Posted in prayer, random thoughts, rest, Rheumatoid Arthritis, scripture memory, thankfulness, Uncategorized

An update

       I sit here on a rainy Saturday afternoon in my pajamas listening to the wonderful music of my dog, Bailey, playing “devil box” in the backyard.  The new wood fence is up, and I can enjoy an afternoon of Bailey playing and not escaping.  I cannot tell you the last time I have had that joy.

      The last few weeks have been particularly exhausting–not bad, but exhausting.  Greg had bursitis in his elbow that had a huge infection and made it necessary to not take his Humira (Rheumatoid Arthritis meds).  This past week has been really hard on him, and in consequence has been hard on me as I help to care for and encourage him.  He is not able to do as much to help physically.  This is just part of life for him, and, in turn, for me.  

      My usual schedule has been off (packed full), so my housekeeping, cooking, etc has been off.  Greg had the first 3 nights of this week away, and I had two of them away, so I had toast for dinner several nights:).  I also added several new young women to meet with weekly.  Greg’s good friends from college, Todd and Brian, are in town this weekend, and it has been great to hear him laugh and be silly with them in their banter.  Friends that stand the test of time are such a gift.  

     All of these things are a part of the life of which I am extremely grateful.  I am grateful for the beauty of pouring into others with the hope of the gospel.  I am grateful for the quality of relationships we have in our lives–the opportunity to be “with” people and give our lives away.  However, this afternoon, I am really grateful for my soft pajamas, the computer, warm blankets, my gracious husband, and my crazy dog.  It is time for some rest.

     The lack of blogging lately has come from the exhaustion of the mind.  I have been “present” with so many in the real world that I have not connected with the cyber one!  

      I got the opportunity to study for several hours yesterday on how Jesus and the new testament writers prayed for others.  It was such a blessing.  Reminders poured forth to remember my brothers and sisters in thanksgiving to God and to constantly pray for them.  The prayers about others were also steeped in the truth and the gospel for the strengthening and fruit in Christ.  I pray that today for you who follow this blog.  I am thankful for you–for the exact arenas God has placed you for his specific purposes.  I pray that God point you to Christ here and strengthen you to endure and serve in the hope of Christ.  I pray that your hope be in NOTHING other than his truth and the grace and love that come in Him–not your family or looks or job or finances or status or anything.  

‘But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I might gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes from faith, the righteousness of God that depends on faith.’  Phil 3:7-9

      It is no mistake that these are the verses we have been memorizing this week.  His word is so rich, and the Spirit teaches us faithfully as we cling to it.

Posted in God's word, grace, infertility, prayer, self-absorption, suffering in joy, transformation by truth

The perspective of the heart

     The last few weeks, I have been praying and concentrating heartily to guard my heart against anxiety and thinking on things that send me in a tailspin.  The particular thing the last few weeks has been fertility.  God has been gracious beyond belief to help me stay in the day, not panicking or thinking ahead.  (This is really personal to post, but I feel I should.)  

      Last night signaled a little tailspin.  I realized that I was not pregnant this month after another procedure.  The last two weeks I had been praying for my hope to be in Christ and not circumstance–and it really has been.  I think all perspective went out the window last night and today, though.  Dreams about it, panic about feeling left behind, all of these things blend together for self-pity.  Self-pity is wrong.  Period.  It means I am not sharing with God my heart and not trusting him.  He is in control of my womb.  He has reasons.  For all that he has shown me and done in me, I trust him.  I just get sad when I lose perspective so easily.  I realized as I was praying this morning that subconsciously I thought “if I have a good attitude about this, it will come.”  Like I could get rewarded for a work of a good attitude…like I could manipulate God.    I had forgotten the gospel in the midst.  I had forgotten God’s gracious and compassionate and faithful character.  

     God was gracious this morning to me as my Father.  I was reminded of all of the women who are in the groups I am leading this year.  There are 6 women that I have been around (5 in groups and one a mentor) and I am grateful to see their heart for their grown children.  I have been privy to see their heartache and their joys, their anxieties and their prayers.  It is so easy to forget the other side of this whole thing.  It becomes a challenge to see…will I ever get pregnant?  And then, I see the complexities of raising children, the heartaches when they go the opposite way you desire, the worry that multiplies as they make tragic mistakes.  I see the pain and joy that comes in child-rearing.  I also see, in each of these women, that their hope is not in their children or their husband but in God the Father, the Spirit and Jesus.  The more relationships that are added to our lives (whether husbands, wives, children, disciples, ailing parents, neighbors, friends), the more we see the need to trust God more and relinquish our “control.”  We see our need for him alone.  So, whether it’s waiting for children in his plan or raising them–our hope is not in them, but in Christ.  

        I have memorized Psalm 73:25-26 this week–“Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

     He reminded me that my flesh may fail…my body might not be acting like I want it to….my heart may fail in it’s perspective, but He is my hope.  He is my peace.  He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever regardless of circumstance, regardless of emotion, regardless of my faithfulness.  So, for right now, I am sad (and that’s okay), but my mind and heart are renewed in his truth.  I will need to be renewed daily (Romans 12:2).  I am also reminded to be thankful for all the opportunities he has presented me with to love and pour into women.

Posted in discipleship, God's word, grace, marriage, prayer, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, the gospel, trusting God

Am I going to throw up, nope, I just have to speak in front of people.

      Last night, I had the opportunity to stand before over 300 young women and talk with them about walking with God in the midst of the curse (of sin in Genesis 3).  My heart is still beating hard as I think back on it…

      At Crossroad, our city-wide college/young adult service at Fellowship Church in Knoxville, Greg is doing a series on the curse for girls only and for guys only.  He asked me in the middle of this week to share what it is to walk faithfully in the midst of the hardness of life (marriage, etc).  At first, I panicked thinking about the deep well of emotion that I have built up by walking through some of the hardships in my life.  I have been known to boo-hoo in front of crowds while sharing, so the fear of that drove me to cautiously say…” maybe.”  However, by the end of the week, I had thought about it and stepped out to do it.  

      The last 3 1/2 years of life have definitely been the hardest but the most fruitful…and a lot of those hardships have hit from the curse of sin–struggles in marriage (which is the consequence of sin), the death of my father (illness and death in itself is the consequence of sin), job direction (toil and unfufillment–consequence of sin), and the theme of infertility (pain in childbearing, having, rearing, etc is the consequence of sin).  I had so much I could have said, and, of course, I am probably my worst critic (unless I get a scalding email today from an equally harsh critic:)).  

     Though the curse is quite evident in everyday life, the good news is the gospel is more powerful and is the ultimate reality.  The gospel reminds me that I am God’s by the blood of Christ…I am forgiven and in relationship with the creator, sustainer, redeemer, and gardener of my soul (and this world).  God is at work in my heart and my husband’s heart to make us more like Him.  The kicker with the curse is that we women want to be in charge and not wait on God or our husbands.  Greg said something last night that is so true:  “Women are much more spiritually sensitive.”  Time and time again, I talk to my girlfriends or women that I meet with, and they say “I wish my husband would step up and lead–he is so passive.”  We all begin to make assumptions about the hearts of men around us, and then we begin to trust ourselves instead of God.  We think, “well, since nobody else is standing up to lead, I guess I will.  I mean, am I the only one astute enough to get it done?”  This feeds into the curse–we want to devour or rule over our husbands and ignore God’s ways.  The truth of the matter is that we want what we want and do not trust God.  The truth of the matter is that we forget the very heart and grace of God toward us through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

      A few practices I have learned in trusting God in the midst of living under the curse:

1)  His word changes my heart.  Being in His word–memorizing, reading, studying, meditating, turns my heart away from worshipping myself and my comfort to look into His life changing grace.  There are days when I want to tell Greg off or burrow in self-pity at whatever frustration or situation that I am in, and then, truth hits me in the heart and I am changed.  We cannot survive without His life-changing truth–and we certainly cannot grow without it!

2)  Prayer is essential.  I have learned that I do not change situations or hearts.  I used to think a poignant speech or manipulative actions would bring about change in someone, but that is not true.  The only changer of hearts is the Holy Spirit.  Also, it is tempting to pray merely for things for Greg or others that would change their actions or hearts to bring me comfort.  I think what that is termed is manipulation of God.  I’m pretty sure that is despicable.  The Spirit is always teaching me and correcting me to pray for the hearts of others–that they may repent and cling to Jesus, that they may stop striving by running after other things and trust God fully and know Him fully.  The reality is when others are changed in that way, I may not get my “way,” but the ultimate good and the ultimate fulfillment comes.   I also pray that I find everything in Jesus–resting in Him, trusting Him and being transformed by Him (1 Thessalonians 4:3–His will is for us to become more like Him–and He rested, trusted, loved and worshipped God with everything–John 15).   When I deal with people that I disciple or counsel, this is essential–prayer for their hearts and God’s work in them.  Otherwise, I am wasting my time and theirs.

3)  Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  There are times in my life that I just cannot keep my mouth shut.  I think I can solve things by telling people what to do.  I think, again, that I can manipulate.  And, I probably like the sound of my own voice:).  I have learned that even though I may be right that my motives may be far from right.  My heart may long to be served and worshipped by that other person (many times Greg) instead of bringing God love and glory.  There are definite times to push in and talk about issues, but more often than not, I need to drop to my knees and relinquish control to the One who is in control.

4)  Act in the Grace of the Gospel.  In remembering daily who I am in Christ, how can I hold things against Greg or others.  His grace toward me is unmerited favor, and His Spirit resides in me with power to walk in righteousness.  When I rest in that fact and see my own sin toward God and his abundant grace, I look at others differently.  Their offense towards me does not seem so monumental.  The fact that Greg ignored my needs or hurt my feelings or the fact that life seems overwhelmingly unfair, seems to fade in the light of the gospel.  In the truth of the gospel and the power of the Spirit, I learn to die to self and love others in grace and forgiveness.  This short paragraph makes it seems so neat and tied with a bow–but there is wrestling in my heart in this.  This is a choice that I have to make at every offense, and it is a choice that I ignore at times.

5)  Surround yourself with friends who sharpen and be a friend who sharpens.  We can all find friends who complain and who do not share truth, but look for the jewel and be the jewel that sharpens others toward the gospel, love and good deeds.

6)  Perservere!  Do not just fill up with these steps once…we need this daily!  Let not the things of this earth ever sway me–I’ll run til I finish the race by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Posted in discipleship, grace, New year, prayer, spiritual growth, the gospel, transformation by truth

I’m back…

     Well, I am not back in the exact frame of mind I was hoping for.  When I took the “break” for December I imagined coming back invigorated and refreshed to hit the ground running in 2009.  Funny how the best laid plans come up short.  I had slated a break from all things WDC for December, but because of some things with my lawyer, that did not happen.  I did give my brain a rest from study specifically for WDC for a few weeks, and we did have a good week in Texas with Greg’s family.  I tried to relax last week.  This past month has been challenging in a few ways with the consequence being loss of sleep.  For a stretch of days, I saw many more infomercials than I ever cared to see:).   (I am strangely drawn to the Sham-wow, for those of you who have seen that one.)

       As I was praying this morning, I was reminded that in literally EVERY area of my life, I desperately need to rely on and remain in God.  I know God is sovereign over all things…including my last month.  He has taught me and disciplined me with his love in the midst of sadness, frustration, bad moods, joys, traffic jams, consumerism, laughter, laziness, worry, and glory in his birth and death and resurrection.  I have to relearn his glorious gospel of grace everyday.  I also have to relearn that He is gracious on a scale that I cannot comprehend.  Always, I come to Him trying to make it up to him…pay penance or something, and always, I am reminded that he does not work that way because of the blood of Jesus Christ.  So, I start this day as I start this year…weak, needy, frustrated, and desperately seeking my Father.  Though painful at times, this is the best place to be.  For when I feel on top of things, I inevitably forget the very One for which I am made and redeemed to bring glory.  

      On a much lighter note, I have made one New Year’s resolution:  making my bed everyday.  I know that fits in with the developmental scale for a 3rd grader, but I missed that goal a long time ago.  I have done it 5 for 5, and I am proud.

Posted in persecution, prayer, the cost of discipleship

Wake up

In the last few days, I have read some blogs that have made me aware of the violence and persecution against Christians in India, especially in the last few weeks. They need our prayers. We, as Americans, have more than enough of so many things that we almost become numb to the needs around us. We are high on stuff and circumstances and the “cares” of “our” world.
I know of several people who have been to India this year for various reasons, and I also sponsor a Compassion child, Tanuja, there. More than anything, our brothers and sisters in Christ are being threatened, their houses and churches burned, and some beaten and killed. Please pray, and please read this update. Take time today to be awakened to needs around the world and to pray for those needs. It may just put your struggle in perspective. This is nothing we should be surprised about–it is promised. But, this is something that we should actively love our brothers and sisters in by praying and seeing where we can help.

Posted in prayer, thankfulness, trusting God, Women's Discipleship Concepts

Update on Ministry

Yesterday, Greg and I met with a lawyer that is helping us form the non-profit ministry, Women’s Discipleship Concepts. It was an encouraging meeting, and I could feel the prayers of those who have been so faithful to lift this venture to the Father.
Right now, I am in the midst of registering the non-profit with the state, and then we will go through applying to the IRS for 501 (c)(3) status. Another blessing of God was providing a lawyer who shared with us that he wanted to help us without cost. We did not know that going in–God is so faithful.
Women have come together graciously to be on the board, and I am excited to walk with them. God has been so faithful in the midst of the formation of this ministry. And, I ask that you continue to pray.
I just met with a girl this morning who has been a Christian for a little over a year. We have been meeting this year, and she expressed interest in pouring into a younger Christian girl in college. I praise God for fruit he brings through his word and his Spirit and fellowship within the body of Christ. It is in moments like those of the last few days when I smile knowing hard work has gone into this, but he is the one who grows and stretches. And, I pray that ultimately not me but God get the glory for all that comes because it is from his hand. I pray for fruit that continues well beyond the bounds of Knoxville–fruit that passes from generation to generation.
Just an aside: I have prayed consistently over the summer for board members, an attorney, girls for the next year, women for the next year, and curriculum (as well as the young women I meet with). I have seen God answer prayers—not fancy prayers, but consistent ones. I believe in my whole heart that God is sovereign over all things, and he also asks us to come before him in prayer. I thank him for leading me to consistency in the asking. So many other times in my life, I have prayed a couple of times for something only to be sidetracked or overwhelmed, and I thank him for teaching me a little more about prayer in our personal lives with Greg’s health and this ministry venture and in the sickness of dear friends.
I will keep you updated!

Posted in Anxiety, God's word, prayer, trusting God

Trust

I am a worrier by nature. I hate it! Hate it! Hate it! I am constantly battling the creeping anxieties of the mind. I want to put to death those parts of me…and I am always in process with God in doing that.
My mind can get fixated on conversations, people’s choices, decisions I have to make, how I come across to people, finances, sharing the gospel, my own sin spiral.
I woke up this morning in that state of mind. And, I thank God that He met me once again in his faithfulness. How do I get so caught up in me that I forget his Sovereignty, His faithfulness, His power, His sufficiency? I spent some time reflecting on who He is. I read in Isaiah 55. I was reminded that His ways are so far above ours–so good–so merciful–so lovely. I benefit in my soul because He is so far above.
When I choose anxiety instead of trust, I think it is up to me to make things happen, to grow people, to convince, to discipline, to solve all the problems. Then, when I am reminded in His word of Truth, I am reminded that I am called to remain in Him–apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). I am reminded to rest in Him. I am reminded that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). I am reminded that nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8). I am reminded that He works all things for the good–conformity to Christ (Romans 8:28-29). I am reminded that I am called to love Him with everything and love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22). I complicate things well by striving in me to earn something that is not mine to earn. I complicate things well by trying to convince others in my own power instead of resting on Him and His word.
In Isaiah 55:11, I am reminded of this blessed truth and the blessed character of God:

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I am reminded that He is more faithful than I can imagine. He is more about Himself than I could ever be. I am reminded that it is not up to me to frame God’s word to be more palpatable for the hearts around me. It is not up to me to make God seem to be what He is not…to couch the presentation of who He is in comfort. Who He is in His word–who He IS will change hearts and that Truth will not come back void. He has and is doing that in me, and He is doing that in others. May I take my eyes from the anxiety of my “affairs” and place them on the magnificence, the gloriousness, the faithfulness of Father God. May I evaluate every affair, every practice in my life by His word and not human practicality or tradition. Today, I remember to praise the One, Jesus Christ, who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead. The old dead way of life, anxiety, is replaced with the freedom to rest and trust in the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. May Truth transform my heart as those anxieties battle to creep in.