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.”

When Your Burden is a Boulder

A few years back I was one week away from having a scheduled kidney transplant. Leading up to the surgery, there were times when I would tremble with fear. I worried about the pain in recovery. I worried about the medication I would be on for life after the transplant. I worried about my body rejecting the kidney. But, what caused me to break out into an all out panic attack was thinking about how would I ever manage all of my responsibilities during recovery.

In Galatians, Paul talks about carrying our own load but also sharing in one another’s burdens.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.

I don’t know about you, but it’s the whole part about allowing someone else to help bear my burden, carry my load, and share in my pain, that causes fear to set in.

But, as I lean into Jesus and experience more and more of His grace and compassion I see that He is to be trusted. Ultimately it is He who carries my burden. It is He who sees just how big my burden is even when I try to minimize it. It is Jesus who holds the burden and the solution in His all-powerful hands.

My burden…my failiing kidneys, my children’s unique needs, my husband’s health, the lies the enemy feeds me…it all compounds into a boulder too large for my shoulders.

When I find myself thinking I am something, I think I can and should bear it all. I should be able to pick up all the wounded pieces, place them neatly in my pack, and hoist them onto my back. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that I am alone and that I should be able to hold my heavy load myself.

Oh, Satan loves that lie. If he can get me to fall for it, he’s got me. He’s got me in an impossible situation trying in vain to hold up my pack, setting myself up for failure and a heavier burden.

But, Jesus….Jesus who knows pain. Jesus who knows betrayal. Jesus who knows loneliness. Jesus who knows love. Jesus who knows me. He knows the boulder I am facing. He knows what I am capable of carrying. He knows my needs.

But, Jesus…

the Boulder Taker

the Boulder Lifter

the Boulder Mover.

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What a peace it brings to my burdened soul, coming back to the reality that I am nothing. I am unable to bear this boulder. The Lord has not even asked me to bear it alone.

Thank you, Jesus. Those words seem insufficient. I have been known to utter the words, “Thank you, Jesus” about finding a good parking spot on a rainy day. But, to say “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying a boulder I am too weak and ill-equipped to carry myself” seems trite. So, I will spend my life uttering the words, “Thank you, Jesus. You are so good to me.”

 

 

 

Formula for Courage

image of the cross mexicoInspired by Psalm 28. Thank you, David, for sharing your heart!

I praise you, Lord.

I tell of your goodness and power.

I speak words of love and adoration aloud.

I bring to You my needs.

I petition You and You lean in to hear me.

You hear me and You strengthen me.

You empower me and You protect me.

Trust wells up in my heart and praise breaks forth from my mouth.

I gladly sing of your goodness.

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.

Psalm 28:6-7

Women of Peace

I wrote this many years ago after my Great Grandma passed away. I wrote it as a way to remember the love and respect between my Great Grandma and Grandma and to remember the faith they helped instill in me. Today is March 12th, my Grandma Betty’s birthday. She is celebrating in heaven. 

“Momma, why don’t you come over here and rest your legs for a while?” Grandma asks as she scoots past the rounded counter’s edge.

“I just need to get these rolls in the hot oven, dear. I’m fine.” As my Great Grandma leans her head towards mine she add, “She’s always fussing over me,” and then she smiles a slow smile.

“Oh, momma, I’m not fussing. I just think you must be tired and ready to rest by now.”

My thoughts stay focused on these two amazing women I have been blessed to spend time with, but instead of listening to them I begin to marvel over them. As I look at Great Grandma, I see her eyes behind her thick glasses looking closely at the dough she is forming into perfect shapes. “She’s not tired,” I think to myself. After all she had rested her eyes for a few minutes in the comforts of her recliner, which almost envelops her small frame. The time she had spent in the warm sun in the garden, combined with the efforts of her body had caused her to feel fatigued. But, she would not admit that to anyone, especially her daughter. Great Grandma looked forward to the time she had each day, albeit short, to spend in the yard.

“It’s a battle,” she’d say, “trying to keep up with those pesky weeds. Do you know that last month when I spent a week in the hospital, my hydrangea plant was eaten by slugs!” She’d try to say it in a gruff voice, but the kindness inside of her would get the best of her and she would chuckle at the end of the sentence.

“Ma, they’re just plants! We just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with what the good Lord has blessed us with. That yard is a jungle!” Grandma knew the importance the yard held in her mother’s heart, but she also loved her momma so much. Much of their bickering was due to Grandma trying to protect Great Grandma from overdoing it, and Great Grandma stubbornly continuing in her ways. The doctor had suggested Great Grandma begin to take it easy in the yard. She chose to ignore that advice from the doctor, but Grandma had listened closely and taken notes as to what would help her mother continue out her long, full life.

I let my thoughts drift back to the sunny kitchen where an enjoyable feast was being prepared for me, the so-called guest of honor. With feet planted firmly on the ground, arms outstretched, Great Grandma twists the knob to the perfect baking temperature. The sunlight from the nearby window shines awkwardly on the timer so that when she goes to twist the knob she has to gently turn her head to the side to avoid the glare. She sniffs the mild scent of unbaked bread dough and continues her chore.

Finally, Great Grandma is finished in the kitchen. Deliberately placing a hand smoothed by warm dishwater, on the edge of the counter, she steadies herself, and then continues to use the counter as a guide as she makes her way to the living room. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t admit that it is time to rest, but she settles into the large recliner. Grandma is quiet and offers a relieved smile, as Great Grandma slumps into the chair. Grandma has lived with her mother’s stubbornness for a lifetime and learned the importance of allowing her the freedom of taking care of herself whenever possible.

At least once when I am with my Grandma and Great Grandma, I gaze at them with amazement and wonder. In my mind I formulate a list of all that I love about these women. The very best part of being with them is listening to their stories. Now that they are both comfortable in their cozy living room, I know the stories will begin to be told. Years had gone by when I didn’t appreciate their stories and the wisdom I could glean from them. But God knew the day would come when my heart would open up and I would see that listening to the wise women would change my life. Along with so many life lessons, I am learning about true contentment from my Grandma and Great Grandma. Though many of their stories told contain hardship, they are always told in the context of hope. One of their stories may begin by sounding like a story of loss, but midway through I will begin to see that it is really about strength to persevere and faith that God is in control.

Second to listening to their stories, is listening to them talk to each other. Speaking with genuine kindness just seems the natural way to speak for this mother and daughter. They truly respect each other and it shows in every aspect of their relationship.

Through these women, God taught me about love. Love so full that just being in the room with them I am able to catch what overflows. When I am with them I feel like a parched sponge, hanging on to each spoken and unspoken feeling, hoping to be saturated with love.

As individuals, each woman is amazing. Great Grandma has fully lived 93 years of life on this earth. She has lived through wars, marriage, childbirth, many moves, a serious car accident, grandchildren and great children’s births and countless surgeries. Great Grandma has learned how to hope, love, have faith, patience and true humility. She seems to always have a story brewing of one of her experiences. It wasn’t until I had entered into my 20’s, that I was able to appreciate all that her stories did for my soul. I finally began to notice that if I went to see Great Grandma with something negative consuming my mind, I would leave wondering what had ever troubled me. Her stories always gave me a different perspective and helped me to feel thankful for my life. Now, rather than escaping the conversation and heading to the dirty dishes that waited in the kitchen, I could follow her back to her chair just to listen. Until recently, Great Grandma had been able to tell long tales, with all of the parts connecting to form a lesson I need to learn. She has grown quieter recently. There are more frequent pauses. When I am searching for the next light topic to talk about, Great Grandma will amaze us all by thinking deeper and saying, “We are so lucky!” She keeps our conversation headed in the right direction, focused on the wonder of life. Great Grandma is a woman full of peace.

My Grandma, being equally as wonderful, is someone I have always admired. “Your grandmother is beautiful,” my friends would always say, commenting even further after spending time with her. She is outwardly lovely, and inwardly splendid. On the outside my Grandma has the most soft, delicate hands I’ve ever felt. Feeling her hands is like touching a velvety, summer rose petal. Often when we come together after not seeing each other for a while, she will grasp my hands and I will be taken back to when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with those hands. Those hands could gently french braid my hair. They could pull strong weeds from the yard. They could lightly brush away a tear on my cheek. Her hands could push the lawnmower around a steep, hilly yard. My grandma has hands filled with a balance of love and strength. On the inside she is all that she is on the outside combined with a joyful heart and a keen mind. She has endured both good and bad in her life, and chooses, like her mother, to focus on the good. Grandma must have learned a lesson from her mother about life, because she exuberates peace.

My grandma and great grandma have lived together, just the two of them, for about 9 years now. With each year, a new strength is added to their bond. Their partnership in this world seems to grow more established through each circumstance they face. The faith they have come to trust enables them for each coming day. All of what makes up these women is shown with each minute I spend with them. My grandma and Great Grandma are extraordinary women who have changed my life and fill me with a most precious gift, a peacefulness that I will always cherish.

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:4

Looking Up

I am downcast when I look to myself

I am lost when I look to myself

I am defeated when I look to myself

Oh, but when I look to You…

You are my Shepherd

You are my Maker

You are my Truth

When I look down, I see myself

I see my faults, my needs, my weakness, my inabilities

I look to the sky

I need to tilt my head, my gaze, my mind upward toward the heavens

The treetops, the clouds, the sky all remind me of You

My Shepherd, my fulfilling Creator, my Sovereign Truth

cross and skyflowers and skypalm tree in windpalm treessky above ruinssky at beachsky at pyramidssun on water

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

A Perfect Heart

When I seek mercy and justice

When I offer mercy and justice

When I receive Your mercy and justice

My heart is renewed

My heart is cleansed

My heart is healed

When I seek Your way

When I offer Your love

When I receive Your Spirit

I behave as a woman following You

I love as a whole person

I give from a complete vessel

When you come to me, oh Lord

When you walk with me, oh Lord

When your Spirit fills me, oh Lord

I am set free

I am made alive

I will walk with a perfect heart

I will sing of mercy and justice; to you, oh Lord, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:1-2