While the last 2 years have been the most spiritually life changing moments of my life, I believe that 2020 will continue this pattern. And while it is undeniable that there are very remarkable circumstances in my life circle that will make 2020 memorable, I also think that it is in my hands to set aside the time so that God is able to form me into his righteous child. He is forming me. Every day.
Our small group is currently reading a book called “To Hell with the Hustle” by Jefferson Bethke. The first chapter discusses his view that instead of “goals”, which have a definite end, we should instead consider “formations”. Formations are about the process of being formed. Isn’t this what God is doing throughout our lives? He doesn’t give us mini goals to accomplish so that he can praise us. Instead, he is using circumstances in our lives to change us and form us. It is through this process in us that he uses to point others to himself.
This begs the question- Are we giving God the time he desires to spend with us so that he can change us? How do we hear him if we do not read the words he has given to us? How do we ask for what we need if we do not spend time in prayer?
Now I am someone who is very much an advocate for short, frequent prayers and conversation to God throughout the day. God hears every prayer. Revelation 5: 8 is one of my favorite verses. “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people”. I have referenced this before. I do believe all types of prayers are in the golden bowl...but do you think some are more aromatic? All are heard and just as important; but do the thoughtful, bold, unrushed prayers smell stronger? I am probably getting off-track and I don’t think it makes a difference if that thought lands anywhere contemplative. But I do think that it is important to give God some prayers that are unrushed. Do we set aside time during the day to really pray? Are you thinking that you don’t have the time to really pray? Can you ask yourself another question… Are you choosing to spend your “free” time in other ways? Now I am not suggesting that every unclaimed minute needs to be spent in prayer, however, if you’re like me- I can easily spend time on social media or watch Netflix without giving some time to God. Is it possible to discipline ourselves? Perhaps we don’t “allow” ourselves to watch that show or play that game on our phones until we have spoken with God for that day.
I think religion can seem like a bunch of rules. So I hesitated writing that last sentence in fear of misinterpretation. Jesus isn’t religion. We all know that he was often in opposition of the religious rulers of his time. But this really isn’t about rules or religion. This is about where are hearts are pointed towards. Proverbs 27:19 says “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Does my life reflect rules and religion or does it resemble Jesus’ attitude and heart?
It’s amazing what God reveals to me as I open his word. I have had to keep a list of future blog posts because he continues to point things out. I’d like to share a few of those thoughts that came to me today.
James 2:22-24 says “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”
And then I read it again but inserted my name instead. “You see that her faith and her actions were working together, and her faith was made complete by what she did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, Andrea believed God, and it was credited to her as righteousness, and she was called God’s friend.”
Had you spoken to me 3 years ago, I would have told you that my faith was very important to me. And that was the truth and still is the truth. My faith was what gave me hope that my postpartum depression was all part of God’s plan for my life. My faith is what confirms that even when it hurts, his ways are higher than my ways.
But it wasn’t until I believed God and applied my faith in a difficult situation that started the transformation of righteousness. The act of obedience began the true transformation. Note that I said began. Complete righteousness isn’t completed until we are face to face with Jesus and he brings complete restoration to this world. But how astounding that we can start this process while we are still here, on this Earth!
Prior to this, I have never really considered myself “righteous”. And I am not implying a “self-righteous” attitude is the objective. The only one who is truly, morally superior is God. But I can’t deny that all throughout scripture, God uses the word righteous and makes it applicable and attainable for us now!
But perhaps the best part of starting the formation of righteousness is that are then called God’s friend! Can you imagine! I always think of calling Jesus my friend...in a he-has-to-be kind of way. For example, in high school, I wasn’t popular. I had friends but I definitely wasn’t in any “important” circles. So I picture myself calling someone popular my friend but perhaps they would not see me as their friend. I start to think of God like this. He is my friend because he has to be. But when I read this verse, I read that he wants to be my friend. Eek! Now that’s better than being part of any popularity contest!
I also had heard a sermon a while back that spoke of this one man who said God would talk to him frequently and that God would tell him his “secrets”. He would be at a restaurant that he had never been to before and God would tell him something about the waitress. The man would address the waitress and say something like “I know this seems strange, but I believe God is asking me to pray with you asking for healing with your kidney issue”. And sure enough, this waitress would actually have an issue with her kidney. So he said that he just went about life, listening to God and acting on what he heard him tell him. Can you imagine being so close to God that he tells you stuff like this? I would imagine getting close to God would be necessary to earn his trust for this type of conversation. It certainly makes you think doesn’t it?!
As I continued reading, James 5:16 reads “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”. So...if I am being made righteous through the acts of obedience that God calls me to; he says that my prayers are powerful and effective! Do I believe this? Do I take this seriously? Do I believe that my prayers are powerful? Do I pray as though I believe that they will come true? I have heard another person say “Do my prayers make God sweat?” Now one could argue that God probably doesn’t ever actually sweat, and nothing we could say or do as mere humans could make him feel intimidated or nervous...you get the picture. But are we limiting our prayers to mealtime “bless this food to my body” prayers?
Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Being made righteous through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and obedience allows us to approach the throne of God with boldness. Do my prayers exhibit confidence and courage?
God is waiting to be more than just a check mark on your to-do list.
I’d like to challenge you.
Give God more time than what you have been giving him. If daily devotions have always been a struggle; then start with trying 2 days a week; giving God at least 1 hour each day. I have found that if I give God 10 minutes it’s like trying to see what he will send to me through a keyhole. But if I give him 1 or 2 hours in the morning before the rest of my house wakes up, it’s like I’m opening the entire door. I’m unrushed, unhurried and undistracted. He sees the opportunity and seizes it each and every morning. I think I shared with you the picture I had come to my mind once. It was Jesus sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and my cup next to his. Whenever I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and choose to sleep in; I picture Jesus sitting there...waiting for me...but I can’t get out of bed to hear what he has to say?! Maybe that image will speak to you too as it did to me.
I promise, God is waiting to pour into us, as his love and devotion to us are who he is. Will you give him more time? Will you get up and sit with him over a cup of coffee at the table? Just try it. Try it and see what he shows you in his word and how he answers your prayers. He is eager to give to all those who ask.
Love to you all friends.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, our daughter loved the C.S. Lewis novel and movie, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We decided to continue the series and have now been reading Prince Caspian. Last night, we were watching the Prince Caspian movie made by Disney. I’d highly recommend this series as it is is highly imaginative but yet very realistic and true to the story of God and his desire to bring his justice and righteousness to this world.
So as I was watching this movie, I found myself pondering. To set the stage, the Narnians are in battle with the Telmarines. The Narnians are the good guys, the Telmarines are the bad guys. Throughout the movie, the youngest girl named Lucy wants to go find Aslan (a lion), the true king of the world, in order to have him help them in the fight. The older siblings put her off and think that if Aslan knows what is happening and if he was going to help, he would have already. As the plot thickens, the older siblings eventually come around and send Lucy to go find Aslan. Now, in case you want to watch the movie first; stop here. Watch it, and then continue reading. I tried to figure out a way to only give some of the story but I found that it lacked grasping the full picture. So there may be a few spoilers in here! If you have seen it already, know the story, or don’t mind a few spoilers; keep reading!
Imagine a huge battle. Good guys outnumbered 100 to 1. Weaponry, logistics, everything, is in the advantage of the enemy. Now, I know how Aslan is supposed to imitate Jesus/God/the Trinity in this film. However, I found myself thinking of him in human terms. I put God in the box. My box. I thought, “OK, if they find Aslan and bring him to this battle; what is 1 lion going to do? Even the fiercest lion wouldn’t be able to stand a chance against hundreds of thousands of soldiers outfitted with weapons too numerous to count.
I even knew better. I knew that Aslan represented more. I know that he is not confined to what we can think of. He does not see our hardships, pain and struggles and only work with the solutions that we think of. But how often do I do this in my life? “Here is my problem Lord, and I would like you to come fix it now and by the way- I have laid out exactly how I think you should fix it.”
If you have found yourself in this spot (like I have), I would like to challenge us to retrain our thought process. Don’t let your solution be the only option.
As the movie progresses, Lucy does find Aslan. She asks him why he didn’t come earlier as he did the time before. He replied “Things never happen the same way twice my dear one”. I think the lesson in this is that God is not predictable. We think we are being smart if we apply the same lessons we learned from another experience to a completely different scenario. Perhaps sometimes this isn’t so bad. We can and are supposed to learn from our experiences.
But do we think that God only knows 1 way to solve our problems? Do we wrongly anticipate the way we think God will respond to our needs? And what if he doesn’t respond at all? Do we feel abandoned? Do we base our beliefs in him on our feelings?
Prior to Aslan being found by Lucy, she had a dream. She had a dream that Aslan was calling to her in the woods. After she does find him, Aslan tells her “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you”. How we easily forget that more than our desire for help and answers, God calls to us. He longs to be near us, to fill us with what we truly need. When I am in great need and cry out to him, I can’t imagine him wanting me even more than that. He calls us FIRST. Are we listening? Do we respond?
I am going to end with a portion of how the battle ended. Aslan returned to the battle with Lucy and the enemy army was on one end of a large bridge. Aslan and Lucy were on the other end. As the army approached and yelled “charge!”, Aslan AND Lucy stood calm and confident. Now, Aslan knows exactly who he is and how he was going to solve this issue. Lucy didn’t know how Aslan would act- BUT she knew he would. She could stand in confidence knowing that although a fierce army is only moments away from her demise, she knew it wouldn’t happen. She trusted that Aslan had the power and the wisdom to do what needed to be done, in the way it needed to be done. That was enough for her. Knowing WHO Aslan was, made her into WHO she was. Her confidence came from knowing and loving Aslan. Oh, can we do the same friends?
After the general yelled “charge!”, Aslan waited until the perfect moment and then let out a victorious “ROAR!”. All the men and animals stopped. They were silenced. Until the river started to flow faster. The river began raging and even took the form of a “being” with a face and arms that engulfed the bridge and all of the army. He also summoned the trees to fight. Which the 10 to 1 army reversed to 10 to a million as they fought in the woods. How foolish of me to think that the creator and ruler of the world wouldn’t be able to handle insurmountable odds.
So I will leave you with this challenge. When your battle seems too big, call on God... and let him do the rest. He doesn’t need your options, he only wants your heart.
It's good to be back friends.
_Faith like Esther.
1 Timothy 3:11
"In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything."
As I read scripture this morning, this verse spoke to me. As a woman of faith, there are expectations of conduct and character that I need to possess and strive for. Maybe the reason this verse spoke to me is because all too often I miss the mark.
In what ways would I need to present myself to be worthy of respect to my husband, my daughter, my family...my dad? But does it stop here? Is it in just a matter of presenting oneself to exhibit those characteristics and attitudes? Or is it something more? For a life fully devoted to Christ is one that is ever present, not just one that shows up and speaks “Christianese” amongst fellow believers. Consistency, authenticity, and most of all love are the ingredients to living out a faith filled life to be worthy of respect.
Many times I think it would be so much easier if my 3 year old listened the first time when I told her to do something. Or I would like to hear “you are right” from my father instead of engaging in multiple discussions of opposing views. So while it is always easier to know exactly what we want, it is usually harder to be the person we need to be in order to get the desired results from others that we want.
So what would that look like?
What types of heart tools do I need in order to initiate different outcomes from my relationships? While I am newly wrestling with this thought, I have learned (the hard way of course) that the only person you can truly control is yourself. (Sometimes I even want to escape from that responsibility and blame something or someone else). But at the same time, this concept gives freedom to the recipient. While I think it would be great to be a master puppeteer and orchestrate conversations, tasks and relationships the way I think that they should go- there is freedom in knowing that this is not a task that could be handled by any human. Even God himself is not a “puppeteer”. He doesn’t want us to blindly follow him or move when he says to move or speak when he says to speak. Instead of focusing on the strings which move our bodies, he is more concerned about what moves our heart strings. He gives us the ability to choose. And I think much greater peace and joy is found in this place when our free will aligns up with what God desires for us. This is when the heart strings begin to produce a melody that God can hear.
Revelation 5:8 says “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
The first time I was shown this passage I was in awe. I am glad that I still feel that when I read it today. I have been dying to put it in a blog post and it seems to fit here.
How awesome is it that in the middle of some glorious worship jam session, our prayers are brining a sweet aroma to Jesus in the throne room.
When I quickly googled incense, an article by James Smith came up titled Incense 101: History and Products. While I already knew what incense was, I found it interesting that the actual definition refers to an “ aromatic biological material that produces fragrant smoke when burned”. In my mind I had always thought that incense referred to the actual aroma. This clarification is not life altering but as I sat and pondered the definition, and applied it to that verse; it made more sense.
Our prayers come from within us. Who we are determines what type of aroma is emitted into the air. For it is not the prayer itself, but rather the condition of my heart which determines the aroma of my prayers to God.
So now I will try to circle this back to where I started this post. Being a woman worthy of respect. How easy it is to slip into using words that tear down instead of build up. Poking fun at someone else’s expense seems harmless and sometimes offers humor, but what is the motive behind the laughter? I personally like to put myself in the judgment seat. Yup, I think I know exactly how someone else should make choices in their life and just because I don’t share it with them directly, I think I am off the hook. The definition of malicious includes the intention to do harm. While I think most of us (including myself) would say we don’t typically intend to do harm to others when we speak about them… but aren’t we intending to build ourselves up while we discredit their life decisions or choices? If I intentionally talk about someone that I disapprove of, what good am I bringing to the situation? What love is in my heart when I choose to engage in that topic of discussion? I doubt that the aroma coming from me at that time is anywhere near sweet.
So instead of initiating or participating in conversations that I wouldn’t have in front of the individual, I need to practice self-restraint. The verse uses the word “temperate”. So much of what I see in our corner of the globe is “speak your mind no matter the cost” and “your opinion matters”. And while opinions should be respected, sometimes I see the costly outcome of said opinions being shared. I have read posts and think to myself- I wonder if that person would really have said their comments directly to the person vs typing it on a smart phone or computer? We think the virtual wall of the internet is so thick that it can’t possibly let our words penetrate someone else’s soul on the other side. I feel like I may be digressing.
But I want to bring my best self to each conversation so that the recipient does not have to try to respect and trust me. If my heart is centered where it should be, shouldn’t it be more likely to be a natural byproduct?
I am going to close with an illustration about one of our favorite children’s books by Max Lucado titled “You are Special”. In this book, there are wooden people named Wemmicks. All of the Wemmiks were created by a woodcarver named Eli. Each of the Wemmicks were all different but what they did was the same. All day, every day they would give each other stickers. Gray dots would be given to those that had chipped paint, made mistakes and any other reason of disapproval. Other wemmicks received gold stars if they had smooth wood or just “excelled at life”. The star of the book, Punchinello never got stars. After being discouraged repeatedly by all of his dots, he met a Wemmick who didn’t have any stars or dots on her. The other Wemmick’s tried to put the stickers on her but they just didn’t stick. Her reason; everyday she went to visit Eli. She encouraged Punchinello to do the same and he did.
Here is part of the conversation that Punchinello has with Eli.
“Eli stooped down and picked him up and set him on the bench. “Hmm,” the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the gray dots, “Looks like you’ve been given some bad marks.”
“I didn’t mean to, Eli, I really tried hard.”
“Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child. I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think.”
“No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello, all that matters is what I think, And I think you are pretty special.”
Punchinello laughed. “Me, special? Why? I can’t walk fast. I can’t jump. My paint is peeling. Why do I matter to you?”
Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me."
Punchinello then asks about the girl who told him to see Eli. “Why don’t the stickers stay on her?”
The maker spoke softly. “Because she has decided that what I think of her is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them”. The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”
This story is such a beautiful picture for children and adults alike. While the main message is about seeing your value and worth in how God sees you instead of how others see you (don’t get me wrong- this is a very critical and necessary message!). I started to think about how it applied to the verse from 1 Timothy.
If we are women of God, chosen specifically to do the purposes and plans he has for us- why do I waste my time handing out stars and dots when it wasn’t my job to begin with? Funny how God doesn’t even sit there and hand out stars and dots, even though he would be more than justified and qualified to do this. Instead, he just gives us love, whether we deserve it or not. He values us regardless of our performances and decisions. He wants to spend time with us so that we know that we matter to him. Friend, maybe you need to hear this today. YOU matter to God. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks- and the stickers only stick if you let them.
So I am going to work on myself. I want to be like the girl who told Punchinello to go to his maker. Instead of judging and agreeing or disagreeing with the choices of others; I am going to simply point people to the maker, speak kindness and give love regardless of worthiness. It’s not easy to do this and I won’t be perfect. But it brings me great joy to think that my prayers may bring a smile to Jesus’ face as he smells the sweet aroma.
Praying for you friends!
_Faith like Esther.
This past week it snowed. Not really that unusual seeing that I live in Wisconsin. However, what was unusual about this snowfall is that it happened prior to the leaves falling off of the trees. The result was snow on the ground and colorful leaves on the trees. And then the leaves started to fall onto the snow. I can picture the leaves feeling as if they weren’t ready to fall onto damp, wet snow. They still had beauty to display themselves on the brown tree branches. They hadn’t clapped enough in the crisp cool air to be ready to fall into the next season.
Have you ever felt like the leaves? Did you feel like things were going great and perhaps you were clapping and singing a song with the way your life or current situation was turning out to be?
And then it snowed?
You didn’t have a choice. No matter what you tried to do and how you attempted to manipulate the circumstances you just couldn’t hold on any longer? Have you been forced into a winter season that you weren’t prepared for? I am sure this isn’t a one time thing in our lives. Actually, I don’t know if we are ever really prepared for winter. We think we have the warmest coats, the best accessories and the Christmas decorations to keep us happy...but ultimately, isn’t cold...just cold. How do we alleviate our sufferings in seasons of trial? How can we truly prepare for the unknown? How can we embrace a season that we weren’t ready for?
Shawn Deane from Bethesda Senior Living Communities said this “The consistency of the earth’s seasons is a reflection of it’s Maker and the steadiness of his character”. I do agree with this statement and I have thought of this before when thinking of the consistency of the rising and setting sun. Even those that don’t believe in God believe that the sun will rise and set each day as it has always done. But I also know that when it snows before the leaves fall- it hurts. Perhaps you have been in the place where you doubt God and his goodness when things don’t feel good? It is so hard to trust when things don’t feel like they are right and true. Perhaps someone did something else to you and the wounds are so deep you can’t even imagine them turning into scars one day that just represent a wound that once was. But let’s also remember that even when people choose things that are not good and make us feel hurt and bruised- God can still be good. He is good and wants different things for you. He doesn’t always cause things to happen, but I believe that he can use whatever happened to still bring us goodness.
I hope I am not rambling and I don’t really have all of the answers friends. But what I can tell you is that while I was contemplating the strange weather phenomenon I couldn’t help but see the beauty. I stopped. I took pictures. Many of them. The color of the leaves shown even brighter against the white snow than it did against the green grass or against the brown of the branches in the trees. The vibrancy of the oranges, reds, yellows and greens almost sang a chorus straight to my heart about how God still gives us beauty even when we weren’t ready for the trials that surprised us.
If your heart is aching, if your days are longer than you would like them to be, if you worry about how you’ll make it through or wonder if your season will ever change to Spring...this post is for you. Friends, I am praying that even amidst your deepest pain, God shows you something beautiful. Perhaps he has shown it to you but you haven’t admired it long enough to take a picture? Do you have loving friendships that keep you encouraged? Do you have the provision of good finances? Do you have a solid faith foundation? Do you have a team of nurses and doctors who show care and compassion while your child is undergoing treatments? Do you take moments to ponder the beauty before you?
While I’d like to say that once you find the beauty in the suffering, that your tears will stop and your season starts to change. Oh friends, I don’t know how long your season will last or what is to come for you. But I do know that this is where God changes us. This is where we are stretched. This is where we are pulled nearer to his heart and the lover of our souls. Only he can satisfy these deep longings of our inner selves… and it is here where he plants beauty that only he can grow.
WIll you ask him to show you the beauty? Keep consistent praying the prayer and open your hearts to the still, small voice.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
May this season draw you closer to the heavens friend.
_Faith like Esther.
Hi friends! It’s been a while since my last post. To be honest, it has been hard. Between work, fighting a cold, maintaining a home and the commitment to help my Dad it has been exhausting.
As I got back into the routine this morning of waking up before everyone else, working out and then reading God’s word, these verses jumped out.
They spoke against God; they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock, and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly, but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?”
When the Lord heard them, he was furious; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.
Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven.
Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.
He let loose the east wind from the heavens and by his power made the south wind blows.
I started by first thinking of the word wilderness. Living in Wisconsin, we have many indoor and outdoor resort waterparks. Many have the theme or hold the title of “wilderness”. But the actual definition is nothing like a resort. According to the Oxford dictionary, the term wilderness is an "uncultivated, uninhabited and inhospitable region". It can also be a "neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town as a position of disfavor, especially in a political context. "
While I do hold many wonderful blessings in my life, this past week had some similarities to a wilderness. Perhaps you too have felt some of this lately. I also think our spiritual lives can appear as a wilderness if we neglect to cultivate it. While my everyday circumstances are swirling in chaos around me, it is easy to ignore the more important question of how hospitable is my heart for Jesus?
Is my heart like a wilderness? Have I ignored preparing my heart for the tilling, plowing, digging, turning and planting that Jesus wants to do?
Today we visited an amazing farm. While this was my second time visiting in about 2 weeks, I am sad because it most likely will not be until next year that we are able to return. Like I mentioned before, I live in Wisconsin and “growing” anything besides snow for 6 months of the year is impossible.
I love this farm. Farmer Frank does it because he loves it. He certainly doesn’t make a fortune as he only charged us $7 the first time and $10 the second time for a ton of produce. I am so grateful that he cultivates his farm so that we can pick and enjoy the widest array of fruits and vegetables. As I picked our own peppers, raspberries, tomatoes, eggplants, radishes, apples, rhubarb, brussel sprouts, beans, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, leeks, cabbage, dill, spinach, and even grapes I couldn’t help but see God’s hand in each and every food. The beauty, the colors, the textures, the smells, the similarities and the differences in produce left me in awe of God’s precision.
At our new house I plan to have a greenhouse or at least a garden. But I never imagined that I could actually grow such a wide variety in Wisconsin as Farmer Frank does. I would imagine God wants to “produce” beautiful things in us as well. But he leaves us the job of preparing the wilderness. He is the farmer, eager to plant. But have we first shown up to the garden? And after we get there, have we assessed the condition of our hearts and given thanks to the farmer? Have I asked questions and trusted in the responses (or when there is no response, am I still trusting in the farmer’s plan)? Have I spent time with the farmer in the morning to learn what areas to focus on that day? Friends, there is so much that he wants to tell us. We have the option to have a plentiful harvest. We have the ability to produce fruit and display his beauty. If he takes so much care in creating the vegetables and fruits that we consume- how much more does he love and care for us as his inheritance?
So I think the question more appropriately changes from “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?” to “Have I prepared a seat at the table in the wilderness?” For God has proven that not only is he capable but also that he wants to give us a table overflowing with spiritual nourishment-- but are we too busy complaining about the wilderness around us that we never bring our seat to the table?
We serve a gracious and mighty God. Even when we complain and distrust him- he serves us an immeasurable supply of the bread of angels. He gives us the best of the best regardless of what we have done or how well we are “dressed for dinner”. But how much more enjoyable of a meal if we have prepared in advance? Let us not doubt God. His power makes the wind blow from the heavens. How much more can he satisfy the longings of our souls?
Let us not be ignorant and naive. In Psalm 78:32 it says:
“In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.”
I do not want that to be me. I am choosing to see his presence in my life. I believe that he is at work. I see that his timing has always been right. I am preparing my heart and am ready for the feast. I am bringing my chair to the table in the wilderness- won’t you join me too, friend?
_Faith like Esther.
_Faith like Esther.
Have you ever wanted to control a situation? Do you ever wonder why God didn't make something happen? I totally was at this place in the last 24 hours. My mind was confused and my heart hurt.
I prayed for God to answer a prayer...quickly. You see, we are in the middle of trying to sell my Dad's home so that he can move closer to us. We have already found him the perfect apartment where he no longer has to worry about fixing a home or maintaining a lawn.
So we took a leap of faith and signed a lease for the apartment before even listing the house on the market. I felt that since God has gotten us this far, there is no way that he would not provide the right buyer for this home.
And then the process of selling a home hits after you have already been exhausted with preparing the home for sale. Conversations, calls, showings, feedback, and waiting.
And then we received 2 offers. Neither were an immediate "Yes! knock your socks off" kind of deals. I struggled. Why God? Don't you see how hard we have worked to make it this far? Why couldn't you have just given us what we needed... at least the minimum to help my Dad get out of debt for the first time in his life. I don't often feel these types feelings...but I did today.
So this morning, God answered our cries out to him. I opened my Bible and started where I left off yesterday and read the passage in the photo. Isaiah 55:8-9. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
OK God, so what are your thoughts on this situation? I needed an answer- and quick!
A few hours later, God provided his answer. He used my Dad's story to impact others. The generosity and kindness that has been shown to my Dad through people involved brought me to tears several times today. Praise be to God! My Dad will be out of debt! He will be moving into his new apartment. We will be having actual conversations that are joyful and fun without the tension of disagreements and quarrels regarding the house.
You see friends, if God had done it the way that I thought it should have been done- it would not have provided the opportunity for others to hear our story. Had he listened to me, my Dad would not have felt the love from others pouring into him.
Some of you may remember that Hadleigh is obsessed with the C.S. Lewis story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Once we get past Mr. Tumnus and Lucy's tea party she is most excited to see the battle at the end. For her being a 3 year old princess-loving little girl; this was the last thing I expected her to be drawn to. It is the battle between the white witch and her dominion of evil against Aslan and his supreme authority and the people/creatures he loves. With boldness right before the battle begins, they yell "For Narnia! For Edmund!". Now Edmund is the youngest sibling who betrayed his own brother, sisters (and ultimately Aslan's life) for some chocolates. Oh friends, this story is so beautiful and intentionally mirrors Jesus' love for us.
When I was preparing dinner last night, this part of the movie was on and I heard these words- "For Narnia! For Edmund!" And I couldn't help but think that in my story, right now- God said "For Andrea! For her Dad!" (I have been keeping his name hidden for his privacy). Oh how God fights for us friends. We have all betrayed him just like Edmund. But to him, he chooses to have his entire kingdom fight for us. We are that valued to him. He does it for each one of us- but he would also do it if it were for ONLY just one of us. He also uses others, in this world, to help fight our battles. I could tell you of all of the beautiful humans that God has asked to fight my Dad's battles. How amazing. He doesn't just do it himself. He empower each one of us to participate in our own stories but also for others. He is on a mission to restore this world. One day it will be as he created. There will be more battles and a much larger war to come, but how we can delight in knowing he is fighting our battles- we just have to let him and stop trying to control everything.
God shows us that we can trust him. But it truly is in his timing AND in his way. So I am going to reference something that I heard from a sermon a while back.
God is always at work, even when it seems that he is silent. And he is never late.
He doesn’t always give us what we want, but he does give us what we need.
I am praying that you get your answers to your prayers friends- but more importantly, I am praying that you have enough patience, faith, perseverance and trust to know that God does hear you and that he will answer when the time is right and in the way that glorifies his plan and purpose for you.
And P.S. We celebrate 6 months of sobriety with my Dad in 3 days! God is certainly at work.
_Faith like Esther
_Faith like Esther.
I love to read. I have always loved to read. I am the person who is reading 6 different books at once and never really finishes one before I start another. I go to the library and check out 7, 100+ page books and read the first chapter of maybe 3 before they need to be returned.
I want to finish. I wish I had a better method to my madness with books.
Oh but then....this week happened! I think I finally figured out a solution to a focused subset of books.
As I was in the church library with my daughter this week I started browsing. I had already returned the 6 different books that I had renewed twice and realized that it just probably wasn't going to happen. As I debated about the use of browsing...I continued to browse.
I then started looking at the adult studies section. Ya'll…..you might know what I am talking about. The section with the curriculum and small group leader and study guides. Ya'll know what comes with those leader study guides?! The movies! The movies that contain 4-10, 20 minute video clips with the most important parts of the book!
Sure this isn't the first time I had known that there were such things....but why had I never thought of using this outside of a small group setting?
So I found one that a friend has been recommending for such a long time. It is like her go-to. She quotes it all of the time. "Present over Perfect" by Shauna Niequist. Now, I am sure her book is amazing. I probably don't get the entire experience that I would if I would feel the pages turn between my fingers.
But oh how I still gained so much from watching these short videos! And now I don't have to wonder what my friend was talking about. She's right! I can't wait to actually read the book one day!:)
Now, that was my first point...tip...suggestion...revelation... etc.
Here are "the goods".
The overall concept of Shauna's story was that she felt like her life was always busy. She was always saying yes to everything, being everything to everyone and living in a constant state of "hustling".
Now, I have also always been a fan of "The Best Yes" By Lysa Terkeurst. She discusses this same topic. I did make it through that book years ago and it really did change the way that I lived.
Both of these women looked at their lives and decided that instead of wondering why they found themselves amongst chaos and stress, they realized that they were responsible for this chaos and stress. They then allowed themselves the freedom to say No. They encourage others to embrace only saying yes to commitments, people and events if they are truly the most important things.
So why the picture of the playdough you ask?
Shauna referenced this concept. (I just happen to be in the toddler stage of life and had playdough on hand...nice touch you say:)- Thanks!) She was discussing the difficult journey from a "yes world" to a "no world" and being ok with it! She said that it is helpful to think of the word "No" like a scalpel. This scalpel can "cut away the things that don't fit, that aren't for you, the things that make your life overly frantic and leave you exhausted". Once you cut away all of the extras, what you are left with is the life that is yours. In the center, you will be left with the most important things that you value. Identify who or what is in your center most field of vision and with each opportunity that arises (no matter how big or small) ask yourself "How will this decision affect my core values?"
As I started to adopt this principle in my own life, some got offended and others didn't understand. But if I ultimately am responsible for how busy I am- I am ultimately responsible to make the decisions with how busy I want to be....or not to be.
So cut away. Find your values. Identify how far out from the target are other relationships, events, commitments, people etc. Really do the work of being honest with where they fall. Shauna stated that we should be disappointing our core values the least and it is ok to disappoint the outer relationships the most.
I know that is tough to swallow friends. But ultimately, God wants the best of you...not the last of you.
If you had to ask yourself right now- which circle would you put God in right now? Or which circle would God see himself in?
Join me. Let's embrace "No" unapologetically. I learned a while back this small truth "No is a complete sentence".
Praying for you friends.
_Faith like Esther.
_Faith like Esther.
"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14
What position are you finding yourself in?
Did you imagine you would be exactly where you are right now? Or someplace different?
Instead of trying to change your circumstances, change the question.
Perhaps you are in this position for such a time as this.
Let's start this journey together. Unscripted, raw and real emotions. So glad you are with me friend.