Sunshine and Friends

These are our friends Matt & Lindsay.

They are my husband’s former TAs (teaching assistants) who are now married and live in Iowa. They came for a visit to Chicagoland and spent a night with us. We love catching up with them. We walked to the Farmers’ Market this morning and the Billy Graham Center, then had lunch before they headed home. It was nice to have a beautiful day to enjoy walking around town.

I’m so thankful for the warmer weather. It lifts my spirits! I’m thankful, too, for good friends. I was having a hard day yesterday, and I had to run my daughter over to a friend’s house for a Jr. Gift Givers meeting. (Several young girls get together and plan ways to raise money to give to missions.)

While I was out, I did something I never do. I just stopped by unannounced to a friend’s house who I have not seen in a while. She was home, and we enjoyed talking for 30 minutes, sharing what’s been going on, and by the time we finished, I was so encouraged. When I got back home, I had a kind and encouraging email from someone that also served to brighten my day. Then our friends arrived that night to spend the night.

Between the weather and the encouraging friends, I felt lifted right up out of my distress. I’m thankful the Lord meets us in those moments in unexpected ways when we call out to him for help! Sometimes when things are hard, it’s easy to waste my energy thinking about those things instead of lifting my head and forgetting those troubles and moving on. I want to have a mind fixed on God and praising Him, but sometimes it requires that I act and obey and not simply dwell there in the mire. I love it when I see how worth it His ways are and pray He will help me choose those ways more consistently! He uses all these things in my life anyway to grow and strengthen me, and I am thankful.

Brush With Fame

In April 2006, I went with five friends to an event in Indianapolis called Downpour. James McDonald, Joe Stowell, Beth Moore, and Crawford Loritts were the speakers, and Harvest Bible Chapel was putting it together. We were drawn to it mostly because of Beth Moore, someone whom we all love and whom God had used in our lives through her Bible studies. My friends and I were hoping to meet her.

Right before the event was to begin, four of us went out to the restrooms. While outside the main arena, my friends saw Beth Moore walk past on her way inside, and they wanted me to go over and say hi. (As it happens, Beth’s daughter is a dear friend of ours and was at that time living in our little town.) I anticipated that Beth was trying to get in for the conference to begin, so I was reluctant to say anything, but my friends were literally pushing me toward her to say hello. She was surrounded by what looked like body guards and her assistant, and I just could not interrupt her path into the arena — until, all of a sudden, she turned her head around as she was walking and looked right at me.

I said, “Oh, hi, I’m Melissa’s friend, ….” Well, she was as sweet as she could be, rushed over to hug me, said some warm things, and so on. Honestly, I thought I was at the point in my life where very few people would leave me starstruck, but you suddenly have this awareness that this is the godly woman who has meant so much to your spiritual life, and all I could say, over and over, was “You’re so tiny.”

Not “Thank you so much for your ministry” or “You have no idea what you’ve meant to me” — No, just “you’re so tiny.”

Then I became a little more gathered and said, “Well, I’m just here with some friends…,” not wanting to forget my friends, and I looked over at the three of them, and they were standing there starstruck as though they were deer stuck in the headlights, smiling, unable to move. One of the most hilarious scenes I could imagine, the four of us there, acting like total idiots!

When we returned to our seats, there were our two other friends who had not gone out with us to the restrooms. They were so disappointed they had not seen Beth, while the four of us were beside ourselves with happiness!

At some point during the conference, we got to move down to the front seats due to some connections that one of my friends had with the folks at Harvest. We were sitting right around the speakers. During a break, we visited with Joe Stowell and his sweet wife, as they are longtime friends.

One of my two friends who had not had the chance to meet Beth Moore, but who really wanted to meet her, probably more than any of us, is in this picture talking to Joe Stowell, while Beth Moore is literally at her back.

This went on for many minutes while the five of us sat there in our seats in hysterics, waiting for them to back into each other, to turn around and meet each other, to make some sort of connection. I grabbed my camera so we could document for her later how close she had been to meeting Beth Moore! In fact, I blew up the picture and framed it for her for her birthday that May.

Maybe you have to love Beth as much as we do for this to seem even humorous, but it was really funny. The Downpour conference was great, too, and we were blessed to be there.

Random Thoughts

We are having 25-30 students over tonight for dessert, and I am putting off the inevitable final preparations… why do I wait to the last minute?! We are excited to have them coming out. These are students who traveled to Europe and studied there this summer with my husband and some other professors. I have been directed to only have European desserts. So glad Jewel makes those kinds!

I went to a Beth Moore Living Proof Live event yesterday with 6 friends. She spoke on Proverbs 31:26 — “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” The messages were all centered on kindness. I so enjoy Beth’s love for God and His Word. Her passion for Him is contagious and leaves others wanting the same.

My son is learning I Corinthians 13 in school. This was the first passage of Scripture that my husband and I ever memorized together. We were about 16 years old! I don’t even think we were dating at the time! Must have liked each other though to be memorizing Scripture together.

Hearing my son recite this passage has had me thinking about what it means, particularly the last verse: “And now abide faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.” I had never given any thought to the fact that is seems to say love is greater than faith. It makes sense to me that it’s greater than hope, but faith? But the passage also says if we have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, we are nothing.

It struck me that I so often pray for greater faith, but I don’t often pray for greater love! I’ve spent the last week praying and thinking on these things — the love of God toward us that gives us our love toward others. Then our pastor spoke out of I Corinthians 13 this morning and touched a little bit on this, too. As he pointed out, love seems to be directly against our natural inclinations!

So these thoughts all tie nicely together — love and kindness. I have so many areas in my life that need sanctifying regarding these things. I want to love those around me and be kind to them, not just superficially nice (a completely different thing, as Beth explained). It’s a disposition, not an action; a strength, not a weakness, she pointed out.

I’m so thankful for God’s Word that is true and leads us in the path of life. It is a rich treasure, and I am so thankful for a personal God who loves us and instructs us in these things. I pray I can know His Word and obey Him by the power of His Spirit. I am so needy for Him moment by moment.

Faithfulness and Friends

I love seeing God’s faithfulness in the smaller details of our lives. When I flew down to Memphis for the funeral this summer, I realized I had nothing appropriate to wear to a funeral. I had a picture in my mind of what I would want — just a plain, basic black dress, sleeveless, knee length, fitted. As I considered where I might find it, Talbots was the only store I could think of that might have it. I dreaded spending the money for a dress.

I mentioned to a couple of family members that I would have to go out and get a dress. The next day, the day of the burial, my cousin walked up and said to me, “We’re bringing your dress over after this.” “What did she mean?” I wondered. “We have a dress we think will work,” she explained.

They walked in the house later and handed me a plain black dress, sleeveless, knee length, fitted, with a Talbot’s tag and my exact size on the label, exactly as I had pictured! What a blessing from the Lord! The very dress I imagined, I now had without spending a dime!

The morning of the funeral, my sister and I ran out to grab a couple of things we needed, one being shoes to wear with the dress. We ran in Dillard’s, and they had the perfect pair of black heels for $90! No, couldn’t do it, but I also didn’t want to drive around the city or shop.

My sister wanted to run in Target and suggested I glance at their shoes. We found shoes there identical to the ones at Dillard’s — leather black heels — exactly the same, except these were $25! I was so excited for this provision. I scanned all the boxes only to find they did not have my size. We asked for help; she looked in the back, found nothing, and printed a list of other stores. I was so disappointed. I knew I did not want to be out shopping and circling the city for every Target to find these shoes.

I left the aisle and went to another one and started to pray. I felt like the Lord had led us to these shoes and was making a provision for me. He knew our needs and that we did not want to be out shopping. I knew He was able to supply me with those shoes and meet that need. I asked Him to do so and wanted the faith to believe He would. I knew those shoes weren’t there, but I knew He could make it so they were.

I finished praying and went back to the shoe aisle to find my shoes. I began lifting shoes out of each and every box, no matter what size it said, and comparing sizes with the sizes listed on the box. And there I found my shoes in a 6 1/2 box! I was so thankful to the Lord for giving me exactly what I needed.

It also made me wonder about something: what do I not have because I have not asked? It’s not that God is just sitting there waiting to give me whatever I ask for; I understand that. But I so easily could have exited the Target store without asking or believing Him to do a thing. I could have traveled to more Targets until I found something, and maybe never known that He could have done this for me. What do I not have because I have not asked? I want to pray for faith to believe Him more.

One other sweet provision during this time were my friends. I have 3 friends whom I have known almost since birth; we all went to school together, graduated together. They all 3 live out of the state or country, 2 very far away. In God’s perfect timing, 2 were in town (or close enough to drive) at the time of the funeral, and my 3rd friend changed her day and drove over from Arkansas.

I really thought it wasn’t a big deal if they couldn’t make it — would never have even thought about it — but it was so dear to my heart that they all came! When I was standing in the receiving line at the church and looked up and saw the 3 of them together, I just burst into tears. How could we all have been apart for so long and all be standing together at one time? And how special it was to me that they would come to be with us on this occasion, that this mattered to them.

One of them commented to me later, “We think this is what heaven’s going to be like when we are reunited with so many.” I think she’s right. So thankful for lifelong friends. I don’t know how common it is to have these kinds of friendships, but I cherish them all greatly. I praise the Lord for His perfect provisions in my life, from the most significant one of rescuing me from my sins and giving me salvation through Christ, to all the little details of life. Thank you, Lord.

Mother-Daughter Tea

Today, my daughter and I attended a Mother-Daughter Tea at our church. It was a sweet time, and she loved it. She seemed so grown up today, in a new dress from her grandmother, sporting a new haircut. I love time spent with each of my children individually.

God keeps driving home to me the point I made in my last post — that He is strong, and I am weak, that I live this life by the power of His Spirit providing me the strength I need, not through my own self effort.

I had the opportunity to go out of town last weekend and visit friends we knew when we lived in Virginia. We had a nice day and a half of visiting before I got sick with a stomach bug! It is not fun to be sick away from home, and I was praying I wouldn’t infect this sweet family. (My friend is pregnant and has a young child, and her husband has a busy job… the last thing I wanted to leave them would be this “gift”!)

I have to say though that the Lord used this time to give me a great deal of sleep and rest and time to read and study for longer periods than I normally have. He continued to speak to me about the topic of my last post and some things He is helping me understand right to my core.

I had the time to read a great book by Andrew Murray entitled Absolute Surrender that my friend had. It was exactly on this topic of living in surrender to God, allowing His Spirit to fill and lead me, and how He is strong when we are weak. I was absolutely weak, recognizing that in this sickness I was experiencing my weakness in a very physical way, but that this is just a picture of how I really always am, whether I feel it or not! I so need God and His power and strength, and I need to trust Him!

Murray described more about this surrender to God:

  • God expects my surrender,
  • God accomplishes my surrender,
  • God accepts my surrender,
  • God maintains my surrender
  • God blesses when I surrender.

Murray says, “I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you.” (Philippians 2:13) “Look away from ourselves and look up to God.”

Here are some quotes from Andrew Murray’s book that I loved:

“The Spirit of God has come to make our daily life an exhibition of divine power and a revelation of what God can do for His children.”

“May God grant that the Word may enter into the very depths of our being to search us, and if we discover that we have not come out from the world entirely, if God discovers to us that the self-life, self-will, and self exaltation are there, let us humble ourselves before Him.”

“Why is there not more blessing? We have not honored the Holy Ghost as we should have done. Is there one who can say that that is not true? Is not every thoughtful heart ready to cry: ‘God forgive me that I have not honored the Holy Spirit as I should have done, that I have grieved Him, that I have allowed self and the flesh and my own will to work where the Holy Ghost should have been honored! May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Ghost to have.'”

“Religious self effort always ends in sinful flesh.”

Murray states that we must:

  • Humble yourself in His sight.
  • Acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self will, self confidence and self effort.
  • Bow humbly before Him in confession of that.
  • Ask Him to bring you into the dust before Him.
  • Then as you bow, accept God’s teaching that in your flesh there dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7:18) and that nothing will help you except another Life come in.
  • Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.”

So the sickness, though at first glance could have been a temptation to feel disappointment, instead was meant for good, to give me rest, to give me time to think and pray, for God to continue to teach me what He’s been showing me, to give me more opportunity to trust Him. He is so faithful, and I am thankful.