Rough Road Ahead

A few weeks back as we were traveling home from vacation, I saw a road sign stating “Rough Road.” Now, we were in South Carolina so that’s pretty much all of their roads. (Not sorry Palmetto peeps, because your roads are the worst, and that’s saying something from this Nashville gal) As we bumped along a bit I took a mental note of that sign, thinking more about it in response to life than to the physical conditions of the road.

Two years ago today, I was fired from my job with no explanation or reason as to why. Thinking back on some still fresh memories of that day and subsequent days, the road ahead that picture of the “Rough Road” sign came to mind once again. Because I started wondering if we’d appreciate knowing that a rough road was ahead in our lives.

If we could be warned of rough patches on the road of life ahead, would we want to know?

Would it make it any easier to bear? To live through and be on that road, knowing it was coming? I’ll be honest and say that no, it wouldn’t. In fact the knowledge of impending bumpiness makes it harder in many ways. We start to work in our means, (we do that anyways alot of the times) but we try to control the situation, the consequences or the people involved. The warning allows for preparation yes, but preparation on whose part? And what does that prep look like in our lives?

When rough roads approach us in life, do we grip the wheel and just endure it while we are on it, or do we lean in to see if there’s a change of course needed, or if we need to pull off and rest a bit in how we’ve been traveling that road? A rough road gives us the ability to see what’s lying underneath where we’ve been trodding, revealing to us what we are made of and on what/who we are relying. The signal of a rough road gives us false senses of reliance upon ourselves to avoid it or be able to get through it quickly.

Would I have wanted the warning of being fired? I have to say now, two years later, that while a warning of what lies ahead would be nice, I know that in it all I found that I was more trusting of God, not knowing how the road would wind and move, but I had to trust that it would move me more towards Him than anywhere else.

It was a rough road, and one that required healing, provision and trust beyond what I could muster up for myself alone. A rough road ahead doesn’t so much need a warning sign as it does a belief that the rough road is a part of our journey home.

Redeeming the Past

Do you ever wish you could go back and fix something with the knowledge you have now? I bet something popped to mind didn’t it? Some decision (or lack thereof) that was made on your part that took you off into one direction that you ended up regretting, apologizing for, and paying the consequences on for far longer. Maybe you even have more than one…

Recently I had a realization that I had been working towards my own redemption in a way. That I was pursuing something far out of where God wanted me to be solely as a means of redeeming my past, as someone who was let go from their job. It really took a rattling moment of clarity to see that I had been pushing at something so very hard that I knew was not meant for me any more. I was attempting to prove I was in fact worthy, true, a hardworker, diligent in my responsibilities and of value.

For almost two years I have been trying to redeem my past in my career-one that I am finally accepting was not for the long-term but rather for a season of life. It was what God was using to further my growth and development and to use in His grand story, not my own. Over and over again though I kept feeling the pull of lies that I had something to prove, that I had value to earn and worth to contribute. I wanted to be the one to fix it, it was my reputation and name that had been marred. It was my heart that was hurt and wounded, that I needed to put back into place to mend.

I didn’t really say all those things, but my actions sure did lay it out before me and before God. I kept saying I had chosen to move on from that career path, and yet there I was once again interviewing, applying, seeking out redemption by my own definition and in my own power. Y’all you may not even realize you are in it too, but it happens. When we go about attempting to redeem ourselves, our stories, our pasts we tell God we don’t trust Him with any of our life. We don’t believe He’s capable of redemption even in our past, let alone our current state or our future.

If we are His children, then we are redeemed. All of it. Every last bit of us is redeemed, even that ugly part we hate to acknowledge or that moment we look back to with such regret and heartache, He has redeemed it. He has forgiven us when we bring it to Him, and He uses it mightily. Y’all, He wants us to stop striving to work out way into worth and value, to stop pursuing redemption on our own. He got this along time ago and we cannot stop forgetting that truth. We choose the lie that our value depends on us, instead of what He has told us about ourselves and about Him. We deceive ourselves that we are actually god and that we can redeem any bit of ourselves on our own.

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. 

Colossians 1 reminds us that we already have redemption, and it’s not in ourselves but in Him. It always has been and it always will be. It’s not defined by our actions or striving, so why do we try? Why do we pursue these attempts instead of reveling in His awesome ability to redeem us and our pasts to be used for His work…which is so much better than my measly workings in my own vain attempts. He came after us in the darkness of our prideful striving to move us into fellowship with Him. We are of value, we have worth. We just forget that every bit of that is found in trusting Him.

It doesn’t come from us, and it never will. But in faith and trusting Him we find that redemption is given freely, always there and ever working for our good and His glory. So I can stop trying to make a name for myself because I already have one, His.

 

 

 

Curses, Donkeys and Truth

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?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Those words from Numbers. Words spoken by Balaam to Balak, a man unwilling to listen. Balak had come to Balaam to curse the nation of Israel, but God has His plans and His words. He used Balaam, who just verses before seemed to be attempting to channel a curse against the people of Israel.

This goes further back to Balaam being summoned by Balak, and thus giving his words to the highest bidder, regardless of their intent or content. Yet God would not allow it. Back in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, God tells him flat out “only the word which I speak to you-that you shall do.” This evolves into the encounter with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord, where Balaam is confronted with the state of his heart on pursuing his own way instead of the one in which God sent him out on.

So we come back to these words here, Balaam’s second prophecy from God to Balak. These words y’all…

I don’t know about you but today my very soul needed to shout them. To myself. He doesn’t lie to us. We may do that to ourselves, but God most certainly does not. And we are really good at lying to ourselves on alot of things that God has never said. Then we turn and look to what He has said and have the audacity to doubt and question if what He said was true. Y’all, I am standing right in this guilt along with you…because we are all guilty of lying to ourselves and then turning the tables on God on what He’s said to us.

I know that there have been times I have put God in human form that is nothing resembling Christ. That I stand in reverence one moment worshiping Him and then turn and act like nothing He has said is true. I don’t love others as I love Him, I don’t honor my parents as I should, I grow jealous of others and their wisdom/platform/ministry. I don’t see the good He’s working in me because I turn my lies into solid truth about all things.

When He speaks, He makes good on it. He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy, faithful and so very good. He cannot be pulled down to human form as we deem it and then question whether what He says is right, good and true. It’s us that needs the work, that has to rectify that while we cannot understand it some of the time, He is able. He is unchanging. He cannot renege on the promises He has given us. It is our responsibility as those who live in Christ to take those promises as truth, conforming and transforming our thinking to view life through that lens and not the human lies and doubt we so often jump to believing instead.


 

What truths do you need to believe from God today? What doubts have you supplanted in your heart, your mind that He’s told you to have no fear in?

These are things I wrestle with still, but know no matter what your heart and mind attempt to tell you that He is not us, He is God. He is good and true. He will make good on what He says and He will do what He says He will.

Becoming the Woman He’s Praying For

Recently I was looking back through the archives here on the site, pulling some content to expand on for my book. A couple of falls ago, I wrote on praying for your future husband. As I looked through several of those posts, I realized I hadn’t really been paying much attention to that part of my prayer life in the last few months.

Part of the reason (or maybe all of it?) is as I have grown older I am coming to terms with my singleness, that perhaps it’s just not in the story of my life to be married. As hard as that is to type, it’s harder to face head/heart on. If I am really vulnerable with y’all here, I don’t think it’s truth though. I believe firmly God does not give us hearts of companionship with another if it’s not meant to be part of the story of our lives. I think we often supplant the need for His Presence with that of a person, pushing into relationships or elevating dating/marriage to the level of our relationship with Christ (that’s a whole other chapter in my book…).

As I started to kind of pull through the mess that was my heart, God’s will, desires and my writing on the topic I started to lean into a really hard question, and it’s where I land today:

Am I becoming the woman that my future husband is already praying for?

If he is praying for me, just as I am praying for him, would it not seem to fit that I would be pursuing the difficult, leaning into God, working through producing fruits of the Spirit? Before I get too far into this, let me also say that we shouldn’t base our growth as a Christian, as a person, on anyone’s desire for who we should be to them….Not in the least y’all, so don’t start down that twisted path of becoming someone you were not created to be. No, what I am pointing to is if my prayers for him are for him to become who God has created him to be, then I should be focusing myself as well on living into God’s will and design for my life.

Maybe the question needs to look more like this…

Am I becoming the woman God has been desiring me to be in order fulfill His will in my life?

I shouldn’t desire to fulfill a standard of a man, but when the man whom God has created for me to be his partner is fervently praying for me to be in God’s will, for protection from the enemy, to grow closer to God? How can I not desire those same things for myself? When I look at the ways to pray for him, am I also praying and seeking those same things for my own life?

Maybe it’s not about praying more for a spouse but being intentional to pray for that person to be who God created him to be, and then also praying for you to be the woman who God created you to be…After all, He’s still in the business of answering prayers if we listen and pray in His will, seeking wisdom and relationship with Him above all others.

A Lesson in Paisley

“You hold me?”

Words from a little three year old I had just met were quite precious. The first words she’d said to me were, “What’s your name?” followed shortly thereafter by those requesting to be held. They came more as a question than a demand.

I had just met the little girl after meeting her mom and siblings the week prior. Her mom was standing next to me, and said “Oh goodness, she’s way too heavy to be held!”

I scoffed, put down my bag, and said to her, “You want me to hold you?” She shook her head yes so assuredly, with confidence as she wiped her hair out of her face. So up she came, and I exclaimed, “You’re not heavy! I got you.”

It was about two minutes later that she exclaimed, “You let me down now!” And off she went to play once more. Her mom apologizing for her daughter’s tenacity and intrusion into the conversation several of us were having.

I couldn’t help but think about those brief few minutes and reflect on how we often do the same with God. We ask Him Who He is to us, what Name He is. Then we question tentatively whether He will hold us, unsure of approaching Him or with doubt that He can handle the task of our stuff along with us.

He tells us He is I AM. He then in turn calls us by name, not the name we are used to hearing but chosen, beloved, daughter, son, loved. He swoops down and picks us up, longing to hold us but waiting for the invitation. He grips us tight, even when we feel what we bring with us is too heavy, or like a 3 year old mini-protester, we fight and struggle against being carried, being held close.

But after a time we ask to be let go. We desire to seek our own way, our own path. We may not verbally tell Him to let us down, to release His hold, but we do everything we can to get out of it. We make decisions that take us outside of His will, or we pursue after what we believe is something good only to find it was deceptive in it’s pursuits.

We run off to bounce houses of distraction and folly, only to return exhausted and thirsting for more of the Living Water we left.

We look and see friends doing other things, playing and enjoying life and we believe that to be what we need as well. It comes out as coveting or gossiping because we believe being held by Him is holding us back from those things they have or do.

So off we go…

Paisley taught me that far too often I seek His embrace, but not Him and Who He is. I seek after what He can give me for a moment rather than a lifetime. So today I choose the embrace of the God Who stooped down to bridge the gap of love thousands of years ago, I reach up with arms of surrender and allow Him to carry all of me, the baggage I still carry, the heaviness of brokenness, and know that I will cling to Him even when I am tempted to fight against the embrace of the God Who calls me by name.

By Faith Alone

I am a planner, it comes naturally I think. I like to map out things and plan trips. I think that’s why I enjoyed event planning and teaching, it gave me the opportunity to plan and prepare. If it were an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of it.

So you can possibly get some context to my discomfort when I read these verses in Hebrews recently:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son,  the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.

You see Abraham had no way of knowing. He just didn’t. God didn’t reveal some divine knowledge to him about the place He was telling him to go. He didn’t give him a map and say, “Here’s the land where I want you to go, this is what you can grow there, here’s the supplies for building homes. You’ll need a winter jacket and several military grade weapons to protect yourselves from the giants who lived there.” He didn’t have foreknowledge of God putting a ram in the thicket of bushes.

No, God told Abraham to go…and so he went.

God told Abraham to sacrifice the son he had waited decades to receive…and so he went.

Abraham had faith in God. He trusted without the details, without the knowledge within himself. He simply trusted (as if we ever allow it to be that simple). It didn’t involve anything but going on Abraham’s part. He went because God called him to go.

I try to overcomplicate matters, no I do overcomplicate matters. I want the GPS directions, a full detail spec sheet on the situation and a debrief on the plan to address a situation, along with a full guarantee of my safety, security and comfort. Plain and simple, I don’t trust God with what He’s asked me to do, what He knows is ahead I simply do not have the faith that He’ll see me through it. I want to look at the end goal, and how I am okay in it all. He looks at me and desires to have me move towards being more Him-like in the process. I want answers and He wants obedience.

Abraham obeyed in full faith when he couldn’t see beyond the step in front of him. How is my faith and trust in God when He asks me to do the same? He’s not asking any more of me than he did of Abraham…He’s asking for faith in Him, belief that He is faithful and good, trust in that His Promise is sure.

Maybe you’re like me and want the answers and the full Google maps directions with travel times before you will say yes to God. By faith today, let’s just take the step to go. Without the knowledge of anything else, without the security of answers, but with God.

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.