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Posted on Feb 15, 2013 in Devotional | 4 comments

Oh for Grace…

Oh for Grace…

A few years ago, I did some pretty extreme fasting as an act of obedience to God.  I felt strongly that He had called me to do it, and as I muddled my way through it, He gave me the grace and strength I needed to complete it.  I kept a journal during that time and as we approach the Lenten season of fasting in the Christian church, I’ve been re-reading it.  What did I learn during that intense spiritual journey and am I still applying it today?

An overwhelming theme of the journal is that I didn’t really feel any big change or shift during the fast, but I kept on going out of obedience and surrender.  A month after the fast was over I wrote something that summarizes what I believe it was about.

“To know the heart of God is to trust Him and to believe that even in the most uncertain times, He is the solid rock of certainty.” 

That was the lesson I learned during the time of fasting, and that lesson has stayed with me in a profound way.  I learned that no matter what is happening to me, to the world, or to those I love, I can trust and depend on the Lord.  When I don’t understand, which is often, I don’t have to worry about it.  God is using it to work out something for my good, so I can relax and let it go.

That lesson has defined my life since then and I suppose it will for the rest of my life.  As a new mother, I’ve faced the strangest fears – I might get a disease and live my life in horrible pain, unable to care for her; I might die and leave my daughter without a mother, always questioning her place in the world; or she might die and leave me crippled with a broken heart staring into space for the rest of my life.  The only way I’ve been able to overcome those fears and embrace joy is to acknowledge them and to know that if those things do happen, God is still in control.  None of it would take God by surprise and I can rest assured that His promises are still true.

As a daughter and niece, I’ve struggled this last year to understand and accept the cancer diagnosis that mother and aunts have faced.  I’ve dealt with skin cancer and horrible, constant pregnancy sickness for months on end.  I even vomited during labor.  Other family members are going through tremendous, stressful trials.  Why does so much rain fall at one time, in one family?  Shocking, really, to realize that we aren’t in any way “special” or out of the reach of disease and destruction.  Aren’t we godly tithers who minister to others?  Yes, and yet we face the same issues.  We are not guaranteed immunity.  Why should it be shocking?  We know these things.  But somehow it still is.  Is it part of growing up to discover that our bodies will someday fail us, and it may be sooner than we think?  Is it a lack of faith in God’s healing power to acknowledge that?  I wish I had the answers.  All I know is that I still believe in God’s power to heal, but I also acknowledge that if God allows me and those I love to suffer, it isn’t because He has failed me.  He uses all things for His glory, so I pray to bring Him glory.  And I trust.

I have surrendered to His will.  The battle that raged in my heart for so long is over.  My will has been broken and although it tries to regain control from time to time, it will no longer rule my life and cause me to wrestle with God in the same way again.

DessertsFor this Lenten season, I am joining in the time of fasting that so many of my Christian sisters and brothers observe.  I’m nursing, so it can’t be anything too extreme or calorie-diminishing.  As usual with fasting, God has been preparing my heart for what I can do and it comes as no surprise.  I’ll be giving up sweets this year – no desserts, Cokes, candy, or other sugary treats.  I got gestational diabetes with the pregnancy and had to really think about my sugars and restrict myself for the last several months of the year.  Since she’s been born, I’ve been, um… celebrating my freedom, eating my way through piles of things I rarely allowed myself before.  YUM.  And happily I haven’t gained weight because of the nursing.  But I can tell it’s affecting me and I don’t feel as good as I could.  It’s time and I’m willingly offering this small sacrifice back to the Lord.  For all He has done for me, what is it to me to give up an unhealthy overindulgence for 40 days?  To reset my body so that it once again understands restrictions and stops screaming for another cookie?

That’s not to say I think it will be easy.  I’ve become addicted and it will be a struggle, but one that is worth it.  God has been so good to me.  I’m glad to be able to do a little something to let Him know how much I appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross.

To all of you who are also fasting this Lenten season, I pray that God will empower us to keep our commitment and offer up this sacrifice joyfully until Easter, when we can celebrate together the resurrection of Christ and the end of the our temporary suffering.

And in closing, my prayer will continue to be:  Oh for grace to trust Him more…

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Posted on Feb 16, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, My Crazy Family, Spiritual Life | 0 comments

February 14, 2010

February 14, 2010

I cried a lot today.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I don’t have a boyfriend or husband, but for once that had nothing to do with my tears.  I cried today because after three days with my niece, I had to leave again.  I also cried because I know my life is changing.  

Alexis Grace

 

My niece is two years old, and she has totally charmed me.  If I tell her I’m going somewhere, she gets a concerned look on her face and insists repeatedly, “And me.  And me!”  She wants to go along.  This morning I packed my bags and put them by the door.  I told her I had to leave, had to go back to my house, and I’d miss her.  Instead of saying, “And me!” she said, “Stay here.  Please stay here with me!”  And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny little pieces.  As little as she is, she understands the difference between a short errand and going home.   She understands that she won’t see me again for months.  And today she further understood that her charm will not always get her what she wants.  It broke my heart that I’m the one to teach her that terrible, but necessary lesson. 

My life is changing.  I’ve been blessed with 3+ years of stability, proximity to my family, a stable job, and relative calm.  I know this time has been a gift from God and I’m thankful for it.  But something is stirring inside me.  I wish I could articulate exactly what it is, but the only thing I know to call it is CHANGE.  God is changing me.  He is stretching me.  He is challenging the commitment I’ve made to total obedience, trust, and love.  He is asking me to give up things I’ve held to tightly, to open my hands and offer them to Him, with no visual of anything to replace the cherished.  

He isn’t dangling a big piece of Godiva chocolate in front of my face and asking me to let go of the m&m.  He’s just asking me to let go of the m&m.  I really like m&ms. 

I cried today because letting go is so hard to do.   

Even though I believe God has something more for me, it’s so hard to let go of the comfortable and familiar.  For a moment I berated myself for being so emotional, so dramatic, and for indulging in self-pity.  Then the thought came to me, “If this isn’t worth crying over, then what is?”  So I let the tears come and didn’t try to stop them.  I cried myself out.  

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17th.  This year I’m taking the time to purify my heart, mind, and body.  I’m emptying myself before the Lord.  I’m looking forward to standing before Him, ready to be filled by His truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness.  I’m also dreading the days ahead when I will likely feel the gamut of my emotions with nothing to soften the rawness.  I’m giving up my comforts so I may learn to look to the Lord alone for comfort.  

Anticipation of the results is what will give me the strength to do it.  Love for My Lord and Savior will pull me through.  And yes, I plan to be radically changed.  I’m ready.  I’m excited.  Today I mourned the loss of the familiar, but my tears weren’t without hope.  Through my fear, I face my blindness regarding the future and trust God to guide me to a place of bright color and beauty.

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Posted on Feb 25, 2009 in Before Marriage Blog, Devotional, Spiritual Life | 21 comments

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Several weeks ago I was invited to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a local Anglican Mission church.  The service was at 7:00am.  I am NOT a morning person.  I thought that it would be nice to go, but knew that realistically no good intentions would be enough to get me somewhere a full two hours before I needed to be at work.  Therefore, I made no promise to attend – to myself or anyone else.

 

Last night before I drifted off to sleep, I prayed a simple prayer. 

“Lord, if You want me to go to that 7:00am Ash Wednesday service tomorrow, then You will have to wake me up at 5:30am.  It’s in Your hands, Lord.”

 

I did not expect to wake up this morning until the alarm went off at the usual time.  Much to my surprise, at 5:21am my eyes opened wide.  I got up, got ready, and was out the door by 6:30.  I made it to the service on time, sat with my friends, and soon understood why I was to go.

 

ash-wednesdaySomething has been stirring in my spirit over the last several weeks.  The best way I know to describe it is as a sense of disgust for the excesses in my life.  I have over-indulged in rich foods, I have over-indulged in spending, and I have over-indulged in things that waste my time and take me away from spending time with the Lord.  I am in debt:  not only financially, but physically and spiritually.  I could start spending wisely, eating wisely, and managing my time wisely today – but it would not be enough to make up for the over-indulgences of the past.  I have been coming to understand that I must have a time of restraint, a time of restriction, a time of fasting, in order to get to a break-even point.  Once I reach “zero”, I can start to build. 

 

What is “zero” or breaking even for me?  Financially, it’s easy to determine that, but what about physically and spiritually?  I’m not sure how to measure that yet.  Physically, I could set a weight goal, but there is so much more to it than that.  I must include physical fitness and strength.  And spiritually, it’s hard to measure where one goes from breaking even to over-flowing. 

 

The service this morning began with an explanation of the origins of Lent:  I won’t repeat it all here, but this part stood out to me.  “…all Christians… take to heart the call to repentance… and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.  I invite you, therefore, to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.” 

 

I knew as I heard the words that God is calling me to a time of self-examination and self-denial.  In the past this has seemed like the last thing on earth I’d want to do.  But this morning it seemed like a call to pure joy.  The idea of restricting myself in order to press in to God and repent from gluttony and pride seems fresh and new.  Not like a diet, a budget, or a strict daily devotional time, but an opportunity to do something to show God my love.  It is a desire to find simplicity, to return to my first love – or maybe find Him for the first time. 

 

Perhaps I’ve been so busy in my life trying to be someone special – to compensate for times I was hurt or mistreated, times I got away with things I shouldn’t have, times I broke others hearts – that I’ve never really taken time to just BE a Christian:  to be a woman who loves God with all her heart and really would do anything for Him. 

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