Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Hardest Days

The hardest days of your life. What are they? Is one of them the day someone dear dies? Is one of them the day you say goodbye to people you love? Is one of them the day you really work to truly forgive? Is one of them the day you start the faith journey into the unknown?  Is one of them the day you have to humble yourself and apologize?  Is one of them watching your child hurt and being helpless to ease the pain? What are the hardest days of your life?

How did you respond? 

Did you weep uncontrollably?  Did you get angry and bitter and hard? Did you mourn and sink into the pit? Did you wallow in self pity? Did you breathe silent prayers, begging for strength? Did you purposefully decide to focus forward, to focus on truth? Did you trust fall into the Alpha Omega God Who's bigger than you?

Did He catch you? He caught me.

In that moment when my son broke into unexpected tears, not wanting to let his grandparents go, I took a deep breath and silently begged God for strength, for His perspective, for His presence.

In that moment when my dad cried for the fifth time in my entire life while we hugged goodbye, my resolve crumbled and all that was left was God's promise that He is with me always (Psalm 16:8, Matthew 28:20).

In the moment when a kind lady asks me, "Where are you from?", and I find myself with no answer because I'm getting ready to board a plane from the place-I-use-to-be-from to the place-I-soon-will-be-from, I remember that my home is seated with my Father in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6), that I am but an alien in a foreign land here on this earth, so that where my Father is, there is my true home (Hebrews 13:14).

And the Red Sea of Emotion begins to crash behind me. The sea is closing. My God has seen me through to the other side, on dry ground, on His solid ground. And I can feel my emotions crumbling, swelling, swirling.  I can feel them wanting to close in around me, suck me into the cold abyss behind me that I just crossed safely. In those moments I have a choice to make: Believe what I'm feeling is truth or believe what my God has taught me is truth.

So today, I've chosen to take deep breaths, LOTS of deep breaths, and purposefully capture each thought, each emotion, and hold it up to the revealing light of what I know of God's truth (2 Corinthians 10:5).

My "home" is with Him (Hebrews 13:14).
My "family" is founded and built in Who Christ is to me and the body of believers He sets in place around me, the relationships He chooses for me, whether they are my actual blood family or not (Ephesians 2:19).
I am NOT alone.  Ever. (Psalm 139:7-10)
My emotions are natural and normal and ok.  It's not wrong for me to feel sad, to feel loss, to feel apprehensive.  That's not disbelief or doubt; that's being human.  God understands that.
What would be wrong is for me to dwell on those emotions and feed them with thoughts that use my mind, energy, and time in ways that do not glorify God and His purpose for my life.

So today, although I have cried and will cry, I am still buoyant and hopeful and filled with a deep abiding joy living out--in the very moments of this hardest of days--the reality that MY. GOD. IS. ENOUGH. 

So many have commented that I seem to have handled this whole transition very well.  That I appear to have the right attitude and seem to be weathering this whole process smoothly.  Their comments all allude to the fact that I could be faking; I could really be a basket case behind closed doors.  Trust me, I know. I'd be the first to admit that I've been waiting for the emotional bottom to drop ever since we put a For Sale sign in the front yard of my first home.  And I won't pretend I haven't had my moments.  But they've been moments and not seasons this time around.

The bottom hasn't dropped out yet, and I'm beginning to be hopeful that it won't.

And it's not because of me my friends!!!  No, no, no.  This time it's all because of the living Christ inside who catches me every time I trust fall, who doesn't budge every time I lean hard into Him for emotional support, for physical support, for all-of-me support. I have handled nothing well.  I have actually handled nothing at all.  
He has orchestrated every detail from the revelation of the calling to go to getting all eight of our checked bags to the airport in Orange County, California (at no additional cost, BTW--that's how big and abundant and faithful my God is!)

Now what?  Well, that's another blog for another day, but for today, I will praise the God who parted the Red Sea, lead me across on dry land, and closed the sea of transition behind me to cover the enemies of my mind that have plagued me for too many years.  Today the enemy's lies will drown in the flood. Today, I will rejoice in my Mighty Warrior's victory in my life!  Today I will be full of joy and be glad for His banner over me is love! Abundant love.

Today has been one of my hardest days, but because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will always remember it as one of the most joy-filled days in the end because I have so tangibly lived the faithfulness of my God from sunrise on the east coast to sunset on the west.

"You have turned for me (today) my mourning into dancing!

You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness!
That my [d]soul may sing praise to You and not be silent!
Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!" (emphasis mine)
Psalm 30:11-12

On your hardest day, will you too choose joy?  Choose to lean hard into the only line of support that won't give way, give up, or give in?  Choose truth?  The Truth?

I dare you to trust fall into Jesus.  Let me know if He doesn't catch you.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dear God

Dear God,

I don't want to be an Israelite.  They mess up so much.  They really come off looking like a big bunch of spoiled children when I study them in the Bible.  Yet, here I am, trudging through this transition period of life, this stage where I've never been before, and I'm really not sure what lies ahead, and I find myself identifying with those Israelites.

You've parted the Red Sea.  You've given us a path we never could have imagined to walk.  Literally, never would have imagined.  You've asked us to leave everything we've known, everything I've known, for my entire life--family, friends, southern culture, ways of living and thinking that have become so second nature, they're like breathing.  You've asked us to leave it all behind, and You've opened a path that is scary, that is frightening, that requires more faith than I think I have on most days.

Not only does this path through the Red Sea just feel strange and uncomfortable, but You keep asking me to give up more and more of me and myself and what feels safe along the way.  With each step in this dry, water-walled valley, I feel the lump rise in my throat.  I think about everything I'm leaving behind, and suddenly it feels like it's too much.  You're asking too much of me!

I suddenly find myself understanding why the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt (Exodus 14:11-12).  The path ahead of them was frightening and unknown and for me, it FEELS like I'm having to lose so much to gain...what exactly?  It feels like I'm losing safety and comfort and home.  It feels like I'm losing a piece of myself.  It feels like a slow, painful death, and I'm having to die and grieve the loss all at the same time, all while expectantly looking ahead, trusting, hoping, walking by faith into the unknown, the wilderness, the promised land. (What are those?)  That's what transition feels like to me.

And today Lord, I'm tempted to look back like Lot's wife and turn myself into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). But I won't.  Not today.  God, I feel all these things, and yet, the truth is where You are, where Your presence leads me by pillar of cloud during the day and by pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13:21), where You want me to go is where abundance of life will be (John 10:10).  In Your presence is fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11).  You promise that.

If I am desperate for joy, I cannot turn back, I cannot go back, I cannot stay, I must press forward.  Press forward into You, lean hard into who You are, keep putting one foot in front of the other simply because in Your presence is fullness of Joy, is abundance of Life, is unconditional Love, is passionate Purpose, is pure Freedom.

Geez.  I almost forgot about freedom!  Going back means staying enslaved to old habits, old ways of thinking.  Moving forward means freedom to be with You in Your plan in the way You deem worthy.

So today, God, I may feel like an Israelite, and I may even be tempted to grumble and complain and moan and whine and fear like one as well, but the truth is I am Your child seated in the heavenlies with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-7), which might be the safest place to be, in all of time an history. In Christ, I am more than a conqueror over my thoughts and emotions (Romans 8:37). I am chosen (Ephesians 1:4).  I am wanted, and I am seen by You, the Creator God of the Universe who will provide my every need.  You hear me.  You know my struggles, and You are fully capable of sympathizing with my plight (Hebrews 4:15).  You have been human after all, and my hope rises in the glory of Your resurrection, Your power over life and death!

Father, forgive me for being weak in this flesh.  Forgive me for losing sight of who You are at times.  Forgive me for seeing only the walls of water on either side of me and not the promised land ahead.  Forgive me for taking for granted that you are leading me to freedom, always leading me to freedom, to green pastures, to still waters, to lands of milk and honey.

Please take away the sting of the things I feel like I'm losing, of the things You've asked me to sacrifice. Replace the sting with the joy of Your presence, Lord.  Joy in the waiting.  Joy in the transitioning.  Joy in the unknown.  Joy in the hard.  Joy to persevere.  Your presence fully present in it all.  Because You are worth it all.

Thanks for listening.  Thanks for never giving way when I lean hard into You.  Thanks for having a plan for me that's bigger than me.  Thanks for holding back the sea because I know I will walk dry ground to the other side of this transition.  You are my firm foundation, the rock on which I stand (1 Timothy 6:19).  My enemies will find all other ground to be sinking sand.

To You be all the glory,
Your humbled daughter,

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