(Part 5)

July 22, 2017

Y’all. I got up at 6:15 on a Saturday. That never happens, like ever. But I did and I had this urge to get up. So I did, and without a second thought, I grabbed my Bible, my journal, and a pen, and ran downstairs.

As I watched the sun wake up and stretch its rays over the rooftops and kiss the leaves “good morning”, I was reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness. His mercies are new like the new day dawning. He is more faithful than the sun that rises and sets day in and day out. I spent the hour copying James 2 in my journal, and writing my prayers to the Lord. I remember feeling refreshed. I wasn’t tired one bit, even though I went to bed late and woke up an hour or two earlier than usual.

Later on in the day, I was able to talk to Mrs. Avis. She is my dear friend, mentor, and prayer partner. I cannot begin to tell you how much the Lord has used her in my life. I have only seen her in person maybe three times. Her health issues have kept her home-bound for the time being, but that doesn’t stop the Lord from using her. I admire her faith and her love for Him so much. She has encouraged me so much through text messages, emails, and the occasional phone call. She is one who asks the hard questions. You know, those deep questions that you need to take a good look inside yourself and inside the Scriptures to find the answers to. She always, always listens to what is on your heart and she does not speak until you’re finished. She is so kind and compassionate and loving. With every struggle that I have shared with her, she has encouraged me to use the shield of faith to quench the devil’s fiery darts and to use the sword of the Spirit to combat the lies I have let myself believe.

During this particular conversation, I was amazed at how the Lord had so intricately worked in both of our lives. The spiritual struggles I was having were struggles that Mrs. Avis had experienced either years ago or just recently. We both were asking the Lord, “why?!?!? What do You want from me?” The emotions we felt were so alike. Though our circumstances were so different, the Lord had paralleled our lives in such an astounding way that comforted my heart. There was someone who understood the questions I was asking. There was someone who felt the same way I did. There was someone who experienced the same hurt and frustration I was feeling, made it to the other side and was telling me the outcome of it. There was someone who could say, “I’ve been there. I know how you feel. This sucks, but God is faithful.

I appreciated how Mrs. Avis reminded me that the Lord never wastes an opportunity to teach us more about Himself. The place that we are in no matter how difficult or easy it is, is the classroom that the Lord has picked to teach us a lesson that we need to learn. These lessons are for our good and for His glory and though it may hurt now, one day we will look back and see how God’s hand was at work in our lives.

I love how after we talked and listened and cried, we took turns praying together. I remember as Mrs. Avis prayed for my grumpy neighbors, I didn’t have any anger or hatred or bitterness clinging to my heart. I was still sad, but I was okay. I had finally let go and said, “Lord, this is in Your hands. I love You and I trust You.”

It’s at times like these when we’re open and honest and vulnerable that our love for each other grows. When you see what the Lord has done in the other person’s life and you see how far they have come to know Him, you cannot help but rejoice with them and praise the Lord for His marvelous works. On the flip side, if you have found someone who has heard the nitty-gritty, not-so-proud-moments of your life and still loves you the same, (if not even more), you, friend, have found a treasure. I am so grateful for Mrs. Avis and the community in my life that consists of people from all different seasons of life and different phases of faith that have encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. Without these people, I would not be the girl I am today.

I would highly recommend finding a spiritual mentor, accountability partner, or prayer partner. Find someone you know and trust who is older and has been actively walking with the Lord longer than you have. I would suggest looking for one who is two or three seasons ahead of you. You know who that person is. Be honest with them. Listen to what they have to say. Search the Scriptures together. Pray together. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ together. This is what the body of Christ is supposed to look like. It is a community of broken people who have been healed and restored by the Creator of the universe and who have committed their lives to know Him and make Him known.

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Be Anxious For NO-THING

(Part 4)

July 21, 2017 (Evening)

I was laying down on the couch in our music room, scrolling through YouTube checking my subscriptions. I listened to the acoustic version of Hills and Valleys. I liked how it wasn’t all peppy and exciting like you were shouting praises from the mountain tops. It was softer yet still joyful as if you were in the clear, just coming out of the valley. I could just picture coming out of the valley and beginning to scale the rocky terrain.

Anyways, in the list of related videos, there was a message given by Ben Stuart at the 2015 Linger Conference. I had listened to the one he gave earlier this year about how our phones are a great tool, but they can also be a distraction. Intrigued, I listened to this one.

And O. My.

I needed to hear that message. (Which you can watch here.)

Ben spoke on Philippians 4:6-9, which is a very familiar passage to me. I had verses 6 through 8 memorized. Hearing him speak on this familiar portion was refreshing to me. His thoughts about anxiety and how God is the God of peace, not of confusion, came at a time when I had been worrying and stressing and crying over several things in my life, not just my grumpy neighbors. This could only be a message from God to my burdened heart.

I have been letting anxiety take a toll on me.

I have allowed myself to be controlled by my fears, or anxieties, or stress. And it’s crippling. It’s exhausting to worry. There’s a Proverb that says “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) and that is so true! As I had allowed my worries to weigh down on me and as I let it keep me up at night, I began to feel more helpless and hopeless as the days passed. I began to feel disappointed and I remember feeling that in the extreme almost two years ago. And I did not want to go back down that path.

I love how Ben said it this way, “Be anxious for nothing. For NO-THING. But in EVERYTHING, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

When he expounded on letting our requests be made known to God, he described our tendency to suppress the ugliness and dirtiness of our life as if we were trying to keep a beach ball underwater. It’s so difficult to keep it from bobbing to the surface! You have to put so much pressure on it in order to keep underneath the surface. And that is exactly like our spiritual life when we try to keep our problems out of the Lord’s hands!

I was encouraged by Ben’s honesty of how he would write prayers to God and it was just crazy. His thoughts were everywhere and it was a huge mess. It was real and raw and unfiltered. And pouring them out before the Father was a lot like vomiting. That’s where I am right now. With my angry letter to God and every letter after that, I was all over the place. I let everything that I was trying to keep from God out.

Most of my angry letter was about my grumpy neighbors, but the underlying point I was making was pretty much, “God, I don’t like how You’re dealing with this. This doesn’t seem fair. I don’t trust Your judgment. I know You have a great plan for my life, but I don’t believe that Your plan for my life is the best plan for me. I want to believe that. I know I should believe that, but I just don’t. I feel like my way is better.”

But I love how the Lord works. When we’re honest with Him, He is honest with us. And when we’re real and raw and ready to hear what He has to say, He comes to us so lovingly, so tenderly; And He, the GOD of peace, (not just the Prince of Peace,) gives us HIS PEACE!

How amazing is that?!?!?

Because of the radical work on the cross that Jesus did, we can be anxious for NO-THING, but in EVERY-THING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, we can let our requests be made known to God. When we cast our anxieties on the Lord because He’s strong enough, we can think on things that are true, that are lovely, that are just, that are pure, that are virtuous, that are praiseworthy and that have a good report. We can experience the peace of God which surpasses all understanding because Jesus guards our hearts and our minds. Because of Him, we can sleep well at night. And that night, I did.

Hills and Valleys

(Part 3)
Still July 21, 2017
I asked God, “how is it possible for me to praise You when I feel so low? How can I possibly thank You in this difficult situation?”
A song got stuck in my head right then and there. It was a tiny whisper of Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells. When I heard it on the radio for the first time, I remember thinking to myself, “this is a pretty cool song. God is the God of the hills and the valleys in life. Also, this guy’s voice is amazing. Isn’t he from Royal Tailor? 😛 “
Because I just could not get the chorus out of my head, I looked up the lyrics. I also wanted to find out if Tauren was the singer from Royal Tailor or not ’cause I wasn’t sure. (He is, but he’s no longer with Royal Tailor.)
Here are the lyrics that encouraged me:

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God You give and take away
No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

(chorus)
On the mountains I will bow my life to the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone
You’re God of the hills and valleys, hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I had to write the lyrics down in my journal. I needed that reminder that my God is not just the God of my good days. He is the God of my good and bad days. He is bigger than anything and everything that takes place in my life.
I needed that reminder that if God chooses to place me on a mountain where everything is great and wonderful and beautiful, I need to stay humble. I need to bow low to the ground because I didn’t climb up there by myself.
I needed that reminder that when things get hard and I find myself walking through a valley, I need to look up and know that my God didn’t leave me alone. I love Psalm 23:4. It says,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
There is no need to despair. Sure, there’s a time to weep and mourn and say, “Why, Lord?!?!?” But there’s no need to lose heart. It really is possible to sing to the Lord and praise Him while you’re walking through a valley.
How did I come to that conclusion?
I made a list of God’s characteristics according to what the Scriptures say.
Here are a few:
He is faithful.
He is patient.
He is holy.
He is just.
His timing is perfect.
He sees all and knows all. (He is omniscient.)
He is everywhere. (He is omnipresent.)
He is all powerful. (He is omnipotent.)
When I started to see how big God is and how small my problems were compared to Him, I felt kind of silly for making such a big deal about this. I began to see that no matter where I am in life, I can look to my heavenly Father and know He sees me where I am. He is constantly consistent. There is never a moment where He is not who He says He is and that is such a comforting thought to me.
He’s God of the hills and the valleys.
And I am not alone.

If I Don’t Have You

(Part 2)

I reread Nate’s words when I got home and after I wrote my angry letter to God.

As I sat at my desk, I began to see that if this situation never happened, if my heart was not heavy, and if my spirit was not grieved, what would draw me nearer to my Savior? I had neglected Him. I shied away from Him because I hated my neighbors and I knew He didn’t like that. And because I knew He didn’t like that, I stopped spending time with Him. Mom and I still prayed together before I went to work, but that was just about as much as I would talk to God on my own.

July 21, 2017

I woke up with a heavy heart. I felt wounded as I dragged my feet around the house. It was Friday, my day off. In my head, the music Mom played throughout the house last night still echoed in my ears. Song after song reminded us that God was in control and that He started something new and He’s going to complete it. That He knows everything and He understands. That He is with us. But I was still asking, “God, where are You in all of this?”

At 11:23 (a.m.) I got an email update from one of my favorite bands, Love & The Outcome. They were announcing the release of their new single, “If I Don’t Have You.” I have loved that song from the very beginning. They put what I was feeling in my heart into words and matched those words with music.

How can I build Your kingdom if I’m building my own?

How can You be my treasure if I’m digging for gold?

How can You be my fire if my heart has grown cold?

How can You be my future if I’ve made this my home?

How can I? How can I?

I don’t want the world if I don’t have you.

I don’t want it all if it means I lose You.

I’ve tasted and I’ve seen enough to know it’s You I need.

I  don’t want the world if I don’t have You.

If I don’t have You.

How can I say I need You and live on my own?

How can I say I want You and never come close?

How can I say I surrender and never let go?

How can I say I love You to someone I don’t know?

How can I? How can I?

I don’t want the world if I don’t have you.

I don’t want it all if it means I lose You.

I’ve tasted and I’ve seen enough to know it’s You I need.

I  don’t want the world if I don’t have You.

If I don’t have You.

I give You every failure, every dream, and every mountain top.

I give You everything I thought of me and nail it to the cross.

I leave behind me what is ashes and what will be dust.

All I am to you my God for all else will be lost.

I don’t want the world if I don’t have you.

I don’t want it all if it means I lose You.

I’ve tasted and I’ve seen enough to know it’s You I need.

I  don’t want the world if I don’t have You.

If I don’t have You, Lord.

I’ve listened to this song a hundred times and this hundred-and-first time made me close my eyes and soak it in like it was the very first time.

I have been pushing my Savior away when I should have been pressing into Him. I say He is the King of my heart and the Lord of my life, but I never actually let Him rule over me.

Instead, I allow anxieties and worry to control my thoughts. Like, “What if this never stops? What if our neighbors are grumpy forever?” Or “what if the authorities do something in their favor instead of ours? This is so unfair, God!”

Instead, I allow my emotions and my feelings to control my actions. Thinking to myself, “I will not talk to anyone until I sort this out. I’m so mad I can’t even speak to anyone about this. This is my own fight. I’m on my own.”  Oh, how I love to shut my people out when I’m struggling.

I thought about how my grumpy neighbors do not have the Lord. However, I do. I thought about how they have the world, yet they are prisoners to it, never able to enjoy it.

I thought about Mrs. Nancy’s Manna in the Morning. She wrote:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night. (Psalm 92:1-2)

Praise the Lord for His love and faithfulness every morning and every night. Just think—a new day to sing praises to our Lord Jesus Christ. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6). (emphasis by me)

After that, I thought, “Lord, how can I possibly thank You for this? How is it possible for me to praise You in this situation? How can I praise You when all I can say is ,’please don’t leave me here?'”

And then, He answered.

That Time I Wrote God An Angry Letter

(Part 1)

July 20, 2017

God, why don’t You do anything? How long will You stay silent? How much more can I take? I hate these people. And I know that’s wrong. You ask for me to love them but God, there is no room in my heart to love them. – A portion of my angry letter to God

I wrote God an angry letter. Our grumpy neighbors are still grumpy. I know I’ve been holding onto bitterness and resentment against them for a long time and it finally all came out. One small thing led to another and I had enough. And I took it upon myself to tell the Lord exactly how I felt about them and how I felt about myself.

What’s interesting is how the Lord answered my angry prayer/letter.

Earlier that day, I read the morning devotion of my Daily Light.

“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16) He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isa. 53:3) “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. (Heb. 7:26) That you may be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. (Phil. 2:15) Jesus of Nazareth…went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:10) That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:9) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14,16)

***Emphasis by me***

There is so much there that spoke to my heart that evening when I reread it. I felt defeated. I felt helpless. I felt like I wasn’t being heard. I felt like the authorities were being unfair because they didn’t understand the situation we were in. I felt like we had a biased mediator who was going between my parents and the grumpy neighbors. I know he was compassionate and kind yet I didn’t feel like justice was being served the way I wanted it to be. I longed to march over to our neighbors and give them a piece of my mind. My heart burned with anger because there was so much I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say it to their faces. I couldn’t say it to anyone’s. My thoughts were mean and ugly and I didn’t want anyone to know exactly how I felt.

But the Lord reminded me of this: I have such a great High Priest who was in all points tempted as I am, yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) The authorities may be playing mediator here, but I have the perfect mediator interceding for me in Heaven on my behalf. In the meantime, I have a job to do. I have a purpose in this life here on earth. And I had forgotten why I’m here in the first place.

At precisely 3:43 p.m. that afternoon, my missionary friend from Niger sent out an email update. I was still  at work, but I stopped to read the email. It was around the time that Mom was coming to pick me up and I know it was minutes after she had yet another visit from the authorities concerning our next door neighbors. Anyways. In his email, Nate highlighted about five things but only two things stuck with me: his engagement (!!!) and the robbery. Back in June, he was robbed of his Bible, his notes, his backup notes, his computer, his passport, his visas, everything. But he wrote something that made me stop. He said,

“So often, I claim I want to know God, but do I truly want the opportunities in which to know Him?

We don’t have to understand the WHY when we know the WHO.

To know Him as my Provider, there must be a need.

To know Him as my Sustainer, there must be extended difficulty.

To know Him as my Comforter, there must be hurt.

To know Him as my Healer, there must be infirmity.

To know Him as my Deliverance, there must be a form of bondage.

To know Him as my Peace, there must be turmoil.

To know Him as the Resurrection, there must be death.”

My first thought was, “Wow, that is so true. What a godly perspective. Nathan has such a good attitude about this.” My second thought was, “I don’t think I could be this gracious. I know this is the right response to have, but I don’t think my heart would do that.”

Mom shared with me on the ride home that as she came to pick me up, a man on the radio shared his 5-minute devotional. The gist of it was, “We as Christians have peace because we know what the end of our story is: God wins. We can go to sleep and get a goodnight’s rest because we’ve read the last chapter and we know that God will make everything right in the end.” Yet I still went to bed with a heavy heart that night. I wanted God to make things right right now. Little did I know that He really was making all things right and He was starting with me.

 

When You’re Lonely

1. Clean something. Anything. Your room, the closet, the bathroom mirror.

2. Do some laundry.

3. Sing your favorite song.

4. Call a friend.

5. Friend’s busy? Call another friend.

6. Write to a loved one. Or text. Or both.

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7.  Make cookies or cupcakes.

8. Do something artsy- craftsy.

9. Wash the dishes while listening to your favorite band.

10. Do something nice for someone you love.

11. Snuggle with a baby.

12. Read a book.

13. Journal. Write out your thoughts.

14. Watch a movie.

15. Cook dinner.

16. Do some more laundry. (Those blankets haven’t been washed in a while.)

17. Vacuum.

18. Plant something. Or offer to take care of someone’s garden while they’re out of town.

19. Eat those cookies you made earlier.

20. Call your favorite aunt or uncle.

21. Cuddle a puppy.

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22. Pray for someone you love.

23. Tell that person you prayed for them.

24. Color a picture.

25. Watch the Jamie Grace Show.

26. Make a bucket list.

27. Make a grocery list.

28. Make a To Do list.

29. Don’t forget about those things you put in the washing machine and hour ago.

30. Have a backwards dinner. Eat your ice cream before your veggies.

31. Go find and talk to the frogs in your backyard. They might be lonely too. (Apparently one was because he was in my house this morning.)

32. Read Psalm 139.

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33. Tell God about your loneliness.

34. Go for a walk or a bike ride.

35. Go visit a friend.

36. Cuddle another baby. Or puppy.

37. Take a nap.

38. Organize your sock drawer, your dresses, or your shirts by color.

39. Rearrange your bookshelves

40. Make yourself a cup of tea and have another cookie.

You are not alone.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalms 34:18 NKJV

For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalms 107:9 NKJV

Undeserving Love

So much love has been showed to me in this past week alone. It’s almost too much for me to handle.

Last week, I passed out at work. I was helping write up a customer when I started feeling light headed. It was past 2, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and I hadn’t been drinking enough water so naturally, my body shut down and I blacked out. I was only out for a few minutes – I have no idea how long exactly, but long enough that by the time I came to, Bailey had called 911 and Mom, Mrs. Jenny was at my side, and the customer I was helping got down on the floor and was rubbing my hands. I felt so bad that I put everyone in a complete panic in a matter of seconds, but I also felt so overwhelmed by the amount of concern and love that came from my coworkers and even the customers who were present.

Dad took me to the ER to get checked out and other than my scraped and very bruised nose, everything was fine. I’m perfectly healthy…I just need to be sure I’m eating and drinking and taking care of myself. Anyways, throughout the two hours we were there, Mrs. Jenny and Mrs. Nancy were texting me letting me know they were praying for me. Mrs. Nancy always tells me, “love you more.” Whether I say “I love you” first or not. Mr. Rex had sent a mass email to my church family asking for prayers.

For the next two days, my phone blew up. People from church called me up or texted me telling me they were praying for me. (The fact that people pray for me is enough to make me cry, y’all.) My friends reached out and were there when I needed them. Beth sent me a letter that came at the perfect time. I wasn’t feeling that great and she encouraged me so much by reminding me who our God is by describing His names alone. My favorite is El Roi – The God Who Sees. I have written in my Bible, “You are the God who sees. And You are the God who sees even me!” For so long, I had felt lonely and I struggled with thoughts that God didn’t really care about me or that He was disappointed in me. I wish I could tell myself when I was in the midst of these emotions that I could never be more wrong. My God sees everything and He sees even me. Not only does He see me, but He cares for me. He  loves me and His love is not like my love. It is not based off of how well I do things, or what I don’t do. My God has surrounded me with so many loving people so that I am never alone.

My siblings kept an eye on me when I was home to make sure I didn’t do anything crazy after I fell. Bailey, Mr. Mike, Mrs. Jenny, AND Travis all made sure I was eating lunch and drinking plenty of water when I went back to work. They’re still keeping an eye on me. I’m telling you, I can never pass out again because I put way too many people into a panic.

Yesterday, the same customer I was working with when I passed out came in to pick up his order. Y’all, the sweet man brought me candy to keep my blood sugar up. He didn’t have to do that, but he wanted to and that totally made my day.

That’s only a fraction of the love I have felt. That has just been this past week. I might just be ridiculously lucky to have so many people who care about me, but I think it’s safe to say that the Lord has placed those kinds of people in everyone’s life. Even if it’s just one person, that is one of the ways He expresses His undeserving and overwhelming love.