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Bow or Break: Surrendering to God and experiencing a Spiritual Calm

During this time of uncertainty there is an immovable God at work.

Around September 2019, I remember thinking, “Ok I got this, only a month more and things will get easier and slow down.” After thinking I just need to grit my teeth and bear it just a little longer everything will be so much easier. And God just flat out spoke to my heart and said, “No, it will only get more difficult.”

See at the time this was going on, I had a month to go before my 5th child was to be born. It was my first year tutoring, and I was leading several bible study classes. And then of course I just had the normal homeschooling, kids, and housework stuff to do. Needless to say I was a little busy and I thought that when the baby was born and we were going to be on winter break it was going to be calm.

The Lord corrected my wrong thinking and reminded me of this. What I was going through was very tough yes, but it is preparation for much more difficult life circumstances ahead of me. Little did I know at the time that when the baby was born I would get hit hard with postpartum depression and then move across the country for my husbands new job leaving all friends and family behind. Then only being in the new city a few weeks have to begin self isolation because of a pandemic.

My entire world as I knew it was flipped on its head within months.

At the time when the Lord told me it would not get easier it would only get harder I had no clue all of this was going to happen. I was just trying to survive those days but the lord knew what was ahead of me. There was a reason he corrected my thinking, if I had kept pushing forward trudging through to that “everything will be calm point,” I would have never made it to the calm because that circumstantial calm point did not come. The Lord was inviting me to a spiritual calm that could endure the circumstantial upheaval.

He is also inviting everyone in the world to this spiritual calm.

In this country, we are known for our grit and fight. We will continue on and keep pushing forward no matter what is in our way. We refuse to be slowed or beaten and when times get tough we grit those teeth and lean into it. Well folks, let’s talk about trees and storms! I liken that American spirit to a mighty oak tree. But our mighty oak has had its roots weakened by the worlds pleasures and have strayed from the Lord as a whole. During a hurricane, the winds beat the trees and push and push and the outward circumstances are brutal. The mighty oak stands tall and proud for a long time but at some point the winds are too much and they are completely ripped up from the ground. However a less majestic tree withstands, because it’s roots are deep and firm. It bends and bows to the mighty winds and when it is all over it might have lost branches and be bent and leaning but it is still rooted.

People, when we have our hearts set on gritting our teeth and trying to bear this brutal time of uncertainty by relying on our owns strength we will be ripped up from the roots. However, if we stay tender and malleable to the Lord bending and bowing down we will remain rooted. We might be a bit beat up and bit broken but we will still be firm in Christ.

So where is your heart today? Are you counting the days to “normalcy” or calm and just trying to get through? Or are you bending your knees and bowing your head to a mighty God so that you remain rooted as this storm of life removes the dead branches from us?

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My bubble was popped and my heart broke. Lord, put me to work.

I figured I would encounter many culture and weather shocks moving to Nevada. The shock I didn’t expect as much was the bubble I had lived in beforehand. Growing up in Georgia and living there for the last 30+ years it would not be uncommon to see a church on every corner. The Bible Belt is like an all you can eat buffet of churches. If you didn’t like one, no worries drive 100 yards and there is another one to try out.

Most of the time you could talk to any stranger and they could tell you the church they attend. Shoot if you were a “true southern” you probably lived at church. But out here it’s different. Churches are harder to find and one will have to supply a large community. I had a bit of a shock when I found out Reno, NV ranked #2 on the most unchurched cities in America. Only 40% attended church.

See, we knew God was calling us out here and it was a job change for my husband. We also knew that we weren’t just coming out here for a job but God had work for us to do. It would be easy to have the “high almighty” attitude of I have come with my southern hospitality and Jesus to help those in need but in reality my heart breaks.

My heart breaks for the people in this city that do not know Christ and who do not know His grace and mercy. My heart also breaks for the bubble I just left. It’s easy to take for granted the churches in the community. It’s easy to take for granted the knowledge of who Jesus is because his name is common. But because it is common and familiar it makes me wonder how many are calloused to the mission field of the cities next door? Or calloused to the relationship he offers or passes up the opportunity to have a deepening faith because just attending church on Sunday is all you think you need.

I was blind. I was in the bubble. So now it’s Lord what do I do? Where do you want me and how do you want to use me? It isn’t a coincidence the spiritual gifts God has equipped me with or the budding missionary in our family. The Lord brought us out into a spiritual desert to do work and to be witnesses to what he has taught us. Once again I am reminded, there will be no growth from comfort zones. I must follow Jesus out of the boat and into unknown places so that I may grow to know him more.

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Oh please Lord, break the cycle and transform my mind!

I struggle deeply with stress management. I can even stress over trying to manage my stress (I know crazy…). I feel like I live in a cycle of wrong thinking and I know the only one who can break that cycle is Christ.

Let me explain through pictures:

This is me when I focus on trying to be an intentional mom and “let go” of all the inconsequential things of life (I’m talking about laundry, cleaning, cooking…you know the never ending always there stuff). I’ll do fine for a bit but the constant mess from life starts to grate my nerves to the point I can no longer think straight. I will get so overwhelmed by the mess if feels like a hammer to the head and I become incredibly angry…

So I think I need to get this mess managed…

I focus my attention toward the mess so my poor brain can rest. I feel guilty for neglecting my children and worrying about these everyday things. And all of that spirals into a depressive attitude.

What I know…

I need to trust Christ with it all. I know this in my head but my heart seems to be slow to really put it into action and live it. It’s like I can’t seem to break the cycle…I’ll cry out so stressed in my circumstances. I don’t know where start…

Finally God keeps reminding me (because apparently I’m slow to learn) that I am a conduit for him to work through but I need to understand my limitations and needs as a conduit.

1. I’m not a perfect conduit. I have a sinful nature. My body and mind needs constant maintaining to be able to work effectively.

2. Since I am a conduit, I must take regular time out to sit quietly and be alone with him. I also need to care for my body so that I have the necessary energy to do his work.

Christ displayed this caring for the conduit attitude. He regularly went away to quiet and lonely places to pray and be with the father. He also was known to take naps even during the storms. If he did these things how much more do I?

I do have to let go. I have to let go of the guilt of taking care of myself. I have to let go of the idea that I can be everything for my kids or that I can complete every task. Satan wants me worn out and angry or depressed. If he can get me in that cycle then I am useless. But if I trust Christ and maintain the conduit then I become a useful vessel to him to do the work he calls me to do.

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The 5 Different Sheep

In our small group the other night, we were studying Mark 1. One of the things that stuck out was the Holy Spirit drove Jesus to the desert. As discussion was being made, one of the women gave us insight about the practices of shepherding. The shepherd goes ahead of his flock and prepares the path and then goes in behind the flock and drives them down that path. Her insight and knowledge really stuck with me that night. So I considered, how do I go about praying for direction and clarity when I’m not sure on the way? The father being who he is, gave me more understanding in the matter.

The 5 Different Sheep:

1.) The first type of sheep gets a glimpse of the path and runs ahead of the Lord. Removing himself from hearing the Lords direction. They get out of ear shot and begin to feel lost because they no longer hear the shepherd.

2.) The second type of sheep is the distracted and wandering sheep. They choose to go their own way and find themselves going down wrong paths and never truly listening to the shepherds voice.

3.) The third type of sheep is the “eyes glued on you but ears closed sheep” they are so fixated in constantly asking for direction and guidance in prayer that they never actually listen to the Shepherd when he says move and take a step of faith. Then they wonder why the Lord did not make the way clear.

4.) The fourth type of sheep would prefer to be on a leash. They want to have the ability to be distracted and looking around at the world and participating in it but they don’t want to wander off and get in trouble. But then when the Lord leads them in a different terrain that requires diligent attention they are surprised when they stumble and falter and are unsure of where they are.

5.) The fifth type of sheep is a custom to the shepherds voice and ways. This sheep does not know the way that is laid out before them but their eyes, mind and heart are discerning of the shepherds handiwork and signature along the path. The sheep stays focused on the shepherds voice and their eyes always fixed forward to see where the shepherd has already been.

So, what type of sheep am I? Sometimes I’m all of them in different seasons. But the one thing that has stuck out the most is that when I pray seeking the Lords direction it’s not to clear paths and pave ways because that has already been done. No, my prayers are to give me clarity in my eyes to see his handiwork. Give me a focused mind and heart to discern his ways. Give me ears attuned to his voice. I need to stay vigilant in my bible study time because it is where I will be able to distinguish the shepherds ways verse my own way or the worlds.

The path the Lord wants us to walk is fully prepared and cleared but it’s whether or not we are actually focused on Lord and know his ways that we will actually see that path.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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The Struggle is Real

Everyone loves a good victory story. How someone overcame a hardship and found victory. We can easily place ourselves in their shoes and imagine what it would feel and look like to have that victory. But more often we read these victory stories and we strive for it ourselves but we come up short. Our walk is hard and we struggle and fail and we can’t even see the finish line and we doubt if victory is even something we can even have.

This same victory story plays right into our witness to others. It is easy to tell of the great things God brought you out of and how you have been saved but what about witnessing right in the thick of things? What about saying I’m struggling I don’t see the end and I’m doubting. No victory story, just a very real and very hard struggle story.

In my past, my go to mode of operation was when I felt weak or struggling I would retreat. I would hide the weakness and the pain and I would doctor myself up. Of course I would pray, I would study my bible and I knew the only true healing I was to find was in Christ alone but I didn’t want anyone to else to see me. What type of witness was me doubting? What type of encouragement can be brought about through a person who can’t even seem to apply what she understands in her head but for some reason can’t get it in her heart?

So, today I am reminded to witness through the struggle. I am having a hard time. I’m stressed and anxiety is at my door trying to beat it down. I know all the right things to say to myself, trust God. Let it go. Give all your worries and burdens to him. I’m praying and I’m studying God’s word. I know not look at the storm around me and to focus on Jesus. I know every one of these things in my head but my heart is hell bent on other things. I doubt and I war within myself saying God I know I am to do this but why am I struggling to do so? He is forever faithful and provides everything I need. I could quote scripture until I’m blue in the face but it seems to have no effect.

Today I struggle. Today I war, whether within myself or I fight the enemy. My problems aren’t magically solved right away. It’s a moment by moment ordeal to not throw in the towel. It’s a moment by moment fight to keep my wandering eyes and heart on him. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard, it’s gritty and painful. Today I struggle. Tomorrow I may find victory but I might have to do war again.

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:14-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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A Time and a Place

This morning the Lord reminded me of the importance of His timing. I feel like in my short amount of years, the Lord has revealed a great deal of teaching and wisdom in my life. So much so, that it feels as though my heart and mind will bust if it is not let out. My hearts desire is to tell everyone of the truths I have been taught so that they can experience the blessings and intimacy with God that I have received. However, the words do not flow out but are stuck. I have prayed and pleaded with God, “why have you shown these things to me but I am unable to speak them?”

His response: My timing is perfect and I’m preparing the way. I’m preparing hearts and minds to hear the message. I will make you a city on a hill a strong tower. You will proclaim all that I have taught you. It is all in my control.

This message is a hard one to swallow. Who am I? No one. I’m not special I’m not qualified or experienced. There is nothing about me that suggests that I would be used in a mighty way or even be on a radar to be used at all. I don’t understand why the Lord reveals truths to me that seem so beyond my years. But I am thankful for it. I understand I have been given a gift and I have a responsibility to care for it, invest it and not squander it away but it isn’t from me. Nothing that I do entitles me or makes me deserving. I just know that Christ has radically transformed my heart and he keeps doing it and I cannot slow the pursuit of Him. I want everyone to know of this intense love and relationship that can be found in him.

So I must trust that the Lord will allow the messages to flow in His perfect timing. I must not be a bomb splattering truth across all that I see but understanding He chooses to use me as precision tool using the Holy Spirit to cut to the hearts for true change.

This is a hard message.

Jeremiah 1

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Carrying Emotional Stress of Others

Lately, God has shown me a new layer of myself. I have known I was a emotional and sensing person (Myers-Brigg personality ISFJ), but I did not realize to the extent of how it effects me. Over the last 9 months or so God has been teaching me about rest and the need for it regularly. Physical rest and spiritual rest in Him. He has disciplined me to be more diligent in my physical well being and bringing my concerns and personal worries to Him.

However, over the last few weeks it seems like I could not shake a tiredness of spirit. It wasn’t until God opened my eyes and helped me to understand that I had been carrying emotional stress of others on my back. I had no clue how others felt effected me so deeply.

He revealed to me my heart and where this empathy is good and where it had taken a wrong turn. The Lord created me to be able to sense others emotions and be in tune with how they are feeling. I can sense a turn in someone’s mood without them saying a word or a shift in a room. He gave me the ability to see past someone’s words and sense a deeper conflict even when they say they are ok. He gave me His Spirit that enhances it and spiritual gifts to see others the way he sees them but with all of that it can get skewed. I had allowed mine to get skewed. My heart goes out to the hurting and those who are having a hard time. I just want to wrap them up and protect them and care for them. Even more so I want to open their minds and heart and dump everything God has ever taught me into them so they can see. But this is an impossible thing for me to do. I am not God. I cannot be everything for everyone. I cannot protect them from hurt and pain. I cannot put a magical salve over their issues to make it easier. Oddly enough I know that trials and testing are good and it draws us closer to God but I know how painful they are as well. All of that had been weighing on me.

God in his goodness reminded me that I was not created to carry these burdens around I was created to carry them to Him. I have the power to intercede for those I love with God. I have the power to carry those people to the cross and surrender them there. Only Jesus can break the barriers of hearts and walk through walls of wrong mindsets. Only he knows what each individual needs and only He is strong enough to carry the weight of each person on His back. Satan wants to hop on my back and try to tell me I’m neglecting these people and abandoning them by not doing more but it isn’t neglecting and abandoning when you carry them to the one who loves them beyond understanding. It’s not neglecting when you carry them to the High Priest who can sympathize with every pain and heal all the brokenness.

“Also, let’s hold on to the confession since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, who is Jesus, God’s Son; because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭