Listening For His Voice

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God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.

How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.

Psalm 36:5-9 MSG

Listening For His Voice

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“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Matthew 6:27-33 MSG

listening for His voice

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Psalm 131

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

listening for His voice

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“May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of light.”
Colossians 1:11-12

When Your Faith Survives

The house is quiet.  Oh, glorious quiet.  The first hints of light are streaking across the sky, the earliest birds beginning their song.  Bleary-eyed, I try to gather my wits, my scattered thoughts.  I try to focus my mind on the words I’m reading instead of letting them run in and out of my brain like a stream of water while I keep fretting over the days’ concerns.

I hear the faint creak of their door open, the hushed padding of feet over the floor.  She always runs when she turns the corner and sees me in that chair, sucking her fingers, hair wild in every direction.  Warm legs as soft as silk, long and scrawny, slide under the blanket next to mine.  We sit there like that for a long time, me reading quietly (or aloud if she asks) and sipping coffee slow, her sucking fingers and cozied up, skin warming skin.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day, I think it is hers, too.

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When I held her for the first time 4 1/2 years ago, my heart burst wide open in love.  I know I’ve probably always struggled with fear, but a whole new world of fear opened up to me when I held that impossibly tiny, wrinkly warm little bundle.  This kind of love–it’s painful.  To love this much is be wide open to a world of unknown hurts.

We had perplexing growth/feeding issues with her from the start.  She always seemed okay, never titled “failure to thrive,” but never really thriving either.  Since she was my first, I figured a lot of it was normal.  Still, the niggling fear that something could be wrong, that something wasn’t quite right kept nagging me.  We pursued every medical option that could have been a possibility, never finding anything.  I would push the feeling down.

In the dark of night, fears would loom heavy.  Please don’t allow any harm to come to her, Lord.  Please keep her healthy, help her to grow.  Please help her to eat, to have an appetite.  (It’s funny how in parenting, you have no idea the battles you will face.  Never did I expect to pray so much over a child to eat and have an appetite and to grow.)  The desperate and anxious prayers of a mother over her child would roll over and over in my mind as I would try to quell them and get back to sleep.

The feeling that something wasn’t right has never really gone away.  My second and third born children have not had any similarities to her eating/vomiting/growth issues.  Finally, at her 4 year check-up, we pursued some testing again.

It’s been a little over two weeks since we received her diagnosis:  Celiacs disease.  Finally it all makes sense.  Relief flooded in at the same time as a whole new level of fear.  I hung up the phone after receiving the phone call and my fingers flipped through pages desperate:

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Sure, in our day, we hear a lot about Celiacs, and the gluten-free diet is a current fad diet.  But to hear that my “perfect” little girl has an autoimmune disease–it shook me.  That trippy weird slow-realization that falls over you that nothing will ever quite be the same again.  A new normal will be found, but life as you knew it is over.  Part of me wanted to tell myself I was being a big baby.  This is awesome news, this is SO MUCH better than it could have been, there is so much to be thankful for.  And all of that is true!  Still, we are not ever helped when we push down our true feelings and scold ourselves for feeling that way.  No, we are to run to the mercy seat with those feelings.  We run to our God, who is a refuge for us and who urges us to come and pour out our hearts to Him, cast all our cares on Him, find mercy + grace in our time of need.  We let ourselves feel what we are really feeling about this news/trial/difficulty and we tell Him.  We pour it out in the safety of His company, the privacy of His all-knowing, already-knowing presence.  We let Him get to our hearts, tend to them.  If we don’t do this from the beginning, I think we risk hardening our hearts, cutting them off, and that is ripe ground for the seeds of apathy + bitterness to grow.

So when I was honest with myself, I felt betrayed.  We had prayed and prayed that God would work in her body, heal her body.  We had pursued multiple tests over the years.  We had fought the issue when friends + family were all saying to let it go, that she was fine, just quirky.

What do you do when God allows the thing you have plead with Him never to do?  

What do you do with that?

A few days after the diagnosis, we were driving in the quiet rain on our way to church.  A flood of words came to me, and I scribbled them as fast as I could into my journal:

Sometimes the greatest gift God can give us is the gift of betraying us.  The gift of the bad news.  The unsettling, scary diagnosis.  Because when our faith survives what we thought our souls could never survive–that is a gift worth more than gold.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

We are afraid of deep waters, resistant, and of course we would be.  But our God is a perfect parent–our parent who is more about perfecting us than pampering us.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.  (Isaiah 43:2)

He will at various times in our lives lead us through deep waters.  How else can He teach us, how else can He allow us to experience His everlasting arms underneath that keep us afloat?

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.  (Deuteronomy 33:27)

We resist the fiery trial–but it is only in the fire that our faith is really tested, proved, purified.  It’s only when we come through the fire that we can know: this ground we stand on is solid.  Real.  Firm.  Unshakeable.  The mountains may move and tremble; He remains the same.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

We cannot hope to be unaffected by the brokenness of this world.  We cannot expect not to suffer as His children the same afflictions and hardships common to man.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:45)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

But He will carry us.  He will not change.  He is good, unfailing.

Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us.  Look at Christ:  what hand did His Father deal Him?  He was perfect, sinless.  Yet He had nowhere to lay His head.  He obeyed perfectly, was perfectly upright; yet He was despised, rejected by men.  The very ones He created, the ones He came to rescue hated + betrayed Him, cried out for His blood.  He plead with His Father to deny Him the cross, to take away that cup, but the Father did not.  And Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us.  Let’s measure His (immeasurable) love for us in the way He gives Himself to us unfailingly, continually–the way He remains with us.  The way He carries us.  The way He gives more grace.  The way He gives us JESUS–and all the rich inheritance of promises found in Him.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

No matter what comes–our lives are hidden in Christ.  Our future is secure.  And it strikes me: this is the bi-focus of the Christian faith.  What are bifocals?  A pair of glasses containing lenses with two parts with different focal lengths.  Our focus in the Christian life must always be bi-focal: at once seeing the present and also looking beyond the present, through it really, to the future.  Let us look to our eternal future, our future grace and find strength in this moment of need.

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.”  (Hebrews 12:2)

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more.

Hello, 2015!

Welcome to a new year, folks!  How have you been spending New Years Day?  After almost rushing to the ER this morning with a rambunctious boy that seemed to have a possible broken arm, it’s been an otherwise usual Thursday.  No time off around here.  I’ve been begrudgingly taking down Christmas from around the house, while listening to more Christmas music.  That’s ok, right??

Meanwhile my little ones have been doing this sort of stuff:

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It was a late and exhausting night for my husband and I both last night and there was No. WAY. we were staying up till midnight voluntarily.  I mean, when you have a newborn… WHO DOES THAT?!  Who volunteers for less sleep?  Not us.

We tucked the kids in bed at usual bedtime, made chocolate chip cookies, snuggled by the fire and watched “Life Below Zero,” our latest hulu addiction.  I awoke startled to a ruckus at 12:03 am, realized it was fireworks, rolled over and said “Happy New Year, babe” to Brandon, and back to sleep I went.  So that was that.

I fully intend to spend a chunk of time, when I have one (a girl can dream, right?) journaling about this past year and looking forward to what I sense God is up to in 2015.  Some goal setting will happen then.  I have already had quite a few goals rumbling around in my heart but I need to sift through and see what is reasonable to pursue this year, and what is just going to make me feel like a big fat failure.

For the past number of years I have asked God to give me a word for the year, a focus for He and I.  Last year (2014.. last year?  that feels weird to say already) was the “feast of grace” year.  I feel like for the past year or two God has been taking me back to the very basics of our faith.. the Gospel.  Grace.  And as I’ve been trying to listen to the Lord in the busy work of this season, bustling around, asking Him for a word for this year, all I can think is: JESUS.  I just want Jesus.  I want to know Him better.  I want to adore Him more.  I want to see His glory every day.  I want Him in the worst way.  Desperate for Him.

Motherhood has a way of paring you down, paring life down to the essentials.  The basics.  The absolute necessities.

Motherhood has a way of making you desperate for Jesus.  Maybe I’m the only one.

I don’t know if that’s my “word” yet, I’m still sitting on it and laying it before the Lord.  But I can tell you that I will be placing myself deeply in the Word with renewed efforts this year.  The first number of weeks with a newborn interrupt our routines in the best of ways, but my soul has been starving for deep and prolonged time in God’s Word.  I’ve been carving time out for that this past week and already the soul-numbness and apathy that creeps in when I neglect time in God’s Word is being replaced with sweet hunger.

A friend wrote me today asking about some ideas/ways to stay in God’s Word right now, and it made me think.  I want to share these simple ideas + tools with any one else out there like me who is hungry for more of Jesus in 2015.

1.  Timothy Willard recently published a book called Longing for More (which I am actually reviewing on the blog sometime this week hopefully).

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This would be a wonderful tool, with daily readings for the entire year, organized around the seasons and rhythms of daily life.  More on this book to come in the next few days, but for now, I recommend it to you as a devotional-type read with scriptures, prayers and meditations.

2.  I’ve recently begun following along with the lovely “She Reads Truth” community during the Advent season.  They are starting a study of the Gospel of John as of today and you can follow along for free on their blog here or through their app!

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If you’re looking for an online community of women who want to be in the Word and are looking for kinship and accountability in it, this is a great resource!  I plan to follow along as I can.  If you want to dig deeper into John, they also offer an optional/additional study pack here.

3.  The best years are the years when I’m committed to a year of Scripture memory.  Anyone else?  It’s hard to commit at the outset of the year, but those are the years when I have drawn the closest to the Lord and seen the greatest fruit.  I’m nervous, as usual, to commit this year with all that I’m juggling, but if I don’t have time to meditate on God’s Word, some other things are going to have to be eliminated.

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I have journeyed with Beth Moore’s blog community (called “Siesta Scripture Memory Team”) every year since she began it (she usually offers it every other year).  It is a very doable amount of memorization, two verses a month, on the 1st and 15th of the month.  Beth posts the verse she is memorizing on the 1st and 15th of each month, and you go and post your own or borrow hers if you need inspiration.  She shares a whole lot more about it on her blog, and the very first post is up today!

Of course, there are a lot of lovely bible studies available out there as well!

What are you doing to keep in the Word this 2015?  I’d love to hear what you’re studying or what resources you may have to share!  Let’s encourage one another in this great and beautiful pursuit of Jesus.

the reason of God

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though our sins be as scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.
isa. 1:18

in His sight, covered in the precious blood of Jesus, you are clean.  you are spotless.  stand in that rest alone this weekend!