Change

This is a season of a lot of change. It’s nothing new though, right? Aren’t we always experiencing some sort of change. This is a season of a lot of appointments and decisions. A season of a lot of communicating and miscommunicating. A season of inspections and contracts and repairs. A season of spreadsheets and calculating. We are selling our home and building another one. To do that it looks like we will be moving up the mountain temporarily, for about a year, to live in our first home so we don’t have to pay rent on something down here. We still own it and have been renting it out but have had it empty for a few months as we have been trying to sell it also.  We haven’t been able to sell it so that seems to be a provision from the Lord so we can move in there after this house down here sells. It’s a lot to think through logistically. Thankfully the Lord is working out my heart spiritually as well. Logistics are good and necessary but I am holding them with an open hand as I cling tight to the God who is in control.

I listed out all of the changing circumstances. All that it affects. All the responsibilities and roles that would change. The “to-do” list of change, who I needed to contact, what I needed to do. I wanted to write out scripture beside each thing, God’s truths to help me counter the list that was growing in my head. But instead I deleted it all and just started writing out who HE is. Focusing only on Him. His attributes.

He is unchanging. No matter what changes around me, He doesn’t. He says “For I the Lord do not change.” Malachai 3:6. Hebrews 13:8 tell us Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is grounding and comforting to know that!

He is the vine. No matter where I move, no matter how the community around me changes,  I can cling to Him. I cannot do any of this without Him. Galatians 2:20 says I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. Indwelling in me and empowering me. The community and support around me may change, but Christ in me does not!

He is sovereign. Everything is according to the counsel of His will. These verses about Him have probably been one of the biggest comforts to me. “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” Ephesians 1:11. In Acts 20:27 Paul says he preached the “whole counsel of God”. God is sovereign over the whole plan of my life and the lives of those around me. He brings it to fullness and completion through “creation, election, redemption, justification, adoption, conversion, sanctification, holy living, and glorification”. (MacArthur Study Bible). There is nothing happening in my life that can’t be used for one of these previous things mentioned. It is part of His plan. It has eternal purposes. The whole counsel of His Word tells me that. The changing circumstances aren’t what it is important, but how it is changing me and those around me is what is important. 

He is all knowing, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open and the clouds drop down the dew.” Proverbs 3:19-20.  His wisdom is perfect, His wisdom created everything, His wisdom sustains everything. James tells us to ask God for that wisdom, to be doers of that wisdom He has given us through His Word and the Holy Spirit guiding us. I trust God’s wisdom. In His all-knowing infinite wisdom He orchestrated this change. I trust that.

Initially this move isn’t my favorite thing. Honestly not having regular time with my church family will be the hardest part. But change doesn’t need to produce instability or shifting ground or doubt. I can still have assurance amidst change. I have assurance in who God is and because of that I don’t need assurance in my comfort or preferences.

He is my firm foundation. He is my rock. He is my never-changing, all-knowing, all-sufficient, all-powerful, always has been always will be creator, sustainer, redeemer, deliverer and provider. He is my overflowing fountain of water, my well that never runs dry. He is my light of hope that never can be hidden. He IS God. HE is God. He is GOD. A 66 mile move up a mountain, a change in school for my daughter, a commute for my husband, a laying down of commitments, and backing down from a few responsibilities doesn’t change who He is, what He does, why I’m here, and how it all plays out. I have assurance amidst change. A friend (@wellnesswitness) reminded me this week that this circumstance is producing something in me that nothing else could. God has said for me to make a conscious commitment and choice to face it with joy because I KNOW and believe all of these truths. 

What blessed assurance that is! Assurance amidst change can allow me freedom to be excited for what’s ahead. Assurance amidst change can help me perceive His presence and His hand in all that is happening around me. Assurance amidst change can help me keep a right perspective. Assurance amidst change can turn grumbling and frustration into praise and thanksgiving. Assurance amidst change can turn fear of the future into praise for HIS plan. Now instead of making a list of all the things this move will change that I might not like and how I need to deal with it, I can make a list of all the positive provision this will be for our family and ANTICIPATE the good and healthy sanctifying work this will do instead of project a negative attitude on the situation. 

Join me in praising the God that never changes! Join me in believing He will supply all we need as a gift of sanctification. I can see this as something I NEED, not just something to get through. I can see this as a provision on so many levels that will produce a strength in my faith, my marriage, my children, and my ministry. As we prepare for this move I am aware that this could all fall through and a new plan be put in place. I am also aware that as I write this out, tomorrow I could wake up facing anxiety all over again. That is why I am writing it. That is why I will go back to His Word over and over. My house, my life, needs to be built on faith in His saving grace and merciful provision as I live that out in repentance and obedience. Jesus Christ is who I look to for that. He has provided it all.  He alone is my assurance, the one thing that DOES NOT CHANGE.

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” Luke 6:47-48.

 

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Vessel

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

Clean

My point in writing this isn’t political. It isn’t to sway an opinion. It isn’t to revolutionize this topic with my spin on it. My point in writing this is simply…this is my story.  God is the author of redemption and healing. This is a story of that. I knew this day would come. As a writer, I knew that there would be a day when I was so compelled to write that it would finally come pouring out and I would share it with others.  Today is that day.  I have shared this with some in an email, but now I am sharing it with you all. So here I am writing to you telling you that seventeen years ago I had an abortion. Seven years ago I kneeled before the Lord and trusted Him as my Savior. What I am writing now is to tell you about my experience seventeen years ago, to tell you about my experience with it now, and to give you the perspective of a pro-life, post-abortive, born-again Christian living in a time when the temperature on this subject, abortion, is extremely hot.

When the two pink lines showed on the pregnancy test I wasn’t sure what to do. Who do I call first? What do I do next? What have I done? The inner turmoil began. I didn’t want to make this decision. I wanted someone to make it for me. I felt like I would ruin my boyfriend’s life if I had the baby. I was addicted to him. In the unhealthiest of ways. He didn’t make me do it in the same way he didn’t stop me. It isn’t his fault. I thought there was no way my parents would let me give their grandchild up for adoption so I thought that option was out of the question. I didn’t tell them. (This past year, after tremendous healing, I have told my parents.) My thinking wasn’t rational or sane. It was panic induced. Obviously not capable of making wise decisions, I turned to my friends, the ones I knew that had already had an abortion. They didn’t regret it and said they knew it was the right decision for them. I heard that from three of my close friends. That number baffles me. If three of my very closest friends had one, then how many more of my acquaintances had?? I was in my first years of college at a fairly liberal school. At the time I regularly drank, smoked, and did a myriad of other drugs. Had I already hurt the baby? Could the baby already be damaged? Is it a baby? I do remember thinking it wasn’t a baby yet. So many questions and confusing thoughts but from the very first moment I started a process I wasn’t even aware of. I began to push down feelings deep down to a place I thought would be unreachable. I was preparing myself for the decision I knew I was going to make.

My boyfriend and I went to a pregnancy crisis center in that college town. I didn’t realize what a pregnancy crisis center was. A few minutes after walking inside I realized what it was and that the agenda was to save the baby. I felt like a paper bag holding a diamond inside. As long as the diamond was saved the bag didn’t matter. I could just be crumpled up and tossed to the side and go back to being the trash I was. They asked to pray for the baby with us. When my boyfriend said no they did it anyway. My boyfriend was getting angrier the longer we were there as he was realizing the Christian viewpoint that was being offered. Now in saying this I am in no way discouraging pregnancy care centers. I hope to one day volunteer at one as the Lord leads. The experience I’m sharing is not to disparage the intent of those working there but to let you see the state of mind I was in during that time. These were self inflicted labels and my eyes and ears were closed.  I am not saying the diamond isn’t important. It is! Oh it is! I am SO thankful for the people and the places that exist solely to save the lives of innocent children. I am thankful for the marches and fundraisers and awareness that is being raised because of the Christian pregnancy crisis centers around the country. I am so grateful for any and every life saved because of them and I praise God for their diligence and passion and ministry. My point is this. There are two hearts that need to be saved. In trying to save the one you need to reach the other. I needed the gospel! Marches, pickets, signs, lobbying, and social media can’t reach someone the way a one on one, face to face, outreach of the gospel can. My hope is that for every picket sign held there is a discipleship relationship happening with a young person you know. My hope is that for every march there is an evangelism outreach happening in your neighborhood or the neighborhood you’ve never been to. My hope is that for every shout of the law “thou shout not murder” there is a pleading for the soul of another to kneel and give themselves to Christ. I needed the gospel. How can we expect someone to not sin if they don’t know Jesus as their Savior? This is sin we are dealing with. It isn’t an agenda, it isn’t left wing or right wing, it isn’t feminism, it is sin. Sin can only be reached and slayed by the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I don’t remember every detail of the day it happened. I actually don’t know the date at all. I can pinpoint the year because of where I was living and the circumstances surrounding that time. I can’t remember the name of the place I just know the city it was in. I wanted it washed out of my mind, so holding on to facts surrounding it wasn’t something I was interested in. I do remember exactly where I was when I made the call. I remember the apartment I was in, the chair I was sitting on, and the phone book I used to look it up. I remember that I couldn’t say “abortion” so I told them I needed to make an appointment to terminate a pregnancy. I could never say that word until recently. I remember the day we drove there and I remember walking in. I remember what the waiting room looked like and that there was a television with a sitcom on. I remember filling out paper work and being taken through another door where I filled out more paperwork. At this point I was alone, my boyfriend had to wait in the waiting area. I was in a hallway and there were several rooms off from it with other women in them. Many, many, other women. I overheard conversations. I remember hearing from some that is wasn’t their first time. I remember hearing laughter. Chit chat. The cramming down of emotions continued for me. Stuff it down Holly. Way down. To that place. It won’t be reached. You won’t have to feel this again. I convinced myself it wasn’t a baby yet, but the idea of a future baby I was getting rid of was still sad. It was finally “my turn”. I do not remember what the doctor looked like. I do remember a nurse who had kind eyes.  As I was laying down I heard noises, machines, and the inner turmoil began to bubble up. Stuff it down Holly!!! I was screaming on the inside, shove it down!!! Put these feelings in that place, it will be unreachable. It was over and I was a different person. I now was a mom who killed her child. I would now be nursing a scar that seemed to never want to heal. I had to go to a waiting area with other women sitting in chairs around the room. Some were chatting. Every part of my body was raging. I was bleeding. I kept having to get up to go with the nurse to the bathroom to change my pads. I was quickly becoming nauseas while back in my seat. I told the nurse I was going to throw up. She gave me a bed pan to throw up in. In that room, with all those other women, my body was so violently reacting that I couldn’t catch my breath. I was panicking. I was begging for my boyfriend but because of privacy issues they couldn’t let him in. He was waiting out the back door entrance in the car. No one else was throwing up. I seemed to be the only one having a reaction like this. Every emotion I had tried to stuff down to that unreachable place was being hurled back up all over me in my bile and blood. What had I done. When I was finally cleared to leave I went out the back door. You don’t exit where you enter. That would be bad for business. I got in the car and didn’t speak a word the whole way home. I cried and bled.

When we got home I stayed at my boyfriend’s apartment for two weeks. I told my parents and my work that I was sick. My boyfriend tried desperately to cheer me up. He took me to Carowinds; as if rollercoasters and funnel cakes could fix me. He just wanted to see me smile. Some part of him loved me because he was trying to fix it. I have two pictures from that week that my boyfriend took. I look hollow. That’s the only word I could come up with to describe how I look in those pictures. I waited tables for a living at that point. I remember the first time I waited on a family with a baby in my section after I went back to work. That is when I picked back up with and got better at pushing it all back down. The unreachable place. I developed a good poker face. Years of hiding it. Years of lying. Years of pretending it didn’t bother me when someone had a conversation with me about abortion. Pretending that song or that commercial didn’t bother me. Realizing that no hateful words or labels or judgement from others could make me feel any worse. Words like “murderer” don’t hurt; an empty womb does.

In those following years that boyfriend and I broke up. I continued pursuing a career in restaurant management. I met and married my husband. I continued drinking but stopped most of the other stuff. I was settling in to “adult” life. Friends were getting married and having kids. We still weren’t. In those years of not conceiving the self condemning continued. I deserve this. Of course I’m not going to get pregnant again, I shouldn’t be allowed to. In those years I was all over the place in my religious beliefs. I had enjoyed taking classes and studying eastern religions. I was beginning to look into and believe we are connected by energy. The universe as a vast web of minds. I was getting very far away from God in my thinking and exploring. The times I did entertain the notion that God was real and heaven and hell were too, I decided heaven wasn’t a place for me. I had done the ONE thing and had gone just too far. There were times I rationalized my decisions with fate and destiny. A lot of twisted things going on in that head of mine. Things started to disintegrate again. So many of my mistakes and decisions were catching up with me. I got a DUI, lost my license, community service, the whole humiliating deal. We still weren’t able to conceive a child. My marriage was on the verge of ruin because I was selfish, controlling, angry, and not trustworthy. Like a bulldozer pushing mounds of dirt on me I felt like I was being buried alive. That is when I could feel God putting His hand down in that pit of dirt and denial and pull me up. He reached the unreachable place. I couldn’t escape the compelling nature of a God who was pursuing me relentlessly. That is when I began to see my sin and call it that. It wasn’t just bad decisions it was sin. It wasn’t just a past of mistakes, it was sin. I was brought to salvation by a mighty and loving God, who could, yes, love EVEN me.

Now let me tell you a story of redemption. It is mind blowing! God is the best author there is. He wrote an amazing book that is alive and active and he continues to write our testimonies and our life story and I just can’t believe the one I get to live. In the beginning, after I was saved, all I knew to do was pray. I began running and praying. It was a sweet time out alone in God’s creation talking to Him. I was learning how to be a better wife. My sweet husband was forgiving and patient. After my first five mile run I came home and on a whim took a pregnancy test. It was positive. We were going to have a baby. It brought up emotions that I still hadn’t completely healed from but God continued to replace that with the truth. The cross is enough. You are forgiven. My sweet daughter was born and we realized soon after I probably wouldn’t conceive another. Cysts, removal of an ovary, endometriosis, were all contributing to the difficulty with conceiving. Adopting became a conversation. It had in the past but this time we started really talking about it. I was so clearly being led to adoption. Now I need to add something in here. My husband isn’t a Christian. During that time I was coming to know the Lord He was realizing his own beliefs. Even though we have two totally different world views and beliefs, our marriage is restored, thriving, and wonderful. I have such a kind husband. He just doesn’t know his Savior like I do. But my God is faithful. So back to adoption. We started the process and became licensed to foster/adopt in our county. A year and a half after we began the process we got a call about a little girl born on my husband’s birthday who needed a home. Her mom was brave enough to carry her and protect her for nine months. I admire her so much. I am so grateful for her decision. I am so thankful God let me be a part of this adoption story which reminds me of ALL of our adoption stories when we come to put our faith and trust in Christ. That being said, getting our second daughter brought up some of those emotions again. Do I deserve her? Would people be so happy about what we were doing if they knew what I had done seventeen years ago? Some lies and fiery darts were flying. But God in the sweet way He always does filled me with truth. One morning at church I was holding my daughter who woke up right before the service was over. Communion was starting. We were sitting in our seats getting ready to drink and eat to remind us of the blood and body of Christ. The song lyrics that were playing were “sin had left a crimson stain and He washed it white as snow.” As I sang those words and tears poured down my face and I looked down at my daughter I felt God’s arms wrapping around me. What a reminder of redemption!!! What a reminder of the life transforming power of the gospel!! My scarlet letter had followed me, that blood I could never wash off my hands, and Christ came, a perfect sinless loving Savior and spilled all his bile and blood for me. For every part of me. For the seventeen years ago massacre that happened in my body.

I needed the gospel. There are girls that are confused. There are women that are callous. There are victims of horrific acts that now have a life in their womb. There are girls scared of their parents. There are women trying to protect a reputation they think they have. There are women who believe their child would be better off in heaven. There are woman who think there is no other option. There are those that feel the burden so heavy they can’t carry it. There are women who say they don’t care if they’re going to hell. There are women who never regret it and there are women who never get over it. There are women who heal and there are women who give up. They all need the gospel. We all do. The fight for sanctity of life has to be fueled by the gospel message. I know there are those that will disagree. I know there may be someone reading this who feel no regret. My point in sharing is not to add to an argument or create a divide. I want to simply share the power of Jesus Christ to redeem and heal the hole that is there and to bear witness to his great love that saved me.

I am writing this now because my hope is that there would be less emphasis on a Facebook post with an ensuing battle in the comments to affect change, and more focus on souls needing to be won to Christ. I am speaking to my self as well and would ask that you pray for me. Pray that a discipleship relationship would be opened. Pray that I would clearly see what the next step is for me with my message and point of view that I pray God will use to save lives! Pray that I would be able to build a relationship with the Pregnancy Care Center when and if that is the direction God wants me to go. I do not feel this epidemic, this mass killing in our country, will be changed by shouts, by hateful words, by pointing the finger and condemning, by ranking sin, or by giving up. It will be changed by Jesus Christ. One person at a time hearing about and coming to know Him as their Lord and Savior and then continuing to be discipled in love and truth. Policy makers, lobbyists, and government regulations won’t change the heart of a women who is determined to end the life of her child. But Jesus can!

Hope

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

I continue to see ways God is leading me and “making my paths straight” as I discern how to live as a Christian with my unbelieving husband and how to raise our daughter with different beliefs guiding us. It truly has been amazing seeing prayers being answered and seeing the truth of God’s Word unfold before my very eyes. It helps me to BELIEVE and grow my trust because God is showing me how His Word is always the answer. That prayer is always the way when I am lost in the middle of a struggle or temptation. That Jesus Christ is not just my example but my Savior and always where my gaze should be as the Holy Spirit sanctifies my heart through this perfect Word of God.

A lot I said there in theory, now let me share with you specifics because this is so good and I pray it helps you see God working in your own life, every day with every thing He IS working. I often times hear people say “that’s a God thing” or after a specific “good” blessing I’ll hear “God is working”. Those are true but God is ALWAYS working. Not getting what you thought you wanted is God working. Being in the middle of a heart wrenching trial is God working. Yes, the blessings and sweet times are God working also but I believe He is always working because He is sovereign and He is omnipresent and so He can’t be separated out of the events of our lives in any way.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans‬ ‭11:36‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

Our hope is in Christ, who never changes and never goes away. So no matter the circumstance we are always in the middle of a blessing because God is always with us. He is always working it out for our good, we just might not see it yet in our terms and our limited viewpoint.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” Romans‬ ‭8:28-29‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬

Okay, back to specifics. I have continually prayed for God to grow my desire for Him through His Word. That He would help me to understand and grow in love and knowledge. The fruit of that being so I would get to know my God and love Him more but also that when asked by my husband I would be able to articulate the gospel and the surrounding narrative of the Old Testament. ‭

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”1 Peter‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God has delivered and given me an appetite for the Old Testament starting last year and I LOVE seeing Jesus Christ all throughout the Old Testament and the immense love God has for us. Recently my husband thought it would be fun to give me a quiz that came up on his Facebook about Biblical knowledge. He wanted to see what I know. It was so fun! He read all 40 questions to me and as I was answering each one, a lot pertaining to the Old Testament, I was realizing this sweet gift. My husband was surprised at what I knew. He said “wow, you really know this stuff”. Now the point of that isn’t head knowledge, please don’t look at it that way, the point is that my husband was seeing that my belief and faith comes from my own belief not what someone else told me. He thinks most Christians only believe what they are told by their parents or what others tell them. He was seeing that I have read the Bible, studied it, and found great value and truth in it that helps reinforce my belief and my relationship with my Savior because it is THE Word of God. That is an answered prayer. My husband is an atheist yet he spent 30+ minutes asking questions from this quiz, reading parts of God’s Word in the questions, hearing the answers and learning things he didn’t know, and it was his idea (actually God’s idea!). Sometimes I don’t know when and how and how much to speak to my husband about the Bible and my relationship with God. This time it was handed to me on a silver platter. God continues to deliver moments like this.

Another time when this happened was during a struggle; this was a hard one. Our daughter was being disobedient in an area that we are just stuck in, bedtime. It seemed we were over this hurdle and now it is back. Praise God it is! Because in this struggle one particular night I was coming undone. I had to walk away and tears were flowing. My husband came in and sat down and closed the door so it was just the two of us. We began a conversation discussing how to handle her and discipline her. I just wanted to be on the same page and really wanted my husband to tell me what to do. In the middle of our conversation I said “Fathers (or mothers in my case) do not provoke your children to anger”. Then I just kept saying more “ train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”. I said a few more “be anxious for nothing…” I was opening my mouth and God’s Word was coming out. My husband said, “that sounds like pretty good advice, where are you getting those from?” I told him the Bible. He asked which men wrote those and I told him Solomon wrote Proverbs 22:6 and I am in the middle of reading 1 Samuel and started talking to him about what I was learning about Solomon and his wisdom. Since we were talking about discipline he started asking where in the Bible it says parents should “hit” their kids. I talked about the passages about the “rod” and others. This led to him asking me about “stoning” and isn’t that what the Old Testament was full of. Now here is where it gets good…I was able to talk to him about the Old Testament law and the purpose of it to show us that we can’t obey and that Christ came to fulfill perfectly the law for us since we cannot. He took every “stoning” or other punishment we deserved for the sins and disobedience we displayed. Now two years ago I would not have been able to speak to my husband about the correlations of the Old Testament and the New Testament but this night I was able to. I was able to speak with conviction because God has shown me as I have studied His Word. Also in speaking this to Boone it spoke to my heart as well. When I said the words “We can’t obey, it isn’t possible for our flesh to perfectly obey” Boone’s eyebrow raised and he got an “I told you so” look on his face. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew. YES! I need to remember this in the middle of Sophie struggling with her obedience. Why do I forget that??!! It was just so cool to have my husband there with me in that moment, as he was able to see something God was doing in my own heart to minister to me in that moment which was delivered by a conversation with my husband about Old Testament law. God is making a way for my husband to see what I need from God’s Word to help me in those moments when I am tempted to be anxious. I just can’t tell you how thankful I am for my daughter’s tantrum now!!!!! I pray I remember in every hard and uncomfortable moment that God is working. I may not always see the fruit of it as quickly as I did that night but that shouldn’t change my belief that it is all working together for my good.

One of the biggest struggles in an unequally yoked marriage is not being able to share with your spouse THE most important thing in your life. The excitement of understanding and studying God’s Word, the sanctification of your heart, the personal and life giving relationship with Jesus Christ, the HOPE and PEACE that surpasses ALL comprehension, and not being able to know they are your brother or sister in Christ. But all of that being said, can you see how God is giving me and showing me that the limitation in this is mine. He doesn’t put limits on my marriage. He made a way for my husband to talk with me about God’s Word. He made a way for me to speak to my husband about how God is working in my heart. He made it possible for us to use scripture when discussing a parenting issue with our daughter. Praise God that He is so much greater than I, that He is sovereign and in control, that He is continuing to turn my marriage into a miracle, a fruit bearing testament to the TRUTH and POWER of God’s Word. Christ died for this. He died so that I would come alive through Him. He died so that I could abide in Him and He in me so that there would be fruit that would GLORIFY GOD. I think about His death on the cross for my sin in that moment with my daughter. My anger and frustration and anxiousness rising. But then He rose from that death, from that grave, so that I could be made new and no longer a slave to that sin. All of this happening with my husband by my side, not separate from me.

My husband doesn’t believe Jesus did that powerful work. He doesn’t believe God exists. He doesn’t believe God’s Word is true and perfect and infallible. My hope isn’t in my husband’s belief. My hope is in Jesus Christ who made a way for me to have these moments, these gifts from God. My hope is in eternity where I will be surrounded by God’s glory in a way that eclipes the glimpses of it I get to see in my marriage and makes them pale in comparison. My hope is in a God who loves me and will and has done EVERYTHING for my good. All of this lets me rest. God knows the desire of my heart, because it is His desire as well, that my husband would be saved. My marriage is a reminder to me that NOTHING is impossible and God will work and do things I can’t even imagine or see coming to bring about His perfect will and His purposes.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Let us REJOICE in everything and always be in a posture of thanksgiving for the joy we have in knowing Him, our Abba Father. The Lord is near! In whatever you are in the middle of He is there. His Word is there to teach you and train you and encourage you in the difficult moments and so that others can hear of this hope you have!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Open It

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:35-41‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’ve read this passage in the Bible, loved this passage, quoted this passage, memorized part of it, but recently saw it in a whole new light. I love that aspect of the Holy Spirit, that He illuminates His Word which reaches us on a deeper level and sheds light in a new way to our understanding of Christ and our relationship with Him.

At first, the main part of this I zeroed in on was “Peace, Be still!” or another translation “Hush, be still.” Knowing the powerful and mighty attribute of Jesus that allows Him to command the sea was my focus. If He can do that He can do anything! Knowing I need to believe that He can calm anything raging in me or in the world. Knowing that if Christ is in my boat, I will be okay. Yet, I didn’t look past what happened after the sea calmed.

But NOW I have a new favorite part of this verse that has made me get this knowledge from my head to my heart in a much deeper and meaningful way….verse 35 says, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” That seemingly simply statement from Christ jolted my heart in a whole new way when I read it. It is not simply that Jesus can calm a sea, it isn’t simply that we should have faith He can do that, it isn’t simply that we should be comforted and at peace when Jesus is in our boat, it is that when Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of our lives says He is going to do something, all aspects of our faith should rest in that.

If He says we are going to the other side then we are going.

If anything comes to us in the middle of the sea, that shouldn’t change our faith on the fixed goal of what Christ said He will do. It is another example of why we should be studying and reading God’s Word as a whole and in context, not just pulling out verse 39, ‘Peace, be still!”. There is great power in verse 39 and there is a wonderful picture of who Christ is in verse 39, but for me that knowledge goes deeper when in context of verse 35 at the beginning of this scene and after the storm. Mark 5:1,  “They came to the other side of the sea… ” – They arrived!

Do you see? Do you see why it is important to open the Bible, to study it, to read it, as a whole. Yes there are times that just knowing Christ can calm anything that rages around us is a comfort to me, the Holy Spirit can use that verse for sure in my life. But I rejoice greatly that the Holy Spirit grows my knowledge and understanding by illuminating another layer to this well known miracle. That leads to a stronger view of who Christ is which leads to a growing relationship with Him which leads to a deeper faith which leads to movement in sanctification, ALL by His grace ALL leading to the glory of God on display!

The application of this verse is now much more significant for me as well. Do you live in a spiritually unequal marriage? Do you impatiently tell God that you’ve had enough and want to jump out of the boat and swim to the shore by yourself? Or do you stand firm in the middle of it praising God for Jesus in the boat with you. The shore is coming. Do you struggle with parenting your children? Are you trying to stick your weak, feeble arms out of the boat and paddle your children to the shore yourself? Or can you rest in the fact that the only one who can save them is Christ, not you. The shore is coming. Do you suffer from anxiety and fear because you cannot control the _____ (insert the trial you are going through here)  and that scares you? Do you try to hold an umbrella up over yourself and cower and tremble in the storm? Or do you see your hope is in Christ alone who has asked you to step out into the light and trust Him. The shore is coming. NOTHING will stop what Christ is going to do in our lives. NOTHING can separate you from the glory and eternity that is coming. He simply asks us to trust that.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬
This miracle in Mark can hold the weight of these other verses. The shore is coming, we are getting to the other side because Jesus says we are. So we can believe He will complete it, we can believe nothing can separate us, and we can believe the peace of God will guard us.

The more this happens in His Word the more work God is doing in my heart. So I MUST open His Word, we must! Do you see why? Do you see the work He can do when we study the living, breathing Word of God? Do you see how it is active and alive and the Holy Spirit works mighty wonders when we fix our eyes and our minds on these glorious words? The more the Holy Spirit illuminates scripture for me, like what happened in Mark, the more my appetite will grow, the more the Word will conform me, the more I will fall in love with my Savior, again ALL by the grace of God. This book is about God. This book shows us who He is, how much He loves us and the hope we can have in our Savior. This book is the most incredible gift anyone can receive. Open it, tear it wide open with more anticipation than Christmas morning or any other pretty thing wrapped in a bow. Take refuge in Him by opening and studying the gift He has given us.

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭30:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Wait

I have a friend who cannot wait. Literally, she cannot wait for the ending. She Googles movies before she watches them so she knows how it ends. She reads the end of the book first. She doesn’t like surprises. She wants to know when and where it will all happen. I was reminded of this while continuing my study in the Old Testament. I came to the part recently of the Israelites, ALMOST to the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 11 Moses is preparing them and reminding them of the laws and commands and words of the Lord. For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgements which I am setting before you today. Deuteronomy 11:31. I knew the outcome but still in reading those verses I was filled with the anticipation of it, and wondered if they felt that too. Was the air electric with praise and thanksgiving? Were they just beside themselves, so close they could taste it? Were they hasty and rushed and ready for it to hurry up and get here? Were they trying to look ahead and “google” the outcome? Twenty two chapters later, a new book began and finally in Joshua 3 they crossed the Jordan!! Even when I know the outcome, the promise, I can get impatient, instead of trusting what His perfect Word tells me. Not one of the good promises which the Lord has made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:45.

God knows we will be tempted to turn away, to not trust whole heartedly 100% and that we can be tempted to worship other things in the waiting. Beware that your hearts are not deceived and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Deuteronomy 11:16.. I can be tempted to worship the gods of “more”, “comfort”, and “now”. I want more spiritual growth quicker and faster. I want the comfort of knowing that family members will be saved. I want my circumstances to change now. There are things I am waiting on and in all of these areas of “the wait” I can see God using them to grow my trust, to prune and shape ugly things out of me, to reach and encourage others. He is delivering on His promises, in His perfect timing and His perfect way. Kingdom work is being done! Just as the Israelites were being taught to trust God all those years before the Promised Land, everything we are going through now is preparing us and others for our time with Him!!

One of the verses I love is short and simple and may just be a literal physical direction from God but to me it speaks of His perfect knowledge and sovereignty of when and where we need to do what and how. You have circled this mountain long enough, now turn north. Deuteronomy 2:3. Oh friends, I know some of you have been circling the same mountain, waiting. Fill your heart with all the many verses God speaks about the beauty of the wait. The trust He is growing, the longing for Him He is increasing, the humility that will be used to serve Him and His people, it is all good for us. For me, when I have a “NO LORD, NOT THIS, I DON’T WANT TO!!”moment, He leads me by His grace, to a place where I surrender and say “Yes Lord, I trust You.” That doesn’t always happen as immediately as I would like, but it is a promise He keeps. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19. The covenant standard isn’t the law anymore but is faith and hope in Christ!!! When we have that we cannot fail, and God never leaves us! Serving the Lord with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things is the standard in Deuteronomy 28:47. The abundance of all things isn’t money or physical blessing it is an abundance of humility, abundance of peace, and abundance of righteousness. When we are waiting, when we are circling the mountain, and are serving with joy and gladness God is giving us those abundant riches spiritually on earth as we wait for the return of Christ and our complete sanctification. How GOOD of Him to grow us now, how LOVING of Him to give us circumstances to grow our trust and faith in Him so we can share it with others. Friends, I pray that you will be encouraged in the wait, and with great anticipation of what God has when He tells you it is time to turn north!

Emmanuel

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!

My Shepherd

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.

Sick

I’m sick today. Head cold, sinus infection kind of sick, stuffy nose, cough, weak and groggy. SG has been cooperative and played in my room; coloring, playing with dolls, watching movies. I was scheduled to work at 4:15 and was preparing myself for that by finding and praying scriptures that would give me the strength to get through a shift while sick. I had sent a message out this morning trying to get my shift picked up but no one replied. Unless you have a fever or pink eye or a doctors note you have to work. I prayed that God would help me keep my attitude positive and not let my sickness be an excuse to complain at work. I prayed Proverbs 3:5 trust in the Lord with all your heart; I prayed Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord and He answered me; I prayed Romans 5:3-5 we also exult in our tribulations, knowing tribulations bring about perseverance, perseverance proven character, and proven character hope...; I prayed Philippians 4:6- be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and over and over I prayed Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. These aren’t scriptures just for “big” trials. God’s Word is for our daily trials, illnesses, attitudes, and inconveniences. His Word can counsel any situation and cover us in truth and the armor we need for any encounter and circumstance. As I was getting ready for work, I DID have peace. I wasn’t worried about how I was going to feel, I KNEW I would be okay. At 3:24, I got a call telling me I didn’t have to come in to work and that the managers would take care of it. Praise God! They NEVER do that. People have had to work before that were much sicker than me. God answered my prayer with deliverance! I have Colossians 3:23 on a notecard at work – Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. I think the managers see that attitude in me and when I needed some compassion from them the Lord guided them to release me from this shift. He takes care of me. He brings me to trials to make sure my heart and attitude are right. He has given me these scriptures prior to this and they were able to comfort me and strengthen me. On top of that God gave me rest, one more day to rest before I have to work an even longer shift tomorrow. Praise God!! Our Lifegroup has been focusing on prayer that praises God and meditates on His goodness and not prayer that is just a checklist of wants and needs. Prayer that praises His Word, His goodness in every situation. This answered prayer today may not seem like a big deal to everyone, but to me it is one more example of His GREAT love for us. I don’t want to wait for just the “big” things to praise Him. He heals me daily, He delivers me daily, He astounds me daily with what is in His Word. Praise His Holy Name!!!

Never Alone

Last night I was robbed at gunpoint at the restaurant I work at. It is one of those things that falls under the category of “that will never happen to me”. It happened. I still cannot believe it happened. The range of emotions from the moment I saw the gun, until now have flooded my body with adrenaline and hormones. I have settled now into a place of calm mentally but my body is physically still catching up as I have a knot in my stomach that won’t go away. But as John 16:33 states – These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.

I have been surrounded by scripture today and I feel secure and safe in God’s hands. God gave me the strength to get through those moments with a calm presence – Psalm 31:24 – Be strong and let your heart take courage all who hope in the Lord- and a clear mind – Isaiah 41:13 – For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” The man encountered two female employees at the bar first and ushered them into the kitchen where I was coming out of the office. He asked who the manager was, and I told him it was me, and he told us to get in the office. When I saw the gun my first thought was, I might die tonight, but if I do it will be okay. John 5:24 – Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life.

In my mind, I went straight to prayer with God, just a simple, “Lord I need you, be with me please”. I was able to calmly talk to the man and to calm down the employee who was crying and distraught. I just said, it is going to be okay, he doesn’t want to hurt us, he just wants the money, calm down, it is going to be okay, no one is going to get hurt. I was able to quickly give him the money from the drawers in the safe and put it into a bag. The whole incident from the time he walked in until the time he left only lasted three or four minutes. I have imaged before, what would I do in this situation. Working in a restaurant, we are trained on what to do, basically always give them the money as quick as possible and don’t put up a fight. In thinking of different scenarios though it can never prepare you for the actual event. My calm didn’t come from any other source except my Lord. Exodus 14:14 – The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. I praise God for giving me that stillness in those moments.

After he left we locked the office door and started making phone calls. I called 911 while one of the girls tried to call the cooks who were still in the building who had no idea what had just happened. I wanted to make sure they didn’t encounter the man and get hurt. We couldn’t reach the cooks by phone so I went out of the office and found the cooks and told them we had just been robbed.. The instinct of those protective boys sent them running to try to find the gunman, but I told them not to go outside or try to find him, to stay here with us. Another blessing the Lord orchestrated I believe is that those cooks weren’t aware of what was going on. Because being the protective guys that they are, they may have tried to do something heroic which could have gotten someone hurt. Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Today, after much prayer, scripture reading and reaching out to a few close friends who I knew would pray for me, I am turning my thoughts toward the man who did this. What must HE be feeling today? He is probably more distraught than we are. What happened in his life to get him to this point? He repeatedly said he was sorry. I don’t know if he will ever be caught. I don’t really care honestly. I DO hope and pray that he will be lead to the Lord soon. God has given me a soft heart towards him. Ephesians 4:31-32 – All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. This scripture is not about the robber’s wickedness to be removed it is about MY need to not hold bitterness or anger toward him and to forgive him, immediately, which I have. The Holly four years ago would not have reacted this way. But now I have seen the greatest example of love and forgiveness from my Savior.

The man has not sinned against me, he has sinned against my God and He is the only judge that is worthy to deal with him. I pray and will continue to pray for this man. He was nervous and scared I’m sure, and today he is probably contemplating a lot. He is probably reviewing last night’s events play by play just as I am today. Yet I doubt his conclusions are the same as mine. My thoughts lead me to this and this is one of the scriptures that popped in my head last night during this ordeal. Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Oh how I hope this man will come to know what that feels like. Because I don’t think he feels like he has much hope or a future. I pray that he will repent just as I need to daily – Psalm 51:1-4 – Be gracious to me , O God, according to your loving kindness; according to the greatness of your compassion. Blot out my transgressions and my sin. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins. For I know my transgressions And my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, I have sinned And done what is evil in your sight, So that you are justified when you speak and blameless when you judge.

When I finally left the restaurant after hours sitting inside with police and detectives and dealing with the home office and bosses, I sat in my car and turned on the radio. The song that was playing was Be Near. Just that one line, “be near O God be near” I repeated over and over and what a comfort it was! Even in the song choice of the radio station at that moment showed God’s hand in ALL of this. He was there the whole time and will continue to be there for me and anyone else who reaches out to Him. Grow your relationship with God, do it now! He loves us and His words and His guidance are all we need. The money that man took might as well have been toilet paper, because it is worthless. Those pieces of paper don’t matter. How we live our life for God’s glory matters. How we accept Jesus as our Savior matters. God is sovereign over it all and the more we gaze at him instead of gazing at our “problems” the more we will be enriched with his love and mercy and grace!