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

SaveSave

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.

IMG_0810

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.

IMG_0805

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

Big Feelings and the Truth that Will Set You Free

Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.

covered bridge

Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.

In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?

I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”.   I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.

During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.

Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.

Here’s what I found:

  • Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
  • Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
  • Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
  • Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
  • Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.

In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame.  I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.

I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.

Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.

whistler

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

The Cross Bears All

cross in prayer closet

One of my daughters painted this cross for my prayer closet years ago. At first it was a sweet addition amongst the other pictures and prayers on my wall. But as time has gone on, my faith has developed, and God has made so much sense of things in my prayer closet, this cross has become a focal point for me.

Each morning I spend time just gazing upon this cross. A 10-year-old’s representation of the forgiveness of the Savior. Many times I’ve stared in wonder as I thought about Jesus on the cross. The sins that must have flashed through His mind as He hung on the cross. Not just any sins, but mine. My sins hung up there on that cross holding Him down, punishing Him, bearing my burden.

After sorrowfully and then joyfully looking at that cross and receiving His forgiveness day after day, why did I still carry a burden? Why did I still carry shame?
Not all of what I carried was my fault. Not all of what felt like a burden on my shoulders was mine to seek forgiveness for. Not all of what Jesus sacrificed for me was my own doing. But, yet, I carried it. 

Some of the sin and shame I continued to carry around were iniquities done to me. Why is it that as children we tend to think everything is about us and everything is our fault? When that becomes a pattern for a child, as it did for me, the load becomes unbearable. It feels impossible to get rid of.

You see, when I sin, I can take responsibility for it. I can confess, seek forgiveness, turn away from my sin and seek a different way. But, when I am sinned against, it feels harder to let go of. It feels more out of my control. It feels like I need to wait on the sinner to confess, seek forgiveness and turn from their ways. But even if those things don’t happen, there is an answer. I don’t have to carry the burden myself. The answer is the cross.

Not only does Jesus want to carry the burden of the sin I have committed but He wants to carry the burden of the sins committed against me.

I no longer have to carry the offenses committed against me. I no longer have to figure them out. I no longer have to walk in shame. I no longer have to own it as my own.

So although the burdens I was carrying and allowing to weigh me down were not mine to carry, they were mine to let go of and trust Jesus to carry. It was my responsibility to trust Jesus to heal me, fill in the gaping holes left from the offenses committed against me, and walk in the freedom He hung on the cross to give me.

Dear One, His freedom is for you. His forgiveness is for you. His love is for you. Yes, you! Can you let go today? Can you allow Him to fill in the wounds left by another? I am praying for you. Jesus longs to intercede for you. May it be so!

1 Peter 2:24-25, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

SaveSave