I’m broken y’all. We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks. I was home with the girls when a tornado hit the house, trees fell in, and fear gripped me. Meanwhile my husband was driving in it and got stuck on the road when a tree fell in front of him and behind him. Since then we’ve lived in a hotel and now an apartment. Our house was broken into during this and I discovered it when I was by myself getting some items I needed from the house. It has rained so parts of ceilings are starting to get soggy and fall in. My husband is having surgery on his foot today which was scheduled before all of this happened. My oldest is struggling with all the change that is happening around her with the moves and lack of routine. I’m a few days away from my last trimester of pregnancy. But these are all just circumstances. These circumstances aren’t what makes me broken. It’s my sinful nature, it’s my idols I put before the Lord, it’s my pride and my tongue. We are ALL broken compared to our perfect, Holy, righteous, Father. But the good news?! Jesus Christ made a way!! And because of that I have a redeemer who uses all of this for my good. He is with me, carries me through it, strengthens me, never leaves me, draws me in when I push away, uses the body of Christ to minister to me and love me well, and most importantly (because there were too many “me’s” in that sentence) He points others to HIM during crisis, HIS glory shines, HIS power is on display, HIS love abounds, and HIS attributes are magnified.
On October 9th a dear friend sent me an email. She said she couldn’t sleep and had me on her mind along with several verses about fear. I told her I don’t have any noticeable fear issues that I was aware of but that the Lord must know something I don’t, so I will hold those verses close. On Monday the 23rd, I met that fear. Once the tree fell on the house and partly through the hallway bathroom and door (the hallway we were sitting in) I experienced an adrenaline and fear like never before. I grabbed the girls and ran downstairs to the crawl space under the stairs and prayed. Sophie and I took turns praying and crying. In that dark small space I met that fear. Not knowing where my husband was I met that fear. A few nights later, paralyzed with realizing how little I could protect my children and the outcome of their lives I met that fear. The first time I went back to the house I was triggered by the smell of pine which was the overpowering smell when the tree fell in. Smelling it again as I pulled up to the house, I met that fear. The Lord knew this would bring out a fear in me I didn’t know I had. He knew I would wrestle with control and anxiety and lack of trust. Can you see His love???
“’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah 41:10 NASB
Two weeks prior to the storm He sent me the antidote, His perfect Word that renews my mind and comforts and washes fear away and replaces it with truth. He sent me specific verses that would bring much comfort, and would be something to cling to when I couldn’t think clearly or see beyond the fear. He used a friend to deliver it that He knew would be faithful to obey and send the email. Do you see His love??
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:16-18 NASB
That amount of love He has for me is greater than any storm. That amount of love is greater than any fear. That amount of love He showed me through a dear friend foreshadowed how His love and grace and mercy would carry us through this as He uses the hands and feet (and backs!) of others. I am a broken vessel, He is a magnificent light that shines through the trials, shines through the fears, shines through the brokenness, and shines through my sinful, pride filled heart as he prunes me and refines me, and upholds me during these moments that seem “hard” to the world but bring MUCH glory to Him.
My husband and I have checked in with each other often to remind each other of the positives throughout this. I’m so thankful for his positive attitude that compliments the truth I know. Some of those positives are….
We are all safe! No damage to his truck. Our insurance has been phenomenal. We were able to get into a hotel the first night and had power when so many didn’t for several days. Our clothes and most items in our home weren’t damaged, just the structure itself and items in the bathrooms. When its all said and done we will have a nicer home than before. We are in a first floor apartment which will make it easier for Boone while he recoveres from foot surgery, no stairs! We are closer to his work which will make it easier for me to drive him to work. We are in a convenient part of town. When we were robbed we weren’t there. We were still able to go on a trip for Sophie’s birthday which we had planned before this happened and it was perfect timing, we needed the break. I have a church family who has loved us so well. We have neighbors and friends that have helped and my parents being here and retired has made such a difference as they have helped with the girls so much. It has made us realize how much less we can live with and how much “stuff” we have that we don’t need. We have a big enough space that even if the baby comes before we get back in the house, we have plenty of room where we are now. I know there are many more positives that I am forgetting, but it just illustrates that even through logistics of life change that accompany a trial, good and positive circumstances can be orchestrated that make life a little easier. I’m so thankful my husband has been on board with pointing those out and reminding me of them.
It brings tears to my eyes thinking of the people that have surrounded us with love, tangible love. His hands and feet have babysat for us while we packed up the house to get things in the hotel and then again to the apartment. His hands and feet on several occasions have brought people to our cold, dark house to pack boxes, move furniture, load trucks, and just be there in a place I didn’t want to be alone in. His hands and feet have brought us hot, healthy meals, delivered groceries to our apartment, sent us gift cards, made us yummy healthy snacks while in the hotel, given us boxes and other essentials, and I’m sure many more things I am forgetting.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”” Galatians 5:13-14 NASB
His hands and feet have loved my children well and made sure Sophie got to celebrate her birthday several different times and get her mind off what is happening around her. We have been called, texted, emailed, checked on, and prayed for by many. People who are going through their own trials, people who have their own burdens have brought our family before the Lord and petitioned on our behalf. His love is never ending. I am humbled by it and can say that it helps me believe and proclaim “It is well with my soul”. His love is what saved my soul and His love is what heals my soul.
The peace I have, the peace He gives, isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling of perfection in the world. It isn’t blinders that shield us from pain and trial. It’s not a peace that can be replicated through any other means. It is a reconciling, of who we were and who we now are! It is a peace that mediates and brings us to our Creator whole and clean. It is a peace that gives us a firm, never changing, solid foundation to stand on when the world is crumbling and cracking around us. It is a peace that anchors us deep when the waves are over our head and the trials are overwhelming, yet we KNOW we are not going anywhere because we are His!!!! I pray you know that peace. I pray that word is more than a flashback to the 70’s and a logo on a yoga mat. I pray you truly know the Prince of Peace who brings the greatest love you will ever know!
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”Colossians 1:15-20 NASB
I went to bed last night and woke up this morning feeling some bitterness and “I don’t understandness” creeping back in my heart. I did think about emailing a mentor to “vent” those feelings in the hopes she would console me and give me words of wisdom. I realized thought, there is no conversation I can have with someone that can give me the comfort that praying on my knees can. There is no person to turn to right now that can wrap their arms around me and make me feel better like my Father in heaven can. He is who I need to be turning to. Is He not faithful to deliver that? He is! Every time! Is He not merciful enough to take away my anger and hurt and bitterness? He is! Every time! So instead of calling someone, I went to the text, after I went to my Father on my knees praising Him for what He was about to deliver. Instead of just asking for an answer and asking for comfort I was able to praise Him and thank Him for the answer and comfort He was about to give me! By His grace, I was also able to see my flesh and my disobedience by letting frustration and bitterness and anxiousness come into my heart. Be anxious for NOTHING, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you request be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7. That is exactly what I need; His peace to guard my heart.
I picked up in my Old Testament study and immediately saw where I thought my focus needed to be. May the Lord, the God of the spirit of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep which have no shepherd. Numbers 27:16-17. I need to be praying for the man that God is preparing to come be our new shepherd at our church. I need to be praying for the current pastors we have who are stepping up in a more visible role as shepherds and teachers. I need to be praying for my heart to be open and inviting to whoever our new server of God’s Word is so he doesn’t feel like he has shoes to fill that are too big. But then…
He saw a large crowd and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34. We have a shepherd! We have THE Shepherd! He is Emmanuel, He is WITH US. He will and can teach us and change us and grow us as we go to His Word, whether it is on a Sunday or a Tuesday, whether it is by a visiting pastor or a new teaching pastor, God is with us! We are NOT without a Shepherd. We are not without earthly shepherds either. We have the gift of multiple, capable, humble, pastors in our church who are doing just that. The sermon last Sunday was POWERFUL and delivered by a man God used to give us what we needed after a week of goodbyes. He gave us assurance that we WILL receive the Word of God and we WILL receive the gospel message every week. God delivered in a mighty way as we wondered, “what’s next?” They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. Ezeckial 34:5. This is NOT us. Satan wants to scatter us, He wants to devour us. He wants to use the words of others to confuse us. Our Shepherd has not left us. We have faith in the Son of God and He is leading us beside quiet waters. He is guiding us in the paths of righteousness.
Those first lessons when I go to God’s Word are good, but there is usually something more to be done, pruning and refining that isn’t on the surface. As I was led to Job 1:21 I was thinking of the gift I had been given and how that gift had been taken away. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Bless be the name of the Lord. That sums up what I need to wash over my heart. God decides when and what and who and how He gives us blessings. When those are taken away His name is still Lord. Bless be the name of the Lord! We deserve none of the gifts we receive. Yet our cup OVERFLOWS with them. We have been given the gift of eternity! We have been given the gift of a relationship with God! We have been given the gift of His Word, and His presence as we pray and get to know Him through His perfect manuscript. This trial I find myself in needs perspective. This trial of losing a faithful, passionate, gospel-teaching, brother and friend in Christ needs perspective. I in no way want to downplay the loss because I would never want to downplay the powerful ministry and way in which God has used this man in our church and in my life. I am hurting over this loss. I only want to highlight perspective. I was able to have this gift. Though only for a few short years, I still had it. Let him go be a gift to others. This trial needs perspective. There is a young girl in our church who has been diagnosed with cancer for a second time after a year of remission. She is singing God’s praises. My trial needs perspective. I am reminded after an email this morning, there are men in prison, dying from their sin, who have family, who are torn apart, who feel as if no one sees their worth. Our trial needs perspective. There are Christians dying, because they are Christians. They do not back down for one second in their faith and proclaiming Jesus as their Lord. My trial needs perspective. We go to an air conditioned beautiful church. We have faithful God honoring men leading us. We have a community of believers surrounding us. We have any avenue we can think of to dig deep into His Word with fellow believers; Women’s Bible study, MOMS, Lifegroups, Men’s Institute, classes offered for training in Evangelism, Discipling, Soul Care, Well Conferences, we are surrounded by solid teaching and ways to learn and grow. OUR CUP OVERFLOWS with ways God wants to teach us and speak to us through these ministries and teachers. My trial needs perspective and I need to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called as Ephesians 4:1 tells us. We are called to make disciples and be followers of Christ. We are not called to just sit in church and listen to a great pastor. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10. Let’s serve one another with zeal! Let’s serve our church and our community as the City on a Hill that God put us here to be. I love you friends. I love this church. God is Emmanuel and He IS with us!
This week has been hard. I am dealing with a pastor’s sudden move and I have been grieving and overcome with that loss. I have seen pastors go before, but I considered him and his family friends, and they were the first pastoral family I have had in my life since God has brought me to salvation. There have been a lot of emotions tied up in that.
I have been going to God’s Word for comfort and assurance and I know my faith is strong. Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like; he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock. And when a flood occurred, the torrent broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. Luke 6:47-48. I felt the flood and torrent coming, but I am not shaken because my foundation is secure.
I have been going to God’s Word seeking unity and peace for our church. So much of my study time this week has been focused on that and I have read and meditated and prayed over many scriptures for my heart and the rest of the body of Christ to be of the same Spirit united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Now may God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6.
On top of this, God wanted to teach me and refine me more, another way He used this situation for good. My husband began a difficult conversation with me about being judgmental. This stemmed from a conversation about someone he knows who I questioned if they were saved because they bore no fruit and just attended church. Also with some discussions we have had about the changes taking place in my church home, and some negative opinions I have received from some friends outside of my church, and my response to them, he told me that there seems to be a judgmental nature in me. He said “as someone who is a Christian, you seem to be passing a lot of judgment.” Ouch. I have been hurting this week and I thought I needed to be comforted but instead I was being pruned. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT! It has really made me look at myself and examine and yes I have been judgmental. That is the exact opposite of what I want to present to my husband and my Savior, and I cried some more over that realization. As much as I want him to see Christ in me, what he saw in this case was hypocrisy. When God shows us our sin though, he makes a way for us to turn from it. When he shows us our sin and brings us to repentance he forgives us. It is out of love He does this and thank God He does! The sweetest blessing in all of this is that He used my unbelieving husband to deliver that message to me. God once again is making a way for my atheist husband to lead me to spiritual refinement and repentance! I was able to tell my husband he is right about my judgmental attitude and that it was sin and that is why I need a Savior! I told him my being a Christian doesn’t mean I am perfect it means I recognize my need to be saved from my sin and I trust in Jesus Christ to do that! Even though seeing my sin was painful, I ALWAYS look forward to those conversations He allows between my husband and I. I was able to text my husband the following day and thank him for the ugly part of me he pointed out and I told him I was putting on love and quoted this scripture. Beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:14-15.
I have been studying the Old Testament chronologically but this week I didn’t go there. I felt like I needed to be searching out words of comfort and unity in the Bible so I put my other study on hold. But after feeling grief again yesterday I decided to pick back up in Numbers where I left on, I prayed for God to deliver in a might way in His Word whatever it was He wanted to show me, and oh He did! In Numbers 20 I received so many lessons in trusting God, His Word will suffice, offending God’s holiness with rash decisions, great leaders will still falter, putting too much confidence in self, impatience at the direction a leader may take us, (poor Moses and his grumbling Israelites!), complaining, and the great message in Numbers 21 about after coming to repentance over sin (which happened after being bitten, ouch, like I was when I heard my husband’s words), and looking at the serpent symbol on the pole they would live, ( looking to Christ on the cross for forgiveness gives us life!). Then the big message came as I was led to John 6 in one of the footnotes. John 6:32-35- Truly, truly I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world. John 6:45 – It is written in the prophets “and they shall all be taught of God.” Only those who learn from God come to salvation, and all who learn from Him are saved.
The bread of life comes from God, not His servant. The teaching comes from God, not his servant. I still have ALL I need. The teaching, the message, will still come from God as it always has. My overwhelming grief at the exit of one of our pastors was bordering on worshipping a man instead of God. God gave me a gut check and a lesson that started in Numbers and ended in John. I can miss my friends, I can be thankful for all the wonderful truths and messages delivered by his person, but the Holy Spirit is my teacher and ultimately who I learn from and that will never be taken from me. I will praise God because He tells me to. I will pray because He tells me to and I will be thankful in this because He tells me to. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. Psalm 145:17.
Finally brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.