Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014

     It won't be long now and we will have completed the year 2014, and will begin the year 2015.  Every year has its expectations, whether we label them as such or not. Some of us look ahead at the new year and expect it to be better than the year just completed. Others doubt there is such a thing as a good year. There are some who purposefully choose not to give much thought to what the year ahead may be like because they've done that before and it hasn't turned out well. They figure it's better to just keep plodding along one foot in front of the other, because the year will be what it will be and there's nothing they can do about it! Which one are you?

     I came into 2014 with expectations. I had asked God in January to give me a verse for the year something I could anchor myself to, something to give me an idea of what the new year would hold. I wanted His thoughts on the year 2014 in the life of my family. The verse He gave me was, "Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it." Psalm 37:5.   I was thrilled! I was guaranteed that God was going to do something! He said that He was going to "do it".  I  just had no idea what exactly "it" was!

     I hoped that the "it" God was going to do, was to provide my husband with a full time job with benefits. I knew that he would be finishing up his Master's degree in 2014, and counted on that opening up new job opportunities. As the year wore on, it became more and more clear that this may not be the "it" God was going to do. My husband  applied for jobs, but didn't even get so much as an interview. We were actively committing our way to the Lord, as the verse instructed us to. We were trusting in Him. We were seeking Him and applying for every job that He brought to our attention. Nothing.

     Here's the thing...when you think you know what God's going to do and it doesn't happen, it makes it look like He is on vacation. He wasn't. God was and continues to be so good to us. Every need has been met and continues to be met this year. In fact, He has met our needs with abundance! The furnace broke, the car needed repairs, the bunny died, and there were unexpected bills, but God took care of them. However, these past few years have felt like we are living in limbo. Stuck where we are, wondering where we are supposed to be, and waiting for God to lead us. Even when God is taking good care of you, limbo can be discouraging. In those moments, I wish I could say that I prayed instead of worrying. I wish I could say that I gave thanks instead of grumbling. I wish I could say that I trusted God's timing to be perfect. There were certainly moments when I really did all of those things, but there were plenty of moments when I didn't. In those moments that I didn't, God was SO generous with me. He was generous with His love. When I was frustrated and tired He reached for me in such creative ways.

     God sent me reading materials. These reading materials came in the form of blogs, quotes, book chapters, and notes written on a receipt.  One quote read, "Until God opens the next door, praise Him in the hallway." It's hard to praise Him in the hallway because hallways usually don't have windows. It's easier to praise Him when we can get a peek at what He's up to.

      There were a few times when someone I had never met from one of the ministries we support, hand wrote these words on a receipt: "The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24.  The words God sent me were always enough to encourage me, to hold me for a while...until the next time. The next time the wait felt long, the next time I got tired of having to figure out how to juggle things, and longed for simpler times. That's when I had the nerve one day to call Him slow. It was a sarcastic remark. My husband had been trying to encourage me that God's timing is perfect and I said, "I know a thousand years is like a day for God, but for me a thousand years is a thousand years!"

     Later that day, I was looking for something to watch on the television when I happened upon a sermon. The sermon was about waiting. I figured it was my spiritual spanking so to speak and since I knew I deserved it, I stopped to listen. I couldn't have been more wrong about why I needed to hear it. The pastor said that God saves His best for those who are willing to wait for Him and trust His wisdom. He also said that if God is with holding an answer to your prayer it's an act of pure sovereign love. Needless to say, I felt terrible that I had the nerve to call God slow and spent some time thanking Him for once again, loving me enough to correct me and to encourage me all at once.

     The verse I received for 2014, was right on. God did "do it". "It" just wasn't what I had hoped for or expected. "It" was so much bigger than that! I was the "it".  What God needed to do had nothing to do with my external circumstances, it had to do with the inside of me. I needed to see His love in the waiting. I needed to see His timing as perfect because His love is perfect. I needed to be reminded regularly this year to rest in Him, abide in Him, and not to try to make my own way. The verse He gave me at the start of this year was the anchor I needed to keep me steady. After seeing His love and mercy for me in the ways He held me when I was frustrated and tired, I can honestly say that when the day comes that our external circumstances change, I really want it to be because God did it. When God is at work in us changing us, it's not easy. It's uncomfortable, frustrating, and sometimes infuriating. Yet who else would you want to entrust that to? Who else would change you with such love, such tenderness, and such mercy?

     I don't look at the year ahead and have expectations. I look at the year ahead with contentment. I am content because I know all I need to know about the year ahead. I know God's there. I know He won't give up on me. I know He loves me. I know that there will be another verse for 2015 that He will use to guide and transform me. Even if that transformation isn't pleasant, I want it. I want it because I trust Him.

     May your 2015 be a year of transformation. "For He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10    Go for the gold and take comfort that He knows the way you take!

    

Monday, December 1, 2014

Be His Love...

     Twice a month I kneel and pray, "Lord please just let me BE your love. Let them feel you tangibly through me, and KNOW that you love them."  Then I go to the church food pantry and pray with the guests and for that hour and a half I am blessed with the gift of being His love. This has become the highlight of my month and one of the joys of my life. He always answers this simple prayer. At first, I was surprised at this but I'm not anymore. What I've learned about God through this experience is that He very much wants everyone to know that He loves them. He wants everyone to be able to experience His incredible love. He will use anyone who is willing as a vessel for His love to flow through...even me.  I also realize that I have endless opportunities to be His love that I never noticed before. This morning my eyes were opened to just one of those opportunities.

     I hate grocery shopping. It really doesn't matter what store, I just hate it. I feel like I am ALWAYS at the grocery store, which makes me hate it even more. If you know my husband, he is partially to blame. His stomach is a bottomless pit. Then there are the kids, my oldest has a hollow leg. She can pick and snack all day long and somehow doesn't look like I ever feed her!  I too am part of the problem. I make grocery lists, buy the groceries, and then return home to find I forgot to put something on the list. So, when I am at the grocery store I have a one track mind. I want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. I have often thought this is why I tend to end up in the line with the blinking light. God must want to teach me patience! That is... I thought this until today.

     Today, I was in the line with the blinking light again! As usual, I started standing on my tip toes (don't laugh, it's not nice to laugh at short people) to see if any other lanes were moving faster. They weren't. As I stood there waiting for a manager to help the lady ahead of me, I couldn't help but notice a few things.  She spoke very little English but seemed to understand the cashier just fine. She had two little boys with her and the hold up was due to her having a W.I.C. check. She kept trying to tell the cashier that she only had eight dollars left after that check to pay for the rest of the food. The cashier would have to stop ringing things up once she reached the eight dollar limit. She didn't have a lot left, but based on what was left she wouldn't be taking home much more than her fruit. As I stood there for what seemed like forever, the Holy Spirit whispered the words, "You pay for it " to me.  To which I replied, "But I don't know her, and I've never done anything like that before."  Then I heard Him say again, "You pay for it and tell her I love her."  Now, I understood.  This was an opportunity for God to let someone else tangibly feel His love.

     The manager came, the light was turned off, and I paid for her remaining food. At first she didn't understand until the cashier explained it to her. Just when I was feeling really awkward and uncertain, the woman began to cry. She walked over to me and gave me a huge hug, and I was able to say to her "God loves you." As the words came out, she shook her head yes. She understood.  This was the joy of my day! Today, I LOVED the grocery store!

  I share all of this because it's the first time I realized that I need to pray the prayer I pray before food pantry, every single day! It makes me wonder how many opportunities to be His love I have missed. Every time we come in contact with another human being, we have an opportunity to BE His love! Think about that for a moment. Now ask yourself, how many times in the course of just one day do you come in contact with another human being? If you're like me, it happens quite a bit at places like home, the grocery store, the post office, church, work, or your children's sports activities. That's a lot of people and a lot of opportunities!

     Right now we find ourselves in the season of giving. We just finished Thanksgiving and are headed to Christmas. What greater gift can we give than to be God's love to a hurting world? So many times we feel spent, like we have nothing to offer or we aren't fit for God to do anything with. It's not true. If we belong to Him, the Bible says that we have "this treasure in earthen vessels". (2 Corinthians 4:7) We are those earthen vessels and He is the treasure. We may only be made of earth, but we are still vessels. That's just it...that's all He needs. He needs a vessel, and the vessels He has chosen to use are us. If He could use me today, He can use you. There was nothing special about me. I was just a vessel He used to love someone. It only requires being available and obedient.

     I am excited to go to the grocery store again...okay maybe that's a stretch! Let me rephrase. I can't wait to spend the rest of this month asking Him to let me be His love. I look forward to seeing Him answer that prayer wherever I go because I know His love is the greatest gift that I could ever have poured out of this earthen vessel into the lives of others. Will you join me during this season of giving? Will you pray this same prayer each day and be a vessel that God can use to love others? Be warned, He may ask you to say or do things that are uncomfortable, but I promise you it will be the joy of your life!