Highlights from the Week

Just need a place to capture some encouragements from this week.

I was invited to share my testimony at Koinonia House National Ministries‘ Radical Time Out (RTO). RTO is a weekly dinner and Bible study. It was humbling and such a gift to share. My mom, husband, and friends gathered at the end to pray. This was a special time I pray God uses for His glory. So much is represented in this picture to me, more than I can describe. My heart is full. Thank you, Lord, for being my strength in weakness.

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Then this song has ministered to me this week. I don’t want to forget.

Then lastly, these verses offer me hope, encouragement to trust in the Lord for the coming days even as I wait on Him. He gives strength to the weary, new strength to those who wait, trust, and hope in Him.

Isaiah 40:28-31:

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Where Does My Hope Come From?

For the last 14 years, my husband has been leading college student groups around parts of Europe each summer. While they get class credit, he shows them the wonders of the Swiss Alps or the history of the church at places like the Colosseum in Rome. He is a tour guide extraordinaire, and he loves to travel. He’s good at it. He’s flexible, organized, and energetic. He loves teaching and spending time with the students.

I, on the other hand, am a homebody, a creature of routine. I like to travel once I’m there, seeing amazing new places and learning more about the world, but I tend to dread it for the months leading up to it. It takes me outside of my comfort zone.

This summer, while my son was on a separate trip to Italy with a group of students, my husband finally had the chance to take my daughter and me to Italy to see a country that he loves. It was beautiful, and we now love it, too. I didn’t realize there were Italian Alps or an Italian Riviera. I love art, but had never given much thought to what you could see in Florence. The leaning tower of Pisa really does lean, and it’s absolutely beautiful! The waterways of Venice were a favorite. The food was delicious.

Through this wonderful trip, though, I had my eyes focused on July 11. That was the day we would travel home, the day we would meet up with our son’s group in the UK and all fly home together. That was the day the trip would be completed and I would know all had gone well and be able to enter back into my much-loved routine with my much-loved family.

But things don’t always go according to plan. Our flight was delayed. We missed the connection. My son would travel on with his group, catch a ride home with someone to our empty house, spend his first night home alone with us overseas (he is old enough and capable—no concern there), and we would enjoy London and return the next day. That all sounds pretty sweet, really. But when your eyes have been fixed on one moment for six months, when you’ve had this one big expectation, when you’re tired now from several days of travel, there’s a big letdown.

Riding the London Underground into the city, I could finally grab my Bible during which time I was able to refocus on what was true. God is in control, not me. And when I exited the Tube and looked up, my eyes met Big Ben, and I realized this could actually be viewed as a special addition to an already wonderful trip. (We even saw the excitement and activity surrounding their choice of a new prime minister that day.)

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When I returned home, I read one of the last things I had written in my journal before leaving, as I had prayed about the trip: “God doesn’t want me to control my circumstances and environment. He by His Spirit wants to control me in them, to help me be self-disciplined and have self-control over emotions, yes, but also to be Spirit-controlled and Spirit-filled—not just to be managed, but to go forward in His will, way, and calling.”

This story is a small example that serves as a reminder: when I fix my eyes and set my hope on anything other than God, I am sure to be disappointed. But when I fix my eyes on God and His perfect plan, I will adjust more easily to the challenges that enter my day.

Since returning home, I’ve had other opportunities to notice how easy it is for me to be led by my emotions, to react and respond with what I feel instead of what I know, to do things quickly then without prayer, using my common sense, instead of looking to God for what He would desire—and it’s never good that way!

When our ultimate hope is God (not British Airways) and we’re looking forward to a destination like heaven (not our earthly home), there will be less room for disappointment, and great cause to rejoice and be glad in all circumstances. When we put our hope and trust in Him, we will see just how much God loves us and is working for our good, transforming us and making us more like Himself.

Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Brevity of Life

Last May, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I was running across passages on the brevity of life:

Psalm 103:15-16 “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”

I Peter 1:24 “For, ‘all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off.'”

Psalm 144:4 “Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”

There were others, but you get the idea. As these passages kept coming before me during my time in the Word, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Lord was preparing me for something, and I didn’t like the thought of what that might be, so I kept pushing the thoughts from my mind.

This summer, when I started some Scripture memory, I was randomly selecting passages and some of the first ones I memorized, without remembering their content, were James 1, I Peter 1, and Psalm 103. As I memorized these passages, all containing verses on the brevity of life, I came to see that the last year has been filled with lessons in this truth:

  • My father-in-law retired last May.
  • My step-father died last July.
  • Our very close friend was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of brain cancer in the prime of his life.
  • I left a job I had loved and was called to in 2005, one that had brought me great joy and close friendships.

Retirement, death, sickness, job change, loss.

This phrase from Psalm 103: “Its place remembers it no more.” I drop my kids at school and watch the others who are now doing my former work. I’m glad for such great new additions to the school. It is, though, as I knew it would be — once you are gone, new folks take your place, and “its place remembers it no more.” That’s just life. I’m not even bemoaning these facts or sad about them, but merely acknowledging them.

What it has done for me is have me ask the question: What counts? What matters? What is my purpose? Is there any purpose in what I am doing? I pour myself into something for 5 1/2 years, and in an instant, it’s over. Whom did I do it for? Did I do it well? Was it worth the sacrifices? Did it bring God glory?

Now theoretically and intellectually maybe I know the answers. But I really want them rooted in my heart. If I’m not doing everything for the glory of God, does any of it matter? Probably not. But there is a resounding “yes” that there IS purpose in this life and that we find it in Christ, but what does it look like? What is it like to live in that truth daily?

Last week, as I began putting all of these thoughts finally together in my mind, the Lord took me to Psalm 90. It is on the transitoriness of man and the eternality of God. It began to give me some answers:

“So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
* * *
O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
* *
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”

I also see that in Psalm 103 and I Peter I, after talking about the grass withering and the flower fading, they immediately tell though what lasts — the Word of the Lord (I Peter) and His mercy that is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him (Psalm 103).

I feel a bit like the Lord has had to undo some things in and around me to open me up to see things more clearly, to be filled more with His purpose. I feel like He’s beginning to teach me anew now that I am ready.

In the midst of my thoughts these last couple of weeks, our pastor began a 7-week series on revitalizing your life. It began with “Purpose” and then “Challenge” the first two weeks. Jesus asks us to “follow Him.” Will I follow Him wherever He leads? Do I find Him worthy of giving him ALL that I am?

I am so grateful for what God has done for me, how He has led me this last year as my Shepherd, for how He has positioned me in something new and unexpected, and no doubt right and good. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am processing it all now, but so excited to see what He will show me, as well as where He will lead and what He will do as I seek to follow Him and live life with His purpose.

I hope this post won’t be seen as depressing, because for me, it is actually full of hope. It’s not the mid-life crisis that it appears to be! It’s wrestling with biblical truth, but it’s a good thing. I am thankful.

My Hope Is in the Lord

Today I feel full of praise and joy at the fact that my hope is in the Lord.

A group of ladies from work have been going through Beth Moore’s Psalms of Ascent study. The title of this week’s study was “My Hope Is in the Lord.” Psalm 130 and 131 encourage us to put our hope in the Lord and in His word. What perfect timing to reflect on that this last week.

One morning this week, after studying these psalms and focusing on the Lord being my hope, I went to the kitchen to fix lunches. I turned on the radio, and Chris Tomlin’s song, Jesus Messiah, was playing. I realized that though I had spent quiet time with the Lord, I hadn’t knelt down that morning to Him, so with that beautiful song playing, it seemed a good time to kneel before Him. As I did and started singing with the song, I realized the words I was saying, “All our HOPE is in You, LORD, All our HOPE is in You, LORD, all the glory to You, LORD…”

Then this morning, when I awoke and went to the kitchen, I flipped on the radio, and they were giving the election update. They then immediately played “Jesus Messiah”: “All our HOPE is in You, LORD, All our HOPE is in You, LORD.” Perfect timing, perfect reminder.

One other neat thing… for the last few days, a hymn has been flowing through my head. I thought the words might begin with “My Hope is in the Lord,” but it wasn’t familiar enough to know. I just now thought to look it up because it’s flowing through my head again, and yes, I found it, and here is what it tells me:

“My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.

Refrain: For me He died,
For me He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives.

No merit of my own
His anger to suppress.
My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.

And now for me He stands
Before the Father’s throne.
He shows His wounded hands
and names me as His own.

His grace has planned it all,
‘Tis mine but to believe,
And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.”

All our HOPE is in You, LORD. You are Jesus Messiah. You hold our lives and our futures. You have a purpose and plan. I trust You. And I love You. Praise You, Lord!