Planted to Prosper

Sunday We started a new Women’s Sunday School class this weekend where we will be studying some of the Psalms. First up: Psalm 1, with the study question for discussion: “Do you feel a gap (or chasm!) between “real life” (work, school, family) and your prayer life? Explain. Ask God to help you begin to make prayer a part of your life.”

Wow! Where do I start my list… Just last year I was a part of a wonderful Bible Study with some of these very same women. I worked hard at committing to having a stronger more fervent prayer life. For a good period of time, I did. But, then summer arrived with all its activities and busyness and I fell short. Really short. I was too busy…

Correction, I allowed myself to say I was too busy.

I’m ashamed to say, that beyond reading my daily devotional, I just didn’t make, or allow the time to spend even a quiet moment with the One who gives me breath.

So I am excited for this SS class, and the opportunity to study once again with these women. I really enjoyed this opening paragraph from our new book:

“Psalm 1 is the biblical preparation for a life of prayer. Step by step it detaches us from activities and words that distract us from God so that we can be attentive before him. Most of us can’t step immediately from the noisy, high-stimulus world into the quiet concentration of prayer. We need a way of transition. Psalm 1 provides a kind of entryway into the place of prayer.” (Introducing the Psalms)

I don’t know about you, but life continues to be crazy; it is obviously just the nature of the beast. Because, even with only one child to be directly responsible to, it seems that I have less time with that one child, than I did when I had all four kiddos still under one roof. As a mom, especially as a Christian mom, I want to make sure that I am modeling for my children what I expect of them as people (who I want them to be) as they step out into this crazy and unpredictable world.

Verse 3 really spoke to a lot of us, myself included:Psalm_1_3m

How firmly am I planted? Which in turn leads to additional questions like: How well am I feeding myself so that I can grow and yield good fruits? Am I strong enough to prosper in the depths of a storm or adversity?

Many of you who know me, or have followed this and my previous blog, know that life has not been an easy path for me. I have been tossed around in the wind, to say the least. Yet, because I learned to trust in the living God, I have been able to survive it all. Even with the few visible scars, I continue to move forward. I have learned how to prosper. Then, over the course of the last four years, our family had some moments where the trials were a little bigger that any of us could have ever planned.

June 2012, just one month before her wedding, my eldest daughter was fighting for her life and we were uncertain if she would even walk down the isle. Through much prayer and God’s gracious and healing hand… she did.

May 2015, just days after completing her first year of college, my middle daughter was in a near fatal car accident and survived. Once again, prayer and God’s grace brought us through this terrible storm.

Through each event, I watched our family grow in our trust in the Lord, creating an even more firmly planted foundation. I watched as both my daughters turned to God, in prayer; doing so with me, as well as individually; trusting Him, as they walked through each of these unthinkable storms. These incidents were overwhelming examples (to me) of not only the mighty power of prayer, but that God indeed hears our cries, and that He cares for us in each and every moment of our lives.

Which takes me back to verse 3.grow-bible_-tree_

When we stay firmly planted in the truth of His Word, when we spend purposeful quiet time with Him, we will then have all that is necessary to grow and prosper. He wants us to do just that. He wants us to do so much more. As we learn to trust that He is always with us, and when we spend those even brief, daily moments with Him; it strengthens us unlike anything we can imagine. We may be thrown into the biggest storm, with monumental winds tossing us to and fro… Yet, because we have a firm foundation in the living God, we are able to weather the storm.

Two of my three older kiddos were home for a short visit this weekend and I am still so amazed at the remarkable adults they (as well as their older sister) are becoming. They continue to care about others and make deliberate and sound decisions in most everything they do. All my children learned growing up in our single parent home, that it takes hard work to get where you are going. They also learned that it takes trusting in and loving a God who, “through all things is possible”. They never had it easy, they earned most everything they received. They watched and saw my trust in God; and over time, each one of my children has developed their own trust, their own relationship with the God who gives us breath.

That is my fruit… watching each of my children as they firmly grow in the Lord.

What a joy it has been watching my two older daughters find such wonderful, loving, and Godly men to share their lives with. I also hope and pray… that my son too will find a women who loves the Lord like he does. And a few years down the road, I wish the same for my youngest daughter.

My fruit is also found in my writing and being able to share it with others. When we spoke Sunday morning, we talked about what we enjoyed most about watching movies, or reading a book or poem. Why do we enjoy these sorts of activities? Because the majority of us want to step outside our own world and experience something different. We want to feel happiness when we are sad, to momentarily forget that we are angry or upset. We also want to, perhaps, learn from someone who has experienced something we can not imagine. Or to see that we are not alone, to see that someone else has experienced something similar and they too came through that same storm.

Which is why I write–I write to share my experiences, even the hard ones; the ones that may have left less visible scars. Because not only is it therapeutic to me… but maybe, just maybe it will help someone survive their own storm. Perhaps when I write, I can share the hope He gives me, even in my everyday life. I know that God guides my words and I pray that he will continue to do so as I reach out to share with family and friends, one moment at a time. I pray that I will continue doing so, while firmly planted in His truth and love.

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Until the next moment,

 

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When the Silence is Deafening

Today has been the sort of day I have not had in a while. One where I feel lost and alone, overwhelmed. And to tell you the truth, I still can’t pinpoint what it really is. Those old recordings are once again playing in my head. Perpetually on “repeat”, only this time I can’t actually hear them. I know they’re playing however because of the sick and heavy feeling I had when I first woke up today. But instead there is just this sick silence; nearly as maddening as the recordings themselves. I got my daughter off to school, oblivious to my state of mind. As soon as she left I set at the table, took a quick peek at Facebook to see if I needed to add anyone to my prayer list and then settled into my time with the Lord. Or, I should say I tried…

I must have read my devotional at least three times, before its words even began to break through the barrier created by the silence in my head. One would think that if you mind is in such a quiet state, it would be free to absorb whatever information you try to put into it. Perhaps, if it’s truly empty and not just masquerading as such. Instead, in my case, “empty” is merely hiding behind a mask of silence. A silent facade, holding in dark moments from my past. My routine is that I read my devotional, look up the scripture with my You Version app and share on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, I select one of the scripture references and create an image with it. I then share an abridged version of the part of the devotional that spoke to me that morning. This morning it was Psalm 89:15-16, the devotional itself reminding us to stay close to His Presence. To relax in it, to allow our mind to be molded, our heart to be cleansed. To remember when we keep our focus on Him, every moment can be precious. I was not finding that peace this morning, my heart and mind were fighting with my dark and silent past.

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I then set here looking at the three sections of my Prayer Board, lost as to where to even start. Normally God just places on my heart a starting spot and I then just move around the board until everything is covered in prayer. I didn’t know where to start this morning, my mind could barely form whole thoughts. Broken fragments of nonsense were bubbling to the surface, finally forming tears. I immediately jumped back on Facebook and asked the women in my Bible Study to pray for me. Then I headed to the one place where I can talk to God when I feel this lost, where I can cry out, even sob to Him and pray that He could get me through this particular moment… my shower. And before you utter “TMI” understand that this has been my safe spot since I was a very young girl. When I was growing up and my father was abusing me, the bathroom was the only room in the house with a lock on it. I would come home after school and take my homework into our bathroom, lock the door and feel safe, at least for the moment.

As an adult, I still retreat to this small quiet room; to be alone, regain composure, to pray… Sometimes, it is in the shower, where the sound of the water can drown out my tears. Where the wall often holds me up as I sob uncontrollably. But just as the water washes away, falling down the drain. So do my tears, they are just gone. The ugliness, sadness, anger, fear, all of it; is gone too. I can step out, feeling a sense of calm, renewed, re-energized; suddenly able to take on the rest of my day. I promise you that the only reason I am able to do this is because He hears me as I cry out to Him in my desperation. He hears me as I cry out and ask Him “Why”? He listens as I repeat everything on my heart that He already knows. He listens and He gives me what I need to move forward. He provides me with my immediate needs and quietly whispers that He is taking care of things. As I was crying in the shower this morning, I realized that I am still worried about money and my finances. I do have a part-time job now, but how in the world am I going to take care of myself and my child on a part-time salary, not to mention catch up on months of unpaid bills, which include months of rent. He knows all that, He knew before I uttered one word, shed one tear.

I continue to read from Max Lucado’s “you’ll get through this”. The story of Joseph and all that he went through; sold into slavery (by his own brothers, mind you), thrown into prison, and all the ugliness and hurt that came along with it. He never gave up, because he knew God had something better planned for him, even as a young boy, he believe it. Today, after a good crying session, I once again believed it too. We are all His children, and He, only He is in control of our ultimate destiny.

You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. God will use this mess for good.

As I write this my heart is good again, the silence has left my thoughts free to move around in my head, as they see fit. I can concentrate once again. I was able to read from the two books I am currently reading; including being led to some very appropriate and encouraging scripture. Thoughtfully reminded by 2 Corinthians that once we become a part of Christ, we are His, not just for a little while, but always His.

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Our past doesn’t matter any longer, even though the enemy wants you to think differently. We pinned them (our past sins) to the base of the cross when we trusted our life to Christ. His death on the cross paid for all our sins, the ones we have already done and those still to cause us to fall short. In the book FerVent, author Priscilla Shirer encourages us to use the following strategy when being harassed by Satan. When in prayer we can:

Praise: Thank Him completely for forgiving you, cleansing you, changing you.  –   Repentance: See the foolishness of anything that perpetuates old sin patterns, and by His Spirit walk away.  –  Asking: Ask for freedom, for release, for the ability to detect lies and embrace truth.  –  Yes: Because you, by His resurrection power, can now walk a new way of life.

Today, I end with a prayer. Lord Jesus, forgive me for my fear and uncertainty. Forgive me for allowing the enemy to build walls that keep me from you. Thank you Lord for giving me the tools to tear them down before they are fully built. Thank you Lord for loving me, my past imperfections and all; for easing my pain, ultimately healing it with your blood. I am a new creation, beautiful and perfect in you. Amen

Until the next moment,

When Life is Throwing Lemons…

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thes 5:18

This is easier said then done sometimes. When life is handing you, no… THROWING lemons at you, I’m fairly sure you don’t happily start preparing to make lemonade. I know I don’t. I sit there in bewilderment and wonder why I am being pelted, often out of nowhere. That’s when we need to drop to our knees and ask the only one who knows the answer. We need to turn to Him in our moments of despair and disarray and ask for guidance, His guidance to get through that particular moment.

As many of you know there have been a lot of moments, even more lemons that have been tossed my way these past eight months. As I sit here to write this and look back, its hard to believe that it has been that long. That I have been stuck in what seems to be an alternative universe; my life turned upside down in so many ways.

Recap: March 26th I was fired from my job, one that I had been at for nearly four years. May 15th, my middle daughter was in a near fatal car accident. July 20th, I had minor back surgery. August 29th, although released to go back to work, my job (of which I had only been able to work three weeks) is unable to let me return due to lifting restrictions. September passes, marking six months with little to no income from being employed.

October started out being filled with a lot of opportunities and job interviews, with nothing being the right fit. All this was discouraging to say the least. Then, in mid-October, I begin to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and real opportunities begin to arise. It is important to say that this is too when I made one specific change in my daily routine, which in turn helped to heal my hurting heart and changed my vision of the world around me.

What did I do you ask? Well, I signed up for our Ladies Bible Study which was to be studying the book FerVent, inspired by the movie WarRoom. The study was to start on Oct 15th and I had the wonderful chance to see the movie with most of my kiddos the Saturday previous. Inspired cant begin to say what happened to me, or how I felt over the coarse of the next 48-72 hours. The small group I am a part of  attended the matinee showing of the movie Sunday afternoon and again I was just “on-fire” for making changes in my prayer life. In the past I have tried to make a decent effort in regards to prayer, but I always falls short; as I allow the enemy to distract me. This time it was different, not only had I been inspired by this amazing film, but I had the opportunity to join women in my church who wanted to grow in this manner too. Our first study night was a wonderful night of fellowship and encouragement,  a great stepping stone into this new way of thinking, of spending time in prayer. We were joining together to get prepared for battle, learning how to be specific, strategic, and fervent in our time of conversation with Him.

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Unlike Miss Clara, I do not have a spare closet to clear out and call my WarRoom, so I decided to create something tangible that I could move from room to room with me, to still have a visual of the prayers and scripture I was lifting up to the Lord. As you can see in my photo, I purchased one of the tri-fold boards that our kids often use for reports and demonstrations and it works great! *neat side note: One of the other women from our group had a similar idea.

So now, most mornings I sit or stand in front of my kitchen table, and have conversation with God. WHile I am at the end of my unemployed stage, I have unlimited time do to this, and often just pray until I feel like I’ve said all that I am supposed to, no time restraints… just precious quiet time with my Lord. It has changed how I pray for my family and friends, how specific I allow myself to be, being mindful to always ask God for His will, not my own. It has significantly changed the way I was praying about employment. Those changes paid off, in the last 2 1/2 weeks, I had not one, but two second interviews and I will be having a third this week. Two of these three jobs would be in management, with good salaries. I was offered a seasonal psoition at the beginning of this week while on the initial interview! God providing; blessing me for my efforts and I am overwhelmed by His love and generosity.

The last few days have brought me some downtime from school (only because there are some technical difficulties in getting online) so I have started reading the book I received from KROA (My Bridge) just in the last couple weeks; “you’ll get through this” by Max Lucado. The first chapter reminds us of the story of Joseph and how much his brothers despised him; all the really horrible things happened to him as he lived his life according to God’s plan for him.

 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. Gen 50:20a

Lucado shares that the NASB uses the word “meant” and that the Hebrew translation is a verb meaning to “weave”; thus the verse could read like this; “You wove evil, but God rewove it together for good.”  Also reminding us that God is the Master Weaver, Master Builder. Whatever the situation, HE is in control of it. When we find ourselves in a mess, a struggle, jobless, or stuck in the deepest pit. Don’t despair, Satan will try to trick you. He is fearful of you, because he knows you are a part of God’s plan. When you carry God with you, you carry who He is too; you are noble and holy, you have wisdom, kindness, and mercy. If Satan can stop your efforts, he can keep you from influencing those around you. Let the story of Joseph be a reminder that good trumps evil; that what Satan intends for evil, God will most certainly redeem for His good.

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So look up from the pit, to the outstretched hand of the Living God. It may not appear when you want it to, or when you feel it should. Remember, His timing, His will… not our own. Most importantly, remember: “you’ll get through this”.

 

Until the next moment,