Gracefully Accepting Higher

gracefully accepting higher

I read this post by Stephanie Bryant in December and it was brilliant.  It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Huni and I recently moved back to his hometown to do full time ministry.  I was hesitant and excited about the move but once we got there I wanted everything around me to rise to our new normal.  I knew that things were going to be different but I wanted to hurry up and discover the differences so that I could contain them, normalize them . . .control them.  Uggggh!  Why oh why do we do this to ourselves?  New marriage, new job, new home, relocation, new baby, new friend . . .whenever there is a change, we look for a new normal and what I have discovered in my recent experience is that, with God, there is no such thing.

You see, God is always calling us higher.  Even when we’re in a season that makes us feel low to the ground, He is calling us higher because He is calling us to reflect Christ.   (Romans 8:28-29)

We’ve been living in our new town for about 8 months and it wasn’t until this week that I really starting getting into my groove and not feeling like a complete nutcase, chasing my tail in a 3 diameter circle going 75 mph.  I have learned, the hard way, that we have to give ourselves the grace of time to allow a change to morph into whatever it is going to become.  And we have to divorce the world’s notion of the new normal.  If the Lord answers our prayers and calls us to something immeasurably more than we can ask, think or imagine, why would we want to relegate it to what is considered to be normal?  

Here is merely a glimpse of the reality that we are called to everyday:

“so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”  ~Philippians 2:15 NIV

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  ~Daniel 12:3 ESV

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” ~1 Peter 2:9 ESV

Oh that we would learn to live comfortably in His marvelous light instead of the dull comfort that our yearning for normal yields.

We are not called to look longingly out of the window in search of what was good in our yesterdays.  So many times in His word, God likens us to stars!  Reminder: No two stars are alike (every star is unique).  Stars get their light from the sun (they are fueled, daily, by the most powerful source of light).  Their brilliant light shines forth from more than a billion miles away, yet their light reaches us and lights up the sky each night (they are potent, consistent and highly effective).

So, it’s been eight months and I’m just now beginning to get settled in . . .day by day and moment by moment I am going to continue to ease into this season of my life and instead of looking for the myth of the “new normal” I’m looking for each moment presented to me to shine like the star I have been called to be.

Pondering the Gospel

the gospel

I had a friend describe a situation that she was in a short time ago where she chose to divulge to a large group of women some of the things that she was struggling with at the time.  It had much to do with singleness and likely most of the women in the audience could relate, whether they wanted to admit it or not.  The list was less than pretty.  The details, though vague, were of a very personal nature because, in order to tell the truth, she had to expose parts of her person that those not close to her might not otherwise know.  But she poured herself out thin, viscous, and abundant in front of the women anyway.  After the session was done, quite a few women came up to her and asked her, “How did you do that?  How were you able to just tell your business like that?  I can’t believe you just shared all of that with everyone.”  My friend responded with a couple Christ pointed sentences to explain where her “courage” came from but then she ended with the most intriguing response of all.  She said, “I really believe that the gospel is enough.”

I’ve been thinking of my friend’s final response and I’m just really taken by it.

Well, what is the gospel?  According to John Piper, “the gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the righteous one, died for our sins, rose again eternally triumphant over all His enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe but only everlasting joy.

So, essentially, my friend was saying that because Christ, the righteous one, who is eternally triumphant and gives no condemnation but everlasting joy to all who believe, died for her sins, she can struggle in the light. . . with NO shame nor embarrassment . . . and receive strength to overcome the evil one and live victoriously today and everyday. . . and by so doing, invite others to do the same.

yeaaaaaaaaa . . . . my head is spinning too . . . .

The Spring of Things

the spring of things

I think that spring is God’s way of calling on nature to remind us of the sweetness and beauty to be found in new beginnings . . .

     that is, if we dare to receive them . . .

The cycle rolls ever onward;

22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” ~Genesis 8:22 ESV

We can be seized by the mundane rote disguised as the day to day.

We can drown in our legitimate sorrows and stresses.

Or . . .

. . .we can hope against hope,

(re)set goals,

lift up prayers (even for those situations and people that have been filed away in the “lost cause” pile),

submit plans (tweaked and reworked where necessary) . . .

We can try, yet another day, to begin again.

Even if that means beginning at 1.

After all, spring rains till the ground for some of summer’s most enduring blooms. . .

what I’m trying to say is,

. . . while the earth remains, there is still time to begin again. . .

So, I’m blowing the dust off of the small, black qwerty pegs as I say a prayer for discipline and grace to make a beginning once more.

What are some goals, plans, or works that you’ve set aside and need to return to?  Will you join me?

Support Staff

IMG_2693

It was a beautiful, bright, winter Saturday.  The kind where the air is crisp and wet, thick with the anticipation of some wintry mix threatening to keep everyone inside, fireside bound for the whole of the day.  Except the bright boldness of the sun dared anyone to mention inclement weather, as she spread all her rays out over the earth like a mama’s proud arms, welcoming her babies in to the warmth, love and comfort that only a mama can assure.  Yes, the sun was working her magic and wooing all of the women as they excitedly dressed and prepared to go and wish well another Darling, preparing herself to take on a new last name and a basket full of responsibilities to go along with it.  They were all so excited that though aware of the blue temperatures outside, they were motivated to be with her, share with her, celebrate her and tell her exactly how to be the best wife possible to this lucky man.  So excited they were, in fact, and having done this several times before for a friend, a niece, sister, cousin, that they got caught up in the excitement and familiarity of it all and forgot to consult with their their editor and manager about what they should say.  Surely He cares that much about us, to inform us on how to inform others about how to do His will?!?!  Yet they sauntered out there, laughing, playing happy games, conversing amongst themselves, sipping the sweet, inviting nectar of joy and eating the tenderly baked, enticing confections of comfort and started talking out of turn.  Their guards were down–which can be one of the worse times to speak aloud at all, especially in a group setting and especially when you haven’t spoken with your manager.

No, they weren’t rude or harsh, but they spoke more from their own heartaches and past mistakes rather than from truth.  And Darling, so eager to please and be the wife she felt her lover deserved, took it all in without a sieve.  She swallowed it all whole thinking that it’d be better to receive it all now, soak up the moment and try it out later to see for herself if these platters of advice from the kind, well-meaning women in her community, would lay softly on the palate of her intended.

Seeing that she was a hungry girl, and wanting her to do well in this call, they talked more and more and became braver in their offerings, leaving no room in the house untouched.  From the Kitchen to the laundry room to the bedroom, Darling was told exactly what her man would like and wouldn’t like, and how she should conduct herself if she wanted to stay married. Shucks, it got so good in there that even the younger, unmarried school girls started placing their offerings before her, as if they knew anything about this scared calling for themselves except for what they had been warned against or had seen played out in some version the Housewives franchise.  They meant well. . .

No one seemed to notice that Darling’s once bright, anxious, joyful eyes had now dropped to a half moon, wandering, listless stare.  And those that did notice figured that she was probably just getting tired and wanted to open gifts.

Not all of the talk was unproductive and unedited but one of the comments that I think dimmed her light a bit came from the back of the room, an auntie, older, respected, and thought to be wiser than most of them said,

 “Don’t tell your business.  If anything happens in your marriage, keep that between you and your husband.  Don’t tell people what’s going in your relationship because you’ll choose to forgive him and they won’t.”

If I were a betting woman, I would bet you that all across the world, there is some version of this same bit of advice being told to women all over the world.  But is it biblical?

It just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.

Darling finds herself in the position of being recognized as that “good thing” that the gentleman has been searching for.  She is so excited about being with this man and so she sets out to plan her wedding, for some, the day of her dreams.  As she plans, she chooses the women who will stand closest to her on that day.  They smile, cry, tilt heads to the side, clutch hearts and prepare for months of sentimentality and love, anxious for the big day.  Then, after the day has come, they have all celebrated, eaten cake and burned it off with the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide, the couple drives off into the sunset to live happily ever after . . . and the supporting cast members are supposed to just walk away and stay out of their business?

No.  I think we’ve got this all wrong.

I don’t believe that you should share your business with just anybody just as much as I believe that you shouldn’t have just anybody in your wedding.  Marriage is sacred and we should treat it as such from the moment we start dating.

The bible speaks often about community and how we are to conduct ourselves as we live in community with each other.  One example is in Galatians 6:2 encouraging us to: Carry each others burdens…”

I should be able to talk to a select few women in my life, or perhaps one woman, who is close to me, loves me, sincerely cares about me and my marriage when I am happy and when I am struggling to be the wife who respects her husband as I am called to do in Ephesians.  I should be able to go to her and trust that she will keep my confidence and lead me to the throne to receive help and healing for my heart, mind and marriage.

Now, to be clear, I do believe that our first move should always be toward the Lord, in prayer.  We shouldn’t ever get into the habit of running to friends and family for help when our God has already set Himself up as everything that we need.  But the place where most people get mixed up is in forgetting that God places people in our lives who we are to grow with.  He will often use people to show us His love for us, to show us His hand of provision, and even His hand of correction can come down through the people in our lives.  Don’t shut people out because you have been told to cover your relationship like a newborn child in the middle of a war zone.  Be wise about the people you have in your life, and trust God to use them to lead you into His call for you, which is holiness.

I have some of the most amazing women in my life.   Truly.  They love me.  They like me.  They applaud me but they also challenge me.  They know who I am and they know that I aspire to be pleasing to God, so they never let me compromise that. I am free to pitch a 60 second fit but they are are there, one (and sometimes two) at a time, to gently get my head back in the game and get back on point.  They are consistent as I parent, in my friendships, my work, relationships, goals, and yes, my marriage.

I think that we should talk more about this and unravel it a bit more.  We’ve got to debunk this myth and see what the Lord has to say about it.  While it has some value for keeping the sanctity of your marriage, I believe that it has taken a turn and put more of us in bondage than anything else.  I believe that there is a reader who needs to be free and know that she just may have someone in her life that she can be completely transparent with about her marriage, to the glory of God and the edification of her and her husband.  I also believe that for some of us, it runs a little deeper and we need to clean house and get some new Frans ’cause the ones we have on staff have taken an extended, paid vacation.

Take Your Medicine

It’s Sunday night, a night of bittersweets. . .

Most of us have enjoyed a beautiful day alone or with family and friends . . .the house is quieting down, lovers may be cuddling up for a movie, friends may be finishing up conversations . . .preparations for the next day have been made . . .or not.  No matter how we feel about it or how we’ve decided to address it, we have all realized by now that tomorrow is Monday.

Seems like most of us dread Mondays.  Lord knows I’ve had some times where I was downright depressed about Mondays.  I’m not even joking.

But, Frans, I’m trying something new that I wanted to get you in on.  I just discovered that I have a drug that I can take that’ll help me deal with Mondays, Tuesdays, Bluesdays and all the other days too.  Check this out:

20 My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your sight;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them
And health to all their body. (Proverbs 4:20-22, NASB)

So, are you trying to tell me that reading the word brings me health and life?  Oh yes, chile.  Yes, I am.

No matter what Monday holds for you, or any day for that matter, you can face it with joy, confidence, security, and love by taking your medicine.  Read the word of God, listen to scripture, write it down, memorize His words, soak them in!  Soak them up!  The thing is, unlike any other medication, there is no danger involved in overdosing.  Try and see.  Put the word of God on everything you are facing.  He is so worth it.  You can take Him at His word.  His word is His bond.  He is trustworthy and His word works for our lives, NOW!

19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19 NASB)

Not sure what Monday holds for you but you don’t have to bow to it.  You serve a very big God who has put His spirit in you and left His word for you to wield as a mighty sword to combat Satan, call him out as the liar that he is, take over your day and be victorious in all of the things that He will put your hands to!

So, which verse or set of verses will you look up tonight?  All the power you need lies within you through the holy spirit and can be activated by encouraging your faith through the word of God.

Take some time to get into the word then stand up and shout with a voice of triumph, “bring it on Monday!!!”

Wednesdays with Beth: Family Calamity and Restoration pt 7

So, a few months ago I followed this series, Family Calamity, and dealt with some pretty sensitive thoughts concerning my family of origin and how this series helped me.  I posted each part of the series but somehow I missed this past installment!  I’m not sure if this is new, but I am so glad that I had a chance to catch it, honey!  (wipes sweat off brow with great conviction and drama!)

If you belong to a family, take a listen . . .

Check out the rest of the series in the archives here or on www.lifetoday.org

Wednesdays with Beth: Taking Your Treasure Back pt. 3

I’m not sure how many of you actually take the time to click the link and watch these videos, but if you’ve never taken a chance to do so, you should give it a try.  Beth Moore typically speaks for about 15 (or so) minutes and then James and Betty Robison, the hosts of the show, come back and speak about their missions work and invite viewers to help them change the world by meeting the needs of some of the people who need it most.  In all, it’s about 28 minutes of your day really well spent.  You get an opportunity to grow in your relationship with Christ as Beth Moore teaches and gives fresh perspective on a never changing God aaaaaaannnnnd you are offered an opportunity to change someone’s life.  I almost always enjoy the broadcast and I try not to miss it.  I offer it here on the site because I’m sure there are others out there who’d love it as well.  I would encourage everyone to take a look but especially if you haven’t ever tuned in, try it today.  Click here and see what I mean.

Hey You!

Huni and I have moved and ever since we planned on doing so, it’s been a struggle for me to get myself to this computer and practice discipline, sit down and write!  But it’s been some of the things that have happened as a result of our move that have driven me here with laptop aptly placed in lap . . . writing.  Life can be like that sometimes.

Huni was born and raised in a small town that he has always dearly loved.  There’s not much to this place, but he holds fond, dear memories of his childhood here and it means a great deal to him.  Over the years we have seen it decline.  I used to visit fairly often when we were dating and even I’ve noticed the changes within the last ten years.  And they haven’t been all bad, but it’s been mostly a pretty depressing, slow decline to the quality of life of the people who live there.  Job opportunities have become a “search and find” of sorts, the local schools often get more complaints and poor grades rather support and top performing students, crime is on the rise, drugs are still deeply effecting the youth and it’s not hard to see which ones of them are held firmly in its grasp, the churches are in desperate need of leadership and spirit filled truth tellers and the people just want more altogether.  So Huni decided that we should gather all of our things and move our whole life here.  To help.  (staring off blankly, blinking eyes rapidly)  I’ll save the conversation about all that happened to get us here for another post, but let me just say that no matter how ill-equipped or incompetent I felt in this calling, God’s grace was and is on us for such a time as this.

We have some pretty huge goals for this town, some things that we are believing God to use us to initiate–whether He uses us to actually do the work or to encourage and assist others in doing it.  So far we’ve started three small group bible studies; Huni meets with a group of men and I meet with a group of women and a “group” of teen girls (more on that “group” of teen girls later!).  I know that ministry is no joke, but I never knew that it was going to be this blasted hard!!  And right now, as we prepare to transition into our space, we are living with Huni’s parents.  (swallows hard, takes deep breath, then stares off blankly, blinking eyes rapidly)  :0)  I have to say, since I got married, I have always been one of the most blessed married women I know because of the man God gave me, his family of origin, and my relationship with them.  It’s the real deal.  I love them as if they are my own and we, honestly, have no issues.  But even as much as I love my mommy, the one whose womb nurtured me for some months and who raised me and helped shape me into the woman I am today–I am in no hurry to return to her home as my temporary residence!!   And I do dearly love my parents that my Huni gave to me, buuuuuut. . . .you get the picture . . .  :0)

SO, I’ve been stretched, changed, and gone through the whole gamut of emotions.  And I’ve only been here a month and a half.  And I know that it’s only just begun.  (staring . . .blinking . . .)

But there is just a sweetness to belonging to God.  He just knows me, and He takes the time to let me know that I am known and seen and loved and watched over and cared for.  He’s using Huni, my children, my parents, my circle of sister-frans and the women in this community to reinforce that just when I need it.

This week has been a hard one.  I know, it’s only Tuesday.  But that’s what I’m saying.  It’s only Tuesday and already I’m like WHOA.  But I got a really sweet email from one of the women in the women’s group named Michelle.  I wanted to share part of my response to her to give you a glimpse of what’s already happening here.  Hope it blesses you and glorifies Him.

Miss meeting with you here in this space.  But I think I’ve found my groove again ;0)

Michelle,

     I don’t even know how to start this email!  I’m a very emotional girl.  Always have been.  My mom says that when she was pregnant with me, she spent most of her time crying and going through.  I’ve used that to help explain why I cry so much now and why I spent the better part of my first 16 years of life being so tenderhearted, and crying at the drop of a hat!  All of that to say, it doesn’t take much to get my tears to fall.  They lie in wait at the first chance to release themselves.  They used to be a permanent part of my face but I am truly, so very grateful that I now understand what it means to have the JOY of the Lord as my strength.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t cry, it just means that I receive His joy as I understand His purposes for my WHOLE life, not just the parts I like and am proud of.  But you’re right, I have experienced a great deal of pain and it is still present with me.
     I recently had the privilege of going through some counseling at the church E and I were members of when we lived in Raleigh.  Michelle.  It changed my life.  But it opened up some wounds that, for the longest time, I didn’t even want to admit were there.  Our childhoods, most often, shape our lives.  Through the power of God, who trades beauty for ashes, all of those things that happened to us in our youth, no matter how ugly or destructive they seemed, show up beautifully on us.  Just like we discussed last night when we talked about the long obedience in the same direction–being able to say yes however many times it takes, and say no however many times it takes–I have had to work consistently to change my thoughts in order to believe that everything that has happened to me is showing up beautifully on me.  I ran away from it for so long because of the shame attached to it. And the “it” that I am referring to is so many things, including but not exclusive to most of the things you mentioned that you’ve dealt with.  I’m still gaining the strength and wisdom to tell my whole story and not allow Satan to pull me back into the shame that kept me hidden and afraid for so many years.  It’s women like you who put their whole selves forward that God uses to really encourage and strengthen me to do the same.  
     This study is just as much for me, as it is for all of you.  I know that the Lord called me to it, but He called me not just to use me, but continue to make me whole and holy.  It’s like I told you before, every email you send me, and every text, they make me braver and strengthen me just a little bit more every time.
     What I want in this season of my life is to attain true freedom in Christ.  I want to understand His word in such a way that it frees me up and gives me power to walk like a woman who is free, understands the word of God and the role it plays in her life, and who understands her purpose.  All of the pieces are coming together–the hurt, the pain, the laughs, the joy, the sadness, the accomplishments, the mistakes, the downfalls, the slip-ups . .  all of it . . . and it’s all showing up beautifully on me.  In Jesus’s name. 
 
pamela t.