Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beauty from Ashes

I still stand in amazement of all that has happened in the last three years.  As I look back over the last three years and see the work of God, I can't help taking time to reflect and praise God for all that He has done.  When you go through such a journey...such a transformation, it is hard not to take a moment and be still and remember that He is God around that life-changing event each year. 

And this year as I reflect,  it has been a little more emotional because of the fact that I joined our church.  As I slow down and am still before the Lord, I am reminded of Isaiah 61:3 (ESV):

"to grant those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."  

When we started this chapter three years ago, I never imagined that I would have a beautiful headdress.  In my heart of hearts, I felt like I would be wearing ashes for the rest of my life.  I couldn't fathom ever replacing the spirit of mourning that I was in with gladness.  At the time my spirit was weak...it was faint, but today I stand here humbly wearing a garment of praise.  All of these things...the ashes to the beautiful headdress; the mourning to gladness; the faint spirit to praise...needed to happen so He may be glorified!!  

When we left our church almost three years, I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to be a part of a church again...let alone be a pastor's wife.  When you are broken...when you have felt pain in places that you didn't know existed, your natural response is to retreat...to protect yourself. I am thankful God gave me two godly women who LOVE Jesus so passionately walk with me through this season.  One lady was my discipler and the other was a friend of the family who has spent many years walking with women through life changing events...giving them godly counsel and sharing godly wisdom.  Oh, how I have been blessed by Him through these women!  These women counseled me, they prayed for and with me, they shared God's word with me and they lovingly challenged me when I was not handing issues over to God.  

During this chapter, the Lord gave me a new life verse.  I was meeting with a lady that I was discipling, and she was going through a hard season.  I naturally went to Jeremiah 29:11 to give her some words of encouragement.  But as I got to the end of verse 11, the Spirit told me to keep on reading, so I did.  By the time I got to the end of verse 14, I was overcome with emotion and tears filled my eyes.  This was the first time in over a year, that I missed the fellowship of a church family and I felt like I was ready to be a pastor's wife again.

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  
 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.   
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
 I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” 
declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
 Jeremiah 29:11-14 

I had sat in the bottom of a pit for so long, and I was tired of being there.  I realized that for too many months, I was in protective mode.  I was trying to control all the pieces, so I wouldn't be hurt again.  I called out to Him that day and He listened to me!  I began to seek Him with all my heart, and I saw Him in a whole new way.  I had lived in captivity for so long, but that day He carried me back to the place from which He carried me into exile.  It was around this time that the Lord brought me to a place of where I could forgive those that had hurt me.  And through this process of forgiveness, I felt a freedom that I hadn't felt in months.  As I continued on the journey, I was able to love people in a whole new way...I was beginning to understand what it meant to live and love like Jesus. 

Almost three years to the day the Lord has closed this chapter through joining our church.  It is not a chapter that will never be read again, but a chapter that will continually be remembered and visited.  A chapter that can't be forgotten because it had such a life-changing impact on me.  A chapter that I will share with others when the opportunity arises, so that He can be glorified. 

So, as my time of being still comes to a close, I can't help but to praise Him for giving me beauty from ashes, gladness from mourning, praise from a faint spirit so that He may be glorified through it all!!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Obedience Is Action

I have been discipled since July of 2010.   I can't believe that it has been almost 7 years since I began this journey of not just gaining knowledge about Jesus, but to apply it to my every day life...that there must be action...fruit of what I am learning as I read the Bible. 

It has been hard over the years.  I am naturally an introvert, so I don't like putting myself out there...afraid of rejection...afraid people will analyze me.  But in the last several months, the Lord has been working in me...changing me...building a confidence in me. 

Just before Christmas, I was running an errand and saw this gentleman sitting by an empty store front with a backpack and a couple of grocery bags filled with some belongings.  As I walked by him, he caught my attention. The Lord reminded me of the bags in the back of the van that we made a few days before for anyone we saw who was struggling with homelessness.  I felt the Lord leading me to go get a bag and bring it to this man.  I continued on into the store and told the Lord that I didn't think it was a good idea to give a bag because I didn't know 100% that this gentleman was homeless...and I didn't want to offend this guy while trying to love him like Jesus.  I went about my shopping and paid for my items.  As I was walking back to the car, I see this gentleman again.  And very clearly, I hear the Lord say to go get one of the bags out of the van and bring it to this gentleman.  I knew in that moment I had a choice...I was either going to obey or disobey.  I continued walking back to the van and put my stuff in it.  I went to the back of the van and got a bag.  I took a moment to pray.  I told the Lord I was willing to go, but I need Him to give me the words to say.  I took a deep breath, shut the door and walked over to this gentleman.  The whole way over to him, I just kept praying..asking the Lord to use me as he saw fit.  Finally, I am standing in front of this gentleman.  I hold the bag straight out in front of me.  I explained to him that as I was walking into the store I felt the Spirit leading me to bring him this bag of items.  I asked him if he wanted the bag.  He nodded his head and reached out and grabbed it.  Then he proceeded to say how much he appreciated the fact that I had brought him this bag of items.  I asked him if he knew who Jesus was and he told me he did.  (In my mind I was thinking, "Who has taken control of me?"  because this is NOT my normal approach...ever!) I then went on to explain that I was giving him this bag because of what Jesus has done for me on the cross.  I shared with him the church we attend and invited him to come for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service.  I told him that he was more than welcome to come worship with us anytime he was in the neighborhood. 

On the way home, I just praised Jesus for giving me the courage to obey in this situation.  I don't struggle with obeying when it is something I am comfortable with...like watching kiddos for friends, inviting people into my home, cooking a meal.  But this situation was COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone.  I prayed that the Lord would water whatever seed was planted that day. 

I write this blog post to say that even though I have been discipled for almost 7 years and have discipled many ladies over the years, I am still growing...I am still being stretched...I still have moments when I struggle with obedience.  But over the last couple of weeks as I reflect on this day, I am more and more convinced that obedience requires action.  Obedience is action.  I can't just read the Bible week after week with my discipler and not apply what He is teaching me.  I can't read the Bible week after week with the ladies that I disciple telling them that they need to obey as the Spirit leads them even if it makes them uncomfortable and not do it myself. 

So as a new year has started, I am listening for those opportunities that He lays before me. I pray that in those moments when I feel out of my comfort zone that my immediate response will be an obedient action instead of explaining to the Lord why it isn't a good idea or why it won't work.  I pray that I will remember: