3.31.2014

Perfect and complete - safe and secure.

I am currently working through the "Who I am in Christ" study with one of my girls, and I am so excited about something the Lord showed me!

We first did this study a year ago as a group in COMMITTED.  It was one of our best studies, by far.
Since then, I have been trying to find a way to make it tangible ... to show the contrast between the way we see ourselves through the image the world gives us - distorted, damaged, and broken - and the way we should see ourselves ... redeemed, precious, whole, and beautiful - because of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ that allows us to stand in righteousness before a holy God.

It was last summer when the Lord presented the first part of His plan.  Our friend Caleb, a scientist, was staying with us, and brought some pieces of Mylar to protect our eyes from being blinded by giant magnifying glasses.  I was playing with the pieces one afternoon and noticed that the reflection was like those crazy mirrors in fun-houses - all twisted and weird.  "That's it!" I thought.  This is the perfect tool for showing the distorted way we see ourselves based on the thoughts and opinions of others.  We can still see ourselves in the image, we know it IS us, but the image isn't clear ... it is lacking detail.  It lacks TRUTH.
Of course, a real mirror would be the perfect contrast to the distorted image.  It would show a perfectly clear, concise image representing how Christ sees us.  AS WE ARE.  Reflecting HIS image - not the world's.
I just couldn't find a way to put the two together.

Until today!
I prayed about it, asking the Lord to show me how to make the idea come to fruition.  And then, it hit me!
A double frame, with Mylar in one opening and a mirror in the other.
A quick trip to the craft store provided the frame and mirror and within an hour - I had this!
(I tried to capture the actual contrast but it just doesn't translate through the lens.  You'll have to trust me that it works!)
This is a gift, so I am determined to make one for our house.
I spent my entire life seeing myself through the eyes of others rather than through the eyes of Christ, so I want to have a physical reminder of the difference.  One image is a lie.  One reveals TRUTH.
And walking in truth is how I want to live!

I wrote the following last year after we completed our "Who I am in Christ" study, and it seems fitting to share it now.  I think if I was asked, "If you could only speak/write/disciple/counsel on one topic for the rest of your life, which would you choose?" ... it would be this one, no questions asked!
Knowing who we are - being CONFIDENT in who we are - BELIEVING who we are in Christ is a truth that will change the way we see ourselves, the way we respond to others, and how we will fight the enemy when he slithers in to accuse us.

God created us in His image!  And His Son cleansed us from all unrighteousness through His death on the cross.
Therefore, we need never question our value or our worth - because we stand perfect and COMPLETE in Jesus Christ - and safe and secure in the arms of the Father.

What a privilege it is to be a child of God!

                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We read Scripture, we hear a thousand sermons, we sing countless songs of praise ... and yet, we do not know who we are ... our position ... our promises ... and our rights as children of God. And because we do not know them, we believe the lies satan whispers in our ears, and we have no weapons with which to fight his attacks and accusations.

We have to know who our God is!  We have to know how He works!  And we have to know the POWER we have as His children. 

There are two reasons a Christian cannot thwart the attacks of satan - the very one who prowls about seeking to devour and destroy us.  1) Ignorance of what God says about us in His Word, and/or 2) We do not believe His promises based on our "feelings" at the moment.

Feelings do not matter!  We do not need to "feel" God to believe He will do what He says He will do. We do not need signs and confirmation or 'peace' to be obedient.  We either believe God is who He says He is - or we don't.  God's truth IS God's truth - regardless of how we feel. We do not have to understand it, or even like it, but we must trust in, and fully surrender to the God of creation.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  And hasn't He proven Himself faithful over and over again?  In your life.  In mine?  
God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?  Numbers 23:19  
We have to know and BELIEVE in this God!

And once we know Him, we can finally understand how He sees us.  
We can claim His promises. 
We can rest in the security He offers. 
We
can
TRUST.

We must learn, identify, and understand who we are in Christ.  We must see ourselves in the light of God's Word - not the image the world has created for us.  We need to claim out loud, "I am who God says I am, regardless of how I feel about myself.  Regardless of what others tell me. Nothing, and no one, can change the absolute TRUTH of God's Word!" 

But to get to this point, we have to dig in the Word, search the Scriptures, and find out first hand what God says ... who He says we are.  And then - believe Him!

If you have given your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, you are His, forever.  And as His child you get to enjoy the privileges that come with being a child of a holy, perfect, and loving God.  

All of these promises are true - and even better - they are YOURS!

I AM GOD’S…
· possession Genesis 17:8/ 1 Cor 6:20
· child John 1:12
· workmanship Ephesians 2:10
· friend James 2:23
· co-laborer 1 Timothy 5:18
· witness Acts 1:8
· soldier II Timothy 2:3
· chosen Ephesians 1:4
· beloved Romans 1:7/ II Thessalonians 2:13
· precious jewel Malachi 3:17

I HAVE BEEN…
· redeemed by the blood Rev 5:9
· set free from sin /condemnation Rom 8:1-2
· chosen before foundation of world Ephesians 1:4
· washed in the blood of the Lamb Rev 1:5
· given a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7
· given the Holy Spirit 2 Cor 1:22
· adopted into God’s family Romans 8:15
· given great and precious promises 2 Pet 1:4
· given access to God Ephesians 3:12

I AM…
· complete in Him Colossians 2:10
· free forever from sin’s power Romans 6:14
· loved eternally 1 Peter 1:5
· eternally kept in the palm of His hand John 10:29
· kept from falling Jude 1:24
· one with the Lord 1 Cor 6:17
· seated in heavenly places Ephesians 1:3
· light in the darkness Matthew 5:14
· His sheep Psalm 23 / Psalms 100:3/ John 10:14
· a citizen of heaven 1 Peter 2:11
· hidden with Christ in God Psalms 32:7
· protected from the evil one 1 John 5:18
· secure in Christ John 10:28-29
· covered by the blood of Jesus Rev 12:11, 1 Pet 1:19
· sheltered under His wing Psalms 91:4

I HAVE…
· access to the Father Romans 5:2
· a home in heaven waiting for me John 14:1-2
· a living hope 1 Peter 1:3
· an anchor to my soul Hebrews 6:19
· a hope that is sure and steadfast Heb 6:19
· the mind of Christ 1 Cor 2:16
· peace with God Romans 5:1

I CAN…
· do all things through Christ Phil 4:13
· find mercy and grace to help Heb 4:16
· come boldly to the throne of grace Heb 4:16
· pray always and everywhere Luke 21:36
· defeat (overcome) the enemy Rev 12:11

I CANNOT…
· be separated from God’s love Rom 8:35-39
· be moved Psalms 16:8
· be taken out of my Father’s hand John 10:29
· be condemned 1 Cor 11:32

3.29.2014

May I be found faithful in this pursuit!

I have read these verses many times when working my way through the book of Proverbs. Sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they remind me to check myself, and sometimes they flat out convict me.  Thankfully, it is rare that I must repent after reading them.  Now.  In the early days of our marriage?  It was often - and embarrassing.

A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. Proverbs 19:13

It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.  Proverbs 21:19

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.  Proverbs 25:24

A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand.  Proverbs 27:15-16

I love John Mac's notes: "An obstinate, argumentative woman is literally like a leak so unrelenting that one has to run from it or go mad."  HA!  I am sure there are many men who have felt this same inclination to run away from a nagging wife!  Oh, how foolish we can be, when all we need to do is take our frustrations to the Lord and trust Him to work out the details.

Our husbands are not perfect, and neither are we.  Two sinners living in the same house, both desiring their own way, choosing to serve the other one day, and self the next.  Communicating differently, carrying different burdens and hurts, needing to be loved in different ways, the husband craving respect while the wife craves tenderness and love.  
How very much we need the Lord to help us love one another according to I Corinthians 13.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I remember when we were first married - we had nicknames for each other.
Not "sugarplum" or "love muffin" or "sweet cheeks" ... nope!
We created names that we could use to hold one another accountable when we were speaking or behaving in an unbecoming way.  Something that would declare, "You are not honoring me right now!" without drawing attention or embarrassing either of us.
My word for Dennis was "Truck Driver" which told him that he was being harsh and brutish and need to become a gentleman again. 
He would exclaim, "Michelle, do you hear that DRIPPING sound?"
We said this quietly and discreetly, of course, since everyone in the room would have searched for the leaking faucet or asked when Dennis started driving trucks.  <grin>
It seems comical now, but boy was it helpful in those early days when we were struggling to be the husband and wife God intended us to be!

The verses about a dripping wife are convicting - what woman wants to be compared to an annoying drip?!?
But look at the contrast found in the same book of Proverbs as it relates to a wife that is lovely and desirable:

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.  Proverbs 18:22

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband ...  Proverbs 12:4

An excellent wife who can find?
  She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
  and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
  all the days of her life.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
  her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
  but you surpass them all.”  Proverbs 31

Marriage is not effortless.  Considering our spouse's needs above our own is not natural.  Marriage is a CHOICE.  A daily choice.  To love, honor, respect, submit to, and serve one another.
A husband is to love his wife the way Jesus Christ loves His church - His people.
A wife is to respect her husband and submit to him in all things.
And when both seek to obey the Lord in their personal pursuit of godliness, marriage can seem effortless because it is no longer a man and a woman striving in their own strength, but two children seeking to honor their Father - and then enjoying the blessings of their obedience.

I have been an obnoxious DRIP more times than I can count in our twenty years of marriage.  But praise the Lord for His patience with me as He gently and consistently tinkered with the faucet so the constant drip became a sporadic one. 
Now, instead of trying to get my way, or prove that I am right, my desire is to be a wife that makes Dennis proud to say, "She is MINE!"
I will fail, I have no doubt about this truth.  My flesh will seek its own way again, and my husband will feel the pain of it.
But as each years fade away, my desire to be right is replaced with a desire to hear Dennis say, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Oh, Lord!  May I be found faithful in this pursuit!

3.26.2014

Resting on the Faithful One.

One of my favorite biographies ever is Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret.
I read it for the first time a couple of years ago and was blown away by his intense faith, his unwavering trust in the Lord, and the unforgettable impact he had on those who knew him ~ because of his refusal to worry, strain, or fret about anything knowing that His God was in control and fully able to take care of his every concern.
He is one of my heroes to be sure!

When I read the book the first time, there was a certain letter that grabbed my attention.  A letter to his sister describing an intense meeting he had with the Lord - that changed him forever.

The boys and I are currently listening to the audio version of the book, and I was stunned when we arrived at the same letter and I felt myself impacted/convicted/challenged once again!  Part of me thought, "How cool that it still resonates with me!"  The other part thought, "ACK!  It's because I am STILL struggling in this area!  Drat."

When we arrived home from our travels, I looked up the post I had written about the Lord's workings in me after reading this book, and what a surprise!  There was the letter, in its entirety, affecting me more deeply in the form of the written word than it did upon hearing it.  I love when God works this way!  I will be honest - it is a little discouraging that I have not grown more mature in this area so that this finding could be encouraging and nostalgic ... but I know without a doubt the Lord led to me it "for such a time as this."  I NEEDED to read this.  I needed to have a mirror held up to my face to show me my lack.  I needed to be reminded that there IS another way to live - a better way - a more purposeful and relaxed way.  The way I long to live -
ABIDING in the Savior.

A constant longing ... but one that is hard to make tangible in the flow of daily life.  For me anyway. Hudson Taylor DID have the secret, he shared the secret, and He rested in the fruits of living the secret.  I pray the Lord will use this letter to draw me into a place of peace - a place of rest - and a place of contentment that I have never known before.  He bids me, "Come.  Find rest IN ME.  Learn from Me - for My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Oh, Lord!  Teach me how to stop striving so that I can simply ABIDE.  In You.

                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(NOTE:  This letter is copied directly from the book, though edited for length's sake.  All emphasis mine as I highlighted the points that most resonated with me.)

Dearie,

The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul.

Well, dearie, my mind has been greatly exercised, feeling the need personally and for our Mission of more holiness, life, power in our souls.  But personal need stood first and was greatest.  I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God.  I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for meditation - but all without avail.  Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me.

I knew that if only I could abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not.  I would begin the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye off Him for a moment, but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, and constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, caused me to forget Him. Then one's nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, hard thoughts and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control.  Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power.  To will was indeed "present with me," but how to perform I found not

Then came the question, is there no rescue?  Must it be thus to the end - constant conflict, and too often defeat?  How could I preach with sincerity that, to those who receive Jesus, "to them gave He power to become sons of God" when it was not so in my own experience?  Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting low.  I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it.  I felt I was a child of God.  His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, "Abba Father."  But to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless.

There was nothing I so much desired as holiness, nothing I so much needed; but far from any measure attaining it, the more I strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp, until hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that - perhaps to make heaven the sweeter - God would not give it down here.  I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength.  I knew I was powerless.  I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength.  Sometimes I almost believed that He would keep and uphold me; but on looking back in the evening - alas! there was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God.

I would not give you the impression that this was the only experience of those long, weary months. Sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord; but they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power.  Oh, how good the Lord has been in bringing this conflict to an end!

All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was - how to get it out.  He was rich truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I was weak.  As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite - was the hand to lay hold on His fulness and make it mine.  But I had not this faith.

I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain.  Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fulness of our precious Saviour, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase.  

When my agony was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before.  McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure but saw the light before I did, wrote:  "But how to get faith strengthened?  Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."

As I read it I saw it all!  "If we believe not, He abideth faithful"  I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, "I will never leave thee."  "Ah, there is rest!" I thought.  "I have striven in vain to rest in Him.  I'll strive no more.  For has not He promised to abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me?"  And, dearie, He never will.

Oh, my dear Sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour, to be a member of Christ!

The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings.  I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine.  It makes no matter where He places me, or how.  That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.  So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength?  No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency!  And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.

And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been!  I am no better than before.  In a sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be.  But I am dead and buried with Christ - ay, and risen too!  And now Christ lives in me, and "the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."

May God give you grace to lay hold on these blessed truths.  They are the birthright of every child of God, and no one can dispense with them without dishonouring our Lord.  The only power for deliverance from sin or for true service, is Christ.

Hudson Taylor
                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Isn't that an AMAZING letter?

What a testimony to the grace and power of God in the life of one of His children!

"Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."  Such a beautiful phrase!
And one I want to make my own:
I do not strive after faith, but I rest on the Faithful One ... my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Oh, Lord!  Make me that woman!

3.16.2014

A desire of my heart - and a NEED for Dennis.

I am continuing the study of The Excellent Wife with one of my girls and find it to be encouraging and uplifting every time we complete a chapter.  We exchange our thoughts/ideas/convictions each week, and last week we examined the topic of Respect.  Something men desire, need, and crave.
While the world can show a man respect in a myriad of ways, he feels a different level of joy and confidence when it is given to him by the woman he loves.

Ten years ago I would have had a hard time with this section and been incredibly convicted - because I was not living it.  To be honest, I didn't really know HOW to give or show respect to Dennis.  We had to learn so many things through trial and error as a married couple, and sadly, there often seemed to be more errors than successes.  Sigh.
It was encouraging to see how far the Lord has brought me in the past decade.  Though I still fail in showing respect to Dennis in certain moments – I do respect him as my husband, as the father of my children, and as a man.  I am so grateful that the Lord turned me over and shook me upside down so I could remove all of the ignorance and pride that kept me from seeing Dennis as he is - a wonderful man - and taught me how to SHOW him that he is wonderful!  God can redeem anyone, anything, at any time.
Praise Him for such grace!

These are my notes/thoughts from this chapter.  I pray you will find them as encouraging as I did!
  
“Respecting your husband is NOT an option for you if you are going to be in God’s will.
The wife is to continually CHOOSE to respect her husband.”  (emphasis mine)
This is a hard pill to swallow when your husband is acting like a punk – BUT – it is a Biblical command with no loophole which exonerate us from respecting him regardless of how horribly he may be acting at the time.
Respect is a choice.  A person does not have to EARN our respect ... we can choose to show respect to anyone, at anytime.  There are times we may only be able to respect the POSITION and not the PERSON, but the Lord promises that we can do anything through His strength, and since it is a Biblical command for wives to respect their husbands - it is not an option for the believing wife!

I love the paragraph where she talks about being thankful in all things – including frustrating or annoying husbands!  We are COMMANDED to give thanks in EVERYthing!  I may not be thankful for his present attitude or less than desirable actions, but I can still be thankful for HIM. Because even on his worst days, Dennis IS a good man.  He IS a faithful man, a loyal man, kind, generous, thoughtful, and a servant.  Just because his attitude/actions do not exhibit these qualities on occasion, they do not negate the truth that I am married to an incredible man!

"If you think you deserve “better”  it is because you are thinking of yourself more highly than you ought."  This made me laugh!!!!  Totally true!
So much of marriage (or any relationship) is about dying to self and serving the other person.
This requires much humility and an unconditional, sincere love that only comes from Christ Himself.
And truthfully, if we are doing as God commands and seeking HIM, and Him alone, to meet all of our needs, and recognize that He is sufficient ... the frustrations and inadequacies in our husbands will begin to fade because we will no longer be depending on them for our happiness, joy or contentment ... we will find all of those things - in Christ!  

"There is never an excuse to treat our husbands disrespectfully."  There may be reasons, but not excuses.  It is really as simple as self-control and self-denial ... thinking of him as more important than myself ... and considering his needs above my own.  This is definitely not something we can accomplish in our own flesh since we are selfish and proud, but if I truly desire to do everything "as unto the Lord" I will willingly, joyfully, and wholeheartedly seek to show respect to my husband every single day.  Even if I don't "feel like it."

"Being cautious of tone of voice” is always convicting to me.  I may not be outright rude, but I am certainly not speaking in a gentle, loving way, and my annoyance is evident.
Always an area needing improvement.  AAH!

The section about reproof is very well done.
We have to be students of our husbands ... learning who they are, how they work, and when they are ready to hear us ... especially when it involves correction or rebuke.
She is right – the WAY we correct our husbands speaks much more loudly than the words we use.
This quote is so true, “Your merciful and respectful heart will likely be the catalyst towards restoring him to a right relationship with God.”
What a privilege!  As James says, “He who turns a brother from sin saves his life.”  And our husbands are our brothers in Christ!
It is an honor to be used by the Lord as a refining instrument in the lives of our husbands.  It is not easy, and it can be quite painful to have the one we love be used as sandpaper to scrape off our rough edges ... but that is one of the best benefits of marriage!  Mutually encouraging one another in the faith, and constantly pushing one another towards Christ.
Correction and reproof is a GOOD thing.  A BEAUTIFUL thing.
And it is made even more beautiful when our hearts are humble, our words are gentle, our sense of timing perceptive, and our gentle and quiet spirit is evident before a word falls from our lips.

This quote is fantastic!!!
“Treating your husband with respect is not something that your husband must first EARN, it is something that you CHOOSE to show him.  It is an underlying heart’s attitude that is to be prevalent regardless of your circumstances and in spite of your feelings.”  (emphasis mine)
AMEN!  AMEN!  AMEN!
Definitely hard to achieve every minute of the day - but it should certainly be the desire of the wife's heart!!
And I pray the Lord will continue to make it the desire of MY heart.


Thank you, Dennis, for loving me even when I am not loving and respecting you as I should.
You show me grace every day, and I know I am blessed to have you as my husband.  
The Lord relentlessly refines us, doesn't He?
And it is a GOOD thing!
We are not the same immature, foolish man and woman we were when we said "I do" twenty years ago - and how grateful we are for this truth!
I love that you listen to me when I have something to share with you that is not easy to hear.
And I love that you hold a mirror up to my flaws so I can change, improve, and seek to be better as a wife, a mother, and a woman.
I love you!
And the Lord knew I needed you.

3.14.2014

Remembering our son Matthew.

A few weeks ago, as we traveled to church, I was elated with the thought of worshiping with the body of Christ.  I was sleeping well, feeling better physically than I have for a long time, and was eager to lift my voice in praise with my brothers and sisters.  The children were equally excited (they love going to church!) and the car was filled with happy chatter as we rolled along.

And then ... the first notes of the song "I Can Only Imagine" floated through the radio, and within seconds ~ I was weeping.

This was the song that was playing when we lost our son Matthew, and I cannot hear it without thinking of him.  Sometimes it is a sweet memory that lacks any intense emotion, but other times it's as though I am swept back all the way to that day when my sweet doctor looked at me and said, "I think you are miscarrying."  Five words that changed my life ~ forever.

In the past, I would have done anything to kill that overwhelming sorrow ... to bury the tears ... to run from the pain.  But the Lord has been doing a lot of work in me the past few years to teach me how to feel ... how to surrender to emotion ... how to deal with it honestly ... and how to let myself just be in the moment, no matter how difficult, no matter how helpless or scared I feel.
So, as the sadness of missing my son flooded my heart, I just let it sweep me away with full abandon.  It was hard.  I was completely taken off guard, and so was my family.  Dennis gasped and reached out to hold my hand while my children were stunned into silence as they witnessed their mother express deep emotion that is not often seen in daily life.

Eight years.  Matthew would be eight years old today.  It does astonish me that I feel such powerful emotion when so much time has passed, but when I stop and consider that love has no boundaries ... time, memory or space ... I realize that the emotions should not surprise me at all. My son has been gone for eight years.  I never knew him.  I never heard his laugh, felt his arms around my neck, or heard him say, "I love you, mommy."  I have no idea what color his hair is, whether his eyes are green, or a sparkling blue like those of his brothers.  I do not know what his voice sounds like, or how his mouth curves into a smile when he is overcome with joy.
And that is the wonder of it all.
I do not need to know or experience any of these things to feel a deep, sincere, affectionate love for Matthew because ~ he is my son.  And my mother's heart remembers every detail of the precious few moments I had with him after he was delivered.  He never took a breath, he never grasped my finger, but he was REAL.  He was whole.  He was mine.  And I loved him.
I love him still.

It is moments like this - when I remember, when I describe the details - that my heart catches up with my mind and the sadness and longing for my son pours over me as though I had never shed a tear over his tiny body.  It feels like the mourning is fresh each time.  Oh, those first moments with him when I held his lifeless body in my hands, looking at him in awe and wonder that such a tiny thing could be so wholly complete.  Every detail of his body was skillfully designed by the hand of the Creator with joy ~ and with purpose.

Scripture states that our days are numbered before we take our first breath.  And the Lord's plan for Matthew's life was 112 days, in the womb, without one moment spent on this earth.

As much as I wish I had known my son, it is a joyous comfort to know that he has ONLY known heaven!  His brothers and sister were given life, but they were also given the trials and burdens and pain of living, with no way to escape until the Lord calls each of them home.  They have experienced hurt and disappointment and sin.  Matthew has no idea what those things feel like ... he only knows the beauty, joy, splendor, and never-ending worship of heaven.
He has seen the face of God!  He has met the saints of old.  He has walked the streets of gold!
While we wonder and dream and imagine what heaven will be like, my son already KNOWS.

Matthew does not have to imagine.
He has walked with the Father.
He has seen His face.
He has fallen on his knees before a holy God.
And he has ...
forever worshiped the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Oh, Matthew, how I long for you, and how I envy you!  You are living the reality of heaven while the rest of us wait to have its treasures unfolded before us.  You are blessed, indeed.  As much as I wish I knew you ... as much as I wish you knew me ... I would never trade what you have enjoyed your entire life for what you would have experienced down here.  The love of a father and mother, the affection of siblings, the beauty of a sunset, the delicious scent of cookies baking in the oven, the power of the ocean, and the loving touch of a spouse ... none of them can begin to compare with what your eyes have seen and what your heart has rejoiced over as you worship your God with full abandon and joy.

You changed my life, Matthew.  The Lord had a purpose for us the moment He created you.  We had no idea what it would look like in the end, but He did.  And all of His ways are GOOD.
I love you, sweet baby.  Forever and always ~ I will love you.

I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by Your side...
I can only imagine, what my eyes will see, when Your Face is before me!
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine!

I can only imagine, when that day comes, when I find myself standing in the Son!
I can only imagine, when all I will do, is forever, forever worship You!

I can only imagine!

3.11.2014

I am so glad I am HIS!

Overwhelmed.
Downtrodden.
Defeated.
Sad.
Troubled.
Burdened.

These are the words that describe me at this very moment.

And what I keep clinging to is the beautiful truth that while these words describe me, they do not DEFINE me.

Emotions are good.  Even the hard ones.  God created emotion.  He intended for us to use them ... feel them ... express them.  But He did not intend for us to be controlled by them.

I feel pressed in on all sides.  Motherhood - Homeschooling - Relationships - Marriage - Ministry. And there is only one reason for this pressure ...
the Lord is doing a critical work in me.  Necessary.  Purposeful.  Productive.
This knowledge does not make the conviction easier, or the pain lessen, but it does give me hope that when He is finished holding me over the refining fire I will come forth looking much less like me - and much, much more like Him.
Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  But the process can feel as though it will last forever.  I sometimes question if I can even endure to the end.  I WANT to endure.  I WANT to be made stronger and more Christ-like.  And it is in these moments that I recognize how weak I really am.  But my weakness forces me to remember the beautiful promise in Scripture ...

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  
II Corinthians 12:9-11 (emphasis mine)

Isn't that exactly where we need to be?  At the end of ourselves, unable to "do" anything, fully surrendered to the God who calls us to come and rest in Him?
If I was omnipotent, able to control every detail of life, I would not need an all-powerful God.
If I was omniscient, able to know everything past, present, and future - I would not need an all-knowing God.
If I was omnipresent, able to be everywhere and with everyone I chose to be with - I would not need a God who consumes the universe with His holy presence.

I am just Michelle.
Finite.
Limited.
Powerless in my own strength.
Unable to control or change one other human in the world.

And yet ... as a daughter of the KING I am able to rest in, trust, seek out, and find comfort in a limitless, powerful, and infinite God who CHOOSES to love me, because it is His nature to love.
He does not need me to perform for Him.  Nor does He want me to perform!
He does not need my talents, skills, or strengths to accomplish His will.
He does not need my input, my counsel, or my opinions to design a sunset, draw someone to salvation, or change the course of rulers on their thrones.

My God, the maker of heaven and earth, the One who calls the stars by name, and numbers every hair on my head ...
the God who parted the Red Sea, raised people from the dead, healed the blind, and made the lame walk ...
the God who sent His only Son to die for the sins of mankind so they might accept the free gift of salvation purchased by Christ's blood ...
the God who spoke the universe into existence and created man in His image ...

this same God
loves
ME.

Michelle Eastman.
One woman, in one city, in one state, in one country, in the entire world.

But what strikes me as the most profound is not His love for me ... but His DESIRE for me.
He WANTS me.
He PURSUES me.
He REJOICES over me!

Not because of anything I do ...
but because of who I AM.

HIS creation.
HIS child.
HIS daughter.
HIS Michelle.

And tonight, as I wrestle through the intense emotions and hurts and struggles that He is forcing me to observe, consider, and change ...

I am so glad

I am His.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;
    He will be our guide even to the end.  Psalm 48:14

3.04.2014

We cling to Him. He holds us.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek You;
my soul thirsts for You;
my flesh faints for You,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary,
beholding Your power and glory.
Because Your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
in Your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips'
when I remember You upon my bed,
and meditate on You in the watches of the night;
for You have been my help,
and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.
~ Psalm 63

This is one of the loveliest songs in the Psalms.  Your mind cannot help focusing on God because the Psalmist draws your heart and mind towards heaven as He describes the beauty and majesty and strength of our God in a way that is both soothing and exciting at the same time.

What I find fascinating about this passage is how the Lord's beauty is discovered and appreciated because the Psalmist is SEARCHING for it.
Look at the phrases used:

earnestly I seek
my soul thirsts
my flesh faints
I have looked and beheld
my lips will praise
I will bless
I will lift up my hands
my soul will be satisfied
I will remember and meditate
I will sing 

These are strong action words.  The writer is not sitting under a tree watching for the Lord's goodness to fall from the sky.  He is diligently searching for his God.  He knows where to find Him.  He willingly goes there and takes in every sight and sound.  He dwells on the Lord.  He remembers the deeds of the Lord.  He sings and rejoices over Him.  He worships.

And what is even more interesting is that the action words turn from describing the present - "I seek" "my soul thirsts" - and move to declaring promises - "I WILL praise" "I WILL be satisfied" "I WILL remember" ... thus defining a heart that is absolutely, completely, unswervingly committed to loving God now, and loving Him tomorrow.  Even though he has no idea what tomorrow may bring.

But the part of the passage that I find most delightful are the last two lines.  They take the entire Psalm, capturing every emotion, every vow, every good thing about God - and deliver a statement that is sweet and profound.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

Do you see it?

MY soul clings to You;
YOUR right hand upholds me.

Our relationship with the Lord is not one-sided.  It is beautifully intertwined with our need - and His love.
We cling to Him for everything ... security, contentment, provision, strength, humility, and holiness.
And He holds onto us with the strong, powerful, faithful, never-changing, loving, forgiving, just, holy, and grace-filled grip that sustains us and gives us the strength to walk obediently and faithfully day by day.

And the best part?  Even when we begin to loosen our grip on Him, slipping away to walk on our own, thinking we can do better, He never, ever lets go.  Like the tide that continually pulls the waves back into the sea ... our God is our tether and our anchor.  Securely He holds us while we fight and exhaust ourselves while trying to swim against the current - until we finally stop flailing, surrender, and quietly let Him draw us back to Himself.
And once there, we are warm, dry, safe, still, and SECURE ... in the firm, steadfast, immovable grip of the Savior.

We cling to Him.
He holds us.

What a beautiful Savior!