Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When God says NO.

I have a Goddaughter. Her name is Lily. Actually I have two Goddaughters, the sweet baby girl is named Ella, but today I want to tell you about Lily. She is three.

As Lily has grown over the last couple years I have witnessed the precious wonder that she has with basically everything. Mesmerized by things like leaves on trees, and legs on a caterpillar, and the unfortunate times when she discovers my pimples... and my lack of "boobs" (she really enunciates that word)... Which she innocently tried to grab one day and then, upon not finding much there, asked me how my baby would get milk if I didn't have boobs like her mama? She was VERY concerned for me. (Needless to say, her lovely mama is well-endowed in that area.)

One vivid memory I have is when Lily's mom, Jenny, was explaining to me what happens when Lily wants to "explore" something harmful to her... Like an electrical socket... Or a hot stove...

Jenny said that instead of simply saying, "Lily NO!", she would walk over, scoop
Lily up, tell her "No", and then redirect her attention elsewhere. Jenny explained that if she just told Lily "no", but didn't redirect her, then Lily would be consumed with thoughts of that thing she wanted to touch... And within minutes she would be touching it again.

I realize now that I am not so different from Lily. There are things in my life that are harmful to me. Things that the Lord has essentially told me not to touch. And if I want to be obedient to the loving directions of my heavenly Father, then it would be best for me to redirect my attention elsewhere.

Becoming like Christ does not mean adhering to a list of what NOT to do. When Jesus walked the earth He didn't command people to follow Him, and then sit down and say? "Look disciples... I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't have premarital sex. I don't sag my pants. I don't cuss. I don't have tattoos. I am on time for meetings. And I don't flirt. Now go into all the world and teach others what I have taught you."

No way.

Jesus loved passionately. He healed powerfully. He served. He gave. He prayed. He forgave. He sacrificed Himself generously- for the good of all mankind. Sure there were plenty of things He abstained from, but the focus was on what He did, not on what He didn't do.

God knows our frame. He knows we are like the kiddos. He knows that if He said, "Jess, don't think about a pink elephant"... All I would think about is a pink elephant! So instead He instructs us to focus on the good works he has prepared for us to do.

Like in Ephesians 4:28 when He directs Paul to tell the thieves not to steal. Look at His approach-

"Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."

Do you see it? With the "No" came a redirection of their focus-- Don't steal... Instead to good honest work and GIVE to others!

How else could this apply to our lives? What are some of the things that we are doing that WE KNOW are not God's best for us? How can we redirect our attention to instead bring him glory?

Don't lust.... Instead love.
Don't gossip... Instead speak life.
Don't compare... Instead call out the great things you see in others.
Don't envy someone's else's life... Instead look for ways to joyfully improve your own.
Don't complain... Instead be grateful.
Don't doubt... Instead worship.
Don't worry... Instead pray.
Don't be greedy... Instead give generously.

You get the idea. The love of our Lord is compassionate. He understands us. He knows we need vision to keep us focused. He is a good parent. We can trust Him.

Ps. Sometimes Lily cries when her mama won't give her what she wants... Because Lily doesn't know what her mom knows. Lily's mom knows that if she grabs a hot curling iron she will get burned, all Lily knows in that moment is that she can't have what she thinks she wants. We do that too. God tells us not to do something, or He keeps us from receiving something we think we want, and we cry... sometimes just a little... and sometimes we have a full-blown temper tantrum. And thats okay. But we will do best if we understand that He knows something we don't know. And even if it hurts in the moment... Trusting Him will always fare better than trusting ourselves.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows." James 1:17

Friday, May 17, 2013

Well hello there!

I'm so sorry for going a bit MIA on you!

Actually I hate to sound dramatic but after returning home from our fantastic European adventures, we experienced some heartbreaking situations with loved ones and I found myself with A LOT of unanswered questions. I wish I could sit with you over coffee and tell you everything, but since we are here I will spare you all the details.

Anyway every time I wanted to post I stopped myself because it felt fake. I even struggled to post on Instagram because I felt so distant from the girl I would have projected myself to be. I was questioning God, doubting my calling, and tempted to quit everything. It sounds crazy but there were a few days last week where I felt convinced I wouldn't make it through my own heartache.

The amazing thing that I have learned though is the power of God working through friendship. So often when I found myself emotionally limping through my day, I would call a friend or open up to an older woman about my issues and I'm telling you... Their words were like the honey I drizzle on my lattes.... Sweet and EXTRA comforting. When it seemed like the world was shaking beneath me and i didn't know how to walk straight, my friends were there to keep me steady.

The Psalmist says that God is "slow to anger and abounding in love". That is exactly what I have experienced over the last few weeks.

One night I was getting ready to lead a ministry event and I seriously felt like I had NOTHING in me capable of leading. Right before the meeting began, a trusted older friend asked how I was doing and... I broke... Sharing even the things I was ashamed of feeling. Right away fear of her judgement crept in... I anticipated her reaction being one of condemnation and correction... And I thought FOR SURE she would doubt my ability to lead after hearing what I was wrestling with. But I couldn't have been farther off! She comforted me with her own similar experiences and encouraged me with the compassionate love that God has for me! I was blown away! After that she gave me a big hug and spoke tenderly of how precious I am in God's sight! My strength was renewed, my hope was restored and I felt immediately ready to lead the meeting... AND the evening went great!!

As believers we are called "the BODY of Christ". This side of Heaven God uses our arms to offer His hugs and our mouths to speak His words. If Jesus can't handle our messed up emotions... What hope do we have? God delights to use the people around us to reveal His gentleness and love. He has used my loved ones (near and far!) to show me that over these last two weeks and I am much stronger for it. My wonderfully patient husband has been amazing to walk with through these yucky parts of life too. He counts as both a loved one and a friend, but he deserves an extra spotlight on him, because he sees me at my worst and STILL loves me. He has been MAJORLY helpful in processing my funk, and I'm deeply grateful to God for that.

So though the circumstances around me haven't changed so much, my perspective is changing. I'm realizing again that I do not need to live simply reacting to things happening around me, but with the almighty God living within me, I have access to a hope and a joy that can never be stolen... No matter what comes my way. I have the ability to choose how I will respond! That's a beautiful thing!

All that to say... I'm back in blog land, trusting Jesus with my whole heart. And I'm happy to see you here too.

Be encouraged precious ones-
Despite what is shaking around us, our lives are secure in Christ.
And despite what is aching within us,
our hearts are being held by Him, the lover of our souls.

"You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me."
Psalm 139:5

[[&& In order to make up for lost time, i included some fun iphone shots of the last couple weeks! Beach days... Colorado friends visiting... wedding fun... God-daughters... little brothers... and plenty more! Because really, what's a blog without photos?]]