Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Testimony of grace within conflict

There is a question that relentlessly pounds against the interior of my soul: How could I ever, EVER doubt or distrust the One whom my soul loves?
There are points in my life where this just leaves me in tears. I know the Lord doesn't expect me to follow or trust Him perfectly. After all, that's why He is so amazing. Our God is dear and merciful to us. I know that He is instructing me in this, which is a life-long process. However, while there are all sorts of basic answers throughout Scripture for this that give a measure of comfort, the truth is that I do doubt my Lord all the time. And this brings me much grief and anguish.
I love Him so much that I want greater measures of all that He is welling up inside my soul! Yet, within the next second, I can be so downcast and discouraged, due to some circumstantial disturbance, that I begin to dwell on all the needs that aren't yet provided for or all the struggles that have not yet found a resolve (and not just the concerns of myself and immediate family, but I will begin to think upon all the needs of friends or those within the Body, all of whom I know are struggling spiritually/emotionally/financially/physically), though prayers have been lifted up for months. I think on all the ways that He has been silent, and all the days that He didn't answer (or, at least, not in the way that I thought He should) when a great and terrifying need arose. And, it's in the moments, when I'm confronted with harsh surroundings, that I turn away, in fear that the lie that He is silent and uncaring will entrap me. I immediately start filling myself with the reality of who He truly is. Psalm 145 and 146 makes His character so wonderfully clear to me in the struggle. Yet, at times, it is as if my soul refuses to feed on Truth. And those are moments that are hardest to bear. How can I be so frustrated with Him and, yet, so frustrated with myself for being frustrated at Him? It feels like an airway to my soul is so stuffed with the garbage of emotions and thoughts that I have to take the time to cry it out. Where I initially sought to do some "real" praying, I soon found myself doing a lot of crying. And, it's then that I realize that tears are prayers, too. God doesn't want a bunch of good words and scheduled prayer time to intercede for others in the place of a humbled and contrite heart. Intercession will usually flow from that time and not always precede it.
Even as I write all of this (and still wrestling through bits of this), I am remembering a special way in which my Lord did bless me recently. Since leaving college, I have felt confused as to what I should pursue in regards to a job. Everyone knows that I'm almost-incapable of holding a real job, due to the fact that money is not a great enough motivator for me, as well as the fact that I don't handle certain types of stress very well. I'm also much too old-fashioned and particular for my own good. I'm a person that needs a meaningful job. A job that involves serving. A job that doesn't feel like a job at all (thus why missionary stories attract me so much). Not that 9-5 dull-drum. So, I found myself in a rather complicated situation. I was wondering if I should just learn to do the things I don't like to do and learn how to be "normal" like everyone else. Naturally, as soon as the thought entered my mind, I shut it down.
Self, I will never be normal!!! NEVER. Oy.
Thus, my next goal was to find myself a job that did involve serving and caring for others. Nanny was my first choice, since I have more recently felt a draw to find more experience with children. Care giving for the elderly was my second choice, since I have done a bit of that before and found it quite rewarding. Recently, some dear friends of mine have been pursuing CNA classes and sharing with me about their endeavors. After doing some extensive research on how to become a certified nurse assistant (it wonderfully involves ZERO college experience) and what the actual position entails, I found myself torn for awhile, not sure if this was something I should eventually prepare to do. However, months slipped by with no direction or answers. I made some small preparation and pursuits toward becoming a nanny, but I was not met with any available positions that matched my schedule. Since a friend of mine was visiting this month during the weekdays, I knew that it would be best to wait to secure a job position after our time together. Well, over the months, after being a bit flustered with having to pursue a part-time care position, I knew God was pressing me to wait.
Yep. Just like every other department in my life right now. Wait.
Naturally, I wasn't happy. But His pressing was firm and I knew I was only going to continue running into a wall of frustration if I attempted pursuing a job on my own. Also, apart of me was still torn about pursuing a nanny position versus CNA training. All I could do was learn the virtue of patience.
The Sunday morning of the week that my friend came to visit, I received an e-mail request from a mother of three (through a care-giving network website) if I would be interested in taking care of her sons. She provided some details and the location, all of which fit very well into what I had been hoping and praying for. In addition, she mentioned that she was Christian, which was a pleasant blessing. I immediately responded and within a few short hours we connected over phone and planned to meet near the middle of the week. From her first e-mail, I had a good sense that this was the position for me. However, it wasn't until our first meeting that the Lord confirmed this. As she spoke to me about what type of caregiver she hoped for her sons, it seemed like everything fell neatly together. She wanted someone who would become part of their family and not look upon this position as a job, someone who is willing to pour into her kids' lives and seek to be dependable and faithful. All I could think was, "That's exactly my heart!" Then, after I answered her questions, she shared that she had been lifting up prayer for this need. It took me a second to react, but I immediately shared with her that I, too, had been praying for the Lord to reveal the family He purposed me to work with. We both became quite elated.
God is good, and there is never a need to small or seemingly petty to Him (e.g. the axe-head story in 2 King 6:1-7)
What a wonder it is to think two people, who didn't even know each other existed until a week and a half ago, were lifting up the same prayers, prompted by the Spirit! And, how wonderful it is that He chose us for each other and pressed me to wait until He should lead her to find my profile-page and contact me at the appropriate week, when I would be finally available for a part-time job!
This is the desire that the Lord placed in my heart while I was at Ellerslie in Summer '10. Tired of living a life after my flesh and disappointed with friends and people, I wanted to find a new approach to life and relationships. During my time at Ellerslie, I not only witnessed answered prayers, but I heard testimony after testimony of God faithfully providing and leading His children when they were fully surrendered to the will of His Spirit. Whether it was for a small, "insignificant" matter (like finding someone's lost ring in the sand at the volleyball court! True story, haha!), money for this or that, knowledge and answers to pursue the correct path for jobs/education/ministry, wisdom for matters concerning relationships, etc etc.
Yes, I thought, this is right. Christ must be intimately orchestrating every detail and we must be fully bent to the Spirit.
I finally found the true life of faith that I had been looking for all along. But this life of faith continually dwells in the state of surrender. Post-Ellerslie, this has been rough. I don't have a large church body to wake up to every single today and pray or worship with. I don't have sisters who will come alongside me and wrap me with prayer every day. I don't have leaders who will help keep me accountable. To be honest, Ellerslie is such an easy place to learn surrender because of the spiritually-soaked environment there. Now, that's good, because that is exactly what Ellerslie is about. However, Ellerslie-living isn't real life. It's just a set-apart season to prepare souls for real life. Nevertheless, there has been so much I have had to learn over and over again since returning from Ellerslie. I have found that surrender isn't a one-time thing for each particular issue or struggle. Surrender is the state in which a Christian abides and deepens in over time, swallowed up into the will of the Father.

In seeing the way He led me through this job struggle, which I'm sure I will encounter again throughout life, I was humbled. I left the meeting with the mother very much in awe of my Father's faithfulness. All I desired was an answer to the matter. I wasn't expecting Him to write out these lovely details. Yet, He did, because He so loves. His desires for us are only the best.
Oddly enough, I still found myself with plenty of questions after His orchestrating of all this. I know how wrong that sounds, but the questions remained: Why does our Father provide for the "small" things over the larger, more pressing, immediate needs (the ones that involve the health and healing of hurting hearts and souls to find peace)? Why does our Father seem to tarry for those who need SO much of Him, and yet He seems quicker to provide for temporal issues?
He has good purpose to work this way. My heart is sad because I want to see Him work the "big" things, but, as I wait, I'm filled with joy by the "little" blessings and provisions. He reminds me that my desire for Him to work the impossible is right and good, and that He is willing to do it. But I must wait, because the story is coming together in all the appropriate details that His hand has written.
Today, He gives me faith enough to trust Him for the big things. O Yeshua, that alone makes me love You so!
I find a great deal of comfort in the story where Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit. I often feel like I'm the father of the boy. There are many times when I believe in who He says He is and what He can do, but with all the uncertain circumstances and conflicting emotions/thoughts within myself, I find myself crying out to Him, "I believe, help my unbelief!"

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”
(Mark 9:17-29 ESV)

The ironic part of my whole "job" story is that I am caring for the three most difficult boys I have ever encountered. They have given me nothing but a rough time since I started last week. But it is so fitting! I am learning a lot about myself in my Father's eyes by caring for them every day.

I desire the heavenly stamp of His design and approval upon all my earthly affairs, so that I may always tell of His wonders to His others. I want every detail of my life so divinely composed that it will be completely apparent as to Who rules my life and has won my heart.

Abba is righteousness in all His ways. He keeps faith forever.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Visionary Monday: Of womanhood, submission, home, and silence!

I have had some gems collecting in my quotations folder, eagerly waiting to be shared! I am always coming across tidbits of wisdom throughout the week. They keep me inspired!

Every woman, whether rich or poor, married or single, has a circle of influence within which, according to her character, she is exerting a certain amount of power for good or harm. Every woman by her virtue or her vice, by her wisdom or her folly, by her dignity or her levity is adding something to our national elevation or degradation. ~ John Angell James

We hear much about women's liberation today. I want you to be liberated. Here is the path of genuine liberation for a woman: submission. Submission allows her to run on the track; it allows her to make beautiful music in her home. When you do what God intended a woman to do, when you are what God intended a woman to be, that is when you will be most free. ~ Jay E. Adams

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action. ~ Mother Teresa

Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home. ~ Mother Teresa

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~ Mother Teresa

Friday, October 7, 2011


I found these powerful and moving quotations by Mother Teresa the other day. They are reminding me how much the Lord wants our hearts. To be given. To be spent. And to be invested in Him.
Sometimes, I don't always know what that looks like. Other times, I'm not always willing to walk that path. And, on other days, I don't know how to be given to the needs obviously at hand when I feel so incapable.
To lose one's life for His namesake. The greatest and most dangerous venture of all. But as Paul wrote, exhorting the Hebrews, we must seek to not be sluggish, but imitate those who through patience and faith inherit the promises (Heb 6:12). And, also, to the Galatians he encouraged to not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Gal 6:9).

The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, not that. But we are perfectly happy.

I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you." Ask yourself, "How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?" Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well.

Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Oh, gaze ye on the firmament!

I love reading a good poem aloud. This one was challenging, though.

A Sunset ~ Victor Hugo (from "Feuilles d'Automne")

I love the evenings, passionless and fair, I love the evens,
Whether old manor-fronts their ray with golden fulgence leavens,
In numerous leafage bosomed close;
Whether the mist in reefs of fire extend its reaches sheer,
Or a hundred sunbeams splinter in an azure atmosphere
On cloudy archipelagos.

Oh, gaze ye on the firmament! a hundred clouds in motion,
Up-piled in the immense sublime beneath the winds' commotion,
Their unimagined shapes accord:
Under their waves at intervals flame a pale levin through,
As if some giant of the air amid the vapors drew
A sudden elemental sword.

The sun at bay with splendid thrusts still keeps the sullen fold;
And momently at distance sets, as a cupola of gold,
The thatched roof of a cot a-glance;
Or on the blurred horizon joins his battle with the haze;
Or pools the blooming fields about with inter-isolate blaze,
Great moveless meres of radiance.

Then mark you how there hangs athwart the firmament's swept track,
Yonder a mighty crocodile with vast irradiant back,
A triple row of pointed teeth?
Under its burnished belly slips a ray of eventide,
The flickerings of a hundred glowing clouds in tenebrous side
With scales of golden mail ensheathe.

Then mounts a palace, then the air vibrates--the vision flees.
Confounded to its base, the fearful cloudy edifice
Ruins immense in mounded wrack;
Afar the fragments strew the sky, and each envermeiled cone
Hangeth, peak downward, overhead, like mountains overthrown
When the earthquake heaves its hugy back.

These vapors, with their leaden, golden, iron, bronzèd glows,
Where the hurricane, the waterspout, thunder, and hell repose,
Muttering hoarse dreams of destined harms,-
'Tis God who hangs their multitude amid the skiey deep,
As a warrior that suspendeth from the roof-tree of his keep
His dreadful and resounding arms!

All vanishes! The Sun, from topmost heaven precipitated,
Like a globe of iron which is tossed back fiery red
Into the furnace stirred to fume,
Shocking the cloudy surges, plashed from its impetuous ire,
Even to the zenith spattereth in a flecking scud of fire
The vaporous and inflamèd spaume.

O contemplate the heavens! Whenas the vein-drawn day dies pale,
In every season, every place, gaze through their every veil?
With love that has not speech for need!
Beneath their solemn beauty is a mystery infinite:
If winter hue them like a pall, or if the summer night
Fantasy them starre brede.