Archive for April, 2015

Portion Control for the Soul

April 28th, 2015

As you may have recently read in my previous blog, my furry best friend Maya unexpectedly and tragically passed away last week, leaving me totally alone – just God and myself. Those first days that followed, I found that a few of the only moments that spared me from my own tears were a handful […]

 

As you may have recently read in my previous blog, my furry best friend Maya unexpectedly and tragically passed away last week, leaving me totally alone – just God and myself. Those first days that followed, I found that a few of the only moments that spared me from my own tears were a handful of moments when I could hold my hand on my heart and sing softly along to worship music. One song in particular– Healer by Kari Jobe – hit home with me in particular two days after the traumatic loss of my loved little companion.  The phrase that stuck out the most –

I believe You’re my Portion. I believe You’re more than enough for me. Jesus you’re all I need.” And, forgive the temporary disregard for the seriousness of the lyrics, but at that moment – I had to chuckle.

Where do I start? I am infamously known for lack of portion control. When I buy a plate, I buy 42 of them because you never know when you might throw a huge shindig (which has happened 1 time in 8 years by the way, and hand washing them all made me understand that in those times – disposable is better!!) When I eat chocolate, I would really like to eat enough to make me not want anymore, but I have yet to find that this happens!! If there are sauces to choose from, I’d prefer a little of all of them with a meal. My husband tells me I should not need a paper towel to dry hands after hand sanitizer. He drops his jaw when he sees my idea of adequate amounts of toothpaste, lotion, and shampoo. He sometimes even asks which dinner plate is his if I was hungry while cooking. I just always think more is better. It is better than not enough.

So when I lost Maya, it is only natural that I searched for as much comfort as I could find. MORE IS BETTER. But I did not exactly have the luxury with Bryan gone and family and friends physically in a separate country. Two days later, I heard this phrase and began thinking about it. He is my Portion.  I began looking up verses talking about God as our Portion. The one that stuck out to me happened to be in Lamentations 3. Lamentations – how appropriate. As I read it in context, it was extremely odd for what I was hoping for (I mean just read chapter 3…).  However, as I began to read more on the chapter, the verses 24-29 in particular and commentary were unbelievably perfect relating to what I was experiencing in my life.  Maybe you will find it fitting for times in your life too –

“The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, the soul who seeks Him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;

let him put his mouth in the dust – there may yet be hope.” (Lamentations 3:24-29)

Though this wasn’t really warm or fuzzy (especially at first) to read…the more I read about this passage the more I knew its importance –

  1. God is our portion and promises He is more than enough for us. I knew this in my head and have said it with my mouth, but I needed my soul to know it… and how could I come to know this in my soul except through experiencing in a situation where He was, in fact, all I had so I might personally find Him to be all I need?
  2. The yoke is believed to refer to the suggestion that it is good for a youth to be yoked to faith early in life and to experience affliction and waiting on God our affliction… and further – it is good that we are quiet and go to God to sort out our distrustful thoughts when afflicted. Unfortunately, I can’t report that quiet was my initial response. From the moment I screamed as I plopped down beside my car at the vet, to the moment I made it onto post to begin processing what had just happened, I cannot say quiet was the appropriate word. But quietness had its place and necessary effect as I was – as I said – all alone. I had initially wanted to run and scream my heartbreaking news to my closest loved ones. While I wanted to talk to somebody, God knew that only in quietness and coming to Him could I begin to receive the help I needed. The Lord knew I’d had plenty of healthy and unhealthy emotions and thoughts to sort out. In God’s kindness, Bryan did call but we only had a brief moment, but I felt like I needed so much more. But I am almost certain that God specifically directed every phone call I initially made to go to voicemail so I could come to Him first. By the time I spoke to anyone, I believe God was able to have demanded my attention first and thus had already begun working as my comforter and present help.
  3. The verse goes on to say that it is good to wait on God and seek Him with our souls essentially bowing down to the dust in our sorrow. The commentary suggests that this is also when – if necessary – it is beneficial and important to begin recognizing sin, receiving forgiveness, mercy, strength, and correction from God. It is peculiar, but over the course of time spent seeking God in the midst of this hard time in my life, this event has caused plenty of time to reflect and I have not only been able to sort out distrustful thoughts with God regarding my grief for losing Maya, but I’ve also experienced a heightened awareness of totally unrelated sin I have needed to confess and accept grace for even from years ago. It is a mystery to me how this situation brought other things to mind, but I believe God works in a broken person to rebuild and restore whatever He can if a person is willing to let Him.
  4. This same commentary by Matthew Henry said that this yoke is part of being weaned from the world. I believe God wants to change the habits of his children. Instead of running to the people I have always gone to first, God wants to be my Portion. Instead of spewing my emotionally healthy and unhealthy thoughts all at one or a few poor souls trying to help me sort my wholesome and harmful emotions and thoughts out and bear the weight of trying to encourage me solo, He wants to sort them and help me see straight again when I have been knocked dizzy by life’s most difficult moments. People and comforts here on Earth can be so sweet. I cannot begin to explain to you the overwhelming blessing I have in my husband and parents-in-law in particular who have not hesitated to shower empathy and the most treasured forms of love and encouragement on me because they know the heartbreak of even deeper loss of Bryan’s precious sister. Family and friends that ache, mourn and cry with you and speak encouragement and prayers for you are priceless! But even so, no matter how much comfort we seek, earthly comfort will always pale in comparison to the compassion of God. He can comfort us when we are betrayed because Jesus knew how it was when Judas betrayed him. He can comfort us when we feel deserted or alone because he remembers well his heart when the disciples deserted him in fear. He can comfort us when we are brought harm because Christ has been there and done that too. And He is the all-time most wonderful comforter when we suffer loss because God remembers the sacrifice of His own beloved Son. Where is He when bad things happen? On His throne hoping desperately that we’ll come to Him so He can cover us with the compassion He has from His own understanding and to heal us and shape us to the image of Christ. Weaning from the world is His want for us because a part of maturing includes becoming less dependent on people and more dependent on the loving and more than capable God who gives perfect comfort, lasting restoration and love to rebuild us if we’d just run to him.
  5. Then there is the part where it says “there may yet be hope.” Perhaps the most wonderful notation in that commentary to me was what I am experiencing at the moment…it says “Those who are truly humbled for sin will be glad to obtain a good hope, through grace, upon any terms, though they put their mouth in the dust for it…” This is where He’s brought me. Though I have had such sorrow for this little but precious loss in my life…whatever the cost, I remain grateful that God is using such a hurt in my life for correction, restoration, and weaning in my heart. I praise Him for the gift of my precious dog to our family, and I praise Him that even when He had to take her – He did not have her die in vain, but He has continued to use that sweet little dog for shaping my heart. In life she filled me with joy; in death that sweet little dog so earned my broken heart and buckets of tears that He is able to teach me still through the grief of losing her.

What a hard but important life lesson in faith. As I find myself figuratively wiping the dust off my lips, I am filled with wonder and thanks to the mercies, compassion and correction from a loving Father to never let my brokenness be wasted if we’d seek Him through it. I haven’t always sought Him (especially in difficult times), but I am assured now more than ever of the power He is capable of showing through our weaknesses. My Portion. Your Portion. Wait For Him. May your soul seek Him.  May you find Him to be as He promises – more than enough – and may you find yourself glad that you searched and waited even if you have had to put your mouth to the dust from time to time.

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From the Heart He Gave Me: Hard Lessons, Help, and Hope

April 23rd, 2015

Written the day our beloved furry best friend Maya passed away: Forgive me as I am a complete sappy mess writing this. But if you know me you know I can’t be any other way. I love deeply, and so when my heart breaks it breaks in large messy pieces.  But the LORD made me […]


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Written the day our beloved furry best friend Maya passed away:

Forgive me as I am a complete sappy mess writing this. But if you know me you know I can’t be any other way. I love deeply, and so when my heart breaks it breaks in large messy pieces.  But the LORD made me with this heart so here is my attempt to use every last messy piece for Him.

I would absolutely love to report that this time here thus far has been peachy and that I have been riding unicorns and that there are rainbows everywhere arched over thousand year old architecture, but in all honesty, month two has been a considerably difficult one. I shouldn’t complain – it is not deployment. But I can say it has been much more difficult than I expected.

Days after we partially moved into our new flat (which is actually awesome! Thank you Jesus!), Bryan packed his gear and baby wipes to head to his month-long field training during which he would lose hours days of sleep, bathe with said baby wipes, have no running water, a stove to heat their tent during the freezing nights that would later actually set their shelter ablaze (another story for another time) and be launched into working with his new unit under less than desirable conditions than one might want for dipping their toes into his new work environment.

While enjoying the new town and new place, I soon realized that I was very ALONE in an empty, at the moment kitchen-less house with just myself, microwavable food, the pets, and a town full of another culture. And though I am counting my blessings to be here, going solo…without TV…a data plan or even Wi-Fi to fill the empty place with some noise, it was lonely. Like I watched two online photo courses multiple times, read a whole giant book and a half, watched the Indiana Jones trilogy + special features 3 times and I still have time lonely. I had one German friend at this point, but she worked and I am not the type to demand any more of her time than she might offer. She invited me to Easter – which was weird, crazy and wonderful – but other than that it was pretty lonely. I couldn’t help but get frustrated from time to time trying to catch a signal to phone home no matter the unpleasant weather happenings or how my dog was leaning and begging incessantly at the lunch-goers next to me while I tried. And yes…the verge of tears was almost reached when trying to call (on my prepaid phone) customer service umpteen times trying to find just one rep who spoke English to ask them about my still-missing Wifi kit. And for some reason, one simple phrase began placing itself in the forefront of my thoughts. “God with us. GOD with us.” I feel alone, but I am not alone.

And then, out of nowhere, my beloved dog and best friend Maya got sick. After the most horrific morning rushing her to the vet, telling her she was a good girl and that she’d be ok, I discovered I had arrived too late. I had just lost the best dog I could have ever asked for, I didn’t get to hug her goodbye and tell her all I thought of her, and I was in shock and denial surrounded only by compassionate German Veterinary staff. But Bryan was in the field for a while yet, family in America were sleeping…and, BOY, did I feel alone….broken and alone. And worse, I was flooded with all the ways I could have been a better caretaker of my dog. Guilt. Regret. Tears. Cries… and sick to my stomach. And I slowly realized a few things:

  1. I love animals -particularly this dog- so much simply because I cannot deny the beautiful, unique, loyal loving qualities of my Creator in the creature. He made her (and dogs and other animals) to be a creation simply marvelous and worthy of admiring…at least that is how I see it.
  2. We are accountable to God for the care we give to people or creatures He places in our lives or allows us to take responsibility for. For instance, if I don’t feel like therefore slack off in doing wifey things that Bryan and I mutually agreed that I would be responsible in our relationship for, I am failing to care for my husband the way God desires me to.  Likewise, our children, and even our pets are God’s creation and blessing in our lives, and we are accountable to do the best we possibly can in caring for and loving them not just on the day we feel up to it – but every day we are blessed to have them. If you don’t want that much responsibility, plant a tree to decorate rather than stick a dog in your yard my German friend would say.
  3. If my love for Maya is only a fraction of the love God has for His creation, how great His love must be for His creation of all types and how much greater His grief must be when one is lost or lives their whole life without knowing and coming to Him!
  4. Only God’s love is perfect. Though sometimes I may fail to love consistently, He never does. He is Love. It is not just what He does; it is who He is. We are just people. Imperfect. Wavering. Inconsistent in the pursuit to be perfect. And yes I probably didn’t do everything perfect for my dog throughout the past 7+ years. It is just one reason why I am in need of a God who can forgive me when I fail or feel I’ve have failed, and one who can re-direct thoughts to accurate ones, honorable ones, and even true and lovely ones of when I run to the light of His mercy and grace. When my mind raced with my presumed failures (I should have taken her to the vet at the first sign of anything… I could have done this or that better…I should not have fussed at her for drooling everywhere the other day, I should not have hated sweeping all her fur all the time) I opened my iBook to the study I am reading  (A Heart Like His) and, low and behold the chapter the flippin took me to had essentially a 6 step process I happened to need desperately in this time of life. Granite, David of the Bible was hiding for his life in a cave…but hey the heart needed what his heart perfectly exemplified a heart in this state needed to do:
    1. Pray. Check
    2. Cry Aloud. Double Check.
    3. Pour out your heart to God. The study even says, “Even if your feelings are not accurate assessments of the truth, they are worthy to pour out before God. Feelings are sometimes like laundry.  Sometimes we can’t sort them until we dump them out.” I am only able to sort out my feelings of guilt or regret in a healthy way when pouring them all in a messy pile before God – who so tenderly continues to point out the things He has already given me grace and mercy for and blame that I perhaps have misplaced.   Also – ironically – as I was (and still am) feeling so alone, David happened to voice the same aching cry. (Psalm 142:4) But again as this study mentioned, “Without a doubt, the most precious and painful times I have had in this Christian experience were times when I realized I was all alone with God. Such times forge an unforgettable, inseparable bond. Don’t miss the opportunity. I am convinced that God sometimes stays the encouragement of others purposely so we will learn to find it in Him.” Have you ever been there? I am here. Don’t get me wrong. I have an outpouring of kind words and prayers being spoken for my family during this time and I am forever grateful for it! But I am physically all alone…and though I am not asking to be in the presence of people much right now, I would really really prefer the comfort of having Bryan here to get through the toughest part of losing a beloved little member of our family. And I honestly hate reading that there is a good reason and opportunity in being alone just because it is not at all easy, but I know this is a necessary lesson in my life and that my God is faithful to be everything I need.
    4. Remind yourself of your trust in God. I couldn’t believe it, but everything I have been reading (in ALL my spare time) turned into weapons of truth to combat my out-of-sort emotional thoughts. I feel alone…but GOD IS WITH ME. This is why that phrase has been on my mind so much. Life is not about the absence of pain, but the presence and power of a healer, comforter, redeemer and savior to work in and through any hurt to grow and shape hearts through all ups and downs of life to point to the fact that He is the One and Only able to work in life’s bad and bring good, to bring growth and peace when we don’t immediately understand, to bring tenderness and strength in equal proportions to the needs we have.
    5. Long for His presence. If I hadn’t already begun longing for it when my heart broke and I realized life had just changed way before I was ready, He certainly had the center of my attention when I couldn’t have the luxury of some one here in person to cry with.
    6. Confess the desperate need. This kind of just happened when I was pouring out my heart (part c.). With me – when it rains it pours. Like I said its how I am made, and thank God there is a healthy way to channel it.

I don’t even know how to put into words the way I am so deeply sad and heartbroken about Maya. It makes me scoff at myself for almost wasting tears on Wi-Fi. Dog people – I know you’ll understand. Those of you who have lost a loved one – I am beginning to have just a teeny tiny glimpse of the sadness and aching of such a deep loss. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. I confess plain outright that I am actually now even more terrified to lose a close friend or immediate family member because I simply cannot gather myself about my furry best friend. I am too weak!! I cried out in one of my prayers! How will I ever deal with anything harder!? But it reminds me of a beautiful thought from a high school friend (Amanda Rice Stanton) on how to view my broken heart from her realization when she was frightened to become a foster parent because of the inevitable toll it would take on her heart when the time came to give them up. What a young woman full of insight – she literally said something in her blog like “I know that when it hurts and it hurts deeply…it is because I loved them well.”

NOTE TO SELF: LOVE DEEPLY in spite of the risk of pain, because the benefits and rewards of deep love will far outweigh the hurt. I would not trade one single minute of my life with Maya in it to escape the inevitable hurt of losing her. I just wouldn’t! The joy and companionship and affection she added to my life (and Bryan’s) these past years is precious, and of far greater worth and impact than the sting of her death. How much more is this between one person and another?

And NOTE TO SELF #2 – When the sting of loss happens – follow the 6 steps. God is with us. His compassions never fail. He sent Christ to bind up the brokenhearted and comfort all who mourn, to give them the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit (Isaiah 61:1-3), He is faithful. He cares about the details of our lives and does not grow weary of tenderly caring for our hurts – small or severe.

“Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might. (Isaiah 40:28-29)”

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Keeping it Real : Blogging Fail

April 7th, 2015

When I felt like I should start this blog, I was filled with excitement but also fear and doubt. With our biggest relocation yet just weeks away, I was afraid that I would fail at continuing something I viewed as a personal commitment and become just another good-intention-turned-failure. So I developed a solution. I would […]

 

When I felt like I should start this blog, I was filled with excitement but also fear and doubt. With our biggest relocation yet just weeks away, I was afraid that I would fail at continuing something I viewed as a personal commitment and become just another good-intention-turned-failure. So I developed a solution. I would do something easy. I would begin by posting 16 blogs on the book “Lies Young Women Believe” – a book I cannot recommend enough (I learned just as much if not more than the group as I led some Jr. High School girls through it) – but this happened to be a book I already had typed notes for last year, thus making the goal to blog weekly attainable and something I could prepare ahead of the move.

 But as I sat down to type them, it felt forced, awkward and blah. The messages that had been so powerful to myself and the girls in the group just months ago felt out of place now. I resolved that God would guide me and put on my heart when and what to write and signed off the blog.

 That Sunday, our Pastor began talking –

“Sometimes when life changes, we try to go back to what we knew and do what we used to do to get what we used to get…and in this new season that we’re in – what we used to do doesn’t work anymore. This is really true for people spiritually. People complain and they want to encounter God like they used to. They think ‘We used to sing Shout to the Lord, why don’t we sing Shout to the Lord anymore? The last time we sang Shout to the Lord God was there and I encountered Him and it was so powerful.’  This is what God was fighting with Israel all the time about. They were taking an unchanging God and trying to make Him go back to what He did yesterday for them to encounter Him today, but He’s not doing it. He is not going back to do today what He did yesterday because, if He did that, then we would worship the encounter instead of the God of the encounter.”

 

The Message translation of Galatians 3:3 puts it this way – “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!” 

And the Message translation of Romans 9:30 puts it this way “…And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,     a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,     you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.”

This experience combined with the truth in these messages convicted me on a few things:

  1. I had developed a form of Idolatry. I was so excited about all I had learned from the study in the past that I was more fixated on the encounters and understanding I had back then than on God…who is more concerned about doing something new today.
  2. I was lacking Faith and Trust and it was hindering my obedience. I needed to intentionally choose to have faith and trust that “He who began a good work” in me would “carry it out into completion (Phil 1:6).” God gave me a call to do something, so why was I trying to figure out how I could accomplish it on my own without Him?
  3. Last but not least, I had begun to let my Pride try to fix everything. When my doubt (lack of faith) and fear of failure crept in, my pride stepped in to try and prevent failure, which is how I made a plan to pre-write blogs from that prior study.

I used to be so afraid of conviction, like I didn’t want to have everything wrong. But these days I am more willing to endure the embarrassment from them because I much prefer the benefit of being corrected and guided to truth and right thinking than to remain foolishly stumbling off the path God wants me to walk. While this is quite humbling to share on the internet, I needed to share it because so often we can get a glimpse of something God wants us to get involved in yet forget that

A TASK GOD CALLS YOU TO ACT ON CANNOT BE DONE EFFECTIVELY APART FROM HIM IF HIS PURPOSES ARE TO BE ACCOMPLISHED.

I am so thankful that God’s Word acted like a mirror for my heart (James 1:23-25) because without being convicted on these things I would essentially have little bits of idolatry, pride, and lack of faith stuck in my teeth like lettuce. 😉 So…have I been able to blog once a week? Haha – NO. But was I reminded of a truth worth sharing? Definitely…and I think that is much more beneficial I hope!

Whatever He calls us to do, we must remember to continue trusting Him because, despite the obstacles or challenges we see ahead, what seems “impossible for man is possible with God”(Luke 18:27).