Expectations 

 I am the kind of person who likes to plan things out.  I want to know what to expect today, tomorrow, next week, two months from now, etc.  I married a man whose plans are more fluid.  He is able to adjust and adapt and roll with it when changes come.  

You can imagine how our marriage has evolved over the past seventeen years.  I have been challenged to let go of things, to loosen my grip, to release my plans to take hold of other plans, especially God’s plans. 

Before I said yes to my husband, I had been engaged to a young man from Texas.  Three weeks before the wedding he called it off.  It was my first “big” test from God.  Would I be willing to empty my hands of all of the plans I had for my future to trust the unknown plans of God?  I chose to trust my future to God.  It was hard in some ways and easy in others.  

I learned that holding tightly to what I wanted left very little room for the grand design of God.  My faith grew exponentially in the years afterward. I took trips, had adventures, and did things I never would have been able to do, had I married the Texan.  

Four years after my cancelled wedding, I said yes to my best friend, the one man who had stood by me and loved me, and waited for me.  We were married five months later.  As I have mentioned previously, our years together have been full of adventure, trial and error, laughter and tears.  Nothing I ever would have imagined God had planned for us.

And now we stand at the altar again, laying down something we thought was part of God’s plan to have empty hands…but only when our hands are empty are we able to take up the next thing God has in store for us.  

For the message series our church is doing now we have been singing Oceans by Hillsong United.  The chorus is our prayer for these next weeks, trusting God for where we will put our feet.  

OCEANS (Where feet may fail)

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand


And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine


Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand

Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now


So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name

Keep my eyes above the waves

My soul will rest in Your embrace

I am yours and you are mine


The one lesson we know –without a doubt– is that God has the best planned for us… 

 

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altars

On our Journey of Faith we are often asked to trust God in situations that are scary and can cause us to wonder and doubt.  We are wired to want to know everything and when something in front of us is the shadows, half-hidden from us, we start to worry, Is it safe?  Do we need to fear? Maybe we did something wrong?  What if we didn’t do something we were supposed to do?  On and on the cycle goes if we don’t stop it.

Sometimes God calls to put something dear to us on the altar– He asks us to be willing to sacrifice one thing for something else we may not even know about yet.  Every time God has asked me to sacrifice something or someone I have wanted to balk.  I have worried that maybe He doesn’t know best after all.  In the end, after prayer, conversation with trusted counsel, and reflection on His faithfulness in the past I do choose to put the item/person on the proverbial altar.  Only rarely has God asked me to leave it there.

Every time I have left it there it has been to open my hands to something even better.  But still I struggle.

As the days come closer for us to officially own the house we have prayed for and wanted for years, we have had some hiccoughs with little things.  Nothing that screams “run away as fast as you can!!” but each time makes us pause.  Is this house something to put on the altar?

God knows best what He has planned for us.  We are called to obedience– not out of fear, but out of reverence– God has always proven that He knows best.  He will not fail us.  Just as He did not fail to provide for Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, He will provide all that we need and more than we could have ever imagined.

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footsteps

Nearly one year ago my husband and I sat down to discuss our future.  Things were coming to a close in Illinois and we needed to decide if we were going to fight to stay or recognize the signs and take a risk.

We took a risk.

Now on the other side of the risk, we see the reward.  As I have stated before, this trail we have been walking has not been easy.  It has been filled with laughter, tears, some battles, and some times of doubt– but we have faith that we are doing the right thing–according to the path God is leading us to take.

We see the fruition of this decision in our jobs, my husband and I work together every day. It helps us build our communication, deepen our relationship, and encourage other couples in the process. I love, truly, being with him and sharing our experiences together.

We see the fruition of our decision as our boys finish their school year– succeeding in academics, athletics, and friendships– things they were unsure of accomplishing when we first moved here.

Our church has been a blessing in ways I truly couldn’t have imagined.  We left a beautiful, thriving church in Illinois–filled with dear ones we miss every week.  And yet, God has blessed us with people who care about our sons; pouring time, energy, and prayers into them.  We serve with people who have extended their hands and time to us to help us prepare our new home.  It has been above and beyond what I could have ever thought or imagined would come from the decision to move.

As a young believer I faced my first crisis of Faith. In the end, I knew that God had a bigger and better plan–even if I couldn’t see it or understand it.  I found these verses to remind me that God was worth following, even if I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me.  It reminded me that God’s plan would be the best plan– and that was true then, just as it is true now.

Psalm 63:1-8

You, God, are my God,

   earnestly I seek you;

I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

 

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hope rises

One of the many parts of my faith journey includes seeing God move.  Sometimes the movement He makes is subtle, a slight change in the situation I am facing.  At other times He seems to move drastically to the right or left instead of going straight.  It is sudden, abrupt and seems like it is out of nowhere.

Each time it happens I find myself looking with hope to Heaven to see what God has planned. This same kind of event happened with Moses in Exodus 3.

Moses is out tending his father-in-law’s sheep and takes them up Mt. Horeb.  While he is going up the mountain he sees a bush on fire, but not being consumed by the fire.  He notices strange bush and decides to turn toward it, to investigate it.  Only when Moses turns toward the bush does God move.  God was waiting for Moses to notice the change.

Once Moses moves toward the bush God points out the situation from Heaven’s point of view.  The ground Moses is standing on is holy.  That’s why God tells him to remove his sandals (Exodus 3:5).  God is telling Moses to pay attention.

Moses paid attention and the opportunity for change came and hope rose from that change. God tells Moses that He has seen and heard the affliction of the Israelites, God’s people. Hope will come to them through the obedience of Moses and through God’s power.

There is hope that can be found, hope that can rise, hope that can grow– all through the eyes of someone who notices God is at work.

It just takes open eyes and open hearts, willing to see, willing to listen to God who is whispering to His children to look, to notice, to turn, and to act as He guides them toward the plans He has for them (Jeremiahs 29:11).

It only takes a moment– just be still, listen– God is speaking and He has an incredible plan– if only we will notice.

Lamentations 3:20-26

My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

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whirlwinds

Last night multiple tornadoes tore through parts of Illinois.  My family is fine, but many are not.  Towns were destroyed, lives have been lost, and my heart hurts.  I have been praying for comfort, holding out in hope, and praying for the grieving.

Living out in the farmlands means many times tornadoes will form and create havoc and destruction in their paths in moments.  How does a person deal with the loss of “normal” life in times like this?

I know the immediate response of towns nearby has been encouraging.  The blessing of humankind is our desire to assist those who are without hope to find hope– even if it’s a clean set of clothes and blanket to sleep under.

God designed us for community and when all seems lost, we are best able to come alongside someone, hold out our hand to them and pull them up.  I am grateful that God wired us with compassion– we were made to care for each other and it seems that times of trial and devastation bring out the best in so many.

The verses that have been rolling through my mind are from Romans 12, verses 12 and 15,   Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

So this is what I will do today and I ask you do the same.

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tough stuff

What is it about Grace that is so difficult?  Sure we want to receive it, we ask for it, we demand it of others, but when we are really honest, we don’t want to give it to others.

Why are we like that?

I have come to see that Grace is one of the hardest of the characteristics to live out as a believer.  I struggle, wrestle, and fight even, with how someone doesn’t deserve the Grace I have the ability to give.  Maybe that person has hurt me in the past and I don’t trust them or believe they are safe to be around anymore.  Or maybe that person doesn’t “measure up” to my standards.

I can come up with a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have to extend Grace to someone who is not worthy of it.

On the other hand, I crave Grace.  I want it to be extended to me when I make foolish mistakes, when I completely blow it in a relationship, when my true “ugly” side comes out.

Do you hear the contradiction?

It is just proof we– I — are not finished yet.  God still has a lot of work to do in me.  I can believe in Grace, extend it most of the time, but when it comes to the difficult people, the ones who continue to challenge me and the way I live life I find it harder to extend it.

It is not my standards I am to grow up to meet, it is Christ’s standards. He gave Grace to His persecutors, His betrayer, those who deserved justice– “an eye for an eye” –Jesus gave them Grace anyway.  It was the sweet scent of Grace that drew people to Christ– not the Law that stood in the Old Testament.  Who could keep all 613 laws perfectly anyway? Only Jesus.

My prayer is that I will allow God to continue to work in me until my life shows that “Grace is given here.”

 

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It is finished

I think this verse from John expresses clearly why Jesus came and died for us.  This is part of His final prayer for us in John 17 (ESV).

It is worth reflecting on this Very Good Friday…

25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

May it be so.

 

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secret prayers

It is official, we signed a contract on our “dream home” last night.  It’s a rambling farmhouse that was once part of a larger parcel of land, whittled down to a couple acres.

It needs work.  But when I look at the house I don’t just see the things that need to be cleaned, I hear the laughter that will happen in the house once we are fully moved in.  I see the meals that will be served in the dining room at a table with friends and family.

The story behind the house has been a story of secret prayers.  My husband and I saw this house when it was on the market last fall but we knew we had six months before we could put a bid on it when suddenly it was taken off the market.  So we handed it off to God, trusting that if it was still available when it was time to officially look then we would put a bid on it.  We have never found a house similar to it since we trusted the situation to God.

In a wild step of faith last week, my husband sent a letter to the owner to let him know we were still interested in the house if the owner still wanted to sell.  We were contacted within days of the letter being sent, and now just days later, we’ve signed the papers.

The other secret prayers I’ve had since leaving the farm in Illinois have included things I miss about living there.  The wide, open spaces, the sound of the wind in the trees, truck tires crunching on gravel as the truck comes up the driveway.  A porch to watch storms come in and to listen to the birds chirping in the trees.  Weather-worn red barns, cows feeding while their calves nurse,  all sorts of common place things that go with farm life.

This new house has these things.  A huge cornfield waiting to be planted in a few weeks is just behind the house, a barn sits at the end of the drive, just like the one I left.  There is even a windmill near the barn. Pine trees frame the property and the day we went to see it the wind whistled and howled through them.

When we had our walk through the house I stepped into the kitchen and it reminded me of my great-grandmother’s kitchen.  It even had the washboard sink like she did.  There was a screened-in porch like she had off her kitchen where my grandmother kept her plants.

The second floor bedrooms also remind me of my grandparents’ farm house.  So much like the farm we left, so much like the farm I loved.

I never made a list of “have-to-have” items for our house.  I never told God He “had to” make sure these things were there.

And yet, my heart tucked these things away and God saw them and He responded.

I am not a proponent of God as a genie, He is not moved by a wish or a whim.  And yet, He is the same God who delights in His children, like I do my sons.  He heard our secret prayers and answered them– even before we ever uttered a word out loud.

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laryngitis

It’s spring time.  Flowers are beginning to bloom, and pollen is blowing… therefore, I have my annual bout of laryngitis.  Allergies hit me and within 24-48 hours I have laryngitis.  The rest of my body is fine, but I have no voice, which makes for an exciting day at work answering phones.

Being without a voice allows me to hear the others around me.  I hear conversations, listen to others who are sharing their hearts and experiences, and ultimately, it makes me be still.

This week is Passion Week or Holy Week and I find myself reflecting about Who Jesus was, Who He is to me, and what this week means to the world– whether they acknowledge it or not.

So much upheaval in the world.  People fight, march, protest, challenge, and speak out against things, for things, trying to be heard.  But no one seems to listen.

As a young teacher I found this quote and put it in my classroom.

Fear less, hope more;
Whine less, breathe more;
Talk less, say more;
Hate less, love more;
And all good things are yours.

~~Swedish Proverb

This week is a week that turned all of history on its ear.  You can hear some of the Sermon on the Mount in this proverb, as well as other teachings of Jesus.  It’s a challenge to us all to let go of the broken and to embrace the Healer…

Be silent and listen to people– you may be surprised by what they are saying…

 

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celebrate!

You know that feeling when you see the first flowers blooming in the spring?  Or the feeling when you see someone about to overcome an obstacle and it’s all you can do to keep from screaming and cheering?

God makes me feel that way all the time.  It seems like a cliche I know, but it’s true.

Last night my husband had a call about a prayer item we’ve been trusting to God.  It came just hours after another answer to prayer.  Agonizing hope and just the hint of what is to come came over us both.  We aren’t sure what God has planned, but we are seeing an inkling of answered prayers.

Another friend just mentioned he will be starting the job he has always wanted next week. While I am sad I won’t see him at work, it was exciting to see how happy he was about his new career.

A phone call from a friend today told me of a heartache and a prayer and how God is moving and surprising the doctors with the results.

My day-t0-day conversations with people who feel like they are at the end of the rope and then find out there are options for their situation.  I love my job and helping others see that there is hope and all is not lost.

My view in life is simple.  I cannot control very much but I can celebrate what God can do everyday.

The lyrics below seem to fit why I can celebrate every day… I hope they encourage you too!

This is no time for fear
This is the time for faith and determination
Don’t lose the vision here carried away by the motion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
Oh, God is in control, oh God is in control

History marches on
There is a bottom line drawn across the ages
Culture can make its plan oh, but the line never changes
No matter how the deception may fly
There is one thing that has always been true
It will be true forever

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
Oh, God is in control, oh God is in control

He has never let you down
Why start to worry now?
Why start to worry now?
He is still the Lord of all we see
And He is still the loving Father
Watching over you and me

Watching over you, watching over me
Watching over every thing
Watching over you, watching over me
Every little sparrow, every little thing
Oh, every little thing, oh

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
Oh, God is in control, oh God is in control

Oh God is in control
Oh God is in control

(lyrics from Twila Paris– God is in Control)

 

 

 

 

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