Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I Am Saying, "Yes"

Sometimes when it is almost super late-30, your FitBit is screaming at you regarding the fact that you have registered nearly 16,000 steps, and your alarm went off at 4:00 am summoning you to work out, the logical thing to do would be to go to bed.  Yes, that is what seems like the smart thing to do, but sometimes God lays a message on your heart that you feel like you need to share. **Besides, I was waiting up to see my friend, Candace, AKA ChewbaccaMaskMama, on The Late Late Show!!!  Is she not hilarious?!  So happy for her.**

I cannot express how incredible the past few months have been for me.  There have been days that were so incredibly painful that I did not want to get out of bed, much less talk to anyone, but persevere I did.  No, nothing major has happened but I have struggled with emotional days that I cannot explain.  What keeps me going?  Joy that only comes from Jesus Christ.  My daily walk with God, my quiet time that speaks to my heart and mind more than I can explain, and my beautiful friends that pray with and for me.  

I have never been an incredibly devoted Bible studier or prayerful person.  There have been brief periods of time where I would read the Bible for a few weeks but nothing incredibly consistent.  I am known to my close friends as one who does not finish Bible studies.  I have traditionally been one of those people, yes, those people that I get really irritated with that say they are praying but really aren't.  It's a good "Sunday school" answer.  That isn't exactly fair.  I mean, I always have good intentions but the follow through was where I lacked.  I have changed.  God has changed me.  

I shared on my blog recently that in the early fall last year, God rocked my world, asked me to put my big girl panties on, and really deal with grown up stuff.  While it was (and still is) painful, I will be forever grateful for what God is doing in those situations and in my life, personally.  As I type this, I get tearful, because I cannot grasp how wonderful He truly is.  He changed me.  

Beginning the first of this year, I made a commitment to read my Bible every day.  I knew it was something that would be hard for me because of my schedule and how busy I was, but I also knew that it HAD to be a priority.  I found a blogger mom who posted calendars with a verse on each day.  The goal is to write the Scripture verse and then journal about.  I did this for about 3 months every day.  Then, I started a Bible study, then another and my heart and mind changed into something different.  I no longer felt the need to read my Bible daily, I wanted to.  I cannot wait to find out each day what God is going to teach me through is Word and by talking directly to Him about my desires, wants, needs, praises, requests, thankfulness, etc.  

I no longer do the daily calendar verses because I am doing a study in Hebrews as well as a study with our women's ministry in 1 Peter.  We finished up the last women's ministry Bible study and took a 2-week break.  I did not want to take a break and the reason was two-fold.  I wanted to keep reading God's Word, and I knew that on my own, I might not be as faithful as I needed to be at that time.  So, I downloaded the Hebrews study and started it on my own with the intention of stopping when we started the 1 Peter study.  In those two weeks, I had already gotten to about the 3rd week in Hebrews and I could not stop.  I was LOVING it!!!  So now, I am one week away from finishing Hebrews - a 12-week study and two weeks away from finished 1 Peter - a 7-week study.  

I plan to blog about what God has taught me through these studies - well, a glimpse anyway, but for today, I am moved to discuss what I have learned the last few days.  In short, I have realized that I can trust God with my everything.  I know, truly know, that God is faithful.  I know that, if I believe God is who He says He is, then I have to put my "yes" on the table in obedience.  I know that He deserves my whole self as an act of spiritual worship, as that is the only thing that is acceptable to Him.  

When I got to Hebrews 11, I knew the passage pretty well.  The interesting thing is that when I started actually reading it, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I remember just sitting in my car in the parking garage before work sobbing after coming to the realization that all of these people I was reading about were faithful, yes, but they were broken.  They were sinful.  They were not perfect but GOD USED THEM!!!!  Not one of them was worthy of what God did in their lives but He did it anyway.  Why?  Because He is merciful and He is full of grace.  This was huge for me coming off of the recent revelation that God had given me several weeks back - that I am to seek His approval alone, not anyone else's.  I am not perfect but God can use me.  I have never felt good enough.  I measure myself against others...my friends and peers.  I compare myself to those that I find, in my small mind, to be worthy of whatever it is I am seeking at the moment.  In the car, that morning, I realized that I am just as worthy as those "greats" that I have been reading about all of my life - Abraham, Noah, Sarah, David, Rahab.  God loves me just as much as He loved them and I can be used.  That morning, I said "yes."  I told God, "Whatever it is, even if that means going to another country to proclaim your truth, I will do it."  

Sunday morning, my Bible study included the verses, "Since we are receiving a kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe.  For our God is a devouring fire."  Hebrews 12:28-29.  I wrote that morning, "We should have a heart of worship that is acceptable to Him."  Later, that day during the sermon at church, Bro. Tommy preached from Malachi 1:6-14.  The jest of it was that Israel was bringing to God their leftovers.  They were honoring others and there was no honor left for God which left him asking, "Where is my honor?"  This automatically made me think about the verse I had read earlier that morning.  "Let us worship Him with holy fear and awe."  The Israelites were trying to get away with the least they could in terms of worship towards God.  That is quite the opposite of what He has commanded us.  My favorites verses of Scripture are from Romans 12:1-2 - "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your spiritual act of worship."  He wants us - ALL of us - our everything.  That is our sacrifice, not what everyone did not get first.  He wants us - that is acceptable to Him.  

Today, God continued to teach me more on this topic.  I always feel like that if God is repeating something to me that it is either because I did not get it the first time or He really wants me to know what He is speaking to me.  Like, He really wants me to not only get it, but LIVE it!  I finished another week in Hebrews and today I listened to the podcast by Jen Wilkin, like I do every week.  She said SO MUCH good stuff this morning, I have two full pages of notes, but on this topic specifically, she said, 

What is acceptable worship?  Acceptable worship is offered out of gratitude.  The joy of our salvation should drive us to right worship of our Savior.  We should worship with awe and reverence which gives recognition of who God is.  Romans 12:1 says to present your bodies as living sacrifices - that is what is good and acceptable - a reasonable act of worship.  We are to lay our lives down daily, setting aside our pleasures, and look toward the finish line.  We need to take inventory of those things that we place our daily comfort in, think about what things are fleeing, and where I am so consumed with myself that I miss others' needs.  The Father that disciplines me is infinitely good and infinitely able, and He will bring me to the Kingdom that is unshakeable.  

Over and over again, God has spoken to my heart about this idea of worship.  I can trust Him.  He is faithful.  I have such a strong desire to walk with Him daily and seek His face that I cannot wait to worship Him.  

There are few things in my life right now where I feel God specifically speaking to me.  One is about my career and one is about my place in ministry.  Where those two come together and where those separate is what I am still seeking His face about.  I am incredibly happy at my job, but is it where God would have me?  I want so bad to devote more time to ministry but what does that look like?  Will you pray with me that God reveals these things more clearly to me in the coming days, months, and years?  

I am not perfect but God can and WILL use me...if I allow Him to.  I want nothing more.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Is It Worth It?

Sticky fingers, digging in the dirt and giggling about the things of the day, two little curly headed girls run around at recess. It wasn't long ago that they begged their mom to buy matching outfits and the heart necklaces that have the jagged edges with "Best Friends" etched in them, one for each to wear. That way the whole world, well, their whole world, would know that they belong to each other. She is the other's "person." Who knew a tiny girl needed a person? What are the odds that those two darlings will remain friends for a lifetime? Is the investment at such an early age worth it?

Whispers of true love. Who is taking who to the prom? Notes being passed in the halls, or these days it is more likely texts exchanged. The excitement fills a young girl's heart as she shares her deepest secrets to her best friends. The teenage years, such an awkward time and a time when friendships are so very important. Endless sleepovers, Friday night football games, movies, school dances, multiple things done with best friends that everyone regrets as adults....both cherished and wished they could forget. Fights, arguments, girl drama, horrible heartbreaks, and all of the yuck that comes from the teenage years, was it all worth it? Some of those friendships are still intact but many of them are gone...were they worth it? 

Hearts fluttering, true love has been found! Who is the first one to call? The best friend of course! "I'm getting married!!!" Bridesmaids are chosen, perfect dress fits like a glove, you walk down the aisle and your friends then become a secondary thing as your best friend is now this man (what???) that you will spend the rest of your life with!! When did everything change??  All of a sudden the heart is divided. There is this person that no one could love more, who will now see you at the very best and worst of times...always, and the person who just stood there and straightened the train of that incredibly over-priced dress that will never be worn again....and gave the amazingly heart-warming speech at the rehearsal dinner because you haven't cried enough. Two people that are loved.  Incredibly loved in two very different ways. One that will remain in your life forever and one that, honestly, may not. I had five bridesmaids in my wedding. Three I never talk to. Two, I talk to occasionally, and that includes my matron of honor. She was my very best friend. I stood beside her a month before as her maid of honor. Was it worth it?

Positive. Of course the first person you tell is your husband but then? Of course, your best friend!!!! A baby?? How do you take care of a tiny human? Who knows until it actually gets here. The friends that share these days are priceless. Doing life with friends in these precious times are quite possibly the ones that I count the most dear...at least at this point in my life. Parenting is hard. Those sleepless newborn nights are painful and when no one else understands, that girlfriend certainly does. Pick up the phone and cry and she just knows. She knows because she was just there the day before and you helped her. You talk everyday about everything and nothing all at the same time. Her baby gets sick and you drop everything to go running to help. Births, illnesses, baby showers, baby dedications, field trips, things no one else could possibly understand...she is your person. And this friend, you argue but it's deep rooted hard arguments that require out-of-town trips to resolve and in the end you are closer because of it. Then, one day, you get the call that she wants to meet you for lunch but it isn't the happy call. Something is different because you know her. Something is different and not good different. Her husband is in the ministry and everything your gut told you is true...they are being called away. Your heart is broken and your friendship will never be the same. Was it worth it?

Life is different. While before friends were many and life was shared with lots of people, it is becoming evident that God is changing circumstances. In a nutshell, being a grownup has proven to be a little more difficult than you want it to be. True friends are few and far between. Trust has been put to the test and failed. Hearts have been shattered many times over and walls have been built. God has placed some incredible people in the path to be friends but they are not plentiful. Coffee shops, late nights, hospital waiting rooms, women's Bible studies, and life's most difficult circumstances are where these friends have been present. God has proven himself faithful yet again but it just looks a little different. There are fun times too like painting parties, weekend trips, vacations to magical kingdoms, and lots of laughter but life is just different these days. It is still filled with drama, heartache, and pain but some of the most precious times have been spent talking about what God is doing, how He is moving, what we are learning through the trials, life stories through things like adoptions, marriage struggles, and at the end, how we are better because of it all. I have never loved and cherished my friends like I do in my life right at this moment...in this season. The thing is...it could change in an instant. People move, tragedies happen, and change is inevitable. Is it worth it?

Is it worth it? Was it worth it? The simple answer is yes. Yes, it was, it is, and it always will be. In each stage of life as portrayed in this post, life throws us challenges and beauty. Why walk it alone? God gives us people for a season and in each season of my life, I can pinpoint people who have been a special part of it. Some of those people I still talk to, some I don't. In the end, I think that it is important to recognize that we are shaped by the experiences that we have and part of that is the people we choose to let in our lives. Yes. I have been hurt and I have caused hurt. I have single-handedly caused friendships to end and I hate it but I have also learned from it. Today, I have some of the best friends that I have ever had in my entire life. Ladies that I can pick up the phone and call for prayer, to cry, to pick up my kids in a crunch, or just to vent to and they are there. I would do the same for them. Tomorrow if that all changed, I would be heartbroken but it would still be worth it. It is worth it!

"A friend loves at all times." Proverbs 17:17

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