Life After the Trial

Oh, beautiful cherry blossom tree. You do not hide your condition. The winter has taken its toll on your beauty. On your branches. On your shape. On your structure.

The broken branches strewn about the ground. The sharp, ruggedness of the fracture, left on your trunk. Your dead leaves scattered around your base.

But, yet, God’s work in you is not over after the harsh winter. No.

Fall came and went. Your leaves changed. Dried up. Fell to the ground. The wind played a game of havoc on you.

branch

And, then the cold of winter came and finished off what life was left on you.

branch and leaves

But, deep inside, underground in your roots and in the marrow of your branches, life remained.

God protected and nourished that life deep within you all through the brokenness of the winter.

And now, in all your glory, you blossom your purpose, your fruit, your God-given beauty. Life is emerging on each branch. In each bulge brimming with life. In each blossom, opening for all to see. In each branch, stretching out further than the season before. You show your healing. Your life.

blooming cherry tree

Through the trial of the winter, the tree remained. Through the harsh reality the tree faced, the Creator’s plan never changed.

Winter still holds on. The bitter cold of the night still remains. The frost still appears each morning. The temperature and shorter days still threaten the growth of the tree. Yet, the Creator’s plan remains.

The evidence of the plan is seen in the tree: new life, new growth, new beauty.

cherry blossoms

Are you looking for the evidence of the Creator’s plan in your life? Even in the trial, the evidence is there. Sometimes it’s deep within. Like the sturdy roots of the cherry blossom tree, holding it in place, securing it through another trial. Yes, the evidence is there, Dear One.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 

Abiding in the Trial

God calls us to abide.

Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, netiher can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15: 4.

Abide. It’s a verb, which implies action or doing. Only when I hear Jesus telling me to abide, I don’t sense him asking me to DO. I sense him asking me to BE.

He’s asking me to BE in him.

BE close to him.

BE in prayer with him.

BE in his word.

BE his chosen daughter.

But in the trial, Lord? Do you call me to abide even in the trial?

“Yes, in the trial”, he responds. He tells me my trials produce fruit when I abide in him. Oh, I do want my trials to produce fruit.

A few weeks back I had a kidney transplant. The surgery had been a long time coming. Almost 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with an ultra rare disease call aHUS. You can read more about that here: Where Was God in All of This–Part I

The disease wreaked havov on my kidneys but not enough to cause complete failure. I lived with anywhere between 10 and 25% kidney function for all of that time. Finally it came time for a fresh start, a kidney transplant.

Surgery went well and I was incredibly overcome by the blessing of the donor and the family. I was in awe of their selflessness in the time of sorrow. I was in awe of the Father orchestrating the whole process. And, I was in awe of the human body and the surgeons the Lord created to perform such a surgery.

surgery

But, then the trial came. And the thought came, will this trial produce fruit or bitterness?

After coming home from the hospital, I woke up the next morning with incredible pain. I knew something wasn’t right. At first I just cried. But, then I began crying out to God with my pain and begging Him to take it. “Please God, take this pain away!”

The pain intensified. I went to the emergency room. The pain grew worse. My begging words to God grew more frequent. But, the pain remained.

In the midst of this pain, I found a peace in abiding in God. He wasn’t taking the pain. But, this time in this trial, I trusted. I knew the Lord could take the pain. But, I have chosen to accept His sovereignty. So, I knew without a doubt, He had a purpose for not taking the pain.

Although, I didn’t stop asking Him to take the pain, I added to my prayer, “Please show me what I need to know about this pain. Help me to have your wisdom and understanding, even for a moment.”

I could abide. Doubled over in pain, for the first time in my life, I could abide. I could remain in Him. I could continue to trust through the tears. I could continue to believe in His plan. I could have faith in His love for me and my family.

abby's hand
Translated: God keeps my mom safe

God did take the pain. But, not before He revealed to me the truths about which I write: that He is good, He is never surprised, and He will never leave me.

Dear One, I know it hurts. You may be experiencing emotional, physical, or spiritual pain. Or maybe you are experiencing all three. I get it. How do you abide in the Lord, when it seems that He isn’t answering your prayer? How do you abide? You walk with Him and remain with Him through the triumphs and the pain. You seek His heart for you. You remember His faithfulness in the past. Don’t worry if it’s not automatic. One day, you may just find yourself in the midst of a trial, and realize you are abiding, you are believing, and you are accepting His plan for your life as the best plan available.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 2-4 

Becoming the True Me

I pushed play on the podcast I have been listening to daily and began my walk. The speaker posed the question, “When have you felt most like your true self?”

We hear that a lot don’t we? Be your true self. The cute t-shirts declaring Be You. It sounds great, healthy even.  But have you ever pondered that question?

This particular podcaster, Emily P. Freeman from the podcast, The Next Right Thing, has a way of speaking and asking questions that really allows me to think.

I listened to the remainder of the podcast and then walked the rest of the way in silence but my mind was working.

Just the act of pausing and thinking on this question, felt like worship. My heart and mind were focused on God and who He made me to be. I was not thinking about shoulda, coulda, woulda type thinking. I wasn’t thinking about performance or doing more. No, I was thinking about stripping all that away and remembering times I felt authentic and seen.

It was a time of remembering who God made me to be and what God is doing in me.

I didn’t want to over think this assignment so when this first memory came to my mind I went with it and followed where it lead me.

It was a time fairly recently when I was walking with a friend. She was talking about some of her insecurities and struggles. She told me that when she’s with most people she doesn’t feel like she’s enough, she doesn’t feel smart enough to contribute to conversations. But she said that when she talks to me, I make her feel smart. I don’t think I will ever forget that comment. It was so genuine the way it came off her lips straight into my heart. Straight to my heart because that’s who God made me to be: an encourager, a lifter of spirits, a builder upper. When I am anything other than that, when I am critical, rude, or shaming, I am not living in a genuine way, not being who God made me to be. When I am encouraging someone, when I am accepting someone, when I am fully loving them, I am the person God made me to be. My friend was telling me she experienced that with me and it was like the sky opened up and the Lord Himself said to me, “Yes! That’s the you I made you to be! Your friend is seeing My work in you!” It was exciting. It was validating. And, it was proof that the sin that so easily entangles was losing it’s grip on me, even if just with this friend. 

That memory left a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. From there, another memory came in. This one also wasn’t from too long ago. This was a time when a trusted mentor shared with me that she had been thinking about me lately and had found that I was a very compassionate person. I had been told that before by others but this time it felt different. With this particular person, I had not done any favors. I had never done anything to help her. I had not gone out of my way even once to show her an act of compassion. But, I had been open and vulnerable with her, sharing my heart. I had talked to her about the people in my life and my love for them. She had truly seen me. She had truly seen the heart God created in me. When she said that comment to me, it didn’t feel like an expectation. It didn’t feel like she was hoping I would perform a certain way or do something for her or her someone she loved. No. She had seen the heart God created in me, not from my doing but from my being. Being the true me. 

Mothers' day

In both of these situations, I felt like my true self. I felt like the created version of me God made me to be. It felt so good and so freeing to be seen and to hear and receive words about me that felt true to the real me. It felt so good to know that I had not put up a mask. No tough outer exterior blocking my true self.

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you today to stop, take some time to think about the question, “When have you felt most like your true self?” Honestly not too long ago, I am not sure I could have answered this question. If you find it hard to answer for yourself, let that sit with you for a bit. Ask, what’s getting in the way of you feeling like your true self.

Take some time today to allow yourself to think about times when you felt like your true self. Journal about what you come up with. Share it with a trusted friend or your spouse. Ask someone else if they’d be willing to share their answer with you.

Listen to this podcast for further inspiration: Coming Home to Yourself

1 Samuel, 16:7, But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Stop the Race. Look Up.

A nature loving mom with nature loving children means a homeschool brimming with nature projects.

Some simple peanut garlands hanging just outside our back door provide nourishment for the squirrels and much entertainment as we watch the animals bustle around gathering the nuts.

My soft-hearted, nature loving daughter can’t stand to leave the peanut garlands in an area where the squirrels have to work for it. She attempts to give them a challenge but usually within minutes she’s lowering one of the tasty treats to an area where the squirrels can have a heyday with it.

It’s like watching a nature documentary right outside our door. We watch as two squirrels fight over the peanuts. Who can get there first? Who’s quicker? Who’s stronger? Who is more nimble? Who can find the best hiding place for their peanut?

Their movements are fast. Frantic. My heart begins to race just watching them in their haste. And then I remember. As I watch one of the squirrels dash across the yard my eyes raise a bit and I remember the peanut garlands my daughter has yet to move still hanging from the trellis. Just above these frantic squirrels heads, peacefully resting there, are two long garlands of peanuts. The squirrels race around in their stress, capturing their prized peanuts. greed overcoming them. All the while an abundance of what they treasure hangs just above their heads.

Do they know? If they did know, would they rest a little? Would they slow down and enjoy the process a little more? Would they be more apt to share with the other squirrels in the yard?


Oh, do I ever see myself in these squirrels. The way I get so wrapped up in my own needs and the needs of my family. The way I bustle about in a frantic pace when I act as if our lives depend on my ability to move fast. The way I so quickly forget my Provider. The One that meets my needs for each day. The way I forget to look up and remember the Giver of great gifts, holds in abundance everything I need, ready for me just when I need it.

Can we all just slow down a bit today? Can we stop the race we find ourselves in and instead look up and remember the One that knows our true needs?

Just as the squirrels in our yard rush about completely unaware of the blessings hanging just above their heads, we too, rush about, missing the blessings and the provisions the Lord has for us.

But, if we’d just slow down. Stop. Look up. Commune with the Creator and stop the race. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

 

 

Completing a Holy Circuit

One by one we reluctantly set down our stuff, our marked up Bibles, scribbled notes, half filled cups. And one by one, we laid down our capes and our crowns. We don’t need them here. Not with this group. With this group we are no longer Super Woman. We are not Queen of this domain. No. We come as servants. We come eager for the Word. We come ready for change, for healing, for grace.

One by one, we sit down at the table, weary from the world.

One by one, we experience the prompting of the King.

One by one, the walls fall and the truth springs forth from our hearts through our lips.

One by one, in this group, we confess the hard things. The things we’ve been stuffing down. The things that haven’t yet been uttered even to our Heavenly Father.

One by one, the Father leads, the Spirit guides, and we, the servants, surrender, completing the Holy Circuit.

The power and might of the Spirit hovers and fills, covers and forgives.

One by one, we are finally able to breathe. Just in the confessing, the speaking aloud, we are finally able to breathe.

IMG_0967One by one, the scales blocking the truth fall away.

One by one, the chains break.

One by one, darkness is claimed and light takes its place.

One by one, we are released.

The confession, the true confession each of us speaks allows the Father’s plan to unfold in our hearts.

Thank you, God, for the power in confession. Thank you, God, for this Holy Circuit from You, through the Spirit, to your servants.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Welcoming Pain as a Friend

I have always been polite. I learned the importance of manners from a young age. But, honestly (sorry mom and dad), I was just memorizing a set of rules. “Remember to say thank you when your friend’s mom drops you off”, “Don’t forget to say please and thank you at your grandparent’s house”, and “Did you finish your thank you notes, yet?” I was acting polite but not actually feeling thankful.

But, recently a heart change has begun.

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It began when a friend at church gave me this challenge, “Just say the words, ‘Thank you’, right in the face of the challenge.”

“Oh, okay, yeah, I can do that. My daughter and I have talked about how we can say thank you for every trial because it leads us closer to God.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” my friend replied, “but there’s more. You know everything, EVERYTHING,” she repeated a little firmer, ” comes to us through the Father. So, everything, EVERYTHING is allowed in our life by God. It’s been filtered through God. So, I can say thank you for everything, EVERYTHING.”

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Mathew 26:50 says, Jesus replied, “friend do what you came for”. He was referring to his betrayer, Judas, as friend. Jesus being God knew what was coming. He knew that he was about to be severely abused, spit upon, slapped, and ultimately killed. Yet, he knew everything that happened to him, everything he experienced, everything he encountered was Father Filtered. The Father agreed and allowed this. The Father allowed Judas to betray Jesus. So he could welcome his betrayer as friend. Jesus trusted his Father’s plan.

This kind of understanding goes so far beyond just a set of memorized words to express thanks. To actually refer to your betrayer as friend, to welcome pain, to walk into the fire,  this takes an understanding of the Father.

You see when I told my friend’s mom thank you for the ride, I was just glad I had a way home. I didn’t stop and think about the heart of the woman who drove me home. The sacrifice and care she took in arranging to drive me home.

But, to be thankful for the pain of my parent’s divorce, the disease that has wreaked havoc on my body, the challenges my daughters face, my husband’s health trials? That takes having an understanding of the Father.

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To be thankful for the pain requires getting to know the Father’s heart. It requires surrender. You must trust. And, you must remember what He has done for you in the past.

So I can say thank you. I can say thank you for the trials. Thank you for the disagreements. Thank you for the testing.

Thank you Father. What is in my life right now was filtered through you, My Father. Thank you.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

Letter to my Child’s Sunday School Teacher

Dear Sunday School Teacher,

You know my child, the one who sits when you ask her to stand.
The one who laughs whenever you say the word, “bottom”.
The one who is loud when instructed to be quiet.
The one who never remembers the Bible verse.
The one who turns her head every time someone moves a muscle.
The one who becomes frustrated when asked to read aloud or write in a small space.
The one who still brings a stuffed animal with her for comfort.
The one who says, “I don’t know,” when asked what she learned that day.

You know my child, the one who knows your heart.
The one who prays for you when you are sick.
The one who knows your cat’s name.
The one who remembers your kindness towards her.
The one who tries your patience.
The one who can tell what kind of day you are having.
The one who melts with your praise.

Oh, dearest Sunday school teacher. Your job may feel fruitless when my daughter never completes your projects. Your job may seem futile when she doesn’t mememorize the Bible verse. You may feel as though your time is wasted when she isn’t on the right page during the Bible reading time.

But, oh, dear Sunday school teacher, it’s your heart she seeks. Will you accept her as she is? Will you love her as Christ loves you? Will you show compassion so the kids in class will know the compassion God has for them?

Dearest Sunday school teacher, my daughter may never remember the lesson from the day, but she will always remember your love.

Sincerely,

A Mother Who Loves Fiercely
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