Crown of Life

I’ve been in that familiar place again, battling discouragement.

My son has been battling for so long.  First eczema.  Then topical steroid withdrawal.  Now residual skin infections and rashes that don’t seem to budge for nothing.

God only knows the pain we’ve experienced.  I say “we” because there is no pain like watching your baby suffer.  God only knows the tears.  The cries.  The sheer wretchedness.

The battle rages on.

I was reminded recently that sometimes there aren’t any words.  Or at least, words that should be spoken.  I was talking to a family member about trying to find God’s purpose in suffering and was barely even able to speak my piece before being barraged with a tidal wave of insensitive, unwanted advice.  When someone has been through a trial like that, really- they just want to be heard.  I know it is in our human nature to try to give a quick answer (when there isn’t one) and sometimes trite words of wisdom do far more harm than good.  I’ve had to wrestle through anger and just sheer weariness.  So please, if you know someone going through a tough trial; just be there for them.  Don’t pretend like you know what they are going through or dish out advice.  Just listen.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

I try to be gracious because, really, sometimes we just have no idea.  I know I can look back on some things I said and did that were horribly insensitive, just because I simply didn’t know.  Walking through heartache, especially an extended season where there’s no end in sight, has a way of bringing humility that can’t be gained any other way.

What God has been speaking to me lately has been about the crown of victory.

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” Revelation 3:11

If you are a believer, you have an incredible inheritance.  You are already seated in Heavenly places.  You have a crown and you are royalty.  God wants you to become an overcomer.  If we didn’t have battles to fight, Goliaths to overcome- our stories wouldn’t be very interesting, would they?  We have a crown on our heads but a sword in our hands.  There are battles to be fought, giants to be defeated. 93cc36ecef5a2ed8211337bd08e96c82

Keep your chin up.  Keep fighting.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book….Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.”  Psalm 56:8, 2 Cor. 4:17

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Miracles and the Mundane

Last night was rough.  Major struggle bus rough. b0ef15e95cf662961b5a62c3103b9ae2 I had to close at my store and then I came home to find I had been put smack dab middle into some serious family drama.  Then my daughter got sick and was up half the night emptying her stomach contents into blanket after blanket.  I finally dragged myself out of bed after giving up on more sleep at about 5 am after round five; stomach evacuation.

My husband had to stay home with our daughter, who was still feeling pretty crummy.  I brought my nephews and my son to church anyways.  It’s Palm Sunday!  I was going to church, come hell or highwater.  Everyone was tired from Shiloh’s late night cookie tossing and screaming in distress and the boys were fidgety and I felt disappointment sinking in.

I don’t get to see these boys enough and I was really hoping that the time would be a bit more idealistic.  But such is life.  Sometimes we need to let go of our unmet expectations to embrace the beauty unfolding before our eyes- in our imperfect reality.

Later in the day we went to visit my Dad for his 61st birthday.

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My Papa

My husband ran out to Caribou to get us some coffee (he’s a saint!).  He took forever but I didn’t really think much of it.

 

We had a great visit and as we were pulling away from their driveway my husband told me why he had been so long getting the coffee.

He had seen a homeless man standing outside.  Heart moved; he had brought the man coffee, food and some cash.  He took time to talk to the man and ask him his name, so that he could pray for him.

As he told me my eyes swelled with tears.  I love this man and I am blessed.  I am blessed to be a blessing.

Life isn’t perfect.  Some days you are tired.  Some nights you are up cleaning up puke when you’re exhausted.  But there is still so much beauty to be found when we look beyond our own circumstances.  When we realize how blessed we truly are.  When we are able to show the love of Jesus.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

You are blessed.  You are loved.

Gifts and Humility

I remember as a new Christian hearing so much about spiritual gifts.  How to find your gift!  How to develop your gift!  Primary gifts!  Secondary gifts! Laying on of hands for gifts!  And for some reason I got really hung up on it and it caused me a lot of stress.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to figure out my gifts and start popping out spiritual “fruit” and ASAP.

I’ve learned so much along the way that I’d like to share….

First of all, RELAX.  Don’t sweat the fruit or the gifts.  An apple tree isn’t grunting out apples.  There’s no flexing or straining, though that’s an hilarious image.  When we relax into God’s presence, when we feed on his word, when the sonshine shines on us; that fruit is going to come forth in season and it’ll will be a natural by product of our walk with God.

Your spiritual gift is going to be something that comes naturally to you.  For instance; I’m an introvert and I’d be a terrible evangelist.  That’s ok, because we’re not all called to that.  What I do really enjoy is quiet time with God in which I unearth treasures from his Word and eagerly share with others through my writing.  I’m a writer.  It’s who I am.  It comes naturally.  I may never witness to a stranger on the bus but I am witnessing to whoever happens across the things I have written.

Another thing to realize is that just because there is a need, and we have a mandate to serve- doesn’t mean we are called to everything, all the time.  In our old church there was a growing sense of resentment for me.  The church was a small one, in a small town, so there were a lot of older people.  There were also a lot of young families.  There was a need for workers in the nursery but no one wanted to be in the nursery.  The older people would bring their young grandchildren and expect there to be someone volunteering, but of course it wouldn’t be them.  They had to make coffee in the kitchen.  So I ended up in the nursery an inordinate amount of time.  I also volunteered to teach the young kids on Wednesday night (again, no one else wanted to).  It was an absolutely terrible fit.  I was awful at it.  This thing began to feel like a giant, life-sucking burden in my life.  If you’re trying to do something for God that he never called you to, that’s how it is going to feel.  However, if you’re operating in your God-given gifts, for His glory, it will be rewarding and even fun.

I’m not called, or anointed to teach children.  I love ’em but I’m just not gifted in that area.  In fact I was so bad that the pastor’s wife was looking for someone to replace me (unbeknownst to me) in the announcements during the church service (of course, I didn’t hear them, I was in the nursery) they made announcements until someone else eventually stepped up.  I was fired from a volunteer position.  Sometimes when you get involved in church you see that there are situations where people don’t handle things with integrity.  If she had come to me and said, “look, toots, you’re sweet and all but not a great fit for this role.”  I would have sighed in relief and graciously stepped down.  But people in pews are just people too.  We ultimately left the church but there aren’t hard feelings.  We wanted a church were we felt like our children were welcomed into a solid children’s ministry.

A different instance occurred where I had gifting but a lack of humility, it was a painful scenario that happened about 7 years ago.  I got invited to a Bible study hosted by another young woman who was a very new believer.  She wasn’t as versed in the Word as I was.  I corrected her a few times and was sort of “taking over” the study.  I had the knowledge and gifting but the wisdom and humility weren’t developed to match.  Our friendship ended over it and I was basically booted from the group.  It was very painful at the time but became an opportunity for me to grow.

Even at this point in my life I am working hard to use my gifting to serve God.  It’s for a very small “audience” and I have hope and dreams for a wider platform but that hasn’t happened yet.  I firmly, 100% believe that when the time is right, God will open the doors and bring a spiritual promotion.  I don’t promote my blog at.all. because I want to be waiting on God.  I have more than a sneaking suspicion that God is putting me through this extended waiting process in obscurity because the approval of man is still way too important to me.  If I had more success now it’d be easy for it to go to my head and make it all about me.  If I am swayed by people’s opinion I won’t be the solid, godly teacher that God needs me to be- A vessel that is pure that he can use.

This scenario is echoed again and again in scripture.  One of my favorites is that of Joseph.  Joseph was richly blessed by God.  He was the apple of his father’s eye.  He had a strong spiritual anointing to the point where he was having dreams and visions.  His future was so bright he needed shades 😉  But then he experienced what had to have looked like a complete abandonment by God and the utter ruin of his life; when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery.  Then, he was just working his way to the top (as much as he could as a slave) when his master’s (shameless hussy of a) wife threw herself at him.  He, being a godly young man, rebuffed her advances.  She couldn’t handle the rejection, accused him of rape, and he was thrown into the worst hell hole of a prison you can imagine.  He did get out of that prison though and became instrumental in saving countless lives from famine.  He even saved and was reconciled to his brothers.  God knew he needed the struggle to develop the character and humility that he would need to be this great savior in his time.  The gifting, the call was always there.  The humility and wisdom needed to catch up.

All this to say, in this age where everyone promotes themselves, go against the grain.  Embrace the quiet and solitude that only comes with knowing God in the secret place.  The place where you won’t get any recognition or accolades from man, but you’ll have a prime spot to hear from God.  Trust that God’s timing is best.  He’s working things out in advance for you.  While you’re waiting do everything you can to prepare yourself for the dreams and hopes that he’s placed in your heart.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 

 

Making Time

With God’s help I’ve been enacting some positive changes this month.

For one thing, I completely cut out sugar.  I’m feeling a lot better and one odd side effect is that I need less sleep.  I’ve been waking up super early, like 5am!  This has been really great because I’ve been spending way more time with God in the morning.

I sit here and cringe at the thought that anyone would think I’m more holy than I am.  I struggle, I’m prone to wander.  That’s why I need all that time in God’s presence before I start my day.

One thing I pray everyday is that the Holy Spirit would enable me to surrender my will.  It’s a daily dedication.  Because if we don’t, we have a way of assuming control again!

One great quote I heard was this, “God made no provision for you to live the Christian life.  You have to allow Jesus to live it through you.” Pastor James Macdonald.

The amazing and wonderful thing is that as I’m faithful to show up, God is faithful to meet me.  I sense his presence as soon as I open my little pink leather-bound Bible.  It’s great.  It’s wonderful.  It’s worth dedicating an hour to in the wee early hours.  It sets the tone for the rest of the day.  I feel more joy and peace and less struggle.

So I want to encourage you to make the changes necessary in your life to carve out more time to meet with the God that created the Universe, the God that cares uniquely for you. 

Lessons from Daniel

I started reading the book of Daniel a couple mornings ago.  I prayed that God would show me new treasures in the text because I’ve read this book quite a few times.

Well, treasure has been popping out!

Daniel was stolen away from everything he had known as a young man.  He was immersed in Babylonian culture.  He was well-versed in their literature.  He was completely removed from the practice of worship as he would have been able to practice it in Israel.

He was even given a new name.  Which is incredibly meaningful.  A name wasn’t just a name in those days.  It carried meaning.  King Nebuchadnezzar rebranded him as Belteshazzar.  His birth name had meant, “God is my judge.”  Belteshazzar literally meant “Bel (their idol) protects the king!”

Even though he was taken from his homeland and they attempted to take his very identity, Daniel never compromised.

I find it interesting that he was so uncompromising that years later, in the fifth chapter of Daniel, the Queen states that “an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel…”  

Daniel, though immersed in this pagan culture, stayed faithful to his God and his own identity.  He lasted through multiple Kings and in the end he was still “Daniel” after that “Belteshazzar” title had faded away.

God blessed his stout devotion and prospered and protected him.  We all know how God shut the mouths of the lions, right?  It wasn’t just a couple lazy lions either.  When Daniel was rescued out, his accusers (and their families) were thrown in and didn’t even hit the ground before they were mauled and broken by these same lions.

The practical application for us today is that we need to be faithful to our God and our God-given identities though we, too, are immersed in an increasingly hostile environment that would attempt to lure us away and bring our identity into question.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

 

 

The Sunrise

My son, Gabe won student of the month at his school.  The theme was “courage”, which I thought was extremely fitting!

His school had an awards ceremony this morning at 8 am so we had to wake Gabe up way earlier than usual to get him there.  We couldn’t tell him why, since it was supposed to be a surprise.  We usually let him sleep until 9 and get him to school around 10:15 after a bath and various treatments…se we all had to get up pretty early to get him there on time.

As we were about to head out the door we saw the most beautiful sunrise.  Because of his sleep issues, Gabe hasn’t seen a sunrise in a long time.  He stood at the window and marveled for a good ten minutes. 20171201_071752Something about the sunrise inspires praise.  It’s a little bit of glory breaking through the bleakness.  It’s the light cutting through the darkness.

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The ceremony was pretty brief and there were a lot of proud parents there but I’d doubt that there were any more proud than we were.20171201_115819  For me, this moment represents so much.  At one point I told Gabe that he was so brave.  He said, “but Mom, I’m scared a lot.”  I said facing hard things and not quitting makes you brave.  If we never felt afraid we wouldn’t need courage.

God is faithful.  He promised to never leave or abandon us.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Suffering and Heaven

18920650_10158894564500074_8516742202078951748_nYesterday I took just Gabe out shopping.  I don’t often get to spend alone time with him and I was reminded what an amazing kid he is.  He has such a tender soul.  He wants to run an orphanage when he grows up… but he also wants to drive a Ferrari, so… 😉

We had a fun time, just the two of us.  On the way home he kept asking me about Heaven and what it’ll be like when Jesus comes back.

I explained to him that Jesus will appear in the sky with great glory, riding the clouds.  That every eye will see him, even those that pierced him.  That we will rise to meet him and be changed, to be like him.  That there will be no more sickness, death, pain…

I got choked up and so did he.  He said, “Mom, I can see him coming.”  I said, “honey that’s the Holy Spirit showing you that it’s true.”

You see, just the day before he had been in a lot of pain.  In between tears and sobs he had asked, “if God loves me, why am I suffering so much?”

The conversation, and the sweet presence of God, was something we both desperately needed.  Something that I need more of.

In my own suffering I tend to turn away.  I feel like I can’t take anymore disappointment at times, without losing hold of my faith.  But yesterday, it was like He peeled back the curtain obscuring eternity and gave us both a glimpse of our future and the end of suffering.  I felt a glimpse of the eternity and wonder awaiting us, and looking over at Gabe’s tear-filled eyes, I know he did too.

I know that Gabriel is being molded in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I know he has a huge call on his life.  Even at the age of 8, there is a level of tenderness, empathy and hunger for knowledge of God that is amazing…. probably as the result of all the suffering he’s had to endure.

We can got lost in the hardships we face but we need to remember that life here is short and eternity is long.  We can’t choose the trials but we can choose how we face them.  Our God loves us.

 

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