Friday, April 25, 2014

God Whispers Don't Give Up

Hey Friend,
Can I be honest for a moment or two?  Well over a year ago I started this blog.  I felt impassioned and knew without a doubt that this is what God wanted me to do.  He inspired me and encouraged me personally and through others to pursue my lifelong dream of wanting to write...and what better topic than sharing my faith walk with others. 
So began a journey that took me down roads of personal reflection and spiritual growth.  I feel like I've built a community with those across the globe who read my randomness.  Just saying "across the globe" is in and of itself pretty amazing when I really think about it. 
Recently, however, I've been plagued with doubts about whether what I am doing is really making a difference.  Does anyone really care about what I have to say?  Am I truly reflecting God's thoughts or am I merely mining from my own words?  The newness and the accolades have long worn off and I find myself in a personal sea of doubt and lack of direction.  Do I keep persevering or do I give up and throw in the towel? 
It didn't help that after last week's post there were no comments.  I always have said that I write to an audience of One...but my humanness creeps in and I admit to seeking approval or at least acknowledgement from those who read what I write.  I know, pretty self-absorbed.  Combined with some slow readership weeks, I began to doubt myself, my skill as a writer, my voice as a Christian, my purpose.  Yes, I guess I was having my own little meltdown.  I was ready to give up...put down the pen...throw in the towel...quit.
I prayed to God and asked Him what He wanted me to do?  As is often the case, God was silent.  Nothing clear was coming.  I just managed to wallow deeper in my puddle of confusion.  I read scripture and nothing resonated with me or gave me an "Ah-hah!" moment. 
Yesterday, Thursday (my usual day to post) I had a bad day...I mean a REALLY BAD DAY!  It was a Murphy's law - if it can go wrong, it will today - kind of day.  I felt grouchy, melancholy, frustrated, fatigued and fed up with life.  The last thing I felt like doing was writing an inspirational blog post.  I felt far from inspired and so I just let my laptop sit.  "Go ahead...collect dust.  See if I care," I said to my computer with disdain. Bedtime couldn't come soon enough.
This morning I got up at my usual 5 am. and had my quiet time and devotions time.  I felt half-hearted at best.  My laptop beckoned.  Ok, let's look at some unimpressive numbers I thought.  I opened up an "overview" graph on my blog that tracks the number of pageviews on my blog by the day, week, month, etc.  There amidst a Sahara desert flat line of pageviews, stood the Mt. Everest of daily pageviews.  On Thursday, April 24 (my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day) my blog registered the highest day ever in visits to my blog.  The total was three times my previous high. 
Immediately, I knew that God was telling me, "Don't give up!"  There was no other explanation other than God was emphatically whispering..."press on...don't give up now."  Just because my plans and expectations had been sidetracked, didn't mean that God's had been.  His timing is always perfect.  His will cannot be thwarted.  He, indeed, is sovereign.  Even in my desert experiences, I need to abide in Him and wait upon Him for whatever He chooses to orchestrate through me.  I learned that giving up is like giving up on God and He is so much more faithful than that!
We all need encouragement to press on.  If you could, would you share a time when you know that God was encouraging you not to give up...but to instead press on?  We need to know your matters!!
Thank God, and thank you for your faithfulness!
In His love,
ps. If you don't have a Google acct., to leave a COMMENT select "Anonymous" under profile options and you should be able to leave a comment. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When Your Heart Yearns For Simplicity

Hey Friend,
Dieter, the A/C technician, was busily going about his work replacing the thousand dollar plus evaporator coil.  He was talking to our dog, Topper, in German as Topper eagerly brought him toys with which to play.  Whistling and singing a Jimmy Buffett tune, Dieter suddenly stopped and asked, "Are you moving?"
Strange question, I thought.  Then I looked around and surveyed every horizontal surface and there was stuff, stuff everywhere.  Piles, boxes, items without a home.  My husband and I have been married just three months and though we've been busy getting his stuff moved in and some of my stuff purged, it still looks as if a moving truck vomited in our house.
Add to that my grown son living with us having just been diagnosed with bipolar spectrum disorder, a daughter heartbroken after ending a three year relationship, a dog with dementia who "vocalizes" (barks at a high pitch every evening for a couple hours), a revolving door of workmen fixing everything from the roof to a structural/foundation problem on a house that needs a lot of TLC.
Everyday I wake up and think, what will be the crisis of the day?  Gratefully, none of these problems are life threatening, but they do cause stress.  Some days I yearn for the simplicity of childhood - before mortgages and car problems.  Remember the days of no worries, no problems, no deadlines?  When every day was a great adventure to be had and riding your bike on sunny days to the nearby park and playing was your appointment for the day.  The only deadline was be home by dinnertime.
How in today's world do you regain that simplicity?  As a child, subconsciously, I trusted my parents to take care of the big worries.  My dad held the job; my parents paid the mortgage; together they handled the big stuff and innately I trusted.  As I examine my life, I often find that I am missing trust that God will take care of the big picture.
I am missing trust in God for my protection.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  (Psalm 23:1-3)
When I am not following His leading, I get myself in trouble.  The Lord wants to lead me beside the still waters.  I can trust that He will protect me after all, He is the good shepherd.
"Kept by His power - that is the only safety."  (Oswald Chambers)
I have discovered that earthly security is an illusion.  Your only real security comes from the loving heart of God.
I am also missing trust in God for my worries.
When we yearn for simplicity, what we often yearn for is rest.  Rest from worries.
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)
I need to learn to take my worries to God and then LEAVE THEM THERE!
"He stands fast as your rock, steadfast as your safeguard, sleepless as your watcher, valiant as your champion."  (C.H. Spurgeon)
When I say I want simplicity, often what I really need is strength. Where does my strength come from?  It comes from the Lord.
He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strength.  (Isaiah 40:29)
To make a long story short: JESUS IS ENOUGH. Jesus is not only enough, He is more than enough.
When my heart yearns for simplicity what it is really longing for is a Savior.
My own self-made yoke is heavy and burdensome, but His yoke is light.  If you are feeling heavy laden, chances are you need to hand over whatever "It" is to the Lord.  He wants you to have life and have it abundantly like in the days of our youth when we had the freedom to simply enjoy life and leave the worries to our Father.
Jesus beckons, "Come my child, let Me carry the load.  I love you and I long to give you the simplicity you yearn for.  Take my yoke instead; it is light and easy."  Will you exchange your yoke for His?  He's waiting...
In His love,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Are You A Door For God's Love To Walk Through?

Hey Friend,
I chose the word "intentional" for my watch word for 2014.  It kind of sums up how I want to live my life this year.  By saying I want to be intentional, I am saying I want to be present in the moment and I want to be intentional about spreading God's love, loving others right where they are and ultimately building God's Kingdom.
Lofty goals indeed, but as a wise person once told me, "Practice on the small stuff so that when it gets to the big stuff, you are prepared." 
Normally I get off the ramp from the interstate not far from my house and I mindlessly come to a stop and daydream until the long light turns green.  This day, however, there was a tall, thin scraggily man with a long gray beard sitting on an overturned bucket and holding a cardboard sign. 
Okay, Bev, time to be intentional.  I beckoned him over to my car window and looked him straight in the eye and asked his name.  He responded, but I was too captivated by his eyes to remember what he was telling me.  He had the kindest smile and these piercing blue eyes that twinkled when he talked.  He politely took off his Vietnam Vets hat and told me a little of his story.  We talked as long as the light would let us...until we were rudely interrupted by the car horn behind us.  "God bless you," I said as I handed him some money.  "Dios te bendiga," he responded.  "That means God bless you in Spanish," he kindly responded back. 
The whole way home I couldn't get those piercing eyes and that gentle, kind smile out of my mind. 
I wondered, is this one of those times when Heaven touches earth.  When the sacred meets the secular? 
I did feel like I was the one who had been blessed.  Had I sat there daydreaming with my window up, I would have missed out on a real blessing that day. 
Every day God gives us doors for His love to walk through.  It's up to us what we do when He opens those doors.
I have gathered some of my favorite verses that speak to living and loving intentionally:
Romans 5:8:  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We don't wait for someone to earn or deserve our love...we are called to love others like Christ does - while they are still sinners.
Ephesians 2:4-5:  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved...
We are saved by grace so we need to love with grace.  Our love extended can literally bring life to the dead.  I love the phrase, "But God".  The world judges, condemns, shuns...But God...
That simple phrase calls us to a different standard!
1John 4:7-8:  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
John 13: 34-35:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
In his song entitled, "With Every Act of Love" by Jason Gray, he sings:
God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is YOU.
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
Every simple act of kindness, each gesture of love inches His Kingdom closer.
How intentional are you about living each and every moment as if you could bring the dead back to life?  Like me, are you daydreaming through life's red lights, or are you looking around for a door through which you could walk and bring love, true love to a dark and hurting world?
I'll end this post with two quotes that have inspired me to love...more intentionally.
"God is love.  Therefore love.  Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love."  (Henry Drummond)
"Speak life and light into the inky chaos; that is why God breathes life into you."  (Deidra Riggs)
So I challenge you, just as I challenge myself; are you a door for God's love to walk through?  Remember practice with the small stuff and no gesture is too small!
In His love,
ps. Congratulations to Joanne who won the Spring Giveaway Drawing (DaySpring mug and Starbucks gift card).  Thank you to everyone reading my blog.  May you know how truly loved you are by our Creator!  Be Blessed!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Marriage: Before And After You Say "I Do"

Hey Friend,
Some people might say that a person who has been divorced writing about marriage is like the architect of the Titanic writing about shipbuilding. 
True enough.  The flip side is that I am a bit of an expert on what doesn't work. 
When my fiancĂ© and I went to church for our premarital classes, we were clearly the only ones there with gray hair and wrinkles.  The other couples looking to get married resembled innocent babes in our eyes.  They were doe-eyed and hopeful...ready to embark, for the first time, upon this mysterious fantasy called marriage. 
What my fiancĂ© and I brought to the table was something a little different.  Between us we had 45+ years of marriage under our belts.  We had navigated the waters of abuse and infidelity among other things.  We knew that it took two people to want to make the marriage work...and I DO mean Work (no slackers need apply).  The failure of a marriage is never 100% one person's fault and 0% the other person's fault.  We had made our share of mistakes too.
With all that being said, I've thought a lot about what nuggets of been-there-done-that wisdom I could impart to those thinking about marriage and those who are in the process of navigating the waters of marriage.
Before you say "I do":  Pray and Wait.  God promises wisdom to all those who ask and often asks us (much to our dismay) to wait.  There's wisdom to be found in waiting, but we want to follow the butterflies and our own impulsiveness.  Dating for a long time allows you to see the good, the bad and the ugly.  Going through adversity while you are dating is a good indicator of how your potential mate will react when you face adversity as a married couple.  Take careful notes.
Ask yourself, "What is my motivation?":  Why do you truly want to be married.  "Because I'm looking for someone to complete me"  is not a good answer.  You ARE complete in Christ and only in Him.  Others can compliment you but they can't complete you.  Are you wanting to get married because you are afraid of being alone?  Is everyone else getting married and you feel like you better hop on the train before it leaves the station?  Are you settling?  God has a good and perfect plan for your life.  Often He has in mind a Godiva chocolate bar for us and we are willing to settle for a tootsie roll. 
Don't ignore the red flags:  If you've been divorced you know what I'm talking about.  The things you believe will magically fix themselves once you are married or the things you think you will be able to fix in your partner.  There's a difference in seeing past the small flaws in another person, but ignoring red flags can be detrimental in the end.  Also study family dynamics and the role models (parents) of your potential spouse.  Are there healthy relationships?  We all have a certain amount of dysfunction in our families, but I have found that people either tend to repeat what has been modeled to them or they do a 180.  What track is your potential spouse on? What track are you on?
Do not be unequally yoked:  If you are a Christ follower, I can't emphasize this one enough.  Oxen that are of equal size and temperament pull the load equally together.  If your potential mate is an unbeliever, the load will get hard and heavy if you are having to pull it yourself.  You may be able to do it in the short run, but over years it becomes burdensome.  God had our very best in mind in 2 Corinthians 6:14:  "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers."
He knows better than anyone how difficult marriage can be and his intent is that no one falters because the burden is too heavy for one person to pull.
After you say "I do":  For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.  But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.  For the law can be summed up in this one command:  "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." [emphasis mine] (Galatians 5:13-14)
We read this scripture at our marriage ceremony.  When it gets right down to it...if we really wanted to have successful marriages, we would post this scripture over our door frames and we would set it before us as our goal.
What if every day we woke up and said, "Today I am going to try to out love my spouse!" 
What if each day we set aside our own selfish desires and said, "Today I am going to out serve my spouse?"
What if we stopped asking ourselves, "What's in it for me?" and instead asked God to let us be a vessel through which God's love was poured out on our spouse?
Our marriages might look radically different. 
Pray Together:  I love that my husband and I start our day together in prayer.  It sets the navigational compass for the whole day.  Even when I head to bed before my husband does, I ask him to wake me up so that we can pray together before we fall asleep.  God is the Alpha and the Omega...we need to pray to Him in the beginning and in the end.  And husbands, as the spiritual head of the household,  pray over your wife each day.  There is nothing sexier than a man on his knees in prayer!
Forgive:  Forgive and show grace and mercy again and again and again.  I love it when my husband says that he loves me "because of" not "in spite of".  He looks for the best in me and forgives me when I fall short (which is a lot)! 
I suppose I could prattle on for quite a few more paragraphs (thank you for indulging me thus far).  I am passionate about making my marriage work and if others can learn from my mistakes then my life is an open book.   I would also like to learn from successful marriages out there!
I'll end with some words I love by the wonderful writer Ann Voskamp:
There are no standing lovers:  the only way to love is to lay down.
     Lay down plans
     Lay down agendas
     Lay down self
Love is always the laying down.  Love lets go of its plans to hold onto a person.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what goes into making a successful marriage.  As always I pray for ALL my readers and if I can pray for you regarding something specific, let me know. 
In His love,
ps. This is the last chance to comment and be entered in the drawing to win a DaySpring scripture mug and Starbucks gift card.