When it seems God isn't Listening

It’s been almost eight weeks since we lost our main form of provision and before this past week, it had been over four weeks since my husband had talked to anyone about  a job. He had been doing his part by looking at the job listings every day and applying for the jobs he was qualified for, but no one had called.

We had also been doing our part by praying about our situation. Praying for God’s will to be done, but nothing had happened. I was starting to think our prayers were hitting the ceiling and was discouraged thinking God wasn’t listening.

There are no pat answers for what to think, say, or do when you think God isn’t listening. For me though, discouragement started to set in. I started to think that what we were praying for wasn’t worthy in God’s eyes; that it wasn’t good enough; that we weren’t good enough. God’s concerns were being taken up by other people who had it much worse off than we did so I thought we had been thrown to the wayside.

That’s a hard place to be in, and I wasn’t sure what to do. We had people who were praying for us and loving on us, but we became cautious and guarded like there was an element of shame of being in a waiting period. This happened despite having referenced verses in Scripture about waiting and knowing it was a normal part of life having been through it several times before. As human beings, none of us like to wait, and we don’t think we should have to wait. We think that when we express a need to God that He should be ready and willing to pick up the mantle and solve it for us.

But, what if God is trying to teach us something through this time of waiting? What if He is trying to teach us about trust and about patience? And this is a big thing for me, what if He is trying to teach us to be transparent and vulnerable in front of our Christian brothers and sisters? No likes to be transparent and vulnerable either, and I had not done the best job of being transparent and vulnerable since this whole thing had started because I was…ashamed.

So, those were the thoughts that were roiling around in my brain last weekend. I felt like I was at a breaking point with everything that was going on and wondering when things were going to change for us. I think God knows when we get to breaking points. After feeling a strong urge to ask people to pray for us last Sunday, I awoke on Monday not expecting a whole lot to be different, but then my husband got a phone call for an interview–the first one in four weeks. He went to that interview on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, he got a phone call saying that the people wanted to see him again. The second interview was this past Friday. I decided to be transparent  in front of people and not worry about what they thought asking for prayers for the interviews both times. And many people responded with prayers and good wishes.

If anyone was not happy with what I shared, they didn’t share it with me. I think that was the point God was trying to make with me. I have more people who will support me than not. And I need to not worry about those that don’t. Somehow, having those thoughts bolstered me, and my spirit was renewed. My faith was strengthened, and I knew what God was calling me to do during this time of waiting–to show my faithfulness and trust in Him while being real and honest about my struggles.

God wants us to be real and honest about our struggles and not be ashamed. I think this will be a lesson I will be working on until I am done with life here, but it is a lesson I am committed to learning. So thankful God doesn’t expect me to be perfect and is always willing to teach me.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Breathings of My Heart

When I first get up in the morning, one of my favorite things to do is share the day’s Bible verse on Facebook and look at the different writing memes writing sites or various people have shared overnight. It gives me inspiration for the day to come. I found one of those writing memes last week and thought I would expound on the quote from William Wordsworth which was shared.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

The quote is brief, but it is filled with meaning. For the last few years, I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to get some of my thoughts and feelings on paper. Every word, sentence, or paragraph I’ve seen on paper or on the screen has been a word, sentence, or paragraph that hadn’t stayed inside my heart to poison it. My writing, especially the writing about things that are personal, has helped me to stay healthy through the challenges of life. Every time I see a meme about the ability to write, I realize its message about writing holds truth.

Writing is like breathing for me. Putting words, thoughts, and ideas together helps me to deal with my past, my present, and my future. It helps me to get down to the heart of the matter–away from the fluff, away from the shields and towards the thing that is influencing me at the moment. It is a God-given gift I wish I had used more fully earlier in my life. But, I know I have it now and will continue to use it, nurture it, and refine it so I can share it with the world. In other words, I will let people see the “breathings of my heart”.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Even in the Waiting, God is Able

I was researching a title earlier to make sure I had never written a post with the same title before since I try to be varied and different with my posts. Anyway, the title I was researching brought up three previous posts including one entitled “God is Able” which I posted at the end of 2014. I think God knew I needed to see it. I read through the post and realized I had done or was doing every single thing I had advised against doing back then. I started kicking myself. Maybe my thought life or my faith life wasn’t as good as it needed to be. Scratch that. I know my thought and faith life isn’t as good as it needs to be. I thought about re-posting that post today as it obviously was something I needed to see in print once more. Then I realized I had more to say so this post was born.

We are in a waiting period now for a visible source of provision for our family. It has been an ugly waiting full of tension and discouragement and heartache. As I’ve said in previous posts, I haven’t felt like I was doing a good job of demonstrating my faith in God though I’ve wanted to. I’ve constantly asked people to pray for me and have worried that I’ll wear out my chip with these people. I have hurt and ached for what seems like no reason at various points during my day. In other words, it hasn’t been easy at all for me.

God has been with me though, and today, I know He is able even though we are still waiting. I know this for two reasons. This morning I woke up feeling that the weight I had felt on me for the past several weeks was gone after I had gone to bed last night with a ringing and a buzzing at the back of my head that wouldn’t quit. It had become bad enough for me to have a concern I might need a medication change. But, when I woke up, it was gone. I felt different, and I knew it was from God.

The other reason was because of a quote I saw on Facebook, of all places, by Rick Warren. I know God uses people to bless others, and He knew that these words would encourage me. Here’s the quote.

“When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust, you worship him in the deepest way.”

I thought the feelings I had been having of abandonment had lessened my faith and made God not love me. There was nothing further from the truth. So grateful that God loves me even at my lowest point and that He is able even while we wait!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Honesty

Last week, I was asked if I would be willing to write a devotion for our church’s upcoming capital campaign. Since I write and am always looking for ways to practice and improve my craft, I said yes. I started thinking about my topic yesterday, and I realized there were a few different ways I could approach it one being where I leave my heart and my own personal observations out of it and the other making sure they were included. In other words, being honest with the readers of this devotion.

I had an inner debate about this for several hours. Capital campaigns involve the raising of money, and I wasn’t sure if what I had to say from my heart would be in keeping with what was wanted. Right now, my husband and I don’t have anything to contribute to a capital campaign. We are struggling to  keep our heads above water, and it is hard to not let shame and fear enter our thinking, to not think we don’t have anything to contribute.

It came to me last night though in waves of words. I started thinking about all of the words I had heard from people at my church over the last few weeks. From the person who said, “If people knew what I truly struggled with, they wouldn’t want me anywhere near them.” to the person who wrote words of encouragement on a card to me and my family to the people who have written me words of encouragement in texts. And finally from my Lord and Savior, “Daughter, I have chosen you to be my voice for what is going on in this world. They will not know if you are not honest.”

So, I wrote the words. I put my heart and soul into them, and I pray they reach the people they are supposed to reach.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

When Chaos Comes

Chaos–I had never thought of how similar this word was to all the feelings I’ve been going through until I looked at the definition just now. It is defined as “complete disorder and confusion”. And then the synonyms that go with it–well, all of them are a part of my story right now. Here are some of the most relevant ones. “disorder, disarray, disorganization, confusion, mayhem, bedlam, pandemonium, havoc, turmoil, commotion, disruption, upheaval, uproar, muddle, and mess.” My life is a mess right now. There is disruption, upheaval, and havoc in my life, and there’s nothing I can do about it. No one can do anything about it.

It doesn’t help either that the things we’re going through and I’m going through are things that I was taught were shameful. Things like job loss; things like depression. Yes, I am saying it out loud. I suffer from depression. I have been in the yawing pit so many times it has become second nature. The medicine I take keeps it manageable, but when situations of high stress come along, life becomes more difficult as it has recently.

Jesus has been in the pit with me though. He has always been there even when I haven’t realized it. He is sitting there with me, holding onto me, waiting, until I’m ready to climb. And I do know that. Jesus is with me even when I don’t feel like He is.

What I struggle with is trusting other people with my suffering and asking them to pray for me. When I think the people closest to me are ashamed of me asking for prayer, it makes me not want to ask. I hurt, but I don’t think I’m supposed to tell other people I hurt so I don’t. When people tell me I’m too sensitive about what’s going on, it makes me shut down and not want to talk to people. All in all, I’m just a fragile person who tries to keep her shields up and maybe shares her pain with one or two people.

I realized something today though, from my pastor’s sermon no less. 🙂 God made me, fragile person that I am. And if He made me, He has a purpose for me even though I’m fragile. He wants to live through me, and if I wasn’t the broken person that I am, it would be more difficult for me to let Him in. I cried and cried when I thought of it that way, and I had to sit at the cross for a long time after everyone else had left. I had to ask God the questions that had been gnawing at me. “Is there a point and a purpose to my life? Is there a place for me here? Am I loved here?” The answer to all those questions was yes. It was almost like a renewal of my faith, so to speak, and a sprig of joy began in my soul. I know, for a certainty, where I will go when I die.

But, there is another side. I will still hurt. I will still need to take medicine for this disease I have. My hurt and pain will not be healed in this world. It will not be healed til I see Jesus.

While I’m still here, He wants me to show His love to all I come in contact with, and He wants me to learn how to trust the people around me and to ask them to pray for me and with me when I need prayer. So, local church friends, don’t be surprised if I ask you to pray with me in the days and weeks to come.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Five Years

They say memory is one of the first things to go as you get older. And I will admit there are days I don’t remember what I had for breakfast or what I walked into the room to get or to do. But, I remember exactly where I was five years ago today, and the journey my family was about to finish. We were starting the fourth day of a cross-country journey we had just done four weeks previously. That first time though we were traveling westward, and my husband had no job, while this time, we were traveling eastward with the promise of work in Birmingham, Alabama. I was more relieved than you could possibly know. We were on our own again with the promise of something new around the corner. I just wasn’t sure what that would be.

We were in Fort Smith, Arkansas that morning, and I could tell we were all getting tired. Patience was low, and we were all eager to be done. We made a brief stop at Wal-Mart to get something for the car and then we were off. The day was spent traveling across Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi River into Memphis, Tennessee, and then heading southeast towards Birmingham. We made the obligatory stops for meals and other necessary tasks. By the time we passed the exit for Tupelo, Mississippi, we decided to push and see how fast we could get to Birmingham. It was six-thirty that evening when we approached the outskirts of Birmingham. When we took the turn off the interstate, I remember saying, “Oh, the traffic won’t be that bad. Everybody should already be home from work.”

The four of us looked at the wall of traffic on the road that the sign called 280 and shook our heads in disbelief. It was stop and go. It took us an hour and a half to get from the interstate to our hotel. We found out later that Route 280 was considered one of the major traffic arteries for the area and that there had been a few accidents on that particular evening.

But, we had arrived. We were in Birmingham and ready for our new start. The next morning, my husband went to get the keys for our corporate apartment, and his new work computer was delivered to him. He was excited about starting his new job the day after Labor Day. We spent the weekend becoming acquainted with our new city. The one thing we did which would be the most instrumental in how future events would play out was to go meet a family in person where I had only known the mother online as part of a website for homeschool moms. We hit it off. Their children and my sons were close in age, and everyone spoke enthusiastically as we became acquainted. During the following weeks, we did things as a family and with this other family as we started getting used to being in a new city.

And now, five years later, Birmingham is home. All has not been tea and roses. I lost our third child shortly after we arrived. We’ve dealt with so many difficulties I can almost not name them all, and we are dealing with one now, in particular, that has knocked us off our feet. It is doing a good job of hurting my heart, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

But, our older son has graduated from high school and gone on to college, we’ve made friends, we’ve found a church, and we’ve gained a family. Most importantly, God has come back into my heart and into my home, and even with all the difficulties; I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I’m so grateful for a Lord and Savior who never gave up on me!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Eyes of Mercy

During this time of waiting, God has used many things to encourage me. Some of the things that have been the most helpful are songs about Him. I became acquainted with another song this past weekend which has gotten into my heart. The song is “Mended” by Matthew West, and what I’m going to do is take a phrase from that song and talk about how God has used it to encourage me.

The phrase, if you haven’t guessed it by now, is “eyes of mercy.” God looks at all of us with eyes of mercy no matter what we have done or what is going on  in our lives. Everything could be going great, or we could be having the worst day ever, and He would still look at us with eyes of mercy. We could be doing everything He asks of us in Scripture, or we could have lost our strength to resist temptation, and He would still look at us with eyes of mercy. He loves us all enough to have sent His Son to die on a cross for us so why would He not look on us with eyes of mercy.

I listened to this part of “Mended”, and it bolstered my heart.

“I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell

You see worthless, I see priceless
You see pain, but I see a purpose
You see unworthy, undeserving
But I see you through eyes of mercy”

Sometimes, I don’t feel worthy of the love God has spilled out on me. I don’t feel like I deserve it because of the bad things I’ve done, or because I haven’t contributed to God’s kingdom in the way I think I should. (in everything, not just money)

Then, I listen to something like this, and I realize it is one of the main things God wants me to do. To look on others with the same eyes of mercy that He does with me. To show His love to someone else when I feel like I’m the lowest of the low. To walk with others when they hurt, and to let others walk with me when I hurt. In other words, to be honestly present in other people’s lives. The only way I can do this is to have God in my life. I can’t do it by myself, and I won’t do it perfectly until I am with Him. God wants me to start now though–to look at others with eyes of mercy as He looks with eyes of mercy on me.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Screw the Messages

So, you’ve looked at this post, maybe because of the title I chose, and wondered what I’m going to say. 🙂 I promise, there is something of substance in my comments this morning and not just because I have what might be considered a controversial title for a Christian blog.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared a bit about my family situation and my feelings about what’s going on. Today, I want to talk about the messages Satan sends all of us. Once we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, Satan goes on the attack and tries to minimize our impact on the world around us. He tells us how we can’t possibly be any good to God or to Jesus and that we should just stay quiet in church, not reading the Bible or sharing any of the gifts God wants us to share.

If none of those work and we start getting knowledgeable and participatory about the faith we’ve claimed, Satan goes even more on the attack. Bad situations, or trials, come into our lives, and we focus more on those than we do our faith. It’s understandable that we do. For example, if we are fighting an illness, especially one which has the potential to be terminal, there are doctor’s visits, treatments, and just the general fatigue and uncertainty of what it all means. Another example is job loss which comes with a concurrent loss of income. Searching for another job to replace the one lost becomes paramount in our minds, and other things in our lives get reduced to the sidelines. Now, I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but it happens enough that the example is relevant.

There are people though who remain strong in their faith through their trials and tribulations. Examples from Scripture include Job who lost everything, but refused to blaspheme God even though his friends were telling him to, and David who used many of the Psalms he wrote to lament the situations he was in.

For those people, I believe Satan gets inside their head and sends them messages from their past. These messages could be anything which would prevent God from working through them. That’s where I am now with the situation my family is in. I’ve been at a low point for the last few days and stuck at how I could get out of it. This is not a good thing for a person with depression. Satan has used this waiting time to screw with my head about how much God loves me and how much other Christians love me. I had been thinking I was ok with how much God loves me, but struggling with the other. Then I realized I was really struggling with both. And this was because of the messages Satan was sending me from my past. Messages that say I’m not loved because this situation hurts, because I don’t know when it’s gonna end, because I feel deficient as a Christian, and because I feel I’m gonna be rejected  for showing hurt and pain.

God says it’s ok if I ask these questions though, and it’s especially ok if I ask them out loud. A lot of people in the church don’t. They feel like they have to maintain a veneer that other people can’t see through. And it’s my belief that we make it easier for Satan to repeat these messages over and over in our brains if we maintain this veneer.

I don’t want to maintain a veneer; I want people to see the person I am, even in the church, even with all my insecurities. God made me to be the person I am, warts and all, and I’m starting to think this is the gift He wants me to share, my honest presence, no matter how uncomfortable it might make people.

It has also helped that I’ve had someone tell me they were willing to pray with me every single time I needed them to through this situation. In previous churches I’ve been in, the general consensus has been to ask for prayer once and then never mention it again. I can’t do it that way. This is a situation that will be ongoing for a while, and I need to know people are praying for me, praying for my family.

Back to the beginning of this post and my title. What did I mean? I needed to get to a point where I could say something to what Satan was whispering my ear–the messages from my past–and get back to living for my Lord and Savior. I can say it now. SCREW THE MESSAGES, you are whispering in my ear, Satan! I am not listening to you anymore! I will live for my Lord and Savior during this time of waiting!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Words, Words, and More Words

Words are a vital part of what we, as writers, do, so I thought I’d write about all the things they could do today. They are the smallest part of our craft. Words create sentences which create paragraphs which create pages which create chapters which create books. But they can also make us feel things. They can make us feel happy, sad, angry, disappointed, strange, bored, interested, encouraged, discouraged; the list of emotions goes on and on. They help us sharpen our imaginations by forming pictures inside our minds. If I read a book where the author has written a good description of his setting, I can imagine myself there and feel like I’ve traveled to a place I might not ever get to go in my lifetime. They are also a method of escape for me when I read as I can escape from whatever real life is throwing at me to enjoy the imaginary world of a book. In other words, words are the basic building blocks of everything we do in a society.

Written words are not the only words that are important though. Spoken words might be more important than written words because a lot of our communicating is done face to face. They can bring joy in one instance and then turn right around and bring sadness. From when we can first understand the spoken word, they help us form our concept of self. If the first words we hear are words that affirm us, we start on the path to becoming a productive person in society. But, if we hear words that demean us, that tell us we’re not any good, it doesn’t take much time for those words to take root in our inner being and become what we believe about ourselves.

So, words have power, power that I don’t think we realize sometimes. We realize when we are physically hurt whether we are ill with some kind of sickness or whether we’ve had some kind of accident like a broken arm or leg. Those hurts are visible and can be seen by whoever we come in contact with. But, words have the power to hurt us inside where the hurt is not as visible to the rest of us. We’ve all been hurt by words whether unintentionally or by bullying, and we’ve all been careless with our words and caused hurt. Words can form scars, but words can also heal. When I think of how I want to be with the words I speak or the words I write, I think of a verse of Scripture from my Christian faith.

Psalm 19:14 states, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Hope everyone has a great day!

Shame and How it Relates to Telling Our Stories

This is a word that makes all of us uncomfortable, but we have all felt it at one time or the other. It is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Another definition is “a loss of respect or esteem; dishonor.” It is also defined as “a regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.”

These definitions have things in common. They all involve pain, loss, and the consequences of sin. Feeling shame makes us aware of our need for Jesus which is a good thing, but Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in the pit of shame.

I struggle though with shame in my life because I want to speak about the uncomfortable things. I feel overwhelmed when I keep having the same prayer request over and over, and I feel ashamed when I ask one more time. My heart hurts because of what is going on in my life, and I don’t feel like I can display that hurt within the church. Or maybe I should say I feel uncomfortable displaying that hurt within the church. Tears, tears, and more tears. God is using this pain to sharpen and define me, this I know, but does this involve displays of emotion? Should I feel shame because I hurt?

This is a question for the ages I think, and a question that is not well-defined by the church. I’m exploring this further today because of some things that were said last night when I was at church. Things I’ve heard said before, yes, things that are a part of church culture, but things that were brought into sharp focus for me yesterday because of what we’re going through right now.

It was a program about missions. A team from my church had gone to another country earlier this summer, and they were talking about their experiences during the trip which was to a Third World country. Two things, in particular, were said which were true, but also gave me some things of my own to think about.

The first was how appreciative the people there were of the little things they were given and of life and worship in general. They were content with what they had, and in comparison to the Western world, what they had, was very little.

Then, there’s the second thing, the thing that gnawed at my heart. I am not wanting to be too specific because my intent is not to hurt feelings, but just to describe how I felt.

A comparison was made between these people and some people in the United States who have a certain sense of entitlement about life, in general, and in what they should be given. Now, before anyone posts nasty comments, I said “some people” not all.  🙂

Anyway, I listened to these stories, and my shame was hot. Shame that I needed to ask for prayer; shame that my heart hurts; shame that my family was hurting right now because we don’t have a visual form of provision. I think that might be why so many people in the church stay silent about their own pain–because they’re ashamed of it and because so many have it so much worse.

But, we can’t stay silent about our pain. We all need to tell our stories if, for nothing else, to hear the collective, ‘me too’. Jesus is not ashamed of us. He died for us on the cross. We need to tell our stories of pain, illness, job loss, addictions, and faith struggles and not be made to feel ashamed. For we are all broken, and Jesus recognizes this. We have His gospel and His hope, and that is the strength I have amidst this time of waiting.

Romans 1:16 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Here is another one from Romans 5:5. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So, I will not be ashamed of my circumstances right now, and I will not quit telling my stories! They might make some people feel uncomfortable, even in the church, but isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do–to feel uncomfortable?

God’s blessings on all of you today!