I Surrender….All?

I’m a planner. I like to know what is going to happen in advance and be ready. To me, a curveball should stay in baseball.

Knowing I am not going back to my part time job next school year, I decided in the fall to start saving some money. I had built up quite a stash in a drawer. That made me feel safe and better about the unknown. This way, if the right job doesn’t come up in August, I am prepared, right?

Well, the other night I heard a voice in my head say to give that money away. Say what? It wasn’t a ton, but I had worked hard to save it. It made me less nervous about being jobless again. And besides, we are supposed to save and be prepared. I wasn’t doing anything wrong!

So, Sunday morning, I put all those bills in the offering at church, marked for our building fund. We are thisclose to paying off the mortgage at NorthStar and having money freed up for doing even more in the community. We can’t wait! Once this money was out of my hands, I kind of felt relieved. It no longer had a hold on me.

The reason I am telling you this is not so you think I am generous or that we are rich. It is to remind you not to put your trust in anything but God. There are many things in this world that can start out good but turn bad with the wrong intentions. When I started feeling more security from that money than from God, it had to go.

It can be easy to forget that God has done big things in our lives and wants to do more. Three years ago, He brought the right job to me at just the right time. Why do I think He won’t do it again? And if the right one doesn’t come at the beginning of August, He will take care of us way better than a little saved money ever could. If I don’t give God the chance to provide for me, He won’t get the glory.

1 Timothy 6 has a fantastic passage. Verse 17 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  As soon as I started putting my hope in wealth, it began to control me.

Speaking of control, when I think I have control, it is an illusion. Anything can happen, good or bad. This can be financial, job or health related, or involve my family. Really, things can and will happen in any area of my life. Building up my faith in God is the key to weathering any storm.

At the end of the day, it is more important for me to please God than be ready for a future I don’t know. It is more important to be in the center of His will than out on my own. It is more important to give what He asks than assume I have all the answers. I don’t, but He does. I have to be willing to surrender whatever is asked of me. Is there something you need to give up, so it doesn’t control you?

Linking with Holley Gerth

Surrender

Our pastor got up Sunday and preached about how Jesus came for each of us. He said many powerful things, but the word that keeps going through my head since then is the one he had us write down next to our notes: surrender. Then my devotion the next morning was about surrendering as well.

I get it.

I need to surrender. I like to make plans. Don’t we all? Things have been going on in my life lately that are not in my control-as if anything really is. Since the ideas I have for my future are good and God honoring, I was assuming they are what HE wants. I tend to put my thoughts and desires on God.

The other day, God threw a “wait” sign in my face. Before I go barreling down the path I am on, I need to stop. If this is what God wants, it will happen. He may have something better for my family and I.

No matter what plans I try to make, I need to always hold them loosely. They aren’t mine, because everything is God’s. My future is His. My family is His. My intentions need to always reflect that fact.

The word “surrender” needs to always be on my heart and be something I am willing to do. If I can surrender my plan to God, He will honor that and bring me to the best path. He will use me to glorify His name. However, if I still go along with my original plan, disaster may happen. At the very least, I may be left out of God’s will and not receive the blessing He had for me.

My plans may sound best for me, but what do I know? I didn’t create the universe and put stars in the sky. I didn’t make the ocean and animals and all of mankind. I certainly don’t coordinate everything that happens every second of every day. That is all God, and I am all His. I am all in. I surrender.

As I was working on finishing this, Ecclesiastes 11:5 was my verse of the day. I can’t think of a better way to put it! “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”

All to Jesus I surrender. How about you?

Linking with Holley Gerth

God Is Not Done With YOU

I have epilepsy. Seizure disorder. Whatever they call it these days. Despite being on medication and seizure free for years, this has taken quite a toll on me mentally. I think anyone who has a chronic condition can relate to what I am about to say.

Between the ages of 16 and 25, I had seizures. One minute I would be fine and the next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance with a stranger asking me if I knew my name or where I was. I never knew either. I would spend the rest of the day in the ER slowly gaining the use of my brain. The fuzziness and, quite frankly, blank feeling would eventually go away and leave me with exhaustion. Every time.

There was never an indication before the seizure (that I can remember) that something was not right. All my life, I have also struggled with fainting “spells,” for lack of a better term. However, at least with fainting, I usually have an aura and learned what to do to avoid actually passing out. Don’t I sound fun?

Now, at any given moment, the slightest off feeling or pain can send me into panic. It may not be rational fear, but it is real fear. Since I don’t know what happens before a seizure, my mind tends to go there quickly.

This isn’t a topic I talk about, pretty much ever. I never really know if someone will understand or if they will judge me or think I am crazy. But, honestly, I am past caring. No one can judge me as much as I have judged myself. There have been times I sit and cry and pray. As I type this, I can’t help the tears from flowing. I have beat myself up for not having faith or jumping to conclusions for years and I am done.

Last week, my husband was out of the country for work. I have always dreaded these trips, because I am terrified that something will happen to me. My girls need me and the fear comes alive when I am alone with my thoughts at night. They just always have. The first day of his eight day trip, I felt the familiar feelings creeping in. You know what though? For the first time, I battled them. I said, “God is not done with me.” I won’t say the fear left instantly or didn’t try to come back the next day, but the noose fell loosley around me. After the first few days, I slept better than I ever have during one of James’ trips. I didn’t worry about if something happened. It wasn’t fun with him not there, but I had peace.

Why am I sharing this? Why am I telling family, friends, and strangers my deep secret fear? Because I finally realize I am not alone. Sitting with our fears in the dark only makes things worse and isloates us. I have been around enough years to know if I am feeling something, I am not the first or only one.

No matter what, if you are still breathing, God has more for you. He is not done with you and your life serves a purpose. You may be telling yourself otherwise, but God wants you to know to keep going. Whatever struggle you have, it is temporary and serves its own purpose. Never forget that.

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Don’t Give Up on Me

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I keep trying to do things my way. I’m sorry I keep trying to help You. I’m sorry I don’t leave things in Your capable hands. I’m just plain sorry.

When will I learn that You don’t need my help? You created everything, including me. You put me here, in this exact place and time, for a reason. You set things in motion, and I am like a three-year-old child whose “help” gets in the way. You smile lovingly at me, because You know I mean well. You hand me some small task while You handle the real job.

Then I think it’s not working, because what I envisioned hasn’t happened yet. I take matters into my own hands, when You always had it under control. My time line has always been different than Yours, and You make spectacular things happen. Whenever I trust You, the right things fall into place. How do I forget that? Why don’t I remember those times? They only occur when I let You in.

You gave me gifts and talents and set me off on the right path. You pulled me close to You and loved me. You show me glimpses of Your power and make it clear that You want to show that power through me. Little old me! I still have no idea why You want to use someone like me, but You do! It is the most flattering, earth-shattering thought, and somehow isn’t made up or dreamt.

Please keep using me. I will get out of Your way and trust You. When I get discouraged, I will remind myself that Your timeline is not mine. And I will remember Your power and might are great. Show them off through me.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Linking with Holley Gerth

 

We Adore You

Many years (and one kid) ago, back when James and I were in a finance class, I had an experience that sticks with me to this day. Every week for 12 weeks, we filled in our work book and learned a verse at home. It was challenging and rewarding. This study marks when we first started tithing on everything and when we first began talking opening about money. Scary stuff.

But what I remember best was the verse 1 Chronicles 29:11-12. My little brother was having financial problems and I met with our leader (our Pastor of Stewardship). I laid it all out for the poor man in all my manic sisterly worry. In my mind, I had to figure out how to fix it for my brother. Poor Jamie told me two things: 1. to talk to his wife and 2. that the verses we were learning were ones to remember in this situation.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12: Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from You alone, and You are the Ruler of all mankind; Your hand controls power and might, and it is at Your discretion that men are made great and given strength.

I had lunch with Jamie’s wife, Kelley, (which began our friendship) and laminated the verses. We were learning them as they relate to money, and yes, we went around the room and said them out loud individually. Talk about pressure! After memorizing them, I began to apply these to all of my life. I had to learn to lay down my pride and humbly ask for God’s help.

Everything truly is God’s and I adore Him for that. The world is a crazy, unpredictable place, but when I choose to worship God, the manic, hysterical side of me fades away. What is left is peace. I know God is taking care of us and that means I trust Him with our lives.

Do you trust God? Are there situations where you run around trying to fix them and instead just end up wearing yourself out? Or do you worry about what is going on in the world and lose sleep over it? God wants you to remember He’s got this. Instead of worrying, focus on how much you adore God and let the peace settle over you.

 

Linking with Holley Gerth

Breaking Out of the Dark

To me, the saddest verse is John 3:19: “Their sentence is based on this fact: that the Light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”

I would like to think this is just true for non-believers, but really, it is me too at times. I would rather stay with familiar, with the bad I know. Having Jesus shine a light on my sins sounds so uncomfortable, painful even. What we don’t realize is that while having our sin brought out into light isn’t fun, it breaks the hold that sin has on us. Satan can no longer hold it over our heads and taunt us with lies. He can’t tell us no one will love us or manipulate us into doing it again. Once we allow Jesus in, He gives us peace and hope that we can overcome.

Thinking about how we prefer darkness is overwhelming to me. Stepping into light and freedom puts us on the road we were created to walk. If we avoid that first step, that first admittance, we will never fully accomplish our earthly goal. We won’t be able to follow God completely because an area of us has been blocked off. When we have a dark spot in our heart that we won’t let Jesus near, He isn’t completely in our heart. Oh sure, we can be Christians who go to church and do nice things, but that relationship aspect will not be there. If we tell God He can’t go there, He can’t heal us or keep us from temptation.

Why won’t we admit our weaknesses to God? It isn’t like He doesn’t already know. What we are doing is keeping God at arm’s length and telling Him either we got this or that we don’t trust Him to love us once we admit the truth.

Once we step into the light, God helps us and we have His full force behind us. Nothing can stop us but us. We have to get out of our own way and let God heal us.

When we model this behavior, non-believers will see how stepping out of darkness is so much better. God has taken our guilt and shame and hurled it into the deepest ocean. With this first step out of the way, we can move on and accomplish great things.

What do I struggle with? Sometimes I drink too much. I wasn’t planning on including this last part, but I realized that if I am going to ask you to hold a mirror up to your life, I need to hold one up to mine as well. Once we have transparency and nothing to hide, Jesus can work on us.

Do you have an area that needs to be brought into the Light?

Linking with the Saturday Soiree at Faith Along the Way.

Help My Unbelief

Waiting seems to be the story of my life for the last few years. Now I am beginning to see there will always be times for activity and times for waiting. The ebb and flow of life. When I recognize those times of waiting, what I do is just as important as when I am in the bustling times.

This weekend, my family had a twenty four hour period of excruciating waiting. I refreshed my email way too often, wondered if my phone was working, and fretted many hours away. It was literally twenty three and a half hours of that.

Finally, I stopped. I had been praying, but this time I prayed differently. I told God I was sorry for behaving like this and for not trusting Him. I do trust Him, but something had been broken or disconnected in those hours. This prayer became one of those times of confession where I felt so bad about it that I cried. Maybe the world wouldn’t understand why my faith disappearing was so bad, but I knew. My heart had to break open and feel how it must make God feel. I was so sad. But then I didn’t feel sad anymore. God wanted me to understand, but only for a minute. Then I felt peace and light. I was back to knowing who is in control and who isn’t.

Within minutes, my phone rang. It was what I had been waiting for. Did y’all read that? Maybe ten minutes after I confessed my temporary insanity, God made things happen. That was not a coincidence! I had to learn a lesson and right what was wrong, which wouldn’t have happened if the call came earlier.

It appears I am still short on patience and trust. God knows I will need these qualities the rest of my life, so He keeps building them in  me. It is hard at the time, but each time it makes me stronger. There will always be circumstances out of my control that take their sweet time. I have to learn to keep my dependence on God or confess when I don’t.

Sometimes admitting to God that we haven’t had faith is the most difficult thing to do, but it has the most benefits. God knows the condition of our hearts, but we still have to confess our weakness to Him. He promised to give us strength when we need it. Psalm 29:11 says The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

Even though our house selling situation is up in the air again, I am choosing to trust God. God always proves faithful to me, and I am fixing on His will over my own. He will work it all out.

 

 

I am linking with Holley Gerth!

Confessions of a First Time Book Writer

Since I have been very vocal on here about starting a book, I wanted to give you an update. This is week 4 of school, and I am learning as much as my girls! 

The second day of school I sat down and started my First Book. That week, I wrote an outline and notes for each chapter. The plan was to have a first draft before Christmas. I spent the next week and a half stressed out about getting it done and worried that Labor Day would push me back. What was I thinking? Pressure and I do not go hand in hand. It makes me anxious and just plain wears me out. Yes, the word “crazy” comes to my mind too.

One of the things that sucked all of my energy was that I ended up writing in a style and about a topic I am not built for. It felt like I was just putting words together and getting enough so I could call it a day. What made me tired yet exhilarated the first week made me plain old tired last week. I was trying to be someone else when I was made to be me.

What made me see the light? All of my readers (friends) telling me my book will be great and that they love my honesty and transparency. All of your sweet words mean so much, and God uses them to show me what I have to offer. The way I was writing fits someone else, not me.

So did I waste three weeks and thousands of words? NO! I am proud that I didn’t sit back and put off starting, but instead dove into this challenge. It isn’t a wasted experience if I learned from it.

I didn’t fail because I have to start over. Failure would be stopping now and saying “I can’t.” Or not ever starting. I am just being redirected.

Ron Dunn said, “Prayer is not a substitute for work, or merely preparation for work. It IS work.” When I decided to step back, I spent more time in prayer. I cried, read my Bible, and got rest. This goal won’t be done in my power, so I needed to reconnect with my Savior. 

I have no idea why I gave myself a deadline when no one else did, or why I picked my ideas. But I am doing what I don’t normally do: give myself grace. I refuse to beat myself up over a setback. God wanted to give me a hug and let me know I am made a certain way for a reason. He had to let me try my way so I could remember I need Him. Every hour I need Him! The book will be finished at the right time when He is at the center. We are on a journey together, and this is a step forward, not backward.

I want to thank each one of you who has taken time to encourage me this year. I soak up the words and use them to push me!

The Lord will work out His plans for my life-

for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

Psalm 138:8

 

 

Linking with Holley Gerth and Saturday Soiree 

 

All The Way

The more often I surrender to Christ, the more peace I have in my heart. To me, that is simple and profound at the same time. Once I started faithfully obeying what God asked of me, I started seeing how much better things were working out. Is it easy? Not usually. It has definitely been worth it though! Jeremiah 7:23 says “walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.” When God asks me to do something, there is always a reason behind it. He is never arbitrary and nothing is done on a whim. I can count on God to have my best interest at heart.

God calls me to scary tasks that make me feel inadequate, until I realize I AM inadequate. I can’t prepare enough. I just have to grab His hand and do it. I am learning to listen to the voice telling me to be a hospice volunteer, pray in front of people, and write personal blog posts. In the end it is in God’s hands. If I am obedient, He takes care of it. I do my best and leave it all on the field. When I feel squeezed and challenged, it means I am relying on God’s strength. I have to take that step and run with the ball. Will I score every time? Nope. Sometimes God hands someone else the ball to do their part. Maybe I introduce someone to God’s love. Another person takes it further with their encouraging words or thoughtful actions. That person takes it in for a touchdown and wins a soul for Christ. All of us on the team are obedient and God uses all of it for His glory.

I can’t afford to question whether I could have done more or done things differently. I know without a doubt that when I listen and obey, God works all things out. I do my part and let God take over. When I question or try to stall, someone is not being blessed. Can I have that on my conscience? If I question why I should do this, I am making it all about me. In truth, it isn’t about me at all. If I believe I am here to make a difference, be a blessing, and help people change, I have to go all in. There is no room for questioning. I do my part and leave the rest in God’s more than capable hands.

Really, this is the most freeing thing. I am here to serve God and make Him happy. If someone doesn’t agree with me, it’s on them. They will answer for their thoughts and actions, as will I. The outcome is not for me to worry about. If I say something that God placed on my heart or bring a friend to church, and they don’t respond, it isn’t my responsibility. I have fulfilled my part and pleased God. That is the beauty of obedience. Following God implicitly simplifies life and reduces those “what ifs.” I can live a full life with peace in my heart because I give it all I’ve got and then give it to God.

“Trust and obey,

For there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus,

But to trust and obey.”