Build the Cities

Have you ever read something many times and then something suddenly jumps out at you? And changes the way you think about things? I began reading a Beth Moore book this last week and the main passage is Isaiah 61:1-4. I wrote it out and highlighted the parts (italics here)  that she pointed out were part of Jesus job description, thinking that would be key to focus on, the things that God is going to do for me.

 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the LORD

for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61:1–4

 

I taped it to my mirror and started reading it. But after several times through what jumped out at me were not the highlighted portions, it was the plain black section at the bottom. The parts that start with “they,” meaning, our part, not Gods. It doesn’t say God will rebuild the ruins, it doesn’t say he will restore the devastation. It says we will.

God’s part is to comfort and heal our broken hearts. God’s part is to set us free. God’s part is to give us joy instead of sadness. Once he has built us up, it is OUR job to build up the rest. We will be the ones to take the ruins and rebuild something new and full of life. We will be the ones to change the generational devastation. This is our job, not God’s.

Now don’t get me wrong, God plays a part. Obviously. He frees, and heals and strengthens us, without Him we would not be able to do a single thing. But once he has done his work in us, in our hearts, it is then our job to go out and do the work in our lives, in our families, in our world. To build the cities and bring him glory.

As this just hit me while reading the passage this week, I am still working out what exactly this means for me. What it is God is trying to teach me. But it seems, on the surface, that I should do less waiting for God to drop the perfect life in my lap and more creating of a life that will bring glory to Him who healed my heart and set me free.

 

 

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Holes

“Time heals all wounds”…but time doesn’t fill the holes.

Driving down the road, suddenly I feel a tangible emptiness on my left ring finger. Where once there was something, emptiness, a hole. I have been acutely aware of holes lately.

Until lately I have been able to ignore the fact that something is missing in my life and my son’s life. Life has been good, and he has never known anything different. (of which I am grateful)  But as he gets older things have gotten harder. His behavior is out of control. I am at my wits end. And that is when I notice it. The gaping hole. The hole where a father should be. I have tried to tell myself all along, that we will be fine, that he will turn out just fine, that I can do this. And while all those things may be true, I am left to wonder how things would be if the hole was filled. I can say with certainty that things would be different. How? I don’t know. That is the thing about holes, you never know what could have been. You just know that it would have been different.

I have prayed for this hole to be filled from the day it was created. And yet it is still empty. And I have to stare down the disappointment. It is hard to keep praying for something through disappointment. It is hard to keep praying for other things, and people, when the disappointment of unanswered prayer is staring you in the face every. single. day.

Contentment. Something that I thought I had figured out. But then the disappointment swells up. Today in church we talked discontentment. How it is really a way of saying that God’s way is not good enough. We want God’s will, our way. But it doesn’t work that way. If we want God’s will, it has to be His way.

I want God’s will, more than anything. Because outside of it, life is just a purposeless mess. Not to say my life hasn’t seen its fair share of messes, but I can see his handwriting all over it, and I can see purpose growing from the pain. But it is hard to be patient when more seems to be falling into the holes. I know that he will fill them; He has given me assurances of that. But I feel like a ticking time bomb, that if they are not filled soon, it will all cave it. I have to want His will HIS way, not my way, because He understands why, and I don’t.

How do I go about keeping the disappointment at bay? I need to focus on the daily expressions of his love. The little things that happen all the time that show me his Love for me. I cannot and will not let those things be swallowed up in the holes.

Just As I Am

It is quite appropriate that the last time I wrote, I wrote about fear, because right about now I find myself gripped in the icy claws of fear. Afraid of what I really want, afraid to settle for less. I have asked God for some very specific things in my life, and I don’t want to settle for less. But at the same time settling seems a lot easier and more gratifying in the moment. I have never been very patient, I keep seeing the stupid quote pop up on Pinterest that says “Trust in God means trust in his Timing” and I need to see that each and every day because I have such a hard time just waiting. At the same time I have been in a place in my life for the last 6 months or so where my relationship with God resembles an angry teenager, who knows that their parents know best, but they just want to do there own thing and have fun. From this place, realizing what it will take to have what I have asked God for, it seems like I am impossibly far away. And looking at it straight in the face terrifies me. I feel so incredibly inadequate; can I really trust God enough?

I know the answer is yes. Because from the place that I wrote the last entry, I had faced my fears and gladly said yes I will follow. But when that didn’t turn out the way I expected I drew back, and questioned why God would mess with me like that. I knew it was for the best, but it caused hurt and confusion and it took me a while to see the big picture. I went from being very close to God and putting trust in him every day, to pulling back and while still feeling the loving Father, my heart was that of a spoiled little brat, who was throwing a fit because they didn’t get what they wanted. So how do I get back to that place of daily communion with the Father?

Through the complete destruction of my life, hopes and dreams I was close to him. I had to be. Sometimes it hurt so bad I could hardly breathe. I trusted him as he led me through the process of healing; I trusted his timing and gave him the desires of my heart. When he finally led me out of the lonely journey I was on, I was close to Him as I rejoiced in what he was doing for me, for the joy that he was putting back in my life. I trusted him every step of the way because I didn’t know how else to do it. But, I also made the mistake of assuming that I knew where he was taking me, and guess what, in true God fashion, He had other plans. And some how even though I was trusting him to lead me, and was still trusting that he knew what was best, I lost that connection. Just like that spoiled teenager I mentioned, I said ok God, that great, but I am upset and I am just going to go sulk in my room, I still trust that you are going to provide and take care of me, but I don’t really want to talk to you. How stupid and immature. I desperately want to move on to what he has next, but I know that won’t happen till I get that connection back so I can know where he is leading me. But I feel like at the same time that I am just trying to connect so that I can move on, and that seems selfish too. I need to want God, for God, not for anything he can do for me.

On Sunday the speaker challenged us to pray for 10 minute every day. I have done it one day so far, I thought it would be hard coming from the place I was in, but I just went back to the place of desperation I was in before and I poured out my heart, all the junk, and the hurt and confusion, just like a used to, and guess what, He was still there right where He has always been. Even though I haven’t done the 10 minutes more than the one day, things have been much different, and I plan to chat with my heavenly Father much more. I don’t have to have some amazing revelation or calling, I just have to come to him, just as I am.

Do the Next Thing

I just came back from bible study with a group of amazing women. I am so pumped up right now from the God stories shared tonight! (although part of that feeling might be the mocha I had this afternoon…) God is moving in people’s lives and it is amazing to see. In fact it is just what I need to see, so through that God is moving in my life. I have been stuck in this place for a long time. Stuck between the past and the future; stuck in the land of do-the-next-thing.

I saw God move in the beginning of this journey, providing and opening doors. One of those doors was the path to becoming a nurse, even though it wasn’t what I wanted to do, the door was clearly open and I walked through it. And this path has been kept open, so I keep doing the next thing, doing the next thing.  I have been doing the next thing for the last three years, and so far it hasn’t led me anywhere. I have a LVN license, but I have not used it. My plans for taking the bridge program to get my RN in one year have totally fallen through, and now I am looking at two years in the RN program starting in the Fall. By the time I am done my son will be 6 and finishing kindergarten.

I want to be done with this phase. I want to know where my life is headed. I want the 5 year plan and the assurance that even thought I have spent all this time in school, I won’t really have to have a full time career the rest of my life. I have held tight to what I want for the future, so tight I didn’t even want to trust it to God. I was too, scared that what I wanted wasn’t what He would want for me.

I have finally been able to let go of it and say ok God I know you have my best in mind, and I trust you are going to do something fantastic with my life. Nothing has changed, but I feel this amazing freedom, because I am not carrying around this worry that things may not turn out the way I want.  After letting that go I was struck with the thought that “you do not have because you do not ask”. I always felt like what I wanted might not be what he wanted, so maybe I shouldn’t ask. But now I feel the freedom to ask for exactly what I want and I know if it is his will, he will provide, and no matter what he will give me more than I can ask for or imagine.

And now tonight I feel like the final piece (not that I will ever be done with this learning process) has fallen into place to help me get through this do-the next thing phase. Tonight Norma shared how God has slowly taken away every thing they had planned in their lives to bring them to this incredible place of opportunity…more than they could imagine! It is so exciting to see what God is doing in their lives and it got me to thinking about my life.

Almost 4 years ago I had everything I had wanted in life, I had a husband, a baby, two dogs and three cats, I wasn’t working, I owned a two story house, I drove my dream car.  I loved my church, I was finally starting to connect with people and get involved in a new town. And in one day all of that was taken away from me, except my baby and my dog, MY plan was in shambles. Now I don’t mean to suggest that God took my marriage away; that is never his first plan for marriages to fall apart. But my plans for my perfect life were certainly taken away. I am now a single parent living in a “studio” apartment. I am still incredibly blessed not to be working, but I am a full time student, working towards a career I never wanted.  Thankfully I am finally connecting with people again at a wonderful church after 3 very disconnected years; and God has used them to bring me to this new place of trust.

So what I realized tonight, is that God has taken me to this place, where everything I thought and everything I had is gone. And he has taken me there so he can do something amazing with my life. So, I can keep doing the next thing without despair, because I know no matter where God puts me it will be in his time and in his plan. And it will be something I could never even imagine 4 years ago.  I have no idea what that looks like, it may look like what I am asking for, it may not. But you know what, I am ok with that…finally.

Belief: Part Two

A while back I wrote a post entitled Belief, and ended it with “Part two to come”, so here is part two. A completely different part two than I had intended, but that is what happens when you let 6 months go by with out finishing your thought.  Part one was about how I let the statement “If I really believe what I say I believe” shape my choices for the last few years.  Now with the divorce final I have to figure out what that looks like for the next chapter of my life…and that is not easy.

I spent a good many years believing that I was a very emotional person, but what I have learned about myself in the last four years, is that I am NOT emotional. Now don’t get me wrong, I have emotions, but I really don’t react emotionally to many things. I don’t get excited and squeal over things, I don’t get overly annoyed or angry about things, and I don’t get teary eyed over much. I am very much a “life goes on” type of person. But there is one emotion that gets me and it hits me hard. Frustration. Nothing can make me react more emotionally or can bring on the tears faster than frustration, that helpless feeling caused by the “inability to change something” And lately I have been feeling it, along with it’s close friend disappointment.

What do frustration and disappointment have to do with belief? Well that is what I am trying to figure out. Every one says it is ok to be angry with God, but is it ok to be disappointed and frustrated? How can one be disappointed in God? Well I guess it goes back to he definition, disappointment is “caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations”. So I am disappointed with God for not living up to MY hopes and expectation, and frustrated because I can’t do anything about it.  What a basket case.

So…back to the original question, “If I really believe what I say I believe, then” …then what??? Up until now that answer was a behavior, a way to act. Now it needs to take on a new meaning, and maybe some new words, “Do I believe He is who He says he is?” If I believe that God is love, that God is just, that God is faithful, that God is provider, that God is the beginning and the end, that God cared enough about me to send his son to die, then what? Then can I leave MY hopes and expectations behind and begin to hope in Him? Can I trust that he loves me enough to bring me HIS best in HIS timing, beyond what I could imagine?(and believe me, I can imagine a lot) That seems like the logical conclusion, but it is not as easy as it seems.

So maybe, belief comes down to just that, belief, having faith in something you can’t see.  And letting that belief invade your thoughts and emotions, your hopes and dreams. I think it is easier to follow through on something that you can DO than something that you just have to BELIVE. It is easier to fall back into the arms of someone in a trust exercise, that to stand up on the chair waiting for someone to fly you away, even if you KNOW they are coming, it is hard to just stand there, doing nothing, waiting.

I do believe! Help my unbelief!

Doubt vs. Trust

The tension between doubt and trust was the subject of the sermon this morning at church. In a nutshell, it is not possible as a human to live with out doubt, no matter how much we trust something, or trust God, there is always nagging doubt; the key is using that doubt to grow your faith. Facing the doubt and choosing to trust strengthens our faith.

This subject brought an experience I had, about a year ago to mind. I was at the end of a long morning of errands, and I had a very tired and cranky boy in the backseat. I had one more stop to make at the bank. I just needed to use the ATM. As I turned down Main Street at lunch hour, I sent up a desperate mommy prayer that there would be a parking space in front of the ATM so I didn’t have to get Zachary out of the car again. Stopping at every signal in the slow traffic, I began to grow impatient. As my frustration mounted, it dawned on me, I asked God to provide a parking spot and now I am being impatient and rushing along, not wanting to wait for His timing. I sent up a quick prayer of apology and moved along down the street.  As I came to the block that the bank was in, I began looking ahead to see if there was a spot, and I saw a truck pulling into a spot right in front of the ATM. The words out of my mouth were, “ Well there goes my parking space!”  But as I pulled up to the truck I saw that the spot on the other side of the truck was empty. I pulled in and thanked God and apologized for my doubt.  I got out of the car and stepped up on the curb, as I did, I saw that something was written across the sidewalk in front of my car. It was facing the other direction so I craned my neck to read it –Faithfulness. I think, “Huh, that is odd.” and turn to walk to the ATM, and then it hits me like a ton of bricks…my God is faithful, and he wants me to know that.

I still have no idea why that word was written across the sidewalk, but it doesn’t matter. It was a word from God, to me His doubting child. I was reminded of two things by this experience. The first is that you can’t rush God; if you ask for something, you have to allow him time to work. It won’t necessarily happen when you think it should happen. The second is, if he is faithful in the little things, like parking spots for worn out moms, how much more faithful is he going to be in the big things, like the master plan for my life. I know these things and I trust Him, but the doubt still creeps in…but maybe that is ok. Maybe I just need to cry out as the father did in Mark 9:24b, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”