Category: Obedience

When Life Takes a Detour

 

Bekah was born on a clear November evening. As mothers do, I remember that day when we turn the calendar to the month of her birth.  I remember the way the oak trees along wolf creek beamed with tawny leaves, glowing radiant orange beneath the setting sun the night before she came to us.  I remember the contrast of kelly green fields of clover against the leaf-strewn wood line, and I remember thinking she’d never arrive.

Preparing to welcome our firstborn to the world felt mostly like one giant detour in the plans we had made. I planned to continue teaching right up to my due date.  We planned to vacation in the summer.  I planned to continue leading Bible studies, ministering to teens, and dedicating entire weeks of my life to youth retreats and mission trips throughout the pregnancy.  I was sure I’d be able to keep running until at least the seven-month mark.

None of that happened.

It was a detour that hurt. I felt like my entire life had been taken away.  I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum – severe pregnancy sickness – and forced to an immobile position on the couch or in bed throughout much of the pregnancy.  So much for running, mentoring, and teaching.  It all had to stop.

It was a crushing detour. So many of the things that were closest to my heart were taken away, and I was forced to simply rest – alone with my thoughts and my nausea.

What do we do when life takes a detour? What happens when all of our best-made plans are suddenly stripped away?

Looking back, I’ve realized that often, what I thought was a detour was actually the destination God had ordained for my good.

I can truthfully say that the months of hyperemesis were a destination of sorts. Throughout those months, I learned that my worth is not at all related to what I can produce or whose life I can make an impact upon.  I learned that God loves me relentlessly even when I’m too sick to engage in any sort of spiritual discipline.  I learned that it’s ok to need other people.  I learned that if all I had left in this life were Jesus, he would be enough.  It wouldn’t be easy.  But I’d make it.

Toward the end of the pregnancy I made a list of 102 things I learned through the sickness. I’m not sure where I put that list.  I’m pretty sure I made it with the hope that God would see all I’d gleaned from the experience and spare me throughout the course of future pregnancies. (I was sick the second time too, so apparently the list didn’t accomplish the entire purpose I had hoped for it, but that’s ok.)

The experience reminds me that life often seems to move in the opposite direction of what I had planned or hoped. Sickness comes – sickness more serious than hyperemesis.  Dreams are crushed.  Plans are shattered.  But God is still good.

And sometimes the detour is actually the destination. Sometimes we fully believe God called us to climb to the top of the mountain, and we do everything we can to get to the summit.  When an unforeseen valley springs up between the foothills and the summit, it’s easy to wonder where God’s at in the valley.  And when the valley winds through the mountains and eventually leads to an entirely different mountaintop, it’s easy to wonder what God’s purpose is.  It’s easy to wonder if we heard God wrong.

But often, we heard God correctly from the beginning. He simply wanted to show us the first mountain to get us moving in the right direction, and he knew all along that he would lead us to the valley that redirected the journey.  God does this.  And we can rest in knowing that when we seek him with our whole hearts, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13).  He will lead us on the journey.

Watching Bekah barrel through a leaf pile in the yard, seven years feels more like a week.  And I’d take that detour all over again for this one mountaintop moment with her.

purposefulfaith.com

Sarah Frazer

This post is shared on two blog link ups. Thank you Kelly and Sarah!

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Why Life’s Pressure Points Are Some of the Greatest Gifts

 

There’s a giant sycamore tree by the creek. My hands are feet from touching when I try to reach around its pale bark in some sort of earthen embrace.  What captivates me most about this tree isn’t its size; I’m most captivated by the angle at which the giant grows.  It leans at close to a 45-degree slant, deeply rooted in the earth and dropping yellow leaves far into the creek.

The tree is along the path we take when we hike behind the house, and it’s a reminder of several spiritual truths in my life:

Be Careful about Judging What You Don’t Understand

The creek is lined with dozens of straight-standing sycamores. They are gallant and honorable.  Their bark shines silver in the autumn sunshine, and they bear the glory of their Maker.  Interestingly, not one of these trees is as large as the slanting sycamore.

One by one, we’ve watched as the tall, straight trees topple to the ground in violent wind storms and crash, uprooted, in microbursts that rip through the valley. Somehow, the slanting giant remains firmly rooted, bearing fruit in season, year after year.

I’d be quick to label this tree less worthy than its straight counterparts. But time has proven that this tree is deeply rooted.  This reminds me to be careful not to judge what I might not fully understand.  What’s visible on the outside doesn’t often tell the whole story.

In the same way, man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We’re wise to remember these words.

Everyone’s Journey to God is Different

Something about trees reaching toward the sky reminds me of seeking the Lord. This tree reminds me that we’re all on a journey toward knowing God more, and no one fully arrives until we see him face to face.  While there are pivotal moments along the way – black and white moments of decision – no two paths look exactly the same.

The friend who has very little conception of God is at a different place along the journey. We’re called to walk with one another, encouraging one another to draw closer.  And just as no two trees in the forest are exactly the same, no two paths are ever identical.

Adversity Produces Strength

I’m not sure what caused the giant sycamore to lean as it does, but it’s safe to say that this tree faced adversity that caused it to grow sideways. It’s often the most difficult trials of life that strengthen our character most.  Hard times hold the potential to shape us into the image of our Creator.

The financial struggles, the seasons of illness, the lost jobs, and the shattered dreams hurt. They also strengthen us and conform us to the image of the One who endured hardship for us.

The Call to be Set Apart is a Gift

We’ve often walked the trail past the sycamore and noticed other hikers standing in its shade, marveling at its slant, and sitting at its base. This tree stands out among the other trees of the forest.  It is set apart.

Sometimes the call to be set apart in our lives feels too difficult. Saying no to things others deem acceptable and standing firm in a shifting culture isn’t easy.  But the call to be set apart isn’t meant to be a burden.  It’s meant to be a gift.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes: “I learned early on that to be ‘set apart’ is not a punishment; it is not an attempt on God’s part to deprive us or to condemn us to a cheerless, joyless lifestyle.  It is a priceless privilege – it is a call to belong, to be cherished, to enter into an intimate love relationship with God Himself, much as a groom declares his intent to set his bride apart from all other women to be his beloved wife; to fit into the grand, eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe; to experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which we were created; to be freed from all that destroys our true happiness.”

And so, as the tree slants hard, I remind myself that the pressure points of life are often the greatest gifts of all.

Reference:   Holiness, The Heart God Purifies, Moody Publishers, p. 33-34.

 

 

Thanks to Arabah Joy, Kelly Balarie, and Missional Woman for sharing this post!

https://arabahjoy.com/category/grace-truth-linky/

http://missionalwoman.com/

purposefulfaith.com

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When You’re Wondering If You Really Have What It Takes

 

The thick Carolina air presses on my lungs like I’m caught in a stranglehold, and I wonder if I just might suffocate under the weight of it. Lavender thistle blossoms bow and rise in unison, and yet there is no breeze.  They must be praising their Maker.

I join them, and the heaviness in my chest seems to lift. Perhaps it wasn’t the Carolina heat after all.

I’ve been wrestling hard this weekend. I’ve wrestled with the realization that I am different than the 800 women at this conference.  It’s a conference for women who are called to write, speak, and lead, and I’m still not convinced I’m one of them.  I’ve wrestled with the invitation to take a step of faith like this: leaving my husband to tend to two little ones who happen to be fighting the stomach bug at this very moment; stepping away from my calling as a mother, wife, mentor, and other things; driving eight hours through the Blue Ridge Mountains like I’m chasing down a dream.  Something about it all makes me feel small and vulnerable.

It also feels like a risk I’m not sure I wanted to take. Am I risking appearing a fool if this dream never takes flight?  Am I risking the well-being of family?  I know, for sure, that I’m risking things I’d rather hold with tightly clenched fists.  Letting go feels like slow death dripping from my fingertips.

My morning jog down the Carolina Thread Trail slows to a walk. Queen Ann’s Lace blankets the trail’s edge like a gentle reminder of home.  Pennsylvania.  Where the air is lighter and these questions don’t press with such poignancy.

I think of the words Liz spoke last night, and I discipline my racing mind to stop. To rest at the feet of my Lord and wait for what he might want to speak to me – through me.  And in this place, their faces come to my mind, one by one.  I see the faces of the women whose paths divinely crossed mine in the beautiful conference center with the Bible verses hanging on banners from the ceilings and the colorful bouquets on the tables.

I see their faces, and I want to encourage them to keep pressing forward, keep following the calling, and keep trusting in his timing. I want to remind them of these things too:

You belong

I know you had a moment of scanning the crowd and wondering where you fit in. I know you felt a wave of anxiety when you saw their beautiful outfits and perfect hair.  I did too.  Each one of us looked for where we might fit in the crowd.  We wondered if we really belonged.

You do belong. You belong among the throngs of women who are passionate about fulfilling a life calling that is something greater than themselves. You belong in the calling of your everyday life, and you belong in this place that looks like stepping out in faith to follow a dream.  God is pleased when his children step out in faith and trust him to lead.  We are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God.  Keep sharing the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.

Your words matter

It’s easy to fix our eyes on the ones who seem to have arrived. It’s easy to stop telling our stories when we’re told they aren’t marketable, when we’re told they’re not the right fit, or when we’re told someone else is already saying the same thing – and saying it better.  These words cut to the heart, especially when the words we want to share are birthed from our deepest places of pain, heartbreak, vulnerability, and passion.

Don’t let the critics get you down, child.  Keep telling your story.  Keep speaking it to the masses and to the cashiers at the grocery store.  Keep writing your triumphs, your failures, and your grief.  If these words touch one person, you have glorified Christ.  Don’t go silent now, sweet friend. It’s only just begun.

You are crazily loved

I stood with close to a thousand women this weekend – women who want to glorify God with their lives. We worshiped before the throne, just our voices, singing of his greatness.  I was reminded of one simple truth.  It’s a simple truth that’s enough to transform the whole sum of my weekend, my month, my summer, and my life: If you only knew just how much he loved you . . .

If you only caught a glimpse of the joy he experiences when he sees his children stand before him in unified adoration, you would live as a marked woman. Your life is a fragrant offering, and it is beautiful to the King.  He sees your imperfections.  He sees your failures and your sin – past and present.  His blood is enough to cover it all, and clothed in his righteousness, you are spotless.

You are loved more than you can fathom, and every time you take a step of faith, whether it’s stepping into your job with eyes set to find someone to love, whether it’s writing your first blog post, starting your first page, or opening a new chapter, your Father dances over you with sheer delight.

Keep pressing on, friends. There is more to come in this journey, and it all points to the King.

*The sweet woman in this photo is my prayer partner from the weekend.  Thanks for exuding joy and speaking words of encouragement, Barb!

 

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The High Cost of Disobedience

 

We’re standing by the murky waters of a place we call the frog pond when I tell him. I tell him not to step into the water.  It’s sulfurous black swamp mud, and he’s wearing white socks under his sandals, upon his own insistence.  It has something to do with the cut on his foot that mysteriously appeared in the basement last week.

Maybe it’s because he’s ten feet away and he figures I can’t get over there in time to stop him. Or maybe he simply can’t resist the temptation.  He has a rebellious streak that’s so unlike his sister’s conservative temperament.  I pray every day that I might rein it in.

He doesn’t disobey with a toe in the water and a glance in my direction; he’s an all-in sort of guy, so he literally plunges into the mysterious murky water in a sort of leap. He sinks to his knees before he realizes what happened, and I find myself hurrying to the rescue.  I pull his little body from the muck, and we lose a sandal in the process.

The sobs start as soon as he sees his blackened socks, and I cringe at the thought of the microorganisms burrowing into the laceration on his foot. But there are greater issues to which I must attend: I plunge my arm into the stirred up, stinky water and begin grasping through the mud in search of the missing sandal.

There’s stinking mud under my nails when I pull the tiny shoe from the water, and we walk to the creek to make an effort to clean ourselves. This is a scene that’s played out in my life more than once over the past six years, when I decided to cultivate a passion for catching frogs in the lives of our children.

While Caleb splashes in the much-cleaner water of Wolf Creek, I’m reminded of a passage I read in Scripture not long ago: “‘If we have found favor in your [Moses’] eyes,’ they said, ‘let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’ Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, ‘Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them?’” (Numbers 32:5-7 NIV)

After forty years of wandering through the wilderness, God’s people have finally reached the waters of the Jordan River – the gateway to the Promised Land. Their inheritance waits on the western side of the river.  They must simply find a way to cross the river and receive the promise.

Not everyone in the crowd is excited about the journey across. A few of the leaders look at the land where they stand, on the eastern side of the river, and they decide this land will be good enough for them.  They’re comfortable.  This spot looks quite welcoming.  They approach Moses, their faithful leader, and convince him to let them stay on the eastern side of the river.

Moses relents. He simply asks that they contribute to the conquests on the western side of the river, and they may then return and settle to the east.

But the happy ending never comes. Jump forward a few books, and we find that those who settled to the east of the Jordan River were attacked and enslaved, and the right eye of every Israelite was gouged out (Samuel 10:27, 2 Kings 10:32). Failing to obey God’s command cost them dearly.

I’m thankful my children are learning to obey. The half-hearted Israelite clans set a good example for us all.  Partial obedience is disobedience, and disobedience has a cost.  We’re called to honor God for our own protection and benefit, not to stifle our fun.

I share these truths with Caleb while we clean his shoes in the semi-clear waters of Wolf Creek.

“No more mud,” he says.

“Right, no more mud,” I affirm.

 

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