeks we would have to do another ultrasound.”   

Trust me people when you’re a gal with a cardiac history, open-heart surgery at 11, and a pacemaker at 28—this is not something you enjoy hearing about your baby during their 20 week appointment.  I wanted to hear about his heart.  I wanted to know he had his dad’s heart and not his mom’s, but I couldn’t know I would have to wait.  Jesus, I trust You.

Thankfully, we went to the high-risk doctor two weeks later and our hearts were put at ease as we learned that our baby’s heart looked wonderful.   Thank You Jesus.  Deep breath. 

Yet, within those two weeks of waiting I can recall being overwhelmed with fear for a couple of days.  While meeting with a dear friend of mine I shared this fear, and let me tell you this friend of mine she is a prayer warrior.  We prayed together over this fear, and it was as if right there in that room Jesus lifted the fear right off of me.  By God’s grace, it’s been about a month since then and I haven’t felt the fear since. 

It tells us in James 5:16, Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Now, I wonder how often we don’t share the pain of our hearts out of fear and pride.  Go with me here.   Asking for prayer means that we have to be vulnerable and open ourselves up to the fact that we are weak.  That takes guts to do sometimes doesn’t it? 

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize how much I need the prayers of other people.  By God’s grace I’m learning just how powerful it is to admit my weakness and need for prayer.  We need both individual and communal prayer. 

How about you?  Are you asking others for prayer or burying the cries of your heart?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Unmet Desires: What About You?

I hope you were as blessed as I was by the guest post series on Unmet Desires.  I was challenged by Stephanie’s words, “the old desires will undoubtedly be replaced with new, more complicated struggles” and Heather’s, “I was set on finding my hope and joy in Jesus Christ alone.”  How easily we forget that there will always be unmet desires throughout our lives and how important it is to wholeheartedly set our selves on finding our hope and joy in Christ.  Cassidy’s words also challenged me to praise God even for the painful times when she wrote, “I lift my hands in praise to Him as never before, and thank Him for this pain.”  Whoa, easier said than done sometimes!  Yet, it brings deep freedom as we let go of the bitterness and unanswered questions, choosing now instead to praise!  Becky’s words reminded me of the importance of perspective when speaking about her unmet desire, “He has the best perspective on how they’re going to be fulfilled.”  We often think God should do it one way and when it doesn’t turn out that way we become confused, but when we reflect as Becky did, we see that God knew exactly what He was doing all along.  Emmi’s beautiful words touched me deep within when she wrote, “There is nothing on this earth to compare to His intimacy. He has used this unfulfilled dream as an open door for a richer relationship with Himself that is so unbelievably satisfying my words can’t describe it.”  God desires for us to find our ultimate satisfaction in Him alone, so often He will allow us to be without something so we learn to feast on Him and nothing else for our satisfaction.  When we come to this place, we find He is more than enough for our unmet desires; He’s what we were after all along.

What’s your unmet desire?  I know I have had them, have them, and will continue to have them throughout my life.  These women found hope and deep satisfaction in Jesus Christ.  Our unmet desires are opportunities to seek the face of God, to walk more intimately with Jesus, and to be more dependent upon the Holy Spirit which brings us to the place where our hearts can say—Jesus you are more than enough for me, even if I never have____________. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Learning to See my Desires Through His Eyes

Ever since high school, I’ve had this desire to be a missionary. Somewhere along the line, I went on a short-term cross-cultural mission trip and got “hooked on missions” and have been ruined ever since. I’ve done everything I could think of to “become” a missionary. I went to a Christian college and took all the missions classes offered while getting a degree in something practical (nursing) so I would have marketable skills if God called me to a creative-access country. I went on multiple short-term trips to see if there was a specific place I felt like God was leading me. I signed up for an eleven-month trip to quite a few places because I thought surely God wouldn’t let me go all the way around the world and not bring me back to one of them. I came home from that trip unsure of my next steps, so I settled down, got a real job (which was actually a really good thing - it’s hard to do a lot in the nursing/medical world when you have no experience. and there’s something about obedience), and tried to adjust to “normal American life.”

The problem was, I wasn’t cut out for normal American life.

I wasn’t satisfied with the place God had put me. I had this itch that wasn’t getting scratched and this void that wasn’t being filled.

After a season of obedience to the mundane, I decided it was time. I figured God hadn’t given me this desire for nothing - He had to have something in store for me. So, I quit my job, packed all my stuff back into my car, moved it back across the country to my parents’ house, and headed back overseas for what I thought was “it” - the time I was finally going to be a missionary.

Except it wasn’t quite that smooth or planned out long-term. I signed up for a short-term assignment with an organization as a “test the waters” gig, so I had no long-term commitment. The country I headed to was in political turmoil (my organization actually called me a few days before I was scheduled to leave, unsure if I should even go because of everything that was going on). My three-month commitment turned into only 5 weeks because of aforementioned turmoil, and then faster than I even knew, I was back in the US. I felt like I failed.

So I did what any sane person who wants to be a missionary would do - I found a different country with different people and a different organization and a completely different strategy and planned to move there instead. I signed up for a two-year commitment with a team of 4 other women, and moved to said country less than a year later with three of those women (through various circumstances, one had dropped out of training and preparing before we left). I was living the life I thought I always wanted, the life I felt like God had picked out for me over 10 years before. Guess what, though - it didn’t work. I ended up back in the US after only 6 months. I felt like I failed. Again. I felt like I missed what God was saying to me, like I missed the calling He placed on my life.

I felt like this desire I felt God had given me to “be a missionary” was never going to be met.

But maybe, just maybe, I missed something long before that. Maybe I missed what it meant when He called me to be a “missionary” in the first place. See, I thought He gave me that desire so I could magically transform into this saintly person who lived in some really cool place overseas and help fix people’s problems, and that hadn’t happened.

But maybe what God was calling me to wasn’t so far off from what He’d brought me through; I just needed a perspective shift. Maybe it wasn’t that I heard Him wrong, but that I got my definitions messed up a little.

See, He’s met so many of the desires He’s given me, even if they weren’t quite how I envisioned them.

He met my desire to live and serve overseas (and has provided me with the opportunity to call multiple places home for a month or more).

He met my desire to travel as well as experience new cultures (and try my hand at learning new languages).

He met my desire to mold together my gifts and abilities with serving Him (nursing and loving people well go hand-in-hand in my book).

He met my desire to have a family I can call my own (even if they are of all ages and nationalities and scattered across the whole entire world).

He met my desire to grow in my relationship with Him and my unspoken desire to trust Him more (and honestly, that’s been one of the hardest, because I didn’t think I needed as much growth as He’s provided).

He met my desire to continue to learn about the world and the people that He has placed on my heart by allowing me to enroll in classes and read textbooks while I’m here in the USA (and hopefully someday He’ll allow me the opportunity to take what I’ve learned practically and put it to use experientially, meeting people where they are).

See, it’s not about Him not fulfilling the desires He gave me.

It’s about me realizing that I need to look at my desires through His eyes instead of my own. They’re desires that He has given me, so obviously He has the best perspective on how they’re going to be fulfilled.

And yeah, I don’t have it all figured out yet. I’m still sitting on my nice couch in my nice house in my nice suburb and wondering what in the world I’m doing; and maybe someday I’ll get to understand the process He’s taking me through, but for now, I get to keep working through all those “unmet” desires and see how He’s working.

Bio & Disclaimer:
Becky is a single 20-something who’s not sure if she’ll ever get married or have her own kids (but that’s another “unmet desire” for another day, and God’s working on her heart with that too). She currently works as a school nurse for an inner-city district (which is not all “putting bandaids on boo-boos” - sometimes she has to save lives!), she loves to run and got hooked on distance running about a year ago with her first 25K race (she’s done a full- and half-marathon since and is running another 25K in a couple weeks), and she likes to travel to anywhere on a plane, train, bus, or hiking trail can get her. Oh, and she loves Jesus with all her heart and has been on a crazy journey of trust with Him for as long as she can remember.

Also, she doesn’t really like the “m-word” and tries not to use it when talking about herself. See, she’s still pretty sure she’s going to end up in one of those creative-access places where that word isn’t allowed, and that just wouldn’t go over well. So please don’t link this to her blog or facebook page. Just be careful with how you share it, okay?