A New Thing for a New Year

I can’t say that I’m too sad to see 2016 to go. Whew, what a whirlwind of a year! The first few months of 2016 seemed to be a never ending wilderness, followed by months of stirrings & confirmations, and finally months of waiting and limbo living.  As crazy as the year was, there were many “stand out” moments, and among the top was one Matt blogged about a couple weeks back….

It was a day back in September when The Lord gave us both an unexpected little push at the home-going service of a dear brother-in-Christ. It was certainly not the message we were expecting to hear that day, but a perfect way to honor a faithful servant like Pastor Jeff and challenge those of us in attendance to go deeper still.

Since Matt had the privilege of helping with the worship portion of the service we were sitting apart, which meant I was on kid duty. We agreed from the start we wanted our three kids to be there with us. In the months and weeks prior, our family, as so many others, had prayed for Pastor Jeff and his precious family. We felt it was important for our kids to be able to witness first hand the celebration over a saint going home and the hope we have in Jesus, but also the harsh reality of the sinful world in which we live. Going into anything like this we try to give the kids a very clear picture of what’s expected from them, but even still, as the pastor began to speak, I found myself praying extra hard that my kids would be on their very best behavior! I knew this was something I didn’t want to miss.

As I sat there stunned over the words I was hearing, the tears began to pour and pour (Yes, this is a recurring theme in my life. My tears tend to flow very freely).  And yes, this time my tears were over the loss and sadness I felt for this dear family but also over the fact that I knew God was speaking to us…..deeper waters, surrender, letting go. This was the exact same issue He was dealing with me over three days before. He was reminding me (us) to give up control, to surrender the farmhouse sink.

The Creator of the universe, The Maker of the waters, seas, and oceans deep was calling us out. After the beach trip and now the home going message, the lyrics of the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United seemed to be on repeat in my brain:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Pretty awesome, huh? And that’s just a small snippet! We had sung this one several times at church and each time I really tried to make it my prayer, “Yes Lord, lead me where my trust is without borders,” only now I realized it was actually becoming my reality. I could feel the waters rising.

After the service I made my way to Matt and with one look I knew he was feeling the same way I was ….holy cow! We were both trying to convey thoughts and emotions through a single look, desperately wanting to talk but knew it wasn’t the right time….. You know, that’s a really difficult spot to be in, wanting to talk but you can’t! It’s times like those that you realize really quick the only person you truly have is Christ Himself.

But even at 40 years old, no matter how hard you try to keep things secret, somehow, someway our parents always seem to know when something is brewing. This time was no different. Our parents had sensed during all the stirrings that something was up. It is truly a blessing to have been raised in a home by Christian parents! Even after we’ve left their nests, they continue to be our biggest cheerleaders and frontline prayer warriors. Since my parents were there for the memorial service that day too they heard first hand the challenge and charge.

On the way back home that evening, we were able to share with my parents some more about how we felt like The Lord was calling us out. To what? We didn’t know! But we felt like it would be something “new”. As I shared how God had lead me to the “new verses” (specially Isa. 43:18-19) during our time at the beach I heard my mom crying from the back seat.

She began to tell me about a time when I was six years old. One day during her devotion & prayer time The Lord took her to Isa. 43:18-19. It made such an impact that she wrote the verses down on an index card and tucked it away. Later that same week, their church was having a nightly revival that they attended. The minister asked my parents if he could pray for me, and after a sweet time of prayer he proceeded to quote Isaiah 43:18-19 to my mom!!!

Y’all!!! And now here we are 34 years later! I don’t remember or ever recall hearing that story before. She hadn’t told anybody about her scripture index card all those years ago. The revival minister didn’t have some magic way of knowing he was quoting the same verse she had written down OR it would be the same verse God would lead that six year old girl to many years later! Only God!!! All those years ago, even then, God was orchestrating the puzzle pieces that would ultimately impact today’s big picture.

God’s ways are so much different than our own. Just when we think we have it all figured out He surprises us with something completely different! Just as CS Lewis wrote in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” For now that’s what we’re clinging on to. He’s King, He’s in control, and He has a plan for our good. So, bring on 2017, I’m ready for God’s “new things”!

“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Dealing with Doubts

Luke’s account of the Christmas story begins not with Mary and Joseph, but with Zacharias and Elizabeth, another unlikely couple to take part in the coming of the Messiah and the rescue of humanity from darkness and the shadow of death.  Unlikely, in the world’s view, but not in the eyes of the Lord.  He specializes in doing things contrary to our way of thinking.

Luke 1 tells us their story.  It recounts how they longed for a child for years, but like Abraham and Sarah so long ago, it appeared their line would stop with them.  How many years had they prayed for a son, only to see, year after year, their prayers go unanswered, or perhaps unheard?  But one day (all it takes is one day, y’all), one day Zacharias’ turn to burn incense in the Temple came up, so he went into that holy place…alone.

He stood before the altar prepared to do his priestly service.  How many times had this privilege fallen to him?  How often had he stood here and offered up the sweet smelling aroma that symbolized the prayers of the people going up to the Lord…the prayers of Zacharias and Sarah, too.  All those years of praying.  All those dreams and hopes unfulfilled.  Zechariah’s heart longed for a son, an heir, but the length of his days made any flickering hope of this being fulfilled go up like the smoke upon the altar.  His heart broke not just for himself, but for his wife, too.  He had seen the pain in her eyes grow as the years passed, and he had seen her hope dwindle alongside his, hope that, against all odds, against nature even, God would intervene and do a miracle.

Perhaps as he stood in the dim light of the Holy Place he offered up yet one more prayer, the tiniest spark of his faith trying to start fire, in spite of all his head told him about how hope-less and crazy it was.  At his age, this could be his last chance to stand in this place, standing in for the people, and for his wife, offering up their hopes and fears.  Perhaps, for Elizabeth as much as any one, he asked once more, “Lord, please…”

And suddenly, he wasn’t alone any longer.  Just to the right side of the altar stood one of the angels of God Most High, in all his glory;  a truly terrifying sight for a mortal to behold.  And while Zacharias was filled with fear, Gabriel spoke not judgment but words that sounded too good to be true: “Do not be afraid, Zecharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13)

His mind reeled.  Could this be happening?  HOW could this be happening?  All the years of doubting God would hear his prayer now transitioned to “how in the world could this thing take place?” He was old.  Elizabeth was old!  Surely this was all just the wishful imagination of an old man’s mind, clouded the years and the incense before him.  Could God…would God really do such a miraculous thing as this?

Zacharias was a priest.  He knew the stories.  He knew all about Abraham and Sarah, how the Lord showed up in their old age and miraculously gave them a child, the child of promise, the long hoped-for son who would be the first of a people as numerous as the sand on the shore and the stars in the sky. He knew this story well, and he should have known better.  But knowing something is true and having to walk that truth out in your own life are very different things.

Zacharias doubted God’s word to him, but God’s word was bigger than his doubts.  God’s word was sure:  Zacharaias would have a son.  Not just any son; this boy would be special. His son was also a child of promise, spoken of years before by the prophets.  His son would go before the Lord, the Messiah Himself, to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of the salvation that was coming.   And to give ample time to prepare for this arrival, to ponder all that God had said and done, Gabriel decreed that Zacharias would be unable to speak until the child was born.  He would watch in silence as God worked to bring it all to pass, just as He said.

As I read this story again, I realized I could relate to Zach a bit better this year.  Where I used to scoff at his doubt, this year I find myself nodding in understanding.  Where I used to shake my finger at a priest who could doubt what God had clearly and wonderfully said, I hang my head in silent shame, knowing this pastor is capable of the very same thing.

In spite of the clear Word God has given us, I have found myself doubting God’s  call for us to get up and go.  I often wondered how Zach dealt with being unable to speak, unable to declare the great things God had done and was doing, unable to lift his voice in song; this year, he reminds me of Psalm 42:

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me.  For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. “

I miss our church family that we are leaving behind.  I miss serving them, lifting my voice along with their’s to proclaim the goodness of the Lord, to sing of His grace and mercy.  This journey has been hard.  As the time has gone on, as we’ve waited and waited, it has gotten easier to doubt what God has clearly shown us, to doubt His word to us.  I’m not equating this journey we are on with the gravity of Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s, but I have definitely gotten comfort and a new understanding through considering it.  God’s Word is sure and true, no matter our level of faith.  Even those of us who shouldn’t doubt, do. God’s Word is bigger than our doubts and fears.   God is loving and compassionate to His children when we doubt.  God is bigger than circumstances that look hopeless and crazy in the world’s eyes.

I know God will bring His Word to pass…in His time.  Waiting for that time has become the hardest part.  Our pastor used to say that it’s not the intensity of the trial so much as the length of the trial that gets to you; I’m learning that’s true.  The longer we get from the initial “going” to the “where” has taken a toll on us both.

I wait in a different sort of silence than Zacharaias.  Like Abraham, I feel a stranger and a sojourner in a city that’s been home for nearly two decades.  I wait in hope that God will show us the path soon.  I wait in hope that He will bring us to the place He wants us to be.  And I wait in hope that,  along the way, He will bear with me in my doubts and fears.  And one day, like Zacharias, I will open my mouth and praise Him for all He has done.

So on this Christmas Eve, here at the end of a long and trying year, if you find yourself doubting how your hurt, your problem, your hopeless situation can change, go read the first chapter of Luke. Go realize that these were real people going through real problems that seemed hopeless, too. And realize that God’s Word is true…He will bring it to pass.  God has hands big enough to handle it all. Don’t doubt Him any longer…put your doubt in His hands.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Merry Christmas, y’all.

The Push

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Every parent knows the feeling, that moment when you’ve told your child for the thousandth time, “If you jump, I’ll catch you!”  They stand looking at you, knees knocking at the edge of the pool, eyes all aglitter at the thought of jumping, one hand hesitantly held out toward you in anticipation of the catch.  Yet even then, there often remains that seed of doubt, that hint of fear, often shown in the one hand held up to their lips in comfort.  And then, they’ll trust you, lean forward and leap into your arms.

Sometimes.

And then there are those times they could benefit from a little nudge, a slight push in the right direction.  Not that I’ve ever done that, of course.  I’ve just heard it can be helpful sometimes.

As we grow older, there are still times we can benefit from a push.  After confirmation, after the surrender of the farmhouse sink, after the waiting, I found myself standing on the edge of the pool, so to speak, unable to jump.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I needed a nudge.  I needed God to do something to coax me from the edge into the air, from the waiting into the going.  And my Father was kind to His fearful child and gave me a push in the most unlikely of places:  at the home-going celebration of a dear friend.

A church full of friends and family gathered on a Sunday evening in late September to celebrate the life of Pastor Jeff Rudd.  As we sat together and remembered Jeff, we laughed and we cried.  It was a wonderful night to remember and celebrate what God had done in and through Jeff’s life and ministry. It was a wonderful reminder how the gospel changes lives, and those lives go on to change lives, and those lives go on to change more lives.

Jeff’s friend and former pastor from New York challenged us to not just remember Jeff, but to follow his example.  Don’t just nod in agreement; live it. Jeff had stepped out from the security of a life in local government into the unknown of full-time prison ministry, with a wife and four kids, and he did this faithfully for the last 15 years of his life.  Each of us might not be called to full-time prison ministry, but we are called to be a light, to share the gospel, to go where God sends us carrying the love of Jesus Christ.

At one point, the pastor read from Ezekiel 47, an incredibly powerful image in Scripture. There we find Exekiel standing in the river that flows out from beneath the throne of God.  As Zeke first steps into the water, it comes to his ankles.  He goes a bit further and it’s up to his knees.  Zeke goes farther, and now the water comes to his waist until finally, Ezekiel saw a river he couldn’t cross, water that was too deep for him to feel the bottom.  If he went any further, he’d lose control and be taken wherever the river rolled.

Coming on the heels of our beach trip, the metaphor of stepping out into the waters, of stepping out to the place where your feet no longer find the bottom, of where the current is too strong for you to control on your own and being taken wherever the river goes was incredibly poignant for me.  Sitting in that pew and hearing the Word of God, remembering the life of my dear brother-in-Christ in something I have a hard time communicating.  I have been working on this blog for nearly two weeks, and I can’t adequately convey how powerful it was. All I know is the Holy Spirit spoke to me that night. He made it clear it was time to step out into the deep, time to trust the Lord beyond what I could see, to walk by faith and not by sight.

“But Lord,” I protested, “What am I supposed to do?  Where do you want me to go?”  You see, I wanted God to spell out the entire process for me, to show me the next three steps before I went out beyond the waist-deep water  into the rushing current.  I wanted the Lord to give me the entire picture, but He was only showing me the next step (Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, right?).  He was asking me to trust Him to go beyond where I was comfortable, to relinquish control, to step out into the deep water past what I was familiar with.

Like a parent swimming in the deep end, trying to convince their child to take that leap of faith and jump, my Father was holding out His more-than-able arms and telling me to jump.

I just needed a little push.

Surrender the Farmhouse Sink

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(This is the THIRD post by my wife here on the Wading Pool.  So thankful for her willingness to take up the challenge of writing.  I think she’s doing an incredible job!)

This past Tuesday night, along with millions of other people around the country, I tuned into the season four premiere of Fixer Upper.  Matt & I have been fans of the HGTV show for quite a while now and our kids even look forward to our Fixer Upper nights!  Together we all gather around the big black box waiting to see what beautiful design Jo will dream up or what kind of crazy stunt Chip will pull.

I guess it’s only natural for me to love a show like this because I’ve had an affinity for design and decorating for as long as I can remember.  At ten years old, I would pour over the pages of my mom’s Southern Living magazines, tearing out all the house plans I could find to file away in my “dream house” folder.  Then as a teenager, I opted to take an architectural drafting class over chorus, even though I knew I’d be the only girl in a class full of boys – yikes!  And again as a newlywed, decorating our first home with its French Country kitchen and Big Bird yellow spare room.  Just ask Matt about that one – Bahahahaha!!!  Whatever the stage of life I’ve always been drawn to design, crafting and creativity.

In fact, the Big Bird room would later become the sweetest little nursery for our firstborn, with a fresh coat of paint, of course!  But from then on, I knew I wanted to create a comfy little nest for my family that we could all enjoy.  It’s something I love and find so much joy in, and even more so, if it’s done on a dime.

Through the years, I’ve tackled many DIY projects, scoured thrift stores, yard sales, and Craigslist for a bargain (that, I credit to my mom – the bargain-shopping queen).  I’ve sewn, recovered, or painted to revamp an item into something “new”.  But in May of 2015, I was ready for a bigger challenge….a kitchen remodel.  It would be a big project but I knew with my ideas, Matt & my Dad’s handyman skills, and the unexpected blessing of others’ generosity, we could make this dream a reality!  My design would open and brighten everything up, add a long center island, new countertops and a farmhouse sink…Sigh!  It would be beautiful…Pinterest worthy!

It was a perfect plan, but the only thing going against us was time.  A year and four months after that first #DemoDay we were finally ready to have the cabinets painted.  Yes, you read that correctly:  A YEAR & FOUR MONTHS later!  And that landed us right in the middle of our 2016 changes and stirrings!

Painting that many cabinets wasn’t something I wanted to DIY, so we hired it out and planned a last minute beach trip to get out of dodge.  We also knew this would be a great time to really quiet our souls before The Lord and seek Him.  We desperately wanted details since all we knew up to that point was that we were moving!  Wouldn’t you know it, it was the most dreary and depressing weather that week.  Instead of having lots of quiet, serene moments alone with the Lord, we were wrangling three stir crazy kids the majority of the time.  Ha!

As the week went by, we didn’t have any more clarity than when we first left home.  Since God wasn’t revealing His plan for us fast enough for my liking I was giving lots of suggestions and dreaming up plans of my own.  Plans to buy a fixer upper!  Yes!!!  I began to conjure up all the different locations we could move to, all of which were among familiar places in my comfort zone.  I stayed up searching online, into the wee hours of morning, hunting for old homes all across NC, scheming about the possibility of buying one to fix up.

But one morning after my searching, I was hit square in the face with a devotion about a woman wanting to build her dream home but needing to surrender her dreams to Him!!!  What?!!  I knew right then He was asking me to relinquish ALL of my hopes, dreams and fears not just some of them.  Here I was thinking, I was enjoying the ride, but boy, was I fooled!  I was still fighting for control but He was calling me to let go of everything from the farmhouse sink, the fixer upper house, to the state we lived.  He was inviting me out to unchartered waters.  He was reminding me to trust Him completely.

I, in my little faith, promptly told God, “Ok, but You’re going to have to give me one of those verses about doing something new … confirm it like You’ve done before”.  And of course, the very next day I opened my One Year Bible and this was the verse in my daily reading that glared back at me:

“I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.”  Isaiah 42:16 NLT

What in the world?!  Wow!!!  Cue the waterworks…

And then the following day (more waterworks):

“For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”   Isaiah 43:19 NLT

It’s been two months since that beach trip. We still don’t know specifics of what He’s doing, but I do know I have to surrender, totally and completely.  I have to be willing to lay down those dreams and fears and trust that it will be ok even if I never have a kitchen with a farmhouse sink or a fixer upper in NC.  Whatever the case, I have to remember His plan is so much better than my own.  I have to turn it ALL over to Him, to seek Him first, and to trust Him with the unknowns.

When we walked into our freshly painted, finally finished kitchen back in September I squealed like a little girl and then immediately the tears began to fall.  I knew this beautifully remodeled kitchen wasn’t meant for me and that’s ok….my God is big enough to handle a farmhouse sink!

Waiting

I tweeted that yesterday. It is where my heart is right now. I was thinking about my family’s current state of limbo as we wait for the Lord to reveal to us where we are to move, and while we wait for our house to sell. Super-spiritual, right?  I failed to realize it was posted on the first Sunday in Advent. This morning, the irony slapped me in the face.

Advent is a season for waiting. It is meant to instill in us the feeling the Israelites had in waiting for the Messiah to come, to fan into flame the anticipation of all things being made right. It is intended to remind us not only of the first coming of Christ, but to get us to look up in anticipation as we wait for His second coming.

For my kids, it’s the official countdown to Christmas, and a severe test of waiting. Just this morning, my boy wanted to go to Target to get a new Lego set. When I told him he’d have to wait until Christmas, 4 whole weeks from now, he replied “But that takes sooooo loooooong!”

My sentiments exactly, son. I feel like I’ve had the same conversation with the Lord lately.

“Lord, where are we to go?”

Wait, and I will show you.

“Lord, please send a buyer for this house!”

Wait, and I will send them.

“Lord do we go right or left?”

Wait, and you’ll find out.

That’s just a snippet of the running conversation I’m having with God. To be honest, I’m struggling, y’all. If you’ve followed us so far on this journey, it’s involved a lot of waiting, but nothing like right now. It’s required obedience in stepping out from our comfort zone, taking a leap of faith. But honestly, all that was nothing like the obedience required to continue to wait. I’m a guy, we like action, getting up and doing is the easy part. Waiting is not.

Waiting is a part of what we do. And we are usually terrible at it. Like my son waiting for the opening of presents on Christmas Day, we protest at the slightest of perceived delays: the slow guy in front of us on the way to work, the long line at the checkout counter. Or less trivial, the test results to come in, the call back on the interview, the son or daughter to come home at 3 am.

Scripture is filled with waiting. Abraham waited until all hope in human means of having a son was extinguished. Joseph waited in Pharoah’s dungeon for a couple servants to remember him. The disciples waited in the upper room for the promise of the Spirit to come.

The Psalms repeatedly speak of waiting:

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!”  Psalm 27:14

“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” Psalm 37:7

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” Psalm 130:5

And who can forget the most familiar verse on waiting in the Bible, Isaiah 40:31:

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

And throughout the Old Testament runs the scarlet thread of waiting for the One who would crush the serpent’s head and redeem His people from the power of sin, death and the grave.

As a Christian, I’m continually faced with the hypocrisy in my heart over what I say and sing about God’s sovereignty and my inability to trust Him, to hope in Him, as I wait. Is He sovereign? Then the timing of our house selling and the revealing of our next home is up to Him, and I can wait on Him in peace knowing that.  Is He faithful?  Then I can trust that the things He is calling us to will come to pass.

I hope not in circumstances, though that’s easy to do.  I hope not in man, and I certainly hope not in myself.  “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.”  

Enjoy the Ride

img_0112(Note:  This is the second post EVER by my wife here on the Wading Pool!!)

I’ve always thought I had an adventurous streak in me.   No, I’m not wild and crazy in my adventures but never-the-less a flicker of adventure has always been tucked down deep inside.  I guess I have my Dad to thank for that because it was him who gave me my first thrill seeking taste of…. roller coasters!

As a young girl, the highlight of every summer was our church’s annual amusement park trip.  Early in the morning we’d load the buses to maximum capacity, everyone already drenched with sweat from the North Carolina heat and humidity, and make our trek to one of our areas closest parks.  I couldn’t have been much older than five when my Dad first introduced me to the beginner coaster called “Scooby-Doo”.  Once the ride stopped, all I wanted to know is if I could ride again and again and again.  I was hooked!  Year after year we’d return and each year I’d be anxious to see if I’d be tall enough to graduate on to the next coaster.

Over time I did move on from the kiddie coaster to the classic, wooden coasters like the “Rebel Yell” and the “Grizzly” and eventually I conquered the “Anaconda” with it’s drops, loops, and corkscrews.  There was something exhilarating about those coasters…total abandon, hands raised, squealing to the top of my lungs took me back to that five year old little girl wanting to ride again and again.

Now that I have kids of my own I’ve tried my best to pass on this love of roller coasters to them, and I do believe I have succeeded in my mission.  In recent years, my little mini-me thrill seekers have followed in my foot steps anxiously awaiting their chance to conquer the “big daddy” coasters, but somewhere along the way I find that I’m not as free spirited as my five year old self!  Ha!

Standing in line with my girls, waiting to board our roller coaster of choice I have a moment when I start to question our decision to ride.  “What in the world are we doing?!!  This may not be the safest idea.  How high is this thing and when was it last inspected?”.  Maybe it’s all the warning signs the theme parks post everywhere.  You know the ones: if you have blood pressure or heart problems, back or neck complications, if you’re pregnant, so on and so forth… don’t ride!  Or maybe it’s the freakish horror stories that pop up in our social media feeds or on the news about theme park accidents?  Or maybe it’s the fact that I am 40 years old now and I should at least act like an adult and be responsible for the little people beside me!  Whatever the reason behind my questions, that hesitancy, dread, and FEAR sneak up on me out of no where.

It wasn’t until this past June and the possibility of change that I realized how much of that same type FEAR nagged at me from the inside.  I hadn’t realized how much fear was controlling me…. fear of the unknown, fear of the “what ifs”, fear of failure.  But yet again, God was faithful to speak to me through His Word, to confirm and comfort when I needed it most.

You see, just a few days after my 2 Kings 8 readinga dear, sweet friend added me to one of those daily scripture writing groups on Facebook.  She sent me a text message saying, “oh hey, I saw this and thought it might be something you’d enjoy”.  I’m so thankful God brought me to her attention that morning because over the next 31 days, the ENTIRE month of July, God used those scriptures in such a powerful and mighty way!  It was His voice speaking to me thru His Word, reminding me to lay those fears down at His feet and keep my eyes fixed on Him….

“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”‭‭  John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭

“…. Arise, let us go from here.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭14:31

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

II Timothy‬ ‭1:7

“Only be strong and very courageou….” Joshua 1:7

“… The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”‭‭. Psalms‬ ‭118:5-6

“… You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them….” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭26:7-8‬ ‭

“…. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:7‬ ‭

And friends, this is just the surface!!!  It was like God just dropped buckets and buckets on my soul.  Thank You, Lord!!!  There were also numerous times someone would send a verse of scripture to me and it’d be the very verse I had read earlier in the day, something would be said at church that tied in hand and hand, a song would come on the radio about something I was praying about earlier in my quiet time, or I’d see a devotion or article pop up in my Facebook feed that pertained exactly to what I was struggling with!  I’m telling you, ONLY GOD!!!!

I wish I could say that after the Confession & Confirmation on July 11th the fear magically disappeared, but if anything it ramped up.  My mind seemed to work overtime trying to figure out every possible “what if” scenario.  Just the uncertainty of EVERYTHING had me so fearful and anxious, but God was so gracious!  He continued to beckon me to come to Him, to take those thoughts and fears captive, to release them to Him, to stop trying to figure it all out and just rest in His arms …. to even ENJOY the ride!  To enjoy HIM!!!

You know, in complete opposition, the enemy wants to suck every ounce of life we have left in us.  And isn’t that it?  The choice we have…. Death or Life?  He knows if he can debilitate us with fear, guilt, depression (fill in the blank) it in turn, limits our effectiveness we have for Christ.  By doing so, we play right into his hands….But greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4) and He (God) blesses those who fear HIM!  (Psalm 115:11-13).  Father, may we be a people who keeps our eyes and hearts focused on You!!!  Lord, help ME to be that five year old little girl again….total abandon, arms raised, squealing to the top of my lungs….trusting in You & enjoying the ride!  Keep digging deep, friends!

* (Pic Above) 1981 – That’s me, the little one, front & center in the yellow shirt with the bowl cut hairdo and my handsome Dad on the far left with the white shirt and crossed arms.

Coffee, Confession, and a Confirmation

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If you’ve been tracking along with us on our little journey, you know that my wife shared last week how the Lord revealed to her that we are, in fact, moving.  She didn’t tell you that she decided to keep that little nugget a secret from me for THREE WEEKS, but it’s ok…I’m over it now.  Seriously.

In the space of those THREE WEEKS, the Lord was doing some work on me, as well.  I had been asked to teach at our church over 4th of July weekend, and as I prayed about where to speak from, the Lord led me to Acts 16:6-10, Paul’s Macedonian call.   As I began to study, it became clear why.

Paul, on his second missionary journey, had just come through the region of Phyrgia, which means “dry and barren.”  Considering my wife’s description of her devotional life prior to 2 Kings 8:1 (which, recall, I still did not know about!), it is very ironic now.

Paul desired to go to Asia to preach the Gospel, but God said no.  Sometimes, y’all, God says no to things that seem like great things.  God would, in fact, send Paul to Asia later (Ephesus, anyone?), but at the time, His answer was “no.” Coming out of a dry and barren place, Paul wanted to go and do something (something good, by the way), but God said “no.” I imagine that had to be a bit deflating.

Then we’re told Paul wanted to go to Bithynia, which means (you ready for this) “a violent rushing.”  Now I don’t know about you, but I have never been disappointed and then tried to rush into anything.  Nope.  Not me.

The remarkable thing to me is what’s NOT said in these passages:  Paul never seems to be discouraged.  He doesn’t turn back.  He continues on.  You know why?   I think Paul knew that, if the Lord was leading, he didn’t have to worry about the destination. God would shut the doors that needed closing, and open the right ones.  He just had to keep on following the Lord; God would take care of the rest.

It was a GREAT encouragement to me as I studied.  Here we were, in the midst of “the stirring”, and I had no clue what was going to happen.  I DID know that God was in control and that if He hadn’t shown me the path to take as of yet, I just needed to keep on trusting Him and doing what I had been doing.  As my pastor says, “when you don’t know what to do, do what you know.”

I also knew that God is not the author of confusion, and that if He hadn’t shown me the next step yet, then I didn’t need to go about trying to get into my own Bithynia, rushing into something that wasn’t of Him.  As has been so often the case in our marriage, the word from the Lord again seemed to be “wait.”

Then July 11th came.

July 11th was a Monday, which was my day off.  That morning, Amanda and I were sitting  in our kitchen, chatting about things over our morning cups of coffee.  I could tell she was still a little shook up about the possibility of us having to move (again, she had NOT told me about 2 Kings 8:1), so I, like all good fixer-upper husband-types said, in great confidence, “Babe, you don’t know that we’re moving!”

And she looked at me sideways and said, “Oh, we’re moving all right!” And finally, after THREE WEEKS, she shares with me what God has shown her in 2 Kings 8:1.

“Elisha had told the woman whose son he had brought back to life, “Take your family and move to some other place, for the Lord has called for a famine on Israel that will last for seven years.” 

So again, in utmost confidence, I said, “Well…ok…ummmm…still….it…uhhhhhh.”  Or something profound like that.  We chatted a bit more, and we said we’d continue to pray about it.  She left to run some errands, and I sat down and picked up my Bible to do my reading for the day.  I opened the app on my phone that I use for my reading plan, and my jaw hit the floor as I read the first lines:

“Elisha had told the woman whose son he had brought back to life, “Take your family and move to some other place, for the Lord has called for a famine on Israel that will last for seven years.”

You’re kidding, right Lord?   On the DAY Amanda tells me, THREE WEEKS (if I haven’t mentioned it before) after she first read it, in my daily devotions, I begin in the SAME PLACE?  C’mon!  But y’all, I couldn’t make this up if I tried!  I was completely taken aback. I texted her and told her, and it became very clear to us at that point:  we were moving.  Where?  We didn’t know, but the Lord had brought some clarity to “the stirrings” we were feeling.

When all of this began to start, back at the beginning of the year, I had no clue what was coming: maybe a shift in ministry at church, maybe we sell our house and buy a fixer upper locally. But as time went on, and the possibility of a BIG move started coming up, I knew it would have to be God. I prayed and asked the Lord that, if we were going to have to move, would He please show it to Amanda.  I couldn’t do that on my own.  If it happened, it would have to be God.

And here we were, middle of July, and He had done it.

In His way…

In His time.

He does all things well, y’all.  Even the tiny details in something like this.  So if you’re going through a Phyrgia of your own right now, a time of dryness, keep going.  Stay in prayer and in the Word.  Stay in fellowship with other believers.  Most of all, keep your eyes on the Lord.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you, and He is so very sure to keep that promise.  For our part, like Paul, we just gotta keep following after Him.