Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On Prayer and Focused Living

Over the past several months, in times of quiet, I have had an increased burden to focus on prayer; both time in prayer and meditation on the idea of prayer and what it could/should look like. Most of these meditations have come directly from the circumstances God has allowed in my life and the desires He has placed on my heart. The past eight months have been some of the most trying and the most fruitful of all my years.  Throughout this time, the Lord has tethered me to my home and, at times, my bed.  My interactions with others have been limited at best, not by choice, but by circumstance and, I believe, by God's design.  He has used this time of seclusion to heighten my awareness of Him and His workings all around me while growing my desire for Him substantially.  He has caused me to have an insatiable hunger for His Word and for time with Him, whether it be time spent in quiet stillness where His presence envelopes the room and I sense Him there with me breathing life into my brokenness, time spent in worship and adoration, or the sweet times in which I pour out my heart at the foot of His throne.  

The more time I spend with Him the more I am changed.  I have found this to be especially true in my prayer life.  My prayer life has always been a gift that I cherish, and yet I have come to the point in my life where it is more a necessity to my existence than the oxygen that fills my lungs. In the not so distant past, my prayers would often be filled with appeals for an unending list of things on behalf of those I love and for my own life.  Things like renewed health, safety amidst a chaotic and sinful world, grace and strength to recognize and follow God's will,  and among many other things the grace to recognize God's sovereignty in all the events around us.  I believe these are good, healthy prayers, after all Scripture tells us to "ask and it will be given to you" (Matthew 7:7) but I've found the more time I have spent in God's presence the more my prayers have changed.  I find myself more accepting of situations I would have previously deemed horrendous and I find I am asking not so much for a reprieve from all that living in a sinful world brings, but more for the grace and strength to walk through it with my eyes firmly fixed upon the cross.  

God has given me a priceless gift, one that I am treasuring more with each day, the gift of contentment and peace.  It may seem strange that I have come to this place considering the circumstances that I've been allowed to witness and the ones I have been blessed to walk through; but I know now more than I ever have that God showers His children with the richest of blessings amidst the ugliest of circumstances.  How else can  we be prepared to receive the abundance He wishes to give?  If we are so wrapped up in the details of our daily lives - the running of errands, the sink of dishes waiting to be cleaned, the floor that really should have been mopped yesterday,  the laundry, our children, our husbands, our home, our friends...if we are intently focused and wrapped up in these things how can we ever know the joy that comes from truly resting in His presence?  It is hard, I think more so for those of us living in America; because there is such a thin-line between being of the world and just living in it until we are called home.  

I don't presume to say that God is calling us to let our homes lie in filth or to forsake the needs of those we are in relationship with in order to live a cloistered life, but I believe there is much to be said of the objects of our focus.  Is your main priority meeting the needs you see around you and keeping everything together and tidy?  Being a type-A woman I'm right there with my list in hand for the day each box itching to be checked off before I will allow my body and my soul the rest it needs.  And in many cases, for me, this has undeniably been sin.  I can get so focused on completing my own list of tasks (incidentally, prayer used to be on this list of tasks for the day) that I miss many opportunities God is giving me to behold His glory.  It really is all about one's focus.  If my focus is on God my day isn't dictated by lists but by God's leading; my eyes aren't focused on the dirty dishes, but on my Heavenly Father.  If you haven't come to the point where you have experienced life in this way, I can tell you it is but a small taste of eternity and it has made me increasingly yearn for Christ's return. Slowly and not without pain, God has stripped me of things, even good ones, that have distracted me, my health being one of them, and He is continuing to do so.  By His grace, He has allowed me to recognize, in part, what He is doing and it has helped lessen the sting of loss and helped me to stay focused on what He is giving me instead of what I am losing.  I have often been reminded of the verses of "The Sinner's Cure" (see below).

The daily gifts He continues to bestow on me and, more importantly, the ultimate gift of salvation have more than healed the wounds of the brokenness He has orchestrated in my life.  In the past, I have had but an academic view of what it meant to not live of the world; but I am now gaining an experiential knowledge of the unquantifiable joy that comes from truly walking with God and I am recognizing the fruit of this in my prayer life.  Prayer is no longer a box I look forward to checking off my to-do list for the day, it is the door that once I step through puts me at the feet of the One I love most, and there, I stand in awe of who He is and all He has done and is continuing to do.  It is when I am here, at His feet, with no distractions that I am capable, by His grace, to receive all He has for me and it is in this time that my prayers and petitions are purest, coming from a sincere desire to glorify Him, no matter the cost. When I read Isaiah 61:3, " grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified," it makes more sense to me now than it ever has, because I am living it!  How blessed I am to walk, daily, through the trading of ashes for beauty, mourning for gladness, and a faint spirit for a garment of praise!!

As I write this, I can't help but excitedly await what is to come, whatever it may be, because I know He will be walking alongside me guiding and teaching me.  And in the times when I fearfully cling to mourning the loss of my own hopes and dreams, I know He will be there prying loose my white knuckles with the oil of gladness, ready to fulfill His own perfect will in my life.          

"The Sinner's Cure"
Washington Glass, 1854

How lost was my condition,
Till Jesus made me whole;
There is but one Physician 
Can cure a sin-sick soul

CHORUS: There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There's power enough in Heaven,
To cure a sin-sick soul.

Next door to death He found me,
And snatched me from the grave,
To tell to all around me,
His wondrous power to save


The worst of all diseases
Is light compared with sin;
On every part it seizes,
But rages most within.


Tis palsy, plague and fever,
And madness, all combined;
And none but a believer
The least relief can find.


From men great skill professing,
I thought a cure to gain;
But this proved more distressing,
And added to my pain.


Some said nothing ailed me,
Some gave me up for lost;
Thus every refuge failed me,
And my hopes were crossed.


At length this Great Physician
How matchless is His grace;
Accepted my petition, 
And undertook my case.


First gave me sight to view Him,
For sin my eyes had sealed;
Then bid me look unto Him --
I looked and I was healed.


A dying, risen Jesus,
Seen by the eye of faith,
At once from anguish frees us,
And saves the soul from death.


Come, then, to this Physician,
His help He'll freely give;
He makes no hard condition,
Tis only look and live.


Friday, June 4, 2010

On Sorrow and Joy

Do you know sorrow?  Has her shadow hovered over you in the night while you lay sleepless, your eyes stinging with tears?  Have you fought her until every last ounce of your strength is gone and then felt her envelope you, your heart pounding inside your chest?   She can be ruthless, entering your life in an instant, swallowing up your laughter and leaving tears in her wake.  Or she can inch her way in, little by little, gaining strength with each new heartache, until she has touched every crevice of your being with her poison.  Sorrow, though not a welcomed guest, is a stranger to few.

When sorrow rears her ugly head in our lives it can be difficult to see past her darkness.  There are times when it feels like we will never be able to escape her grasp.  She does everything she can to alienate us from those who desire to pry her hands off of us and breath life-giving truth into the void she leaves behind.  We will all dance with sorrow at some point in our life, some more than others.  She has spread her seed far and wide on this earth.  But there is more to the story.  God promises us sorrow will not prevail in the end.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy"
John 16:20 (ESV)

Sorrow plows the fields of our hearts leaving gaping wounds that feel as though they can never be mended.  It is in these wounds that seeds of joy, watered with our tears, spring forth.  Our Heavenly Father loves us in such a way that He allows this process to occur many times in our lives.  He understands that a heart untouched by sorrow doesn't have the same capacity for joy as a heart that has weathered her storm.  We were created to know a joy so great our imaginations can't begin to paint the picture.  Our joy, our true joy is planted by Our Father and nurtured through our relationship with His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  While we are afforded the grace of experiencing joy in this life, the joy we experience here is dwarfed by the joy we have to look forward to.  So hold fast, dear friends, to the joy that comes from walking with Jesus; cling to it when sorrow falls upon you and remember there will soon be a day where we will experience a fullness of joy unlike anything we can imagine and sorrow will be no more.

" 'He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'  And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'  Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' " 
Revelation 21:4-5 (ESV)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Reminder

Life is hard.  Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is lying or has yet to live.  This world was not meant to satisfy the deep longings of our soul.  Yet here we are, all of us, living in a fallen world filled with sin and the pain it begets.  Don't misunderstand me, there are many joys God allows us to experience in this life.  Most of us go through seasons in which  we experience abundant blessings and the pure contentment that springs from the gifts that only God can give.  Then there are the valleys.  The deep valleys where the Refiner's fire burns so hot we cry out for relief.  I have learned it is in these moments when God shows Himself to be mighty in my life.  It is so easy to unintentionally turn one's back on God in moments of plenty, but He is patient and loving and never turns His back on us.  When I am walking through a valley and experiencing the searing pain of the Refiner's fire I am reminded of how much God loves me.  My Heavenly Father loves me enough to guide me through seasons of suffering in order to conform me into the image of Christ.  It is in understanding this truth and meditating on it that my pain begins to produce strength gained by being yoked with Christ and I find myself rejoicing even through tears.  

Below is a psalm that is particularly comforting to me.  It is my prayer that you will find comfort in it as well.

Psalm 91
My Refuge and My Fortress

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD,"My refuge and my fortress, 
my God, in whom I trust."

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilences that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand, 
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place-
the Most High, who is my refuge-
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble; 
I will rescue him an honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him 
and show him my salvation."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In the Words of George Mueller

George Mueller lost Mary, his beloved wife of 39 years, to rheumatic fever. He spoke the following words at her memorial service:

"I miss her in numberless ways, and shall miss her yet more and more. But as a child of God, and as a servant of the Lord Jesus, I bow. I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father. I seek by perfect submission to His holy will to glorify Him. I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me."

I don't know about you, but just reading those words humbles me. It is so easy to follow God and love Him when everything in our lives are going the way we think they should be. Our vision of how our lives should be usually includes physical and financial comfort, stability (knowing what to expect tomorrow), and many times we feel as though we should be able to have anything we desire, especially if it is something intrinsically good. Oh, how much our visions differ from what God tells us our reality will be! We are told that as Christians we will suffer. We are called to pick up our cross, an instrument of torture and death, and follow in Christ's footsteps. God doesn't promise us sunshine and roses. He promises there will be turbulent storms we will walk through, yet He promises to be our shield with every step we take. He promises droughts that will parch our lips and He promises to quench our thirst with Living Water. He promises treacherous mountains that we will scale and He will be our firm footing. God doesn't ask us to walk through anything that He will not equip us for. George Mueller understood this Truth as he grieved his precious wife. No doubt his heart ached at his loss, but He was walking close enough to God to recognize that He wasn't grieving alone. He knew his Father in Heaven was near him and comforting him in his grief.

It is my prayer that we also can rest in our Father's presence when we are afflicted with suffering. Each one of us has a story and while the details of our stories are vastly different, at the core they are very much the same. Most of us have suffered at some point in our lives; but there are those who have yet to suffer; and still there are some of us who are suffering at this very moment. Whether our suffering is over the loss of a loved one, lack of employment, poor health, or broken relationships, if we are walking with God our Truth and reality is the same - we have a Father who loves us more than we can fathom and He is pouring out His mercies on us with each new day, equipping us for what lies ahead, all while He comforts us showering compassion on our broken hearts and bodies. If you are suffering as you read this, I pray you know how much God loves you. I pray you allow yourself to be wrapped in His love and compassion and that you stay there as long as it takes you to heal. He will bind your wounds and strengthen you to take the next step in your journey and He will be there when the road becomes difficult to pick you back up.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Lord, I give You all of me
asking nothing in return
but You pour out your mercy
having patience as I learn

You daily shower grace on me
though nothing I deserve
You look on me in favor
And wrap me in your love

The awe You cause within me
grows deeper day by day
You cause my heart to yearn
for the place I've yet to see

Each day I spend walking
following You step by step
brings me one day closer
to that blessed place you've kept

Oh how my heart rejoices
when I consider what's in store
knowing I am nearer to
the day I'll kneel before your throne.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

God is Enough

God is enough. This is not a stereotypical line of encouragement like it sounds, it is a truth that I am clinging to more and more these days. My husband and I have been trying to conceive a child for about five and a half years now and there are times it starts to weigh heavy on my heart. I want nothing more than to be a mother and to raise a house full of children who love the Lord. I long to hold a baby in my arms and inhale his/her sweet baby scent as I rock them to sleep. It would mean the world to me to feel tiny fingers wrap around mine. All of these feelings are amplified when I see my friends who have been married less than half the amount of time as me having multiple children. They are not feelings of bitterness and I would never wish for others to go through what we have, but underneath the joy I feel for my friends there lies heartache and questions. Will I ever have a child of my own? Will I ever hear a sweet voice say the word I covet to hear, "mom"?

This week has been particularly hard. All week I have been seeing images of orphaned children suffering in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. My heart breaks for these children and it is so hard to watch knowing that we could offer at least one or two of them a loving home. We have been listening closely to find out if there will be a way to adopt one of these precious children, but we heard that due to the lack of government in Haiti adoptions were being put on hold. So we resigned ourselves to prayer and sharing of our financial resources. In addition to all the sweet children that need homes in Haiti, we found out this week that 3 couples we know are expecting children. It has been a lot to swallow in one week. During my quiet time on Wednesday I sat in my house alone, enveloped by its emptiness, and poured out my heart to God. I felt the comfort of His presence near me as I shared my breaking heart with Him. When I had composed myself enough to spend some time in the Word I began with my devotional reading for the day. As I read, I could feel God's love drawing me near. It was as if He had penned the verse and devotional just to comfort me in my situation.

"Sorrow is God's tool to plow the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests...It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others."
- Streams in the Desert by: L.B. Cowman

God gave me exactly what I needed in that moment. He gave me the strength to continue my day and He wrapped me in His love showering me in compassion. Last night I was sharing this as a prayer request when a friend of mine told me she had heard on CNN that adoptions in Haiti were being expedited because of the dire circumstances. She told me they stated that an adopting couple could possibly have a child in two weeks time. Even while I was skeptical of what I was hearing my heart leapt inside my chest. A baby in two weeks? It had to be too good to be true, but CNN is a reliable source for information so I allowed a spark of hope ignite inside of me. I called Robert as I drove home and relayed to him what I had been told and we agreed that we were both on the same page and would love to give a Haitian orphan a loving home. As I travelled home, I knew the first thing I would do upon entering the house would be to substantiate the information I had been given. I reminded myself that it was not likely true, but that tiny spark quickly grew into a fire of excitement that raced through me. My mind was all over the place. All we would need to purchase immediately would be a crib, or maybe not even a crib if we got a child that was a little bit older, and a car seat and diapers. The rest of the items we could get one piece at a time after we got the child home. What would we name him or her? It would need to be a strong name, because the child would be strong having survived the devastation in Haiti. Finally, after what seemed like a two hour car ride I pulled in my driveway. As I walked in the front door I placed my purse and Bible on the table and made a beeline to my computer and within 45 seconds that fire of hope and excitement was extinguished. The truth was what I had thought in the beginning, all adoptions from Haiti were being put on hold. To make matters worse I read that even in normal circumstances Haiti requires that adopting couples be married for 10 years (strike one) and be between the ages of 35-55 (strike two). The comfort I had felt earlier in the day was gone so quickly. The words I read had snuffed out my hope.

When I am walking through circumstances that are painful I am always brought back to the questions "Is God enough for you? Is Christ's death on the cross for my sins enough?" If I stop and think about this I know the answer. Yes, God is more than enough for me. Nothing can replace the joy I find in Him. Christ dying on the cross has allowed me to truly live, how could I take that for granted? I can't. I have to keep my focus on God and on His love for me. God is sovereign and has a plan for me and His plan is perfect. I know God is molding me into the person He desires me to be and I need to be willing to not just walk through the pain that results from the Refiner's fire, but to walk through the fire with joy and praising God. I am so thankful that God has given me a desire to follow Him no matter what circumstances He allows to come my way. I am thankful that He loves me enough to pick me up when I stumble along the way. I am thankful that my Savior knows the pain that comes from suffering and has compassion on me when my heart is breaking. Yes, my God is enough. He is more than enough.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." -Romans 5:1-5 ESV

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie Recipe Exchange!!

Christmas is just around the corner and one thing I love to do at this time of year is bake. There is something about the smell of fresh baked goods that makes a house seem more homey. Since there are only two of us in our house I tend to make cute little gift packages and give away the majority of the things that come out of my oven, otherwise I would have one unhealthy husband! Cookies work particularly well for gift packages because they travel well and there are so many varieties. I love to mix and match colors, textures and flavors that way each package is sure to contain cookies even the pickiest eater will enjoy. I am always on the lookout for new recipes to try and I am so pleased that Jessica at The Mom Creative is hosting a cookie recipe exchange. There are a lot of fantastic recipes being exchanged, some of which I have never seen before so if you still need to do some Christmas baking you should definitely check it out!

Chocolate-Almond Meringues

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy
Add sugar and almond extract and beat (for about 3 minutes) until meringues form soft peaks
Gently fold chocolate into meringues
Use a pastry bag to pipe meringues onto parchment paper covered baking sheet, each should be about a tablespoon
Bake for 40 minutes
Remove from oven and cool completely before removing parchment paper (this is very important)
Store in an airtight container