2.26.2015

She is my past. I am her future. Together - we are good for each other!

Last night I had the privilege of meeting with one of my sweet girls.
We celebrated the one year anniversary of our discipleship relationship and spent part of the evening talking about God's sovereignty as we reflected on the past year.
How He brought us together, the work He has done, the hard moments, the exciting moments, and the truth that neither of us are the same women we were the first time we met on February 2, 2014. Praise God for such a truth!

I remember the details so clearly. (que dream sequence)

One Sunday morning I was talking to a friend at church, and just happened to ask about his dating relationship. He gave me a brief description of their current state of dating, and unknowingly shared some very insightful details about the young woman. When he finished I said, "Wow! You just described my entire life! I feel like I need to reach out to her to show her that healing really is possible." He looked at me with an odd expression and asked, "Are you serious? Because if you are, I will give you her information right now."
He wrote her e-mail address on my church bulletin, and we parted ways.

I stared at that address for the next week. Praying. Thinking. Wondering how in the world to make a "cold call" to a broken and hurting stranger

I asked the Lord to burden my heart with such intensity that I could think of nothing else if it was HIS desire for us to connect, rather than my own. (I have a long history of chasing people who do not want me, or assuming that hurting people want to be helped (by me). Painful lessons and broken relationships have shifted my thinking and deepened my conviction to wait on the Lord. It is hard sometimes, but absolutely worth it!)

The Lord DID burden my heart, so I sent one of the strangest e-mails I have ever written, sharing a little about my own past and offering to meet if she felt a desire or need to do the same. When I hit "send" I said out loud, "I don't know if I would respond to me!"

She did respond two weeks later and agreed to meet with me.
We set a date, time, and place, and the morning of our date I sat in the corner of my couch praying, "Lord? What are You doing? I do not even know this girl or how to minster to her. Only You know her heart and what she needs, so please show me!" 
I sat quietly, feeling butterflies flutter about in my belly as if I was about to speak in front of a crowd of a thousand people.
And then, He whispered, "She needs you."
"Discipleship? Discipleship is what You have planned for us? Whoa. I did not see that coming!"
And I was at peace.

We met, I fell in love with her instantly, and when I shared my story about praying for her and asking what in the world the Lord was doing (and hesitatingly mentioned the "she needs you" part) she looked at me with big eyes, and began to weep.
We talked.
We confessed.
We prayed.
We agreed to take the next week to pray about a discipleship relationship and what that would look like, and two weeks later - she was sitting on my couch.

(end dream sequence)

One year together.
Tens of thousands of words exchanged.
Painful conversations.
Uncomfortable moments.
Deep hurts.
Distrust.
Successes.
Confusion.
Frustration.
Rejoicing.
Trust gained.
Perspectives challenged.
Humility learned, and practiced.
Healing.
Hope renewed.
And lots and lots of prayer.

She is a 'runner', just like I used to be, and she has tried to leave me a few times.
But every time she ran, she looked back (like all runners do), and saw that I was still standing there, hands stretched out - waiting.
Most people are walking away when she looks back, and some have already disappeared, so my presence confuses her. Scares her.
Is she real? Does she really mean it when she says, "I am not going anywhere?" Can I trust her? Others have promised the same thing, and broken that promise. Is she worth it? Is she worth the risk of me being vulnerable and stating to trust?

It took me well over six months to make it onto her "safe list" and even now my name is still written in pencil. (Our joke is that one day it will be written with a Sharpie pen!) But you know what? It's okay! I spent the better part of two decades not believing one promise a person made because I had collected too many broken ones. I know she does not fully trust me. I know she is afraid to do so. I know she doesn't believe me when I tell her, "I am IN this. To hell and back. As long as it takes." 
But I will KEEP telling her, as long as it takes, until she knows without the tiniest shadow of doubt that my Yes is truth, and my promise is sure.

Why?

Because she is my past.
Every hurt she shares, I remember my own.
Every rejection she endures, I remember my own.
Every fear, every set back, every sorrow - I remember my own.

I did not believe the promises and affection and declarations of others.
Including the Lord.
I read the Word, I knew the promises.
But I did not believe.

Oh, how gracious He was to save me from myself by drawing me in close to show me that He cannot lie. His words are real. And they mean something. His Yes is YES. He never fails. He never disappears.
I can trust Him.

This is why He said she needed me!
Not because I had anything to offer, but because He has EVERYTHING to offer, and she needed someone to help her find her way back to the only One who can promise, and deliver, true mercy and healing.

She is my past.
I am her future.
Together we encourage one another and spur one another to love and good deeds because, 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. II Corinthians 1:4

How GOOD He is to love us in such a way!

2.18.2015

For the mother with a new baby in her arms.

The Lord recently burdened my heart pretty intensely to pray for and encourage my sis-in-law. She is not new to motherhood, but she is a first time mother of three. (The hardest transition in the opinion of most. Once you master three you can handle 12!  So they say ... hehehe.)

I sent her a letter hoping it would touch her heart and encourage her weary spirit.
She thanked me upon receiving it, and then sent me this note a few days later.
"So. I forwarded that encouraging letter you sent me to some of my close mommy friends. Some are believers some are not but the response was unanimous. They said all moms can stand to hear this message!"
This made me think. How many other new moms need a word of encouragement? How many women holding newborn babies in their arms feel utterly alone, as if no one sees their acts of sacrifice and love?
I asked CC if I should share the letter and she replied, "Please, please, please, share!"

I remember being that mom.
I remember wondering if anyone else struggled like I did.
I remember thinking I was the worst mom ever.
I remember looking at other women who seemed to "have it all together" with curiosity - and envy.
I remember thinking that my husband just "didn't get it" and wished he did.
I remember wondering how in the world I was every going to survive TODAY, let alone 18 years.

Some of these thoughts still flip through my mind from time to time, but the Lord has been gracious to free me from the prison of insecurity and doubt where I used to dwell.
I wanted joy and contentment, but I kept trying to create it from within myself.
Slowly, day by day, year by year, as I read the Word, prayed, and surrounded myself with older, mature, godly women, the Lord showed me that the only place I can find peace and contentment and joy in motherhood is - in HIM. 
And finally, after far too long, I walked out of my cell. Never to return.

How faithful He is!
And how grateful I am to serve a God who refuses to stop working on us when we are faithful to follow Him.
I still have a long way to go - a lot of maturing to do - sin to conquer - character to sharpen.
But I am no longer afraid or overwhelmed because I know I will never be left to do it alone. My God will always be walking right beside me because He PROMISES He will never leave me or forsake me. And that is a promise I cling to with all my might!

I pray this letter will find its way to the eyes of a young woman who needs to know she is not alone, and most of all - loved by a very big, amazing, and gracious God.
                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My sister ...

I know how hard it is to be a new mom.
Lack of sleep, hormones raging and trying to get out of your body, your body still healing from pregnancy and delivery, the demands of nursing constantly, feeling stuck at home for naps and bed time ... so many things come with a newborn baby!

It will take a few months to get your new routine and your new ‘normal’ in order, but once you do, it will feel like life has never been any different!
Give yourself grace, CC.
You are so good at giving it to everyone around you ... now it is your turn!

You cannot do it all.
Something has to give when we are mothers – and the things that fall to the side often change, daily.
Motherhood = sacrifice.
Motherhood = commitment.
Motherhood = humility.

The last one can be the hardest because we WANT to do it all. Have it all together. Make it seem effortless.
And sometimes it is.
But managing children takes time, effort, patience, flexibility, selflessness ... qualities we do not usually possess simultaneously – or with joy.
Motherhood is hard. Unending. Always changing.
We cannot quit or give up or even slack off without suffering the consequences of our laziness.
But it is hard to keep going 24 hours a day when there are no tangible accolades.
Small children do not walk around praising us and giving thanks for our service and efforts.
Our husbands love us and appreciate us, but what we do is “normal”so it can often be overlooked.
Our friends are all serving and sacrificing in the trenches just as we are so they are unable to look around and cheer on our efforts.

Motherhood can feel very lonely.
Very thankless.
It “feels” like the entire world is enjoying freedom and fun while we tirelessly serve the little people around us.

But there is always someone watching ...
our children
our husbands
our friends
our family
the stranger at the park
and most importantly – the Lord.
He sees it all.
Every diaper change.
Every bath.
Every snack served.
Every book read.
Every load of laundry washed.
Every meal cooked.
Every hug.
Every kiss.
Every prayer.
The Lord is watching ...
and He is pleased.

Scripture tells us to do “everything as unto the Lord, not for the applause of men.”
And sometimes – that includes US.
We want to look in the mirror and say “I did it! I was an amazing mom today!”
But it is not about US.
It is all about HIM.

He knows our weaknesses and our failings – our sin and our ugliness – yet He gives us children to love and care for and nurture – in His name.
He knows we are not perfect ... and that is why He fills in the gaps.

You can do this, CC.
You were CHOSEN for this!
Motherhood.
No one else can do what you do.
No one else is supposed to.
God is refining you, maturing you, and sanctifying you through your children and your husband.
It is not easy. It takes effort and tenacity and faithfulness.
But it is absolutely, positively, without the slightest doubt – totally worth it!

You are not alone.
You are surrounded by women facing the same battles, dealing with the same issues, feeling the same insecurities and frustrations.
Motherhood feels very solitary – but it is not.

Read the Word faithfully - every day - even if you can only get through 5 verses.
Write them out and read them all day – think about them – pray through them.
Pray. All day. Prayers of praise – prayers of request – prayers of thanksgiving – prayers of God’s promises.

Let Him fill you up. Let Him be your energy, your creativity, your passion. Drawing on your own strength will provide minimal results, and your strength will run out – quickly.
Trust Him to plan and prepare you for the day ahead.
And then – let the day unfold as it will, so you can lay your head on your pillow as you drift to sleep for the night knowing you did your best. (Even if your 'best' meant peanut butter sandwiches, pajamas all day, and watching three movies in a row.)
He got you through.
And your children – your husband – and you ... will survive and thrive.
Not because of any acts of splendor on your part,
but because you belong to a spectacular God who does extraordinary things with the ordinary.

I love you.
Michelle

2.16.2015

I am convinced!

Faith, and believing God is powerful enough to do ANYthing has never been a struggle for me.
Even as a child I knew God was BIG. I was fearful, but my fear pushed me to Him, begging Him to deliver me from whatever was haunting me at the moment. (Spiders, the dark, a bear on the loose breaking into homes (seriously - it happened!) and a myriad of other things.)
As I grew I was fascinated by stories of men and women of undaunted courage and a faith that was so strong they would pray for dead people to be restored and seeing eyes to be blinded.
I wanted to be in their presence. I wanted to witness their faith in action. Ask what made it so strong.
I wanted to BE them!

I still feel that way today.

One of my favorite scenes in Scripture is when 90-year-old Sarah is hiding, listening to the Lord promise her husband that they will have a child within a year and descendants too numerous to count. She is only thinking in human terms, so she misses the miraculous. And then she laughs.
And God hears her.
His response is my favorite Trust Quote ever: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"
No! The answer is a resounding NO! Nothing is too difficult for Him!

I think most of us believe this. We believe God is big, powerful, and able to do anything.
Until it becomes personal.
And then we wonder. Can He do this? WILL He do this? Can I trust Him if He doesn't? Will I trust Him?

And once again - we can look to the story of Abraham.

One of my girls shared this passage last week during our time of confession and accountability after voicing her struggle with fear. Abraham's phenomenal faith in God is well known, but this account in Romans seemed to offer a fresh perspective.
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20

And then she asked the question, "Am I fully convinced that God will do what He has promised?!?"

As she thought about this, the phrase "God is able" filtered through her mind causing her to begin a search for verses containing those specific words. 
And she discovered these gems:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude :24

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. II Corinthians 9:8

Now to Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed ... - to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:25

For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. Daniel 3

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20

Am I fully convinced that God will do what He has promised?
What a fantastic question!
And one we should ask ourselves in every moment of doubt, insecurity, and fear.

The question, however, is not as important as the answer.
And hopefully the answers is, and always will be,
"Yes! I am convinced because I know and I believe that HE IS ABLE!"

2.09.2015

The ministry of PRESENCE.

The 'ministry of presence' is becoming one of my favorite things because - the older I get the more I understand that when I sit across from a broken and hurting person ... I cannot solve anything. I cannot fix the situation. I cannot promise they will get what they want. Words are not adequate to offer consolation or comfort.
I often find that I literally have nothing to offer -
except myself.

I can hold a hand.
Cry with someone.
Pray.
Listen.
Hug.
Smile.

And often – that is all they want.

They know we cannot make everything better, change anything, or make it all go away.
They just want to know someone CARES.
That someone loves them.
As they are.
In that moment.

Believing someone loves us, and hurts because we hurt, far exceeds their ability to understand the details of our pain.

It is impossible to know, understand, and identify with every person's personal trial unless we have walked through that same darkness. And even if we have, the details and the responses look different.

We do not have to "get it" all the time.
We do not need to know what to say.
We do not need to be comfortable.
We just need to be THERE.
Side by side.
Shoulder to shoulder.
As long as they need us.

When someone is grieving and in the depths of despair, the pit is cold, dark, lonely and deep.
Someone needs to bring LIGHT to brighten the darkness.
And then - climb down into the pit, take her hand, sit down next to her, and say, "I'm so sorry. I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere." 

It took me a long time to learn this. Too long.
I always thought I had to have the perfect words, brilliant spiritual thoughts, and answers in order to be an effective friend in time of need.
But now I know ...
if I say nothing
do nothing
solve nothing ...
my presence is enough.
Not because I have anything to offer, but because my God has EVERYthing to offer.

He is the light of the world.
He lives in me.
So when I climb into the darkness with a brother or sister, I shine HIS light into the darkness.
And HOPE is born.

On my own I can do nothing to bring healing and joy to the broken heart of another.
But I CAN take her to the feet of the One who created her, died for her, and loves her, trusting Him to bind up her wounds and heal her broken heart.
And then, sit back and watch Him take those broken pieces ...
and make her whole once again.

How good it feels to be held in the strong and faithful grip of a Holy God!