When Faith Falters

I haven’t posted in a while, a long while.  For one, it is summer and time to savor the moments with family, enjoy a less hectic schedule.  More importantly though I have been processing God’s work in my life.

I began this blog as an accountability piece for myself.  I am a processor, a thinker.  That is not always a good thing.  I can get bogged down in the thinking and fail to act.  I can get caught up in worry and anxiousness as I let my thoughts get the best of me.  I often fall back into the old habit of striving, instead of waiting.  I have done a lot of all the above over the past 5-6 years.  A collapse in economy, changes in my relationship with family, having to end practical support for someone my husband and I love and honor, wondering what life would hold when my girls completed high school, and suddenly I found myself living in a place of anxiety and worry.  My faith faltered.  In all honesty, I was more shaken than I had ever been.

Today as I write, I am so incredibly grateful for God’s grace.  I am so thankful He reminded me time and time again that faltering in my faith does not make me less, nor does it in any way impact His love for me, my salvation, my worth.  More than that, I am glad he saw me through the storm, He opened my eyes to the lessons I needed to learn, and that in the end, He brought about His purposes in His time.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”  I Corinthians 15:10a

The journey is the important part of life.  Embracing the season, acknowledging where we are, sharing the struggles.  My faith faltered.  Would I love to have walked the path in perfect faith?  I would love to be without sin, to never grieve my Savior, but He alone holds that place of perfection.  I treasure the journey.  I treasure each lesson.  I treasure knowing Him in new ways.  His grace is sufficient.  His grace has indeed had an effect on me.

If you are struggling today, if you feel less than, remember He alone is perfect.  Remember His grace is sufficient.  Let His grace have an effect upon your heart, mind and actions.

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When Google Maps Steers You Wrong

A couple of weeks ago one of my daughters and niece and I were traveling to a church in another city nearby for a ministry project.  As we set out, I secured the address off the registration page and entered it into Google Maps.  However, I was 90% certain I knew exactly where this particular church was, having driven by it numerous times on a major through street.  With navigation set, off we went.  It was a short drive, only 30 miles or so.  As we got off the interstate and began our way towards the church the navigation guidance kicked in.  With each turn we took I kept telling the girls, ” I really don’t think this is the right way.  I swear we should have just stayed on the major through street and it would have been off to our right.” The girls quickly responded with, ” Well, then just turn around.  You are probably right.”  I did not heed their instruction, nor the quiet voice in my head.  We kept driving and sure enough wound up at a dead end, no church in sight.  The voice of the navigation system, louder than the voice in my head, had won.  I had continued on a course I knew was wrong, doubting myself, the quiet voice in my head.

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We arrived at our destination, meeting up with a friend and her friend.  I began telling them of our little “adventure”.  The friend’s friend had also been on her own little “adventure”.  She had chosen to follow our mutual friend who drives a white Jeep.  She had stayed right behind her.  Upon nearing the destination she had taken her eyes off our friend’s car for just a moment, but long enough for another white Jeep to come into sight.  She too felt fairly certain she knew where the church was, but began following this other white Jeep.  With each turn she realized she was nearing the local university and not the church.  Yet, like me she continued on the faulty path.

As we shared stories and laughed about our foolishness I couldn’t help but think of spiritual lessons.  So often we fail to heed God’s still small voice, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Instead we allow the loud voices of the world to grab our attention and mislead us, all the while knowing it’s just not right.  We also lose sight of God.  So often we are on a course, a good course, His course, but get distracted by someone else’s course, or a bright shiny object that looks more appealing than the one set before us.  A moment of distraction can lead us down a whole other path in life.  We hear God, our conscience sets in and alerts us, but we lose confidence.  We let doubt set in and can often kick off a snowball of emotions and mistakes.

On the way home the girls and I talked about our little “driving adventure”.  The girls asked why I had kept following the navigation when I knew it was wrong.  Tough question, but one that needed to be answered in this teachable moment for us all.

I had to admit to the girls that I had let doubt set in, and when the doubt set in everything I thought I knew came into question.  We talked about how that happens to us in life.  We read His word, we attend church to learn of His precepts, and then we enter the world and something else grabs our attention or someone else’s voice is louder than His.  We doubt and in those moments of doubt we begin to question everything we know of God.  That’s a dangerous place to be.  Our adventure ended fine, no harm.  Just a little late.  However, in life, those doubts can lead us down paths that alter our course for life or bring about hurt that is hard to overcome.

I am so thankful I serve a God who longs to show me His ways, the path I should take.  Psalm 33:11 tells us “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purpose of his heart through all generations.”  I can’t thwart God’s plans.  I can chose to follow them, get off course and return, or ignore them.  I will either be a part of His plans or lose the opportunity.  Through free will He grants me choice.  Life is so much better lived carrying out His plans, being a part of the blessing.  I am so glad I serve a God of grace, who continually calls me to Himself, even when I get off course.  He welcomes me back to His path when I repent and seek again to follow His ways.  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21.

His purposes prevailed that day.  We served Him packing food for third world countries.  We worshiped Him in song and fellowship with friends.  We learned and we grew as a result of those moments of doubt and our quick response to repent and get back on track.  Nothing lost.  Nothing wasted.

“Make plans by seeking advice.” Proverbs 20:18.  Just remember that the advice of this world and Google maps can be wrong.  You have access to the Shepherd.  He will lead you in the path of righteousness.  He’s always there to get you back on course.  Seek Him.  Seek Him first.  Trust in His still small voice.

Not Enough

I looked at my husband through eyes filled with tears.  “I can’t do this any more.  I have nothing-I only hear the message, ‘You are not enough'”.  In that moment I felt drained.  I honestly felt like any ability to extend grace, love generously, even think, was gone.  I had two discontent teenage daughters pecking at me, I had not been able to take care of something my husband needed done, I had received a message I wasn’t spending enough time with my mother, I had not called my mother-in-law and thanked her enough for Christmas (according to my father-in-law), I was behind on laundry, I was out of groceries, and my business had not met my expectations for the month.  The day before I had also received a call asking that I take a large leadership role in a ministry engaging women in our state.  While I desperately wanted to serve in this way, to engage again in ministering to women through a structured ministry, I knew beyond question my answer at this time was to be “No.”  It wasn’t what I wanted the answer to be.  In fact, I wanted to ignore what I knew to be true and say “Yes.” I was disheartened by the clear direction to say “No”.

It was a melt down  moment.  There was nothing my husband could do.  There were no “Sorry mom” statements big enough. There was no deleting the messages.  The only way to say “Yes” was to act in disobedience.  With wisdom my husband simply took the girls on to their respective activities, never saying a word.  And I, well I was left to fall into a puddle of what felt like complete overwhelm and despair.

Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to talk to God.  I didn’t know what to pray.  Yet, I didn’t want to be angry.  I didn’t want to feel defeated.  Joy.  That was supposed to be my word for the year.  Only weeks into the new year and Joy felt like a universe away.  As I sat there motionless, empty, 2 Corinthians 12: 9 began to play through my mind.  “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect (complete) in weakness.”

I am not enough.  That is the truth.  I can not do it all.  I can not, in my own strength, be all I need to be.  I am not enough.  I am not complete.  There was nothing to do in that moment but to release the emotions and lean into His grace-grace that is sufficient for me.  A part of obedience is not only doing the stuff, but it is the letting go and leaning in.  It is the acknowledging.  It is the accepting.  I am not enough.  The message didn’t need to be defeating-that’s what Satan would like.  The message simply needed to be an accepted truth that would prompt me to act in obedience, leaning into Him, His grace, allowing Him to complete me, to strengthen me.

” I am not enough, but His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.”  That is the message I need to let run through my mind.  That is the truth.

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A Year Ago: The Inspire Conference that Broke Me

I have spent the last few months preparing to lead a breakout session at Inspire 2015.  A year ago, this very conference was the site of a HUGE God moment for me.  It wasn’t the event.  It was a simple act of obedience on my part and on the part of every other woman who made a choice to be present.  Inspire is a simple conference.  Just one day-not even a full day.  It is just a day for women of faith to gather and share their stories.  Yet the simple impacts.  The sharing of stories draws us to REAL life, REAL hearts, REAL faith.  

I was coming out of one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  I was disheartened by the church.  I had been struggling with my own striving.  I was in the midst of changing my reactions to my relationship with my mother and others in my family impacted by depression, loss, anger.  In all honesty, life hadn’t turned out like I had planned or hoped.  There were moments of self pity-asking why and then letting myself stay there.  I longed for intimate friendships and a renewed sense of purpose, yet I held back, kept walls, kept striving instead of seeking.  

The weeks preceding Inspire I had been inundated with letters, email, phone calls from young women in my own church hurting, feeling isolated, left out.  A friend and I had been struggling to bring a ministry to fruition, facing daily setbacks.  No one from my church was attending Inspire.  I knew some working on the event, but…  I woke up though that Saturday morning and knew I needed to go.  It was outside my comfort zone.  I would be walking into a conference where women would be gathered with their friends.  I would be walking in alone.  I went.  I sat on the end of a pew near some lovely older ladies.  We shared greetings and then settled in.  I chose my breakout sessions-wanting desperately to attend the one my sweet friend and sister in Christ was leading, but feeling drawn to a different one.  Moment after moment i was faced with the choice to be obedient to the Spirit’s prompting or do what I wanted.  At lunch, the large room full of round tables I spotted another young woman sitting alone.  I asked if I could join her.  She was on the committee planning the event, but she too was there alone.  She wasn’t feeling overly confident and shared how she felt a little like the “unpopular girl” on the committee.  Oh, the sting we can so often feel when we work with women.  For a moment I felt discouraged.  Was there no escaping the hierarchy women seem to feel the need to create?  Did the church and women’s ministry and women’s missions have to look like the the world?  I fought the disappointment and discouragement.  Instead, I shared.  We shared. Lunch became an opportunity to speak truth to one another, to value each other, to laugh, to live.  

God is always at work in us.  That day He finished one work in me and began a new work.  That work is still being worked out as I learn to live life differently, no longer striving, but broken and poured out.  I want to live being transformed, knowing I am not finished, He is not finished.  I want to be laid bare that His fragrant Spirit spills out.  Below is the post I wrote the day following Inspire 2014.  My prayer tomorrow is that He is present again for all those stepping out in obedience.  My prayer is that those attending my breakout see not who I am, but who I am seeking to be, the One I cling to as I grow in His likeness.  

Broken-Going to Live That Way

I am a church girl.  Born and raised.  Long line of preachers and missionaries in my family.  I myself a preacher’s kid and missionary kid.  I’ve never strayed from my faith, never questioned my beliefs, never doubted my salvation.  But this weekend, I attended a women’s conference in my town and experienced one of those mind altering/heart impacting moments.  That moment when head knowledge becomes heart knowledge.  The kind of moment you want to document, journal about, make note of.  The kind of moment Henry Blackaby calls a “spiritual marker”.

I am a woman of faith.  I believe and know that Christ is the Son of God, that He suffered and died on the cross to cover my sins, extend His life giving grace.  I believe that once He has sealed my heart through salvation, it can never be unsealed.  I believe the Bible to be His holy word.  I believe it to be the extent of His word.  I believe I should live out His word and His example.  I seek to do just that.  But sometimes, I seek to do that too hard.  I struggle with the hardships, the disappointments, the tragedies of life.  I know He does not cause them, but rather allows them.  I know He does not seek to condemn me through loss or pain.  His word says there is no condemnation in Him.  I believe He uses those moments to teach, discipline, and strengthen.  But, I still struggle.  I want to fix it all.  I want to make sense of it, see what He is doing.  So that’s what I have done.  The deeper the pain, the more fear I feel, the harder a friend falls, the harder I work to pick up the pieces and fix it all.  I attempt to fix it doing a lot of really good spiritual things that I know are not wasted.  I study His word with new intensity.  I pray.  I continue to fellowship with other believers and I lean into them for wisdom, counsel, prayer, and friendship.  I journal, I read spiritual books.  And in the midst of all that I learn, and I see growth.  The cycle though continues and it can leave me overwhelmed, exhausted, feeling inadequate, feeling broken.  That’s just it though!  I am broken.  Bad things happen-loved ones get sick, loved ones pass away, the economy crashes, business declines, children struggle.  This life is a jumbled up mess and little if any of it is in my control.  But He doesn’t want me or need me to try to fix it.  He just wants me to acknowledge where I am, that I am broken and need His guidance, His strength.  You see, when brokenness meets brokenness God is glorified.  That’s the moment He frees me.  It is His.  He has already redeemed me.  He is already pleased with me.  I am His.  As I sat and took in the bible lesson, I felt like scales were dropping off my eyes and I was finally getting it, not just part of it, but getting the whole idea.  My mind went to the story of Mary, sister of Lazarus, and her breaking the alabaster jar to let the fragrant oil run free onto Christ’s feet.  It was her greatest offering.  I am just like that.  His glory is kept contained until I break.  But when I break, when I leave the pieces alone, that’s when I can be a fragrant offering.  That’s when His glory and Spirit are released and I can just rest in Him, just rest knowing all I need do is be obedient-just do the next thing He asks of me.  No more trying to fix, trying to make sense-just resting in Him.  My thoughts no longer need to be on what I can do, developing a plan to restore or fix, but my thoughts can be solely focused on His word, which is truth.

I am still taking it all in.  I am thinking of scripture after scripture I want to go back and visit, read again.  I can’t contain my hunger to just be in His word.  My prayers these past few days are not begging prayers.  They have just been prayers of adoration, laying before Him the problem, the request and then listening.  I know I am going to struggle.  My personality is one of order, planning, fixing.  I will fall.  I will be tempted and I will give in to temptation, picking up the pieces, but I am praying daily He quickly convicts and reminds me how good freedom in Him feels.

Day 31: Are You Ready or Are You Scattered? Three Quick Fixes

OK, so I have to confess.  I’ve been doing a great job tracking my time, but I’m not too pleased with the results.  However, it’s not the normal culprits.  I’m not watching too much television.  I’m not spending too much time on the computer.  On some level, I wish those were the issues.  Those are fairly simple to correct-just stop doing them.  No, my issues are a little more complex.  I’m scattered.  Not a good thing for a type A mom who likes to keep her home and life running like a well oiled machine.  The more scattered I am, the more scattered I feel and well…

Coffee this morning with a friend and then a lengthy call with yet another friend and business partner, I realized once again I am not alone.  We moms seem to find ourselves in this state of feeling scattered more than we like.  As I was asked, “When do we get our lives back?  When does everyone else quit needing us?”  I have asked that same question many times from a place of fatigue, feeling pulled in too many directions knowing I’m not doing anything well.  Sometimes, we have simply taken on too much, but often, especially during this Second Season, the needs arise and it falls on us to take care of.  At the same time though, I can set up unrealistic expectations of myself.  I think this is often the case.  Out of a desire to be a great wife, mom, friend, co-worker, follower of Christ, I try to meet all needs.  But, it always ends the same.  I am tired, I drop a ball or two, and nothing gets done well.  I’m there.  I could spend the day beating myself up, but that won’t solve a thing.  Instead, as I continue tracking my time, I’m going to give myself some grace.  After all, the whole point of my 31st mini retreat day is to re-evaluate, clean out and prepare.

What can I do to be less scattered?

1.  Make a list of 3 things that HAVE to be done today.

2.  At 3:00 p.m. stop everything and see where I stand on those 3 “have to ” items.

3.  Finish

That last one can get me.  I preach it to my girls and yet so often I let things/people/events distract me and I never quite finish.  And so very often, it’s just 5 more minutes and the job would be done.  So over the course of the next few days I am going to really focus on the finish.  I have a feeling by the 31st what needs to be on my “to do” list will be clear.  I have a feeling a few unexpected problems will have been solved.  I’ll have the 31st to get my plan in order and set out to work the plan until the next 31st rolls around.

So, today, join me and finish strong.  You don’t have to do it all.  It will be good enough to just finish those 3 HAVE to items.