Sunday, November 28, 2010

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

I had physical a few weeks ago. Some things were going on that gave me reason to be aware of my health and I felt it was wise to have a check-up. Honestly, I was almost hoping there would be some medical reason for the heart racing and palpitations I had been experiencing recently. I’ve definitely been under some additional stress in the past few months and I thought maybe that could be the cause of the symptoms.

In the evaluation, all my vitals were good and blood work was all normal. No cause for alarm. So then, he started asking questions about my lifestyle and habits. We boiled it down to caffeine and the large amount of it that I had been consuming. I’m embarrassed to say exactly how much. Let’s just say, I could keep Starbucks Coffee and Tetley Tea in business with my consumption alone. I could tell he was a little shocked when we totaled up my daily coffee and iced tea intake. I have to admit, even I was a little surprised when I had to add it all up.

So, there was no medical condition. I was addicted to caffeine. Having to give it up truly scared me. When I left the doctor’s office, I was nearly in tears. I rarely get six hours of sleep a night, work full time and am a wife and mom, so life is a pretty big challenge sometimes. Before I left the doctor’s office parking lot, I prayed. Lord, I cannot do this alone. This is an addiction and an issue that I obviously need your help with if I am going to succeed. I need supernatural strength for this one.

You may think I’m joking, but I am completely serious. I have been a caffeine junkie since my freshman year of college – many, many years ago. Just like with other addictive behaviors, I’ve told myself I could control it if I wanted to. I was 100% lying to myself and to God. I can’t control it, and I had gotten myself to the point that it had become a wedge between God and me – I was not willing to let Him have this part of me.

Maybe because I’ve been embarrassed about it – I pray and ask God to take all of me and my life and use it for His glory, and yet here I was with this bondage that I wasn’t willing to give up.

Yet, after I prayed, I did feel a peace. I bought decaf coffee and tea. I cut way back on the morning coffee pot. For days, I nursed the headache that comes with withdrawal from craving the amount of caffeine I was consuming. After about five days, the headache let up and I honestly didn’t feel that bad. Throughout that week, I was praying and asking for the supernatural discipline to stick with it until the addiction was broken. There is no way I could have done it by myself. God was holding my hand the whole time. When I looked for Scriptures to help keep focused, reading Psalm 18:2 gave me comfort and courage. The Lord is my rock and fortress. With Him, nothing is impossible. That is a truth I can believe fully in, cling to and live my life on. You can, too.

You may not have an addiction that you need His help to overcome, but perhaps there is an area of your life where you are in bondage and don’t even know it. I urge you to pray. Pray for Him to reveal to you those areas that are keeping you from the fullness of living life wholly in Him. If there are areas, He will reveal them and if you commit to Him, he will get you through it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I was looking up Scriptures on the subject of thankfulness. When I stop and think about all the many blessings I have, I can’t help but be a little overwhelmed. God is so very good.

I have been taking some time to pause this week and really think about the blessings He has bestowed upon my family and me. It brings me to tears and to my knees. Our lives are so richly blessed. We are in an amazing church family who have welcomed us, supported us and encouraged our faith walk. We have been given many opportunities to both share our faith and grow it as well. We are learning things as a family that are drawing us closer to one another and closer to God.

That’s not to say it’s been an easy road this year. It really hasn’t. We’ve faced financial challenges, job security issues, some serious health problems and even the general busyness of life that, at times, threatens to split us apart just in order to cope with it all.

But, through those challenges, I’m learning more and more to give thanks in all circumstances because every time we do, we see God take what we think is a potential disaster and work it for good. Is it comfortable? Absolutely not. Would I take any other option in the moment? Absolutely yes. But, I’m learning to pause, and separate myself from the circumstance and choose to have a thankful heart because I can trust that He is with me and He does have a plan for me that is for His glory. That can get us through some of the most trying situations.

I think that today I am living closer to Him in obedience than I was even a few years ago. And, I still have a ways to go. But, even so, the steps in obedience that I know I have taken have been beautifully rewarded over and over. Now, that’s definitely not the motivation to obey. That is a sheer blessing from our Lord because He is pleased with the step in faith. I’ve seen it so much this year. Things haven’t always worked out like I thought they might. In fact, this is the case more often than not. But, what ends up happening when my will is submitted, yields to a greater purpose from Him that I could have never imagined.

Today, as I rejoice, pray and give thanks many things come to mind. He has given me a beautiful, loving and supportive family. God has given me a platform to bring Him glory and for that, I am so, so grateful. He has directed people to read these words and have their lives impacted by them. He has opened doors I would never have thought to knock on. He has grown the seeds planted into a small, but growing ministry, in His time. He has surrounded me with a group of friends and fellow believers, who encourage, strengthen, challenge and teach me daily. He has nurtured the faith of my family and brought us closer to Him. I could go on and on.

He has blessed me with YOU, and for that, I cannot begin to express my gratitude. I pray that you continue to see the touches of His presence in your life this Thanksgiving and always. Of course, the most important blessing of all is the gift of salvation that is freely given. For that, I am eternally grateful and ever humbled by.

How has He blessed you? Please share your thoughts!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Have you ever had an encounter with Jesus? I mean an interaction so powerful you do not know what hit you afterward? It happened to me this weekend and I pray I never forget the feeling. Incredible.

Let me back up and say that a few weeks ago, my kids and I were at a concert and author/pastor Max Lucado was speaking. He asked us to raise our hands as we prayed for children in desperate need of basic things we take for granted like water, food, clothing, shelter and education. As we all closed our eyes and prayed, something happened to my daughter. After the prayer, she asked me if I felt it. “Felt what,” I asked? “Felt God,” she replied. She went on to tell me that when she closed her eyes and lifted her hand, she felt a warmth and the sensation of her hand being held. She said she knew it was God. We left that night and decided we needed a family meeting with Daddy to talk about sponsoring a child. It was a powerful moment for her and we need to respect that.

So this past weekend, I got the opportunity to know what she experienced that night. I was headed to a gymnastics meet and inadvertently took the wrong exit off the highway. As I exited, there he was. An out-of-work man asking for help on the side of the road. I felt a deep tug on my heart. As I reached over and pulled some money out of my wallet, the light turned. I had to be quick. I rolled down the window and slowed towards him. When his hand touched mine to take the money, our eyes met. That’s when it hit – a powerful surge of energy and emotion straight into my heart. I wasn’t looking at a homeless man, I was looking into the face of my savior. As I drove off, I was hit with a wave of tears. It was overwhelming and amazing at the same time.

This verse came to mind almost immediately. I knew in my heart that it was in fact Jesus I had encountered. I know that may not be the case every time, but I do know that there are those times when I definitely feel the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart and how I respond is important. Sadly, I don’t always do what Jesus commanded. But, knowing how I felt this weekend just might make me a little more attuned to know when I should.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Last night, we had quite a mess to clean up. When the weather gets colder, mice think my house is a better option than outside, so the critters try and get in out of the cold. Well, our weather turned and a couple mice have found their way in. We’ve been battling with all our weapons and last night, my husband thought he sniffed that unmistakable smell of a dead mouse. As we tried to locate the critter, he moved the refrigerator and eww! No dead mouse, but plenty of messy evidence. Gag. We spent the next 30 minutes cleaning, disinfecting and emptying the trash bag.

On the surface, my house is pretty clean. Cluttered, yes. Steve and I both work full-time and we have two elementary aged children, so clutter is inevitable. But, when we have guests, it looks pretty good. Clean, generally picked up. On the surface, we look pretty good.

Which got me thinking.

How does that analogy resonate with my spirit? Oh, sure. On the surface, I can be the person I want to be. I appear to have it all together. My kids are smart, good students who generally behave well. My husband and I have a good marriage. I have a challenging job with incredible co-workers. I have wonderful friends who encourage and love me. Spiritually, I am growing. My ministry is starting to grow little roots and stems. But boy, sometimes, just below the surface – well, let’s just say it isn’t all pretty.

I wrestle. I wrestle with doubts, fears, insecurities, pride – you name it. Do you? And I fight the urge to try and clean it all up with a neat and tidy bow of perfection so that others won’t think different if they knew what a mess I can be. I can blow up at the kids for the silliest thing. I can get my feelings hurt when Steve says something “the wrong way.” I can feel incredibly insecure when I’m in certain work situations. I can convince myself that accomplishments are mine and not God’s. Oh yes, I can make a big mess just below the surface that sometimes shows its ugly face above the water.

But go deeper. Into my heart. That’s where Jesus lives. And for every “surface issue,” he’s got an answer and a cure. Him. I need to let go and let him. He isn’t requiring me to fix it or clean it up for Him. In fact, he wants to use me in my brokenness. When I admit that I am a broken sinner who cannot make it without Him, He takes that brokenness and repentance and covers it in mercy and forgiveness. And somehow, he can clean up that mess so that it can be used to bring Him glory. I have seen Him do things in my life that leave me speechless. It can only be of Him.

Yes, I am a mess. But, I am not unfixable. And every day, with Jesus, I am making progress. How about you?