Category Archives: Faith

Heard

It’s been quite a year, this 2015.

A hard one.

Hardest that’s come in my 33 years.

Funny looking back on seasons once deemed difficult, now paling by comparison.  Perhaps that’s an encouragement though – those valleys deep seeming shallow in rear view, after their hidden lessons were learned and the Author’s crafting, carrying, through it all made evident.  Perhaps those rifts felt foreboding then as these canyon-sized cracks do now.  Perhaps it’s just reflection’s rose-colored glasses.

Nevertheless.

It’s been a year of dark storms and brilliant silver linings, a year of fears actualized and unknown strength rising.  But let’s be honest – even that “strength” is simply weakness brought center stage, leading to greater dependence on the only One mighty.  If in weakness one is strong, then I’m Miss Olympia.

When walking sorrow’s road, there comes a point when our mortal core cannot carry gratitude’s banner any further, when the silver linings don’t make up for the massive clouds within, when you’re simply, honestly NOT OK and too weary to convince yourself otherwise.  ‘Tis the way of all fallen flesh.  Whether abandonment of provision, people, or plans, human hope only goes so far.

We cannot save ourselves.

Another exhausted day gave way to sleepless night.  As the last of my frayed rope’s end gave way, the guttural cries stored deep from this awful year came pouring out, silent cries giving way to sobs.  My life’s foundational belief in Yahweh, the One True God, the Ever-Faithful, Ever-Listening, Ever-Sovereign, Perfect Author of life itself, met its crux.  All the silver-linings and gratitude-fueled-hope could not sustain the weight crushing within.  God, I “know” You hear me but I NEED to know You’re with me, FOR me, RIGHT NOW in this make it or I’ll break moment.  Would my Cornerstone prove sure?

It all poured out with torrential force.  Anger.  Sorrow.  Fear.  Every awful emotion birthed from loss.  Nothing polished.  Raw.  Laid out ugly before Holiness in the dark of night.

Here, He showed Himself near.

A middle-of-the-night message sent from a friend woken, prompted to pray for me, for my precious children.  Slowly I heard His whispers.  I’m here.

Whispered nudges to a spent soul, Open your Bible app.  A book of 66 books.  Out of all of that, where do I even start?!  Just open it.

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy.  Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live.  The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!”  

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.  The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.  I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.  I believed, even when I said, “I am severely afflicted.”  In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”  

How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me?  I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.  The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.  Lord, I am indeed Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your female servant.  You have loosened my bonds.  I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of Yahweh.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house—within you, Jerusalem.  Hallelujah!  

He heard me.

I read the psalm over and again, awed how the phrases contained spoke direct to my cries.  It had just turned midnight.  I opened the app again.  A new day’s passage appeared.

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!  I have conquered the world.  John 16:33

Comfort like rolling tides swept over as the One who holds all things together held me together by His Word, living and active.  Colossians.  SheReadsTruth.com was studying the book currently.  Colossians.  Well since its after midnight maybe the next day’s post will be up.  Opening it read:

So if you have been raised with the Messiah, see what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on what is above, not what is on the earth.  Colossians 3:1-2

Peace like lightening broke through my dark.  He heard me.  God was speaking to me – broken, battered, ugly-raw me, saving me from what I couldn’t save myself.  And His Words spoke Grace.  Grace greater than sin, ALL sin, mine, those against me and against those I love.  Grace, My child.

And with it – Hope.

It’s now another day into this year, this year that can’t fade to memory soon enough.  Perhaps one day those rose-colored glasses will find similar reflections on the valley of now.  Much terrain remains to be traveled as my surrounding circumstances haven’t changed.  But Ann Voskamp summed it best, “Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole.  Because this is the thing.  Hope is what holds a breaking heart together.  Hope in a Big God is what frees us from big fears.  Hope is a thing with keys…”

At the blackest bottom of my hole, God gently placed mine.  Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Beneath storm clouds still raging, He renewed truth’s song in me.

Great is His faithfulness.

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When It All Falls Down

What to do when your world needs fixing…

When everything teeters on the brink of crumbling, how do you cope?

You cry out to God, pray earnestly for His strong arm to mend the broken, to rescue before collapse. You search Scriptures, search your heart, search earnestly for something, anything, for remedy.

But what do you do when after all this – the tears, the prayers, the repentance – it all falls anyways. Prayers for repair seemingly return with rubble.

I’ve pondered this much of late: how to reconcile cries for fixing when the answer comes back in further breaking.

Was the Lord averse to my cries? Had my pleas fallen on calloused ears?

While emotions raged and circumstances spun, I sensed His gentle Spirit whisper truth to my weary soul:

I am not a handyman.

Patch this. Mend that. Indeed my prayers for fixing desired repair work on existing structures, keeping the status quo minus the cracks. “Here’s MY plan for fixing, Lord. Be a good handyman and get the job done.”

Oh the love of our patient God. As I wrestled with this new realization of my heart’s desires, He whispered again transforming truth.

You are clay and I, the Potter.

The Potter. Master craftsman. Clay always transforms into its destined design within the molding palm of His hands. Should cracks develop or walls weaken, He does not simply patch nor mend. The Potter presses the entire piece to the ground, flattening to scratch and building again from the bottom up. For the vessel to hold true, it must be made new. For the fractured, fixing requires breaking.

With this newfound perspective, I realized my cries for fixing had in fact been answered! Not by mere patchwork that would eventually give way to greater rupture but by the loving leveling of the Master Potter’s Hands. Not out of distain or frustration but clear vision of the full potential trapped within the my clay, potential that could only be realized by His molding touch.

He allowed all to fall so it could be built up in Him, strong and sure.

Take heart, weary one. You are not forsaken. When it all falls down, rest your battered bones in the palm of your Potter. His desire exceeds mere repair of fractured places. Know you are ever in His sight as the apple of His eye. He has a masterpiece in mind!

Therein lies the beauty of being broken.

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Grace

Grace beyond vast oceans’ deep
Embrace my soul with eyes to see
This glorious love, so strong, so free
Immerse me in its flood

High above celestial reach
It towers o’er grand mountains peak
This splendor reaches low to me
Poured out in crimson blood

Awake this soul once bound now free
Redemption’s call beckoning me
Chains broken on Calvary’s tree
Christ’s ransom – grace enough

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Filed under Faith, God, Poetry

Truth To Cling To

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O Lord, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the lights about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
the nights is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your woks;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was not one.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake and I am still with You.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
See if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
———-
Thus says The Lord who made the earth,
The Lord who formed it to establish it –
The Lord is His Name:
Call to Me and I will answer you,
and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know.
———-
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.
Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me,
and I will hear You.
You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart.
———-
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, The Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth
does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
and to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
and vigorous men stumble and fall,
Yes those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength;
They will mount up with wings as eagles,
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.
———-
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Surely I will help you.
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
———-
Thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
and He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear for I have redeemed you;
I have called you.
You are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be set ablaze,
nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24
Jeremiah 33:2-3; 29:11-13
Isaiah 40:28-31; 41:10; 43:1-3a

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Pray For Joanna

Some families touch you for a season, others impact you for a lifetime. For me, the Dennstaedts are the later kind.

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Throughout middle and high school, the Dennstaedts were like second family to me. Kevin and I were class mates, Brian was the big brother I never had, and Jenna and my sister were two peas-in-a-pod. Through the challenges surrounding my high school years, Miss Shirley and Mr John welcomed me into their hearts as their home became a frequent refuge. Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have made it through that season without their friendship, their love, their example and prayers. Time and distance has taken us all down different paths and to different states, yet their family remains dear to my heart.

Now its time to pour love, support and prayer back to them!

Kevin’s wife, Joanna, is a remarkable mother of 4, lacrosse coach, and all-around lovely woman. Hers is a life marked by faith and kindness. Just over a month ago, her world changed as a simple mole turned out to be malignant melanoma which metastasized to her lymph system. Today she’s under the knife for an aggressive groin lymph surgery – a procedure carrying significant consequences depending on what the surgeons find.

Would you please join me in praying for and supporting this family? I can attest firsthand that they have spent their lives loving Jesus and serving others well.

Pray for wisdom and skill for her surgeons.
Pray for peace to envelope Kevin and their four children as they wait for the surgery’s results.
Pray for strength and healing for Joanna as the recovery process is extensive.
And PLEASE pray that there would be No Evidence of Disease in Joanna. For complete healing.

I know from personal experience the tremendous support that can come via the blogosphere, from friends and strangers alike. Let’s surround this family with love as they walk cancer’s uncertain road.

You can follow their family’s journey at DennstaedtFamily.blogspot.com.

IMG_0609-0.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

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Fog Of Failure

She set out to conquer her morning run.  Shoes laced, water bottle in hand, her body stretched and fueled. The familiar path brimmed with potential. 3…2…1… Run!

No stranger to the road, this experienced runner girded herself for the task ahead.  Hills.  Turns.  The mental struggle to keep going right before that euphoric “runner’s high”.  Nothing seemed to phase her focus and stride. She was ready!

But then the fog set in.

imageOut of nowhere dense clouds descended upon her path. Her surroundings faded like intricate stones beneath snow – all detail, all guiding markers lost in a blanket of white. She’d run this path so many times before undaunted through rain, wind, blinding sun, and fading light. But as the fog fell thick, her stride slowed to a timid stroll. All experience, all previous runs faded like her surroundings as her bearings blurred to gray. Though she could not hold the fog in her hands, its presence surrounded her to a stop.  Which path to take?  Which direction to run?  Where am I going?  Where am I now?!  Frozen.

Whether we’re runners or not, we’ve all faced this similar dilemma. Course set, skills honed, yet become wary of taking the next step ahead.

When the fog of failure falls, how quickly courage fades.

Perhaps its a familiar road. Perhaps its a new trail. Perhaps its a path long traveled, preparations years in the making. When failure rears its loathsome head, everything goes gray. The fog of failure can render us lost, afraid, immobile.

What if it happens again?
What if you fail?
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember when…
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.
Failure……

Failure immobilizes like a fog. But thanks be to God who shines in our darkness, who lights our path! (Psalm 119:105) Like a ship lost at sea, the Truth of God’s Word and character will give us our bearings, guiding us safely to our destination. It may be slow going for a time but we need not be frozen in the fog. He has given us mileposts, markings, lights to guide our way out through.

What if it happens again?
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8)
What if you fail?
“My grace is sufficient for all your needs for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:)
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
“For there is a Friend (speaking of Jesus) who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember that past pain?
“”We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, 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 5:3-5)
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
“I lift my eyes to the hills from whence does my help come? My help comes from The Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)
You can’t.
“For I am The Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)
Failure.
“The Lord is my light and my salvations – whom shall I rfear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will life me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:1, 3, 5)

Failures fog will fall. Rather than freezing in fear, we can fix our eyes on the unchanging One who stands strong, His faithfulness sure as the coming dawn. The going may be slow but with our focus set on the Light that shines in the darkness (and the darkness CANNOT put it out), we can navigate through the fog back to clear skies and full strides.

Keep moving forward, Beloved. You are not forsaken.

You are not a failure.

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Taking Stock

This week has taught me a simple yet profound truth: familiarity can blind.

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Twice a year, the NC State Fairgrounds fills with the gianormous Kids Exchange Consignment Sale. Thousands come to sell their used goods from kids clothing to computer systems, books to bikes, furniture to furbies. Run like clockwork, this huge sale brings an awesome opportunity for families to sell outgrown items and purchase others for a fraction of store costs.

I’ve attended this sale in years past but this time around, I decided it was time to purge our house of everything outgrown. As the gathering began, something caught me off guard to a stagering, humblingly degree.

In a culture of excess, I confess how easily I fall into the lie of lack. Comparisons, complaints, kids growing faster than my clothing budget. Without due diligence the slide into dissatisfaction grows slippery and steep. Like quicksand, the more I see, the more I want, the more others have, the more I feel I lack. Ugh. ‘Tis a dangerous cycle.

But as I sat amongst boxes and boxes and boxes of my children’s used clothes, reality reduced me to tears. I’ve been surrounded by this striking evidence of God’s tangible provision yet its familiarity blinded me. God has truly taken care of our family!

“My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

What amazed me most was the sheer amount of clothes from the seasons when we had stepped out in faith, leaving a salaried/benefits job to start a business, when we had to completely trust God for every new student, new client, new child born. It was from the seasons of smallest income that the tallest piles of clothes stood.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

As I sorted this massive collection of clothes, memories overwhelmed me as the majority of items had been gifts. Memories of kind strangers, generous friends and unexpected finds flooded my mind. God truly had provided for our little family. He not only clothed my kids – He clothed them in style! This evidence of grace had sat unnoticed in my home for years. It wasn’t until I stopped to take stock of it all that I saw clearly.

God has been faithful.
God will remain faithful.
God can be trusted with the needs of today and tomorrow as I hold evidence of yesterday’s provision in grateful hands.

Familiarity blinds. Stop and take stock today of all He has already done, already provided, already shown Himself faithful and strong. You’ll be amazed by the treasure trove of blessings already in your grasp.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33

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Filed under Comparison, Faith, Generosity, God, Motherhood, Struggles