Friday, April 20, 2018

Blind and Wandering

I have been feeling like I'm stumbling around blind in a dark room lately.  I'm grasping at information and concepts I'm unfamiliar with as I pursue this amazing adventure with God and I feel like the blind men who stumble on an elephant and come to conclusions based on which part of the elephant they're feeling.   Practicing any skill requires intention and effort, so as I follow His will and step out in faith, I have been exploring a very important question. 

Are you pursuing success/return or are you seeking to be a good steward of what God has given you?  


Anything we put effort and attention into has the potential of becoming an idol.  It's an important question to ask yourself periodically.  Pursuit of something new comes with a lot of blind wandering as you research, learn, explore, fumble and network.  Putting that kind of effort in will require time and attention as well as patience and endurance.  So in this state of trying to balance


Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)
27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 

with 

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 
In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.


I came across a writing prompt a couple of weeks ago titled "I feel a deluge when".  Yeah, I've been feeling a deluge.  A deluge of doubt, questions, lists, worry and fear. 

Questions like:
Am I doing "this" right?  
Am I doing too much?  
Am I not doing enough? 

This is what I wrote:

I feel a deluge when... I consider all that is wrong and hard in this world. When I consider how little my light is, how tiny in the sea of stars, I am overwhelmed by the completeness of the darkness that seems to surround me. I know intellectually that God's light pierces the darkness and will one day make it flee, but I also know my purpose on this earth is to shine so that others may see. God shines through us so the world won't be blinded by the brilliance of His glory. While I stumble around in a dark world hoping someone sees this little light of mine, I have no way of knowing if I'm in the right place. God does. He's guided me right to this moment. He holds my
moments, and this little light of mine, right where and when He wants me. I feel overwhelmed at times because I want to strive to be my best, to be of the best use to my God. In the cascade of drowning thoughts and fears, when the monsoon of doubt hits, I have to remind myself that God doesn't reveal everything to us. I have to heighten my senses to Him. To trust, like the blind, in my guide.

Can you see the influence of last weeks post?  Me too.  I can also see that big question that has been on my mind this week.  Am I striving for myself or God?  I wanted to share this raw prompt with you because while I see those doubts and questions in this paragraph, I see something else too.  

Inspiration

There is a reason God uses the analogy of light and dark to describe our walk through this world.  God showed up in the form of light in the darkness from the first covenant with Abram.  

Genesis 15:17 English Standard Version (ESV)

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

This world feels very dark, but there's a reason for that.  

1 Thessalonians 5:5 English Standard Version (ESV)


For you are all children[a] of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.


Have you ever turned off your light at night and then tried to get through the room?  Of course you have.  Even though you know that space, how often do you bump and stumble into things....yeah, me too.  The same thing applies to our spiritual life.  If we are from a kingdom of light and find ourselves in a dark space, our eyes aren't adjusted to this darkness.  

John 1:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There are quite a few warnings not to let your light become darkness in
scripture.  I'm starting to get a better picture of why that is.  Just like our eyes adjust to the dark, so do our spiritual eyes.  While that may seem like a normal thing which allows us to navigate in our surroundings that is also precisely why it is very, very bad.  That is exactly why we are supposed to be looking at the source of our light.  To keep our eyes firmly adjusted towards the holy and not the darkness.  While that means we are setting ourselves up to stumble around blindly in the dark it also means we are reminding ourselves to be guided by a God who is sure footed.  My goal this week, and I hope yours will be too, is to settle into blindness.  To let go of trying to see where I'm going in this world.  To let my other senses be heightened and searching for God's presence.  To be more attuned to His voice, His whisper, His breath.  To be more sensitive to His guiding touch on my arm.  To be focused on tasting and seeing that God is good.  

I bet you're wondering how I'm going to pull smell in but I'll leave that one up to your imagination 👃 😄  
What are some ways that you focus your mind on sensing God's presence in your day?  

Linkups this week:


Friday, April 13, 2018

Too tired to fight

A friend of mine has been going through a lot recently.  A serious, dark time of attack from multiple angles in her life.  She is a beautiful daughter of God and she is handling all of the attacks to her family with grace.  Today, after updating me on the latest offenses, I complimented her on how she is handling all of hard things in her life right now.  Her response was "What you see on social media are only moments of light."

That response spoke volumes to me.  I knew that she was saying that she feels defeated and tired.  She feels like she is barely surviving.  Those moments where she was sharing with the world her beautiful God weren't an accurate reflection of the battle she's in.  They felt like desperate gasps of air in between terrifying moments under water.  I totally get that.  I've definitely felt that in my own life.  That feeling of failing, of drowning or of desperation.  I know she heard my compliment and thought to herself, 'that's nice of you to say but I'm actually struggling'.

I could see it on her face and I could hear the echo of it in my own soul.

This isn't grace, this is exhaustion.


In the midst of struggle we can only think about the next breath or the next slogging step.  Out of sheer desperation we cling to the hope we know is true.  God is walking with us through it all.  We can do this.
There's no oomph behind that thought, just the sheer desperate belief you cling too when you have nothing left.


Here's the beautiful part of what I discovered today.

I discovered what that beautiful struggle looks like from the outside.


She was exhausted, spent and wrung out by her life in that moment and still she shone with the incomparable light of God to me.  As human beings we watch, admire and celebrate struggle.  Sports contests, herculean efforts and firm belief against the odds are the stuff of literal legend.  It transcends age or ability.  Watching someone strive with all of their heart, soul and mind for something pricks our hearts and carries us along in their wake.  What makes us cheer for the underdog?  That hope that if we believe and try, we'll succeed too.  As I was testing that thought in my own heart I went back and looked at images of people giving their all and people who were utterly spent after their effort.  I not only saw an exquisite beauty in those moments, I felt them calling to me.  It stirred me, to be sure, but it also gave me pause.  No matter what the final outcome of the effort was, I saw in their faces the despair of fighting off the doubt that they couldn't give any more.  They weren't thinking about all of the good things that were happening around them, they were consumed with the task at hand and the mental and physical strength it took to endure to the end.  And yet, for the spectator, it is glorious.  It is cause for cheer, shouting, zeal and celebration.  Sure, sometimes we get caught up in the competition of it all and a seeming loss can push the wind from our crys, but if you're paying attention to the one giving the effort, their faces are still shining for a moment before defeat settles on them.  The effort, the attempt, was important.  It was valuable.  It was beautiful. 

This is as true of our spiritual journeys as it is of our physical. 
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was ...

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Mt 22:37 ESV

That kind of effort requires you dig deep into reserves of strength you never knew you had.  It requires focus and belief that spending all you have will not leave you destitute, but richer.  The kind of effort that thins you out and shows what is underneath.  The strength and beauty of this amazing woman of God could not be more evident because her imperfect vessel, being battered and abused (showing every crack, every chink in her armor), was shining forth the glory of God underneath.


"Our unimpressiveness accentuates God's inestimable impressiveness." 

-Beth Moore, The Quest



2 Corinthians 4:6-7 English Standard Version (ESV) 
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

While our times in the heat of battle are good for instruction and growth in our own lives, it's not always about us.  What God is doing in and through our struggles is often for the instruction, edification and evangelism of the rest of the world.

This isn't something we want to hear when we're in the midst of a fiery furnace but perhaps it will help you bear up a little better.  All the questions of "why is this happening?" and "when will it be over?" can be painful, especially when they seem unanswered, but our struggle under heavy burdens or impossible odds are always about God's name being glorified.  Why did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego get thrown in the fiery furnace?  While I'm sure they got some serious benefits out of face time with a heavenly being, that wasn't the focus of the story. Nebuchadnezzar was.

This race we are running is a spectator sport.  We will be seen.  Just don't forget that when you are feeling your most broken, exhausted and spent is exactly when what's inside is best seen.  So don't compare your jar of clay to someone else's.  The jar, and it's state of brokenness, isn't the point of focus.  It's what's inside that should be shining out and that is what is beautiful, awe inspiring and glorious.

     

Linkups this week:

Friday, April 6, 2018

How do I respond to tragedy

If you spend any time on social media you are going to come up against some strong opinions, especially around times of tragedy.  In a fallen world, and with the increased access to news and opinions, we will be confronted constantly by tragedy. I've been thinking about that a lot over the last month.  We've had some national tragedies that have once again polarized public opinion.  I've talked about social media fighting before on my blog but the recent slew of tragedies have revealed a disturbing new trend that has had me doing some serious soul searching.  

From my little corner of the internet, the overwhelming sentiment I saw was (expletives deleted) to "take our thoughts and prayers and @#^$%# it".  Our nation is mad.  They're mad at us.  


Or at least that's how it looks.  The world is mad because things are getting worse, not better.  The world is mad because they believe the world should be getting better.  The world should be more enlightened, understanding and intelligent.  Sadly, the world is not following the Utopian path that Star Trek set out for us.  The more knowledge we gain, the less understanding we extend.  In the battle cry for tolerance, the world has become more intolerant than ever.  

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today.  The best thing about this adventure that God has me on right now is that it is full of a dialog of questions.  He's asking me questions and I'm asking Him questions.  Of the many questions He's asked me to explore about myself and the world, some of them have been hard.  As followers of Christ, we know that the world will continue to degrade until Christ returns to establish His eternal kingdom. For years I have viewed the worlds tragedies in light of the grim prophecies of scripture and the firm belief that a life without God is lived in bondage to sin. 
I somehow took that as permission to take a step back from the world, and it's tragedies, and offer a sympathetic grimace and nothing else. After all, we're called to be in the world and not of it.  I focused on the "not of it" part.  This world is not our home.  

But when God asks you a question...there is weight behind it. And the question God has been asking me is this.  How do I respond to tragedy?  I've been wrestling with this question because I suspect that I have neglected the first part of "in this world but not of it" ...we are "in the world".  This is still where we live for now even if it's not our home.  I've heard that phrase used but it had been a while since I had actually read the scripture it was paraphrased from.
  

John 17:14-16 New International Version (NIV)

14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

This is why study of God's word is important.  No matter how many times you've read the Bible in a year or how long you've been going to church, you should know what the Word of God says for yourself.  Not only are there rich treasures to be discovered but there are profound truths that can't help but affect how we live.  


Matthew 22:36-4 New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So what does it all mean?  The world just wants something to be done.  So what can I do?   What should I do?  It all depends on what you think love is.


This is a heavy question and it is very easy to tell ourselves that nothing can be done, so why bother.  Don't do that.  Take a breath and think about this with me.  God only asks us to do nothing under one circumstance.  When we are being persecuted for His sake.  This has taken some serious time in prayer, some serious time in the Word and some very terrifying steps outside of my comfort zone.  We can and should do nothing when being persecuted because how we have lived out God's Word will speak for us. 1 Peter 2: 11-25 has a whole lot to say and I strongly urge you to look it up and read it for yourself but I'm going to pull out one verse.


1 Peter 2: 12
 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Did you catch that? Good lives...good deeds.  We aren't saved by works, it says so in Eph 2:9, but we are still called to bear fruit.  To be a witness.  To make disciples.  Our lives are supposed to be living testimony.

When I was young, and going to Christian camps, we were often asked; if Christians were ever being brought before the courts for being Christian's, would there be enough evidence to convict you?  That question hasn't rung in my soul for many years but it is now.  

Our place in this world is one of action.  Love, kindness and humility; be, go, do, make...our words are action words.  


James 1:22 NIV

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.


I hope you will consider thinking through these questions with me.  What should you be "do"ing?  What does love look like?  What speaks louder, sharing your opinions on social media or putting love into action?  How does your life look to the outside world?  Does it look any different than the world?  Have you cloistered yourself away from the world?  Think it through, ask God and then wait to see what He says.  I'm not asking these questions to convict or accuse.  I'm asking them of you and of me as a litmus test.  As an opening for God to enter in and start a dialog.  To give us all a chance to do some spring cleaning in our hearts, minds and souls.  
 

Linkups this week:

Friday, March 30, 2018

My Resurrection

After last weeks emotional blog I felt it was time to share my story with you all.  It's a fitting week for me to do so too because this is the story of how my heart died and was brought back to life. 

I met my husband at my very first theater audition.  I was depressed at the time and just wanted to feel useful, like something was going right in my life.  God drew me to this audition for many reasons, there is no doubt.  When I walked up to the building the first person I saw was a handsome young man sitting outside.  I thought, "this guy is cute"!  so I went inside, sang my little song and was then told to go to the back dance studio to practice a group waltz as the final portion of the audition.  I didn't know anyone and while everyone paired up because they all knew each other, I stood there.  I stood there until I noticed that same cute guy shyly not pairing up with anyone either.  It looked like he wasn't pairing up with anyone else on purpose just so I didn't have to be alone.  This had never happened to me before.  I had never really dated anyone and certainly no one thought I was attractive enough to flirt with.  It must be a mistake.  He was just being nice because he knew I was new.  I was cast in the chorus but as rehearsals progressed I proved myself, and as others dropped out of the show or failed to show up to rehearsals, I was slowly but surely bumped up the cast list.  I made friends and felt like I belonged for the first time in my life.  There was only one problem.  That cute guy turned out to be the BIGGEST dork ever!!!  He kept hanging out with the people I was hanging out with but I was never going to consider dating him.  Nope.  By the time the show opened I had made it all the way to supporting lead and that dorky guy and I were cast as husband and wife.  Little did I know that his mother, the pianist, and our director were plotting almost from the beginning to get us together.  By the time I decided that he was a safe guy to practice dating, because I hadn't really done it before, we had an interesting kerfuffle which I will save for valentines some year. 

We were married amidst layoffs and terrible jobs.  We planned our wedding on a budget on our own because we were going to be our own dorks and tradition couldn't hold us.  My parents were quite upset with us for a while.  My hubby was laid off before the wedding and was scheduled to start a new job right when we got back from our honeymoon.  Jobs in the tech industry were struggling at the time.  A lot of people were out of work and struggling to find and keep jobs so we were really grateful to not be in debt because of the wedding and to have God timing on my hubby getting a new job. 

Here's where things get....hard.  Two weeks after we got back from our honeymoon I was hospitalized with a blood clot from my groin to my ankle.  I didn't know it at the time but God performed many miracles for us during that time.  The first was that my hubby's new job allowed him to get on the insurance plan as soon as he started.  At the time it was customary to make a new employee wait until the next signup period or at least 6 months.  This unusual circumstance no doubt saved us from a lifetime of woe.  Preexisting conditions are no joke and insurance doesn't like covering people they know are sick.  They aren't allowed to discriminate if you have insurance and get sick but they certainly have a choice if you were sick before you were covered or if you have any lapse in coverage.  Getting sick on insurance has saved us a great deal of money and heartache and I know God did that for us.  The second miracle is that I lived.  I waited 3 days to go to the hospital because I thought I just had a charlie horse.  I was in so much pain.  While I was in the hospital, part of the blood clot broke off and went through my brain (which is how you get a stroke) and my heart (which can cause a heart attack) and ended up in my lungs.  I was told I had a genetic, hereditary blood disorder.  This meant I would be on blood thinners for the rest of my life.  It would be extremely dangerous to attempt to have children.

This is not what a newlywed wants to hear.  I knew my hubby wanted to wait at least five years to have kids and since I had no strong feelings one way or the other, I had agreed that was fair.  Now we had to decide if we were ever having kids.  After another layoff, and a very long time of searching for a new job, we decided we needed to look outside of our home state for a job.  In our first year my husband was laid off twice, I found out I had an illness we would have to treat the rest of my life and we had to move away from all our family.  He was laid off many more times in those first few years, we lost his mother to cancer and we couldn't afford to visit her until it was too late because of another layoff.  While those first years were very hard, God used them to teach us how very good He is.  He brought money out of nowhere to pay bills that were due because were were faithful to tithe even when we had almost nothing.  He brought helpers to fix issues we had no idea how to deal with and had no money to pay someone to fix.  He provided a job interview while we were waiting for my mother-in-laws funeral.  A job he got and the job that brought us home. 

We didn't have all the information back then about therapies and making the attempt to have children with precautions but I'm not sure if it would have changed our decisions.  We decided to forgo having our own biological children. 

A visiting missionary to our church in Ohio talked about children in the orphanages of Europe that no one wanted because of their nationality.  I felt such a stirring in my heart.  I was convinced it was the Lord. I started to research adoption.  We...okay, that's not fair....I finally settled on China.  There was reportedly a large number of girls in the system because of the one child policy.  The rules for China required us to be married 5 years and be 30 years old.  My birthday, 2007, would meet everyone's requirements and I was so sure ...

...so utterly sure...

That God had arranged it all as a beautiful gift.


So I settled in to wait.  This is the part of the story that I tend to like to fast forward through and just give the highlights.  I started learning to speak Mandarin and my hubby started to learn to write it.  We started gathering the things we would need to submit and started early enough to plan to submit our packet on my birthday exactly.  The adoption process is not fun.  For anyone who hasn't been through it I will tell you my experience.  You are judged unfit by assumption.  You must be trained, evaluated and observed to prove that you are fit to be a parent.  That some how, your lack of ability or inclination to biologically reproduce means you lack the presumptive ability to parent.  Now I understand logically why all the classes, evaluations, paperwork, counseling, and monitoring should and do happen.  It doesn't negate the feeling of judgement no matter what kind of attitude you have about the process.  It's stressful and emotional.  Despite the stress and emotions, I was convinced this is what God was asking us to do.  Those moments of stress and tears were born with a sense of anticipation.  I knew God was doing this and I had waited on Him and nothing could defeat me!  As I waited for the last of the paperwork to be notarized and affirmed by two separate countries I was living in such a heightened state of excitement I'm surprised I didn't injure myself.  My passport came during this time and while I was traveling from the copy place to the post office to mail the copies, my passport disappeared.  To this day I have no idea where it could have gone.  I thought this was the end of the world.  Passports don't come overnight.  I had to report the passport missing and get a new one and then go through all the notarization and approval.  I knew that the adoption agency wouldn't translate and finalize the packets until everything was present and accounted for.  I also knew there was no way that it would happen by my birthday because of this one incident.  There was weeping and wailing.  What can I say, I told you I was very emotional.  I finally calmed down enough as I waited to remember that it wasn't that big a deal.  I had built my birthday up as some kind of mecca and I had to confess it and move on.  The new passport came and the paperwork avalanche had one last round to make but I sent it off with a resigned peace.  
...and God once again showed up...
The adoption agency had been translating our packet and it was sent on my birthday, 2007.
and I was convinced...
so utterly, joyously, elatedly convinced...

That God had arranged it all as a beautiful gift.

I thought it was the best birthday present I have ever gotten.  I had never felt like I had heard the voice of the Lord so clearly in my life.

I thought I had learned to wait in those first five years.  I had no idea what waiting was.  

My heart died a little every month after that.  The 6-8 months that were listed as the wait time when I first looked at China had become 9-12 months when I submitted my paperwork.  Her name was going to be Isabelle Lynn.  Isn't that beautiful?  Every month we waited, the wait time got a month longer.  I mean that literally.  In the beginning they would send reports each month, in a newsletter, that included the anticipated wait time.  Eventually they stopped putting a number because it was too depressing.  Waiting for a specific date is nothing compared to waiting for an unknown.  After years, we decided to try domestic adoption while we were waiting in line for a foreign one.  I wanted two kids and so this seemed like a good option.  After a very painful process, and a very large misunderstanding, we were denied.  

It's been over a decade since this time in my life.  I can tell you that I have cried so hard I made myself sick.  I prayed so hard I made myself sick.  We waited.  We waited years.  I can tell you from personal experience that

Proverbs 13:12a New International Version (NIV)

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,       
That anticipation turned into bitterness.  The surety that God had arranged a beautiful gift turned into a doubt.  Little by little my heart hardened so I wouldn't feel the pain anymore.  I convinced myself it was the only way to stop myself from sinning.  God is good, God is just, God is sovereign.  So I bundled up my questions and doubt and locked them behind a stone.  Many years later we finally gave up waiting.

Life continues through pain.  I cried on occasion after that.  Whenever strangers asked me how many kids I had.  When loved ones ask why we don't try again.  When friends jokingly "offered" to give us one of their children.  Every tear was dried quickly and walked away from.  There was nothing I could do about it.  Nothing I could do to change it, so why dwell.  Each poke at my stony heart got easier to deal with. 

I know this is a long set up.  I wanted you to see that I thought I was doing what God asked me to do.  When I failed at the adoption I thought I was doing the right thing by casting aside my hurt and living in the belief that God was sovereign and I must not have heard Him.  For years after that I lived in a void.  I didn't hear from the Lord at all.  I didn't feel His presence.  I thought I was being punished.  I examined myself for sin but didn't feel convicted about anything.  I cried out to the Lord and heard nothing. 

A few years ago while I was studying scripture God, in His great mercy, showed me something.

Ezekiel 36:26 New International Version (NIV)

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
I wasn't hearing from the Lord because I had hardened my heart.  I had closed myself off so I wouldn't feel the pain but I forgot that would mean that I couldn't feel love either.  This past year has been all about exchanging my heart of stone with the full knowledge that it would bring some pain back with it.  Pain and questions and doubt and fear.  I'd happily endure all of those things to get the voice of my Savior back.  I can't live without Him.  So in this season of remembrance, anticipation and rejoicing, I celebrate the heart God resurrected in me.  I recognize my time in the grave that helped me get a little closer to understanding what Jesus did for me. I acknowledge Christ's sacrifice, sorrow and separation and hear the echo in my own heart.  A heart that was stone and is once again flesh.  I will celebrate with tears of joy on Sunday because Christ is alive and so am I!    

Have you hardened your heart to stop feeling some great pain or loss?  

Are you ready to give up your heart of stone?

Are you ready to delight once again in your Saviors presence even if it means you will share in His sufferings?

I hope you are, because there is no joy without Him.  
I quoted the first half of Prov 13:12 because I wasn't sure I could claim the second half.  "...But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."  While I don't have children, the Lord has still fulfilled a longing.  I long to be close to Him.  That is something I know God will accomplish.  I will never have to doubt that God will do it.  I will never have to fear that I am wrong to pursue it.  

I hope you will have reason to celebrate your own resurrection.  Into new life, into a fleshier heart, into new hope...no matter what, to celebrate with our Savior as we celebrate our Savior.  I certainly will! 


Linkups this week:


Friday, March 23, 2018

Proceed with Caution

This awesome and grand adventure God has me on takes my breath away for many reasons.  For the first few months of this year I have been throwing myself down every path God presents me with.  I've been digging in the dirt of my day to find the hidden gems and clues of His mercy and grace.  I have joyfully danced in the rain, snow, mud and waterfalls of the landscape of my life with my Best Friend.  It has been a beautiful love song and I have enjoyed it immensely but every journey eventually plays an underscore of ominous music that clues you in to the dangers that are probably behind the next clump of foliage.  You tense up and inch forward with extra caution.  Or at least that's what I found myself doing today.  Here's how gracious our God is, I noticed.  

Background music in adventure flicks, and any movie or dramatic showcasing, is a tool that the storyteller uses to clue the audience in to what they want you to feel.  Have you ever tried to watch a movie without the background music....totally different experience.  Most of us don't even notice that a score is playing throughout the movie but we still feel it's effects.  Music is a part of God's creation and is certainly a fitting allegory for the mood we approach our lives with.  I'm musically inclined and vehemently oppose people who say musicals are dumb because no one ever breaks out into song in real life.....yes I do....and so does my husband....and several relatives and friends.  I live life out loud!  Or, that's how I see my best self.  

I was doing my Bible Studies today and was loving the adventure.  I was studying Job and pondering Eph 4:29 ESV 
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear"  
I was thinking about questions and the pursuit of wisdom.  About a God who created all things from science to fashion.  That nothing is outside of  His purview.  The Study then took me to James 3:13a NIV.

"Who is wise and understanding among you?" 


The verses that follow James 3:13 give a lot to ponder and take note of.  Are you catching the journey that God took me on?  Do you hear the background music?  I hope so, because this is where the music starts to take a subtle change.  It's not a big change, just a little one.  While pondering all of this, the study challenged me to talk to God about the areas of talent, wisdom, skill and knowledge He entrusted me with.  We all know it's easier to see someone else's gifting than it is to see our own.  Think about it.  What are the areas God has gifted you?  It took me a bit and I struggled to write the list.  I've mentioned on the blog before that I think of myself as a Jill of all trades which certainly gives me pause when thinking of my talents.  The study then directed us to thank God for those areas and then have the courage to ask Him to grow those areas.

This is where the music takes a definite turn in the direction its only been hinting at up until now.  The music speeds up the heart with the hint of danger around the next bend.  I felt the change as surely as if Indiana Jones was poised to switch that golden statue for a bag of sand.  

Why?

Nothing on the journey so far would indicate that danger was ahead.  There was nothing on the jungle path of my life that should induce fear...but that's what I felt.  So I got down on my knees and prayed.  This moment still has me a little shook so I hope you'll forgive me if this isn't as polished as I would normally strive for.  I've talked before about the realization that I had hardened my heart to stop feeling the pain of the end of our adoption journey.  God has been working on exchanging that heart of stone for a heart of flesh.  Part of that journey was remembering that this subject is always going to be a little sensitive but that doesn't mean I should guard it like an injury.  What brought me to my knees was the realization that I have been taking action this year based on where I believe God is directing me to and preparing me for.  The last time I struck out on a course of action with this kind of abandon and with the absolute certainty that I was doing what God asked me to do, was for adoption.  Someday soon I need to share my story in that regard but for now I hope you will understand that this is an area of tremendous hurt.  It is a healed hurt, because my God is good, but the reason I am on a treasure hunt this year is because God is teaching me how to ask questions and how to hope again.  

That moment of asking God to bless an area of gifting, of giving Him the fragile hope that I was on the right path, forced me to notice how similar this path felt to that grand story arch that lead to such heartache in my life.  

Part of searching for God in your everyday is going to bring you to your knees as you search for Him.  Part is going to bring you to your knees because you've found Him.


Fellow sojourners, I'm going to try and explain what God showed me in this moment.  

So imagine with me that we're walking along a narrow path through a jungle scene.  Eyes are gazing around under sweating brows looking for clues that we're on the right path.  Someone notices something peeking from underneath a stand of vines and so we begin pulling the growth away to find a standing stone carved with complex symbols.  The excitement of our group bursts forth in happy laughter as we think about what this standing stone means, not just to our journey, but in the truth it can communicate.  As we make our way through the symbols we begin to have a growing sense of unease.  The direction it is telling us to take feels similar to a path we have taken before.  That realization crashes down with the full weight of fear.  This is just like the path we took before.  The one that ended in disaster.  We look wildly around us only to find confirmation.  The signs, the symbols, they are the same.  How could we not have noticed it before!  What if this ends the same way?  We started this journey in faith, believing that we could follow the Guide no matter where He led.  We were sure that we had heard Him this time, that this was the path.  What if we're wrong again?  Could we....could I, survive?      

Big hurts from our past can cause big doubts.  God has been teaching me that it's okay to ask questions.  To ask Him, why.  My biggest questions right now, the ones affecting my journey still today, are ...

Did I hear from you in 2001?  

Did you tell me to pursue adoption only to remove the possibility or did I miss hear you?  

If I was so sure then, and was wrong, how do I know you've spoken to me now?


These are big, hard questions.  While God has been abundant in giving me His peace as I've learned to walk in the life He's given me, these questions loom.  Do you have questions that loom?  Do they cast a shadow on your journey and cause you to jump in fear?  Have you even noticed those questions are there?  We all have things that give us a knee jerk reaction but for most of my life I laughed that jump off as me just being startled.  Get back on the path and keep marching, JD.  Nothing to worry about here.  

I can't do that any more.  I'm looking for God in my every day.  I'm in training to notice where He's moving, who He is and how to recognize Him.  For me, those big, hard questions are a part of that training.  If I don't recognize the shift in background music, I'll be reacting to something I'm not even aware of.  I'll be nervous and edgy as I proceed with caution down the path.  I'll be tense with fear as I live in the belief that disaster is going to fall upon me at any moment.  

So I paused, on my knees, my head to the ground, as tears streamed down my face.  I presented my fear and questions to a good and gracious God, and waited.  I let the hurt be.  

It's been a few hours now of trying to collect my thoughts, letting the ache flair in my chest and thanking God.  Thanking God for letting me notice the change in background music.  For showing me the source of some of my persistent fears along this path.  It's like seeing a looming figure in your dark bedroom at night and then realizing it's your clothes on the back of a chair.  The looming shape that spiked my fear, now has form.  I know it's there and I know what it is.  For now, the questions remain, but I can proceed without fear because I know my God better now.  I am pursuing Him and no path He takes me down will ever be in vain.  While my natural inclination is to protect myself from hurt, that is never God's inclination.  His inclination is for my good and His glory.  Knowing my fear allows me to confront it and step beyond it.  To choose to step out boldly in my adventure.  

What fears have you let loom in the background of your story?  What nameless dread have you let startle you into reacting, into overreacting?  What have you let fear dictate about what you believe?  Let's be brave.  Let's look at those doubts and fears and recognize the real shape of them.  


    
Don't be afraid.  You're not alone.  Not even with your questions. 







Jeremiah 33:3 NIV       
"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."




This weeks linkups: