Sunday, June 4, 2017

PURSUED THROUGH PAIN

If you're reading this then that means you didn't give up on this post because of the title. Haha, awesome!  There are probably many though that thought, ugh, what a bummer topic. Stick with me…please ;) 

My son loves to make me cringe by using the worst grammar, intentionally, but since it fits so well here, I'll say this in his words, "Pain ain't fun!" Three weeks ago, our family was in a car accident. The pain of recovery has been real. Throw in moving, and you have a recipe for slow recovery, sleepless nights & PAIN. For the first week and a half, the cracked & bruised ribs woke me up often each night and most nights I found myself pacing the floors, praying for daylight. Some times those "worst times" can become the "best times" if you're open to it, and that's my story here. I'd love to say I always take that approach, but then I wouldn't be being honest with you. 

About two weeks after the accident, as I walked around our dimly lit house, several hours before the kids would even begin stirring, I realized that I had been able to have some of the best moments with Jesus in those 4a - 5a hours. I began looking at my pain in a different 'Light'. Father God had been using my pain to pursue me in those early morning hours. In accepting His pursuit, my focus shifted from the reason of my waking, to the purpose that it could be used to fulfill. 

The first part of Romans 8:26 says, "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness". Pain brings weakness and an opportunity for help from our gift sent from Heaven, the Holy Spirit. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:19, "Perhaps you think we're saying these things just to defend ourselves. No, we tell you this as Christ's servants, and with God as our witness. Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you". I know for certain, that if we allow it, EVERYTHING submitted to Christ can and will be used to strengthen us!

There is great potential in pain. The first thing that pain does is slow us down, right?? If you're like me you immediately say, where's the potential in that? Whether it is physical pain, which can literally slow you down, or emotional pain, many things in life fall behind or often just have to pause because of the pain we are experiencing. Unfortunately, I get so caught up in life and on more than one occasion, I have had to go through something to grab my attention to slow down. At times, even force me to slow down. Pain can do that. Pain has done that in my life. It can also help us be more reflective, more sensitive & more appreciative. I believe that those traits are vital to a thriving walk with Christ, yet are so often the first things we let go of when the busy and crazy takes over. Pain will cause you to appreciate things you so often have taken for granted. It will help you be sensitive to the needs & hurts of others but also to what God is doing around you. 

My physical pain from the wreck brought about all of these things, but there was another time in my life when my pain was emotional. Pain from stress, from uncertainty, from worry, from exhaustion…today, June 4th, marks 7 years since Mark's heart bypass surgery and heart attack less than 12 hours after surgery. It was a time of great pain for me. Not physical, but deeply emotional. I was 27 years old, married less than 4 years, a mommy for less than 2 years, a mommy to be again for only a couple of weeks, financially uncertain woman whose life went upside down and inside out in a matter of minutes. Through it all, God pursued me. He used the pain I was experiencing to reach deep into my soul. To change me & show me a love that I had not yet fully experienced. 
 

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[a]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Romans 8:31-39(NLT)

Don't skip over verse 31!  See how it says "wonderful things"?  I've learned that the first step in being pursued is to take the approach that is positive, even when the situation would suggest otherwise. Not living in denial, that doesn't open you up to anything. Instead, look for good to come from your situation! Expect it, plan for it, hope for it, pray for it!!

Whether you're in the midst of a time of pain or can go back in the memories of past pain and remember the depth of it, let these verses from Romans open your heart to being pursued by a loving Father that loves you more than you'll ever fully understand. So much so that He wants to take your pain and turn it into something beautiful. Like those "become of tree after you die" ads…have you seen them? Honestly, I can't take their slogans and ads, they're just weird! But the concept is the same as the truth of God's purpose in our pain…ashes to beauty, sorrow to rejoicing, tears to joy, Death to Life!  If you want it, purpose and even new life can grow from your pain! 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

CHANGES AHEAD --->>>

CHANGE - it's inevitable in life, yet so many people struggle with it. We know it's coming, it's necessary and often brings good, yet we struggle to embrace or even accept it. I was thinking about Abraham this past week and how he must have felt when God asked him to pick up his things and just go... no plans, no maps, no details, just a simple, follow me. Wow!

My walk with Christ, particularly in ministry, has given me the opportunity to give up things that I love in this moment, for things, although unknown, that will exceed my expectations in the future. My family has come to this place once again. For those who have yet to hear, we will be relocating to N. Georgia at the beginning of June. (Actually Mark is already there). My heart literally breaks a little more each time I think about leaving Trinity Chapel! I see God before me and want nothing more than to follow as closely as possible, but there is sacrifice to be made in that following... I've found though, the sacrifice is always worth it! So for that reason, and many others, I can step back into a place of unknown. I can say goodbyes, cry tears & put that distance between those that I love and consider family at Trinity Chapel. I can hold hands & manuever through frustration in my sweet, Babes as they process this facet of ministry & walking with Christ. 

Let me share, briefly, how God brought us to this place of CHANGE -
In December, our family was facing some really challenging situations. On top of that, we over heard our little ones talking to friends and the gist of the conversation was that they weren't 100% sure where to put down their church roots, because Momma served in one location and Daddy, another (actually several others, but that's not important right now). The moment hit me hard. Like, stopped everything in my head. And although nothing changed at that point, it changed that way I prayed about our situation. Instead of praying for a job for Mark at a specific church, we began to simply pray for God to move in our current situation or to move us. Not an easy prayer to sincerely, pray. 

Then during my January fast, I had a beautiful moment with God where He asked me to stop surviving and to live. I literally responded out loud as I was driving, "BUT HOW?" He showed me that it had to start in my mind, then in my speech, then just continue to trust and look for what He would do. Some weeks later, Mark received a call about a job. That had been happening, rather often, so it was no shock, but we immediately felt God stir our hearts to not just shut it down. 

Through prayer {and a lot of tears} we began to see clouds of questions, concerns, struggles & probably even some doubt begin to rapidly clear from right in front of us and knew God was at work. As saddened as we feel at saying goodbye & making a transition from Trinity, we couldn't be at peace any more than we are, that we are walking with God and into His perfect plan at this point in our lives. 

To our Trinity Chapel family: THANK YOU for loving us! For allowing me to love & teach your children & grandchildren. What an honor it's been. Although it was far shorter than I ever would have dreamed, our hearts have been deeply knit with so many of yours. We're family & will always be connected because of our Father in Heaven. 

To all of our Friends & Family: We ask for your prayers! The next few weeks will be busy as I pass the baton at work, manage all the end of year busyness with the kids school & pack up our house. Pray for Mark as he establishes himself in a new role & new city without myself & our kiddos. Lastly, pray for our sweethearts - the little Whitakers - as I call them. There's a level of understanding that they have not reached in their walk with God, plus moving away from friends seems so final & big, so our days are a rollercoaster of emotions! We trust, & know with confidence, that God has gone before us! We just continually seek God's wisdom in walking out the steps He's laid out & the purposes He's placed in our lives!

Monday, March 13, 2017

#theunwelcomemonday

Today was the day after daylight savings began. My 2nd least favorite day of the year...my first being YESTERDAY, the start of daylight savings time! Ha! For all my friends in ministry, I know you feel me on this...I mean, why can't it start in the middle of Friday night?! Right???? (Really, just keeping one time all year, would get my vote, but I haven't found the voting booth for that option!)

So this morning, my daughter begrudgingly complied to my request to wake up, get up out of bed and slip her little arms and legs into the clothes I was putting her into...a real, live, 45 pound, baby doll. 😏  As I stepped out of the bathroom, I thought she was finally exiting dreamland and starting to get excited about her day. No more than 90 seconds later when I walked back in, she was practically drooling on the bathroom floor. I snapped a cute pic and thought I'd post something witty on IG about the time change and my little Sweet! I put my post together, trying every single filter, then going back to the one I almost always use, threw in a couple of hashtags and then did a quick proof and realized my last hashtag had to go. 

What was it?? #theunwelcomemonday Although, more than true, I had this little nudge inside me... you know the kind. I thought, what a terrible way to start my day - unwelcome. Such a harsh word, yet so often we treat days, situations, things, and yes, even people as unwelcome. Before we even give it /them a chance! 

What situation or person do you see as unwelcome? I know that if we change our perspective, the results we get will change too. About a week ago I read something that I immediately jotted down & placed on my desk. "Expectation is a form of faith" (Steven Furtick). If 'unwelcome' is what I plan for and expect, then that's all I'll get. 

I changed my outlook this morning, which didn't change all my situations or challenges - we were still pushing that school bell, daring it to ring before the kids got in the door; I still have a pile of laundry that needed to be taken care of over the weekend, yet here it stares at me at 11pm on Monday night; my list of to-do's didn't melt away, nor did other challenges I faced today; but my expectation of what God would do this day changed how I went about my day. 

If this is something you struggle with, I hope you can, like me, begin making imperfect progress in this area. Begin intentionally welcoming a day, a struggle, a person... and see what God will do!


Didn't Know How to LOVE

What a downer title, I KNOW...  Especially 2 flippin' days before Valentine's Day, right?   I am completely undone tonight thou...