Rings, Babies and a Steadfast Spirit

Ever have one of those times where you know you are being utterly ridiculous and yet you find that you just dive head first into it? Just me? Oh good.

9fdc122dc2de2dd09e55c2c0b7f97beb--funny-engagement-quotes-engagement-announcement-funnyI have a multitude of friends who are currently pregnant right now, like it’s crazy how many women I know expecting in the next three months. It’s that stage of my life where the weddings have subsided and the pregnancies have come flooding in. And I am so overjoyed for each one, to see God use my friends to raise up the next generation. Unfortunately I found that feelings and emotions of being left out, a reminder of the lie that I am alone kept bubbling up at times.

When I saw a woman I was distant friends with post that she was now engaged it caused all the emotions of being left out and doubting God to just flood out of nowhere. I am truly happy for her, but in that moment, I made it about me. I made it about the lies that are fed to us over and over again, to doubt God and to step outside of His promise for our lives. I was shocked at how suddenly it felt like a tide of just utter bitterness, jealousy and outright frustration with God Himself came pouring out of me. Y’all, it wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t the marker of a  friend or a guarded heart.

It was a flashing warning light that an area of my heart had been breached and was undergoing attack. That I had allowed it to go unmaintained and unchecked because so easily I slip into this comfort zone of life and put myself on autopilot. For a bit I sat in that mood, in that temperament of just irritation and doubt. As I turned to the consoling nature that social media likes to tell us it is, a verse was at the very top of a post and it dug right into the real issue-a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 

Jealousy and doubt had wormed in and shaken my spirit. I had allowed them in because I wasn’t resting in the steadfast spirit God establishes. Nope, I was resting in the comfort of my own strength (which is just weakness with an ego in the flesh) and my own way. I was deliberately choosing to doubt instead of trust in what I know to be true. To trust in WHO I know to be true.

And it’s hard y’all. It’s hard not to live in that jealousy and doubt, to not just walk away and do it in my own way, but He’s shown again and again He is faithful to what He has promised-which is my good. Not what I define as my good, but the very best that He knows there is for me. But I have to make the choice, over and over again, to seek Him to create that clean heart in me and to renew that spirit of steadfastness. I have to be dutifully firm in the spirit He has created in me. Unwavering when so many things seek to buffet me about.

It doesn’t mean I don’t get excited when friends share their news of an engagement or an expected arrival of a baby, or the purchase of a new car or a thousand other things. Because that is God’s goodness for them in their lives, and He’s got some pretty amazing things planned for me as well if I but remain steadfast in spirit. It means I deliberately choose to not doubt in those moments, but take them to Him with an honest heart.

Women, Worship and My Comfort

I waited in the parking lot until the last possible minute before being late. I walked in and realized I did not look anything like the other people there.

Here’s the thing, looks are deceiving. They lie to us and give us false perceptions, assumptions based purely on what our eyes are confronted with, and not the truth of a heart and mind.

This past Sunday I had the absolute privilege to sit among a body of fellow believers in a small country church just south of where I live, mere minutes from my front door. I was greeted and welcomed with the most loving smiles and sentiments, handshakes and hugs (and y’all know I’m not a hugger). It was an outpouring of gladness to see someone there to worship the same God they do on that Sunday. The only difference to be seen? The color of skin. (and the fact I had chosen not to put panty hose on…a fact I am sure my grandmother in heaven had a fit about).

But what wasn’t seen was the heart. Can I tell you that my heart needed to be there Sunday? In a house of worship where people weren’t worried what it would look like to praise Him, to shout and lift hands high as the Spirit was felt among us. The word brought from a female on the platform was truly challenging and affirming, reminding me to look and discern with not only a Christ-centered mind but also the female perspective.

Because y’all, the woman at the well? That story we hear so often in the church…the script was flipped and put from her point of view, from the dangers of gossip to the Stranger who became the Changer of her heart and life. I mean, c’mon…that was a good Word given to her to then give to all of us. I appreciated so much the recognition of women in the congregation (me and my friend included) for their Women’s Day. As the service ended, person after person came up to greet us, talk with us, invite us to coffee in the fellowship hall right then.

It struck me as I left that my worries over the stares or whispers, were purely driven by  my own ego, my own self and the comfort I like to live in. What I was met with was the hands and feet of God’s children, my brothers and sisters in Christ happily asking me to join them in giving back praise to our God. When our eyes and hearts are on God, they aren’t on our environment, or our surroundings. They aren’t concerned with how we’ll look to others but how we are bringing the glory to God as is due.

It comes down to focusing on the state of our hearts than the state of how little others are thinking about us. When we right our heart and mind in Christ, we find that the opinions (or lack thereof) of others and ourselves seem to matter a whole lot less. And we find when we take our eyes off of others, we too draw nearer to God in worship, giving Him the attention and praise He deserves and not ourselves.

Home

10421643_10102255291125395_7045934990659585822_nToday marks two years since I became a home owner. I love my little corner of the neighborhood, and even my neighbors (when they pick up after their dogs). It’s been an interesting two years owning a home, with water heater breakdowns and painting projects and nesting.

For ten years I rented places, feeling at home but never quite like it was mine to settle into, to be in. So when I came to own my own home I started making it mine. What I liked, where I liked things, what was important and made sense for me.

Recently someone was sharing that they’d had a conversation where they told someone they felt like home to them. I get that sentiment, a feeling and emotion that roots you with someone that it feels like you might’ve known them your entire life. But I couldn’t help but disagree with them on the sentiment because home isn’t in a person. It’s not in a house, or a place, or a thing.

Home for me is where I place my treasure, where things of value that aren’t defined by the world’s standards are. Home is eternal and burning within me. It’s longing for something more and being uncomfortable until that day of completion.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 (HCSB)

I see the signs saying “Home is where the heart is,” and I can’t help but believe that truth. But my heart isn’t placed in people, or things, or stuff, or places. My heart, and the treasures of my life, are found in eternal hope, redemption, joy, peace, lovingkindness, goodness…they are found in a redemption unfathomable, in an eternity of glory, in a God who provides, sustains and loves beyond words. Yes those things are found in people, in things, and places but they are ultimately a gift rooted in Him.

What we choose to place our hearts in leads to where we call home, reflects what we treasure. When we place it in people, we are sorely disappointed at times. When we place it in stuff, we find it turns to idols and is very fleeting. When we place it in locations, we find over time it loses it’s hues and sentiments. Are we chasing treasure in earthen vessels, in stuff, in places when we should be placing it in eternal hope? In eternal matters?

Instead of building a home here, I seek to build a home where my treasure and my heart are secure, growing and rooted in the truth of Who He is and What He says. That home is truly where my heart is.

 

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

I am not sure there’s a verse that has been more studied or dug into in my life than that one above. I look at different versions, commentaries and pray over it practically daily.

The heart defines your life. It is your character, the overflow of what you are filling your life with. And yet, it can be easily broken, hurt and captured if you aren’t careful.

Diligence requires alertness, awareness, and steadfast watch. It means a constancy of guarding of this fragile heart, prone to wander, prone to idolize, prone to desire.

Oh this heart…you are the complete package of will, affections, mind and thought. You are the cause of actions in my life, and the lives of others. If we aren’t on watch, with a strict eye, sometimes things/people/satan slip in through an avenue undetected. We are caught unawares in the midst of hurt, pain, sin.

So we come back here. To the place where our heart first felt whole…to bring the broken to be mended, the wounded to be healed. We come back to the place where we find that we have another Guard, with our good in mind, His strength made available. We come not to ask but to give.

To leave this heart here for Him. To live in constancy of a heart that is full of Him and not us. A heart that desires after the things of Him and not our whims and affections. A heart diligent in the work set before it.

A heart guarded above all else to flow out with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…a heart whole in Him.

Confidence Booster

For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee;  regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

Philippians 3:3-6 (HCSB)

I like to skim part of these verses above. In the midst of reading Philippians, I looking at Paul’s brag list of his lineage, education and training…and I get a little jealous. If you are like me you start sizing him up against yourself and find you are left wanting.

Here’s the rub though…Paul isn’t writing this for bragging rights. Quite the contrary. Here he is, in jail nonetheless, telling us that if we boast in confidence, he’s got us beat. But if we focus in on that we miss it, tightly woven in just before as he’s talking about his life before Christ, that we should not be putting confidence in the flesh.

Our flesh.
Our own strength. Our own might. Our own individual selves.

None of it. Not a single bit of it should we find or place confidence in within ourselves. The foundation that is built isn’t by our means, or our ways, or in our timing or in our strength. What’s more, our future does not lie in embracing our past.

We aren’t who we were when we are in Christ. We are new. We are being re-newed each day with mercies given by Him. We cannot boast in that. I cannot be confident that I will get my to-do list done each day, but I can be confident that my God is and will be right beside throughout the day.

I can boast that nothing is ever done in my own strength, as much as I try to wrestle it from Him. I know that the ministry I work in, the paycheck I receive and the people I encounter each day are all a part of His plan-not something I have concocted.

If I choose to live in the confidence of my own self, I see a person who tries and fails way too often, who pursues the wrong things, gets distracted by the inherently good things, and someone who desires after more. But His more for me is in no comparison because as Paul continues on in Philippians any of the stuff that I gain in my own self, through my own means, is a loss when it comes to Christ.

When it comes to comparing the two, there isn’t even a consideration because everything I thought was worth striving for when I was far from Him is dingy, ugly and worthless when I see life lived in and through Him. So rather than boasting in myself, who sometimes succeeded in selfish pursuits but found a life fully lived out in Christ was far more adventurous and plentiful. Because He shifts my past to where I am not grasping it for my future. Instead He gives me a new hope, a boasting in His truth, and a foundation that is firm in love and mercy.

That. Him…He is exactly where my confidence lies. I don’t want a righteousness of my own making as it will never come to fruition, lead to only further anguish and self-seeking while giving a false hope that I am able to do it. So I boast in Him. That it not be of me, but of Him.

The Ultimate Plan

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 (HCSB)

I am a planner by nature. I like to have a set time of meeting. I like to know where we will be going. I want it all laid out in a nice, neat package. Ordered and fixed. Planning for any and every issue that may arise.

I like a map. A trajectory. A path. An easily traced route. I like things neatly under my okay and control. Something I think many of us would agree with.

The verse above I have taped to my laptop, right at the very base of the screen. It serves as a reminder that no matter what I am planning, ultimately it is God who is ordering my steps. My plans may come to fruition, or they may look wildly divergent from what I mapped out. Each is it’s own blessing, even when I cannot see it or understand it.

My plan for my life at this age? Wildly different on paper than lived out.

The tension of planning is what we find ourselves in. That desire–and often something we deem a “need”–to control. The tension is hard because we want understanding. We want the why of a situation. We strive for knowing how He works in every single instance. We want the definition of living through a season, or going without for far more seasons than we had planned.

For the planners, for the people who have that  need for control, the need-to-knowers, He gives no explanation for where the steps lead, how the steps are to be taken, or why the steps are where they are. He doesn’t need to explain Himself. Living in the unknown is what those of us who plan our ways have the trouble in allowing Him to determine our steps.

We ultimately have to relinquish control. Control that we have never had, and never will. You see He’s a sovereign God. He’s all-knowing and all-powerful. I believe the plans of the heart have to be given over to Him. Not for approval but for release of control. To say I am no longer the contractor of this plan, but the implementer of a grander design, one that I am given only an 1/8 of a millimeter piece to view that spans trillions upon trillions of miles. I don’t control the sun coming up tomorrow, yet I know it will. He deems it good to do so.

So why sit in the tension of not understanding every move He makes and instead live in the abundant knowledge that the God who raises that sun up is the same God who determines my very steps? After all, He has much bigger plans than I could even begin to fathom.