Looking Back, Moving Forward

Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time know that I begin each new year with a verse and a word or theme for the year. My verse came to me in looking-back-moving_thumb.jpgNovember. In so many ways I was blown away by it. It fit. It was right. It was time. But first, last year God worked in my heart to destroy some idols that had deep roots. God showed me that “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord ’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence” (Ps 24:6)

It was a hard year looking into the heart and seeing those things and people who had become more important that my relationship with God. But mostly I saw that my biggest idol was self and the need to control. So for the largest part of the year God had me study who He is. I mean what better way to destroy the idol of self then to see who God truly is. When we come face to face with the Holiness of His character we have no choice but to bow in humility and surrender all that we are.

So in November when God brought me to Is 61:7 my heart was deeply moved. Isaiah says “Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs.

You see, my life verse is “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted ; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners ; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn…” (Is 61:1-2) So this verse spoke loudly. Not only because I had spent a year looking into the character of God and seeing my utter sinfulness and my enemy often tried to have a field day with pouring shame and humiliation upon my head but God had also used the study of His character to apply deeper balms of healing to my soul.

When God binds up the brokenhearted, frees the prisoner and brings good news to the afflicted we should shout for joy! Somehow I have lost the importance of joy, His joy. God has healed me of my sin, of my abuse, of my afflictions and so much more so instead of shame and humiliation there should be joy.

This is my journey for 2014, to find joy in all life’s circumstances. I was so moved by the fact that Everlasting Joy can be mine that I began a new blog titled Everlasting Joy. I believe this is the beginning of a new season. A season of finding joy in Christ alone. A season of finding joy in all of life’s circumstance because my joy is found in Him alone.

Thank you for joining me. I look forward to this walk with you. Eventually I will move Quiet Reflections over to Everlasting Joy, I think. For I am not sure I can keep up two blogs!

You will make known to me the path of life ; In Your presence is fullness of joy ; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps 16:11

 

Photo courtesy of  Stoonn at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

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A Desert Journey

Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth ; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert…Isaiah 43:19

It seems that it is God’s good pleasure to continue to allow me to journey through a season of wilderness. A season of wandering in the desert. Of isolation. It’s been three years since I began this journey.

a desert journeyIt’s not my first journey here, but it does seem to be my longest yet. Desert wanderings are always hard. Just like a physical desert our lives feel barren and hostile. It can be a desolate place, exposed and unprotected. We often are left feeling isolated from kindred sisters, friends and acquaintances.

It’s interesting to me that when we journey through the wilderness each must journey alone. Yes, there are others here, but each have their own road to walk. And while we can share, support and encourage others in their wanderings we each must focus on our own lessons that God has for us here.

I have learned that there are 4  things to remember while traveling through the wilderness.

  • Do not compare: We can not compare our walk with others. No two will ever be the same. Comparing our wilderness journey only brings discontentment, discouragement and bitterness.
  • Do not rush: We must also be careful that we do not try to rush through the journey. The time we spend here is never wasted. God has a reason for our time here and we must remember that sometimes the journey could take days and other times it may be years. Rest in the knowledge that God’s timing is always perfect.
  • Stay nourished: When traveling through the wilderness or desert we need to remember to stay hydrated. The plants that survive  in the desert grow very deep taproots in order to soak up as much water as possible. In fact many will grow to be more than 100 feet and have a huge networks of toots that spread out in all directions. The believer stays nourished in the desert by growing strong roots in the word of God.
  • Look for joy: There is much beauty to be seen and tasted in the wilderness. It may be a bit harder to see, but if you look for the blessings you will see them. You will experience the joy that can come from your desert journey. Joy comes when we remember that God knows  about and sees our journey. He is with you through every step and He will meet your needs.

We all will experience a season of walking in the wilderness and feeling isolated. Let us remember that it isn’t always a bad thing. It’s not always due to sin. Often it’s in the wilderness that we learn and grow to rely even more on our God. It’s here that we learn that He truly is sufficient for every part of our lives. So if you find yourself in a dry, isolated desert then seek God with an even greater thirst. Stay in the word and keep your eyes on Jesus.

If you are not in a desert place then prepare for the time that you will by growing your roots deep into the word of God.

 

He changes rivers into a wilderness And springs of water into a thirsty ground ;  fruitful land into a salt waste, Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.  He changes a wilderness into a pool of water And a dry land into springs of water ; And there He makes the hungry to dwell, So that they may establish an inhabited city, And sow fields and plant vineyards, And gather a fruitful harvest. Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly, And He does not let their cattle decrease. Psalms 107:33-38

 

  “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all that you have done ; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”‘Deut 2:7

The Battle of Hiding and Transparency

The last few days I have been wondering why am I so content to hide. In fact I prefer to hide. It’s my safe place, my default. The truth is there are many who prefer to hide also. We’ve been hiding for a long time, ever since Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. 

Maybe as women, we will always revert back to hiding. But it’s not what we were made to do. Christ came to set us free from guilt and shame. He came so that we could freely be who He created us to be. So why do we hide?

Hide - Copy (2)We hide because we are afraid. We have been wounded by others. People have sinned against us and we have sinned as well. We think that if we hide we will be safe, that somehow we will be protected. But protected from what? Another rejection? The betrayal of a friend or family member? Suffering? Pain?

We hide because we are afraid that others will see who we really are. We fear that they will see that at times we can be weak and frail. That we struggle and that sometimes we are even “needy”. Why do we feel that we must wear this mask of perfection and strength?

We feel  judged, shame and fear …so we hide.

In Staci Eldredge’s book titled Captivating she says “We become good at hiding. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing with drawls. We hide our truest selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe.We act in self-protected ways and refuse to offer what we truly see, believe, and know. We have spoken in the past and been met with blank stares and mocking guffaws. We will not do it again.” No truer words have been spoken. So often we do only offer what we think others want to know about us and we hold back the truest forms of ourselves.

I too have a real tendency to hide, to try and protect myself against more hurt or possible judgment. I believe though, that God has been calling me to be more transparent. God wants me to be honest, open and real. He wants me to be sensitive to the needs of others, to be available, trustworthy and most of all- to be a grace giver.

But I’ve tried this before. I have found that sometimes people just aren’t comfortable with our “confessions”. They are not truly open to accept the messiness in our lives. They will judge, misunderstand and your relationship may never be the same.

If I would become a grace giver to all those I meet would that not make others feel that they could be real with me? If I began to openly share my heart with those around me, regardless of what others thought, wouldn’t those around me do the same?

So what shall we do? First we need to understand that there is a balance between hiding and revealing too much. Second we must discern between those who are able to hear our weaknesses, struggles and sin with grace and those who can not.

So when and how often do we share our burden? What parts do we share? It’s kind of like getting a physical wound. If we injure our selves and begin to bleed we don’t just go around bleeding all over everyone. We bandage it up so that the healing process can begin. Sometimes the wound is too big for us to wrap ourselves and we need help, so we go to someone capable of helping. Once it’s begun to heal, we do not pick at it so that it bleeds, thus starting the process all over. No, we allow it to heal. While healing there are those who will ask about our wound so we willingly share-but only when asked. We do not run around shouting “Look at my wound!”

Our emotional wounds or life struggles are similar. When we are going through something we know those we can talk to, those who are safe and trustworthy, who will help in the healing process. So we go to them and allow them to help “bandage” us up. We do not run around shouting “my life is awful-woe is me” to anyone who will listen. One reason we do not do this is because they may not be able to understand the depth of your struggle. They may not be able to handle your burden.

On the other hand if someone notices that we are struggling and ask us about it, we certainly should share with them instead of saying “oh everything is fine.” But, again, we do not want to walk around “bleeding” all over them. We can be be open, honest and willing to share when God gives us the opportunity to do so without going into great details or making huge confessions that other may not be able to handle due to their spiritual maturity or lack of.

I am finding, especially as an “older” woman and/or a leader that women want to know about my struggles and how I walked through them. They want to know they are not alone in their struggles. They need to see the power of the gospel being lived out in the life of another. So I need to be more willing to share when asked. I need to allow others into my life, so they can ask questions. I need to be honest enough to share the work God has done in me in order to bring glory to His name.

One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness, and will shout joyfully of your righteousness.  PS 145:4, 7 NASB

Father, help me to be a grace giver. Help me to willingly open up my heart and my life so that you alone might be glorified.

Where is God in Suffering?

Today I want to share a few thoughts with you about God’s sovereignty and how I have understood it applying to my life when it comes to suffering and abuse.  I have known suffering and have walked the journey of healing from abuse. I can say today that I would not change anything that has happened in my Little Girl in Classroom 2000life, because I know that God has used it for His glory. I am often asked how I could say that knowing what I’ve been through. So this post is in response to that question. This is my response to “how can you have joy in suffering and where is God?” Before I share my thoughts just let me say that I realize that depending on what you are dealing with this could be a hard truth to accept. It was for me, it took quite some time before I could fully accept and trust in the sovereignty of God.

I do understand that no one would choose to go through tragedy or live with abuse. Unfortunately we live in a world filled with sinful man. God says that mans heart is evil and because it’s evil children are taken advantage of, they are abused. People, young and old die. God has given man a free will and sometimes there are victims of others sinful choices. Yet to say God isn’t sovereign over these areas goes against who scriptures says God is. God does not stand idly by and let things happen, He is in control, He is sovereign. Our destiny is not in our hands, or in the hands of other people. We are held in the hands of our heavenly Father, who controls everything.

One thing we need to understand is that “from the rise and fall of government to tomorrow’s weather to the exact location of every human being, the universe is under God’s control. He has the power and authority to do exactly what pleases him, anywhere he chooses to do it. God’s sovereignty is not only about power and position, but also about a plan.”(Paul D. Tripp) Scripture is pretty clear about God having a plan for this world and for each one of us. God calls us unto himself, He forms us into His likeness, and He is preparing us to live in eternity with him. To the human eye things may seem out of control, both in our individual lives and the lives of the world. But at any given time of the past, present and the future God is accomplishing His plan. His plan is being accomplished when we see “good” happening and when we see “evil” happening.

I know that there is evil in the world, and because God allows man to have a free will, and because of the evil choices of man, there are victims. Not only does bad things happen to people but evil happens to people. Evil happens to us and then we have to live in the aftermath of it. But to say that God is not sovereign over that is to not understand the God of the Bible. God is good, God is in control and God is sovereign over all things. “In God’s wisdom and sovereign will every trial in a Christian’s life is ordained from eternity past, custom-made for that believer’s eternal good, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Nothing happens by accident, not even tragedy, not even sins committed against us. Unless the Bible is wrong, nothing happens outside of God’s decree. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing pleasant, nothing tragic. Every sorrow we taste will one day prove to be the best possible thing that could have happened. We will thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials he sent to us here. Truth is clear according to Acts 9:16; Phil 1:29; 2 Cor 1:5, Acts 14:22; Rom 8:17 (and others) the Christian is called to share in Christ’s sufferings. Simply put- Christians will suffer in this world. Evil can only raise its head where God deliberately backs away – always for reasons that are specific, wise and good, but often hidden during this present life. Satan has to get permission, he operates under constraints.” 1 (Luke 22:31)

Am I saying that it’s God’s will for a child to be repeatedly raped by her step brother or a step father? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that God chooses not to intervene with the free will choices of man, even evil men. But for those who surrender to God and trust in Him He will use these evil acts in our lives for good. He will help us heal. He will use it for good, for our good and His glory. That which man does to us in order to destroy us God can use for His glory.(Gen 50:19) 2

Unfortunately we don’t always know why, and as humans we think its our “right” to know why. Trusting God must be enough. The best answer we have is “God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthen our commitment to him, force us to depend on grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, spend our time wisely, stretch our hope, cause us to know Christ better, make us long for truth, lead up to repentance of sin, teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow, increase faith, and strengthen character.”1

So it comes down to this, I choose to trust in His sovereign will for my life whether I understand it or not. I must choose to walk in what I know is true today. The past and what I’ve been through needs to be seen as part of my journey that God has used to get me where I am today. Would I choose to be sexually abused? NO! But I can accept it as part of my journey to who I am today. I can accept it as I allow God to use it in the life of other women. In a few weeks I will be meeting with a young woman whose mother sold her into prostitution and because of the suffering I experienced I will be able to relate to her.

Each of us may have that event or circumstance we’d like to change, but instead of living in the past of guilt, shame or regret we need to live a life that accepts that God wasn’t caught by surprise. He didn’t take His hands off you at that moment. Trust instead in His sovereignty, Trust that all things work together for good to those who love him. All things – both good and bad, whether we have sinned or been sinned against.

Am I joyful that I was abused? No, but I can find joy in knowing that God will not let it destroy me. I can find joy in knowing and trusting in God’s goodness. I can find joy in who He IS!

 

1 Tada, Joni Eareckson ,  Estes, Steve. When God Weeps:Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty. Zondervan (October 1, 2000)

2  Story of Joseph can be found in Genesis chapters 37-50: “But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Gen 50:19-20

Yet, You are Holy

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy… Psalms 22:1-3

holy

Life is hard. Death is all around us. Nations falling. Power and Greed rule the land.

Yet, You are Holy!

Marriages fail. Children abandoned, broken and murdered. Homelessness. Starvation.

Yet, You are Holy!

Dying Churches. Watered down gospel. False teachers preaching.

Yet, You are Holy!

Sickness. Suffering. Pain. Tears fall. Hearts broken. Sorrow overwhelms.

Yet, You are Holy!

“…O, You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.” Psalms 22:3-5

We can find true joy when we realize that no matter what we face in this life the character of God remains constant. He is and will always be Holy, Trustworthy and will never disappoint.

Father may we cry out to you in trust. May You alone be trusted for our deliverance. You alone are Holy and will never disappoint. May we be reminded that no matter where we are today, no matter what the journey entails, that You are Holy.

Walking in Humility

walkinhumility…”God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all you anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5: 5b-7)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”Proverbs 11:2

As I read these verses once again I see something different, especially in light of what C.J. Mahaney writes in his book Humility: True Greatness When we humble ourselves each morning by casting our cares on the Lord,we will start the day free of care. The humble are genuinely care free. I’ve discovered how true that is about myself and my soul. Where there’s worry, where there’s anxiousness, pride is at the root of it. When I’m experiencing anxiety, the root issue is that I’m trying to be self-sufficient. I’m acting independent of God.”

I am to walk in humility.

Peter says “humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.” Wouldn’t that stand to reason then that I need to accept what God gives me? Even the pain I’m presently experiencing? After all, my current struggles have not caught God by surprise. He ordained them.

Often when hard circumstances come I ask why? Why me? Why this? I search for an answer. Could it not be in order to HUMBLE me? There is always a reason God allows painful circumstances in my life. Could it be to teach me to be totally dependent on Him?  Could the hard things be to teach me “…to need him, and in the end to give glory to Him with an ever deepening appreciation for the mighty hand of God” ?(Mahaney)

I do not need to know the path ahead in order to trust Him. If I walk in humble dependence in His purposes wouldn’t it be possible then to walk with joy no matter where the path ahead may lead?

What if I could come to the point that I can acknowledged my complete lack of ability to control anything in my life and then accept what ever the hand of God brings me? If I could recognize my total dependence on God. Then walk daily in that dependence, allowing God to have free access to my life.

How can I get to a place of joyful humility? I think beyond our admitting our dependence on God we need to have an attitude of humility. I need to purposefully remind myself each morning that God will take care of me. He has a plan and a reason for everything that comes my way. I need not worry or e anxious about my life. I need to trust Him each moment with my life regardless of what happens. Then in the afternoon I need to remind myself again …and again. It’s a constant act of placing myself in the mighty hands of God and then TRUSTING He WILL take care of me. I need to trust Him with every detail of my life knowing that He knows the number of my days and He desires my good in all things.

No, it’s not easy. I do not mean to make it sound easy. We so often want to see the road ahead first then we will trust. But then, that is not trust is it? We need to have the faith of a child that places her hand in the hand of her Father and just walks along with Him not matter how scary the road looks. That child knows she can trust her Father.

Oh God I do desire to get to that place where I can be free of worry about the road ahead . To  be completely dependent on you. Father, forgive me of my pride that says “I know better”. Forgive me for thinking that somehow by worrying that I am going to have answers to fix my problems. God help me to be TOTALLY dependent on you this day…this moment. Help me to walk in true humility where I do not need all the answers to life’s circumstances, I do not need to see the road ahead. Help me to trust in Your goodness to me. Help me to walk in the joy of Your purposes regardless of what the road entails. Amen.

You Are Not Alone

Each path in motherhood life has it’s ups and downs. We journey through mountains, over deserts, along the ocean and through open fields. We journey through the darkest nights, rain storms, sunshine, fog, and seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

Regardless of where we find ourselves in the journey we are often unsure of the next step. We have not come this way before. Each road is new, it’s different, and does not always look just like the path others have walked. Sometimes we feel so alone. Its seems no one else is with us on the path. We have lost sight of those who are ahead or those who are walking behind. And we wonder, “does anyone understand?”

A young bride is fearful and unsure how to be a good wife. She looks around and so many seem to have it together. The marriages of her friends seems…dare she think it? “Perfect?” Yet she feels hers is falling apart. She feels afraid and alone.

A young mom hasn’t been able to leave her home for weeks. She doesn’t understand how all her friends are able to attend Bible Studies, get together for lunch and stay sane. She is overwhelmed with motherhood. She feels as if she is walking this journey alone.

A mother of a prodigal is desperate for understanding, but she feels as if she is being judged. She spends her day crying and praying. Her heart is breaking. Does anyone see?

A mother says goodbye to her last child and wonders, “what now?” As she looks around it seems that others along this path know where they are going. They are pursuing careers, going back to school for degrees, they are DOING something. She wonders to herself how did they know what to do? She feels alone.

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All of us have found, or will find, ourselves in one of the above scenarios. Some may find that they are in more than one. I have walked them all. I have found that each path there has been one constant, regardless of how we feel we are never alone. Our God walks with us through each stage. With each step we take He is preparing us for the next pathway of our journey.

We must remember that it may LOOK or FEEL like we are alone but others are with us. There are other women on the same path. We only need to look, speak out and be willing to be transparent. Be willing to share your story, as you do you will find other women who have felt the same. They have walked a similar path.

To often the enemy preys on our mind during these times of aloneness and whispers lies. He convinces us that no one would understand, and that other’s lives are perfect. He tells us we  are alone in our struggle. He wants to keep us alone and silent.

But we must speak out. We must speak truth. Once we begin sharing our struggles along the journey we WILL find that other’s are struggling too. We WILL find that we are not alone, other women are just like us.

So dear one, where ever you find yourself today I pray that you know you do not have to walk alone. I would love to hear your story. I pray you will allow me to walk with you.