Saturday, October 19, 2013

What Are You Missing?

     What are you missing? This question has been plaguing me since last night. It's not so much a question I am asking myself as it is a question God seems to be asking me. I believe the events of yesterday are what set the question in motion.

     Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the end of my daughter's bed as she was getting ready for a youth event.  It had been a challenging week for her and I but God had brought us through it. I was thankful for the insights He gave me. I was thankful to see His hand in her life and how He is shaping her heart.  As I sat on the bed, she was asking a lot of questions about the event she was going to. I had some answers but not all of them and she was getting a little bit frustrated with me because she likes to know every detail ahead of time. She is a planner....like me. Her persistence was getting on my nerves but I didn't want to be short with her so I started talking to God about it. It went like this, "You know you have quite a sense of humor God, making her and I so much alike. I get so frustrated sometimes."  Then as I sat there quietly I heard Him say, "This is the child you prayed for. Do you remember how you pleaded with me during your pregnancy for her life? After the ultrasound showed both kidneys filled with cysts? Remember where you have been together and the work I am doing in her heart? What about last summer when you pleaded with me again for her as she lay in the hospital getting blood transfusions?"  I can be so focused sometimes on the progress yet to be made or the things that bug me now that I miss the beautiful person God is making her to be. I miss where we've been. Worst of all, I miss the gift of my girl right in front of me.

     Later we arrived at the church and I waited for the new youth director so that I could give him the permission slips. After giving him the permission slips I thanked him, shook his hand and said "It was nice to meet you." to which he replied, "Oh you've met me before."  I gave a quick apology and explained that I am terrible at remembering names. Honestly, that conversation bugged me the rest of the night! I kept replaying the few times last year that I brought my child to youth group and tried to remember any faces I saw. I tend to be a "drop and go" parent. It's not because I am anxious to get rid of my kids. I'm just not the social butterfly my husband is so I leave right away. Later that evening, I asked my husband if I had ever met the new youth director before and he confirmed that I in fact am not losing my mind! I truly had never met him before. I felt much better until God kept asking me what I was missing. I can miss people's faces. I may see them with my eyes but do I see them with my heart? Are they just another face in the crowd?  Evidently this new youth director had been a helper off and on for the past few years. True I was never introduced to him before, but he was probably there a few times when I went to pick my daughter up and I missed him because he was just another face in the crowd. Here's the thing...God never misses a face in the crowd. He sees each individual not only with His eyes but His heart. When I see only faces I am missing something. When I see only faces in a crowd, I miss seeing Christ in all faces!

     After leaving my daughter with the new youth director, I went inside the church to help out with the food pantry. My favorite part of helping with food pantry is praying with the people as they come in the door. There are usually two or three people who pray with those coming through the doors to receive food. Last night I was the only one. It is always a stretch for me to say, " Can I pray for you?" to people I have never met before. The more I do it the easier it becomes but it still takes me out of my comfort zone. Last night I got an unexpected answer to my question of "Can I pray for you?".  I asked the question and a tall, gray haired man, with big blue eyes and filthy clothes responded, "No, but I tell you what I could use. I could use a hug. I could use a hug because three months ago on this day my friend died. Then today I was reading the paper and found out that another of my friends died. I found out today."  He had no tears. He spoke calmly. I wasn't sure if he was telling the truth about his friends dying or he just wanted a hug, so I gave him a half hug. He thanked me and went on his way. As he walked away God spoke to the questions in my heart about the man's honesty and here is what He said, " What if he was telling the truth? Everyone mourns differently. No tears doesn't mean he isn't mourning. What if he was telling the truth...you know what it's like to lose someone...you only gave him a half hug."  I did the only thing I could.  I ran out to the parking lot to catch the man before he left and I asked him if I could give him another hug. What did I miss?  I missed freely giving a good hug away the first time because I questioned his honesty. I missed loving Him like Christ loves me...freely and unconditionally.

     When I fail to see Christ in all faces and in all circumstances, I miss the big picture.  When all I see are the frustrations or difficulties of the moment with my children, I miss the the work Christ is doing in them. I also miss how He is ever working on me through my children. I miss the gift that they are when I focus only on the work it requires to raise them. When I walk among groups of people whether it's dropping off my kids at a youth event or leaving a church service, if I don't look beyond just passing them in the hallway I miss seeing the people behind the faces in the crowd. I miss fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I am too busy trying to assess someone's motive behind their request, I miss the opportunity to freely love them the way Christ has loved me. I know I am not the only one. We live in a fast paced world. Our lives are filled... often to overflowing. I have to ask, what are you missing? When you look at your children do you see the gift that they are? When you are around people, do you see that they are created by a God who loves them and wants you to love them too?  Are they just faces that you pass by as you go about your day? Will you join me as I seek God's help not to miss anything else? John 10:10 says that He came that we might have life... not just any old life... life abundantly. An abundant life doesn't miss anything!







Saturday, October 12, 2013

Illumined...

    "For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness." Psalm18:28.  These words have grabbed a hold of me for some time now. I find myself regularly reflecting on the many ways God illumines my darkness. There are many ways that we can experience darkness in this life. We can experience darkness through sin, need of direction, uncertainty about the future, loneliness, the death of a loved one, and depression. 

    What is your darkness? Have you ever walked a dark path with only the beam of a small flashlight to illuminate one step at a time? Have you been at a place in life where you cannot see any more than where to place one foot in front of you to take that one next step? This is the darkness my husband and I find ourselves in.

    Our lives have been like this since my husband's job loss in 2012. I'm a planner and not being able to look ahead drives me nuts! I need to see an end in sight and to know exactly how to get there by planning each step carefully. Yet God has us in this spot of not being able to see an end. We know it's there but we don't know what it is or what exact steps we will need to take to get there. Right now we walk the dark path illumined by the tiny beam of a flashlight, only able to see one step at a time. I have grown tired of this in recent months. I have been eager to close this chapter of our lives move on and start new.  These last two weeks God has grabbed a hold of my heart with that verse from Psalm 18 as well as two others, " Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness."  Micah 7: 8b & 9b. It's not that I have felt alone in this darkness of waiting and not seeing more than one step at a time. It's that I grow impatient. I want to learn what I need to learn and move on to what I hope will be easier more stable times. What I have failed to see is that the process of walking with only God to light my way through this, is precious no matter how long it takes. What I have failed to see is that there won't be a more easy or more stable time up ahead. This IS the easy and stable time BECAUSE I can't see what lies ahead and I HAVE to rely on God completely to light my way. 

    For my husband and I, walking this dark path has meant only taking the next step that God lights for us and not trying in our own strength. It's meant finishing things that were started instead of leaving them undone and getting side tracked with other things we think are more important.  It's meant praying for more work so we can pay our bills, completely dependent on God to supply for us. Oddly enough that is what I have found most comforting in the darkness. Can you believe it? The most comforting part of the darkness has been depending on God to supply our needs. It's been knowing that we don't have a steady pay check but we have Him. He is our stability and as long as we look to Him to light our way, we won't stumble in the darkness. 

   These past few weeks as I have pondered all these things and spoken to God about them, I have found comfort. I don't know when this chapter of our life will come to an end but I actually find myself sad at the thought of it. I no longer want to rush through the process because I am enjoying His presence so much.  I have experienced a closeness and dependency in this period of darkness that I don't want to lose or ever forget. I am thankful that God is our light. I am thankful that no matter what type of darkness we find ourselves in, He illumines it rather than leaving us to stumble along life's paths alone and clueless.

  How about you? What is your darkness? Is it illness, depression, loneliness, a need for direction?  It doesn't matter what it is He will be your light if you let Him.  You don't have to go it alone. You too can enjoy the light of His precious presence in the midst of the darkness!