Preparing for the Storm in More Ways Than One

hurricane

I can’t get this song out of my head today:

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm

– Ryan Stevenson

Our first hurricane, since moving here 9 years ago, is closing in on our coastline. It is kind of surreal. Seeing the images come out of Haiti and knowing the devastation that has happened there is breaking my heart. Some of the reports we are hearing are telling us that some of the people were not even aware of what was coming. They had no time to prepare.

I went to the store today to buy a few last minute items. The sky is blue, the air is humid, it feels like just another day in Florida. You would never know it…

…But there is a storm coming.

I was struck with overwhelming gratitude that I live in a place where technology is available to us. We get to prepare. We can be ready for this. There are still so many unknowns but at least the preparations can be made. We don’t have to be caught off guard.

I can’t help but think about how this parallels with life in general…

The sky is blue, the air is humid (or not if you are lucky), it feels like just another day…And then, without warning, it’s not. Gut wrenching things happen all the time. No one is immune. Tragedy strikes everyone, the unexpected turns our world upside down, and life is sometimes thrown at us like hurricane force winds.

Placing our trust in Jesus does not mean our lives will be without pain, but by trusting Him we are prepared to go through the pain. 

Are you prepared? I Peter 5:8 reads…“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Don’t be devoured by the storms and trials of this life that Satan loves to use against us. Instead be nourished daily by God’s Word, by spending time with Him, by listening for that still small voice that strengthens you in ways that nothing else can. We all go through storms. How are you going to prepare for yours?

As you face your storm remember the words of the Lord to Joshua:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

The most important single factor in your life

single-tree

It turns out 5am held some little treasures for me. In the beginning I discovered a new kind of quiet that I wrote about in a previous post. But as I reach the end of my 30 day experiment I have come away with something special from the Lord.

I have been reading Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper, to my kids. It has been powerful. We are having conversations about the Lord and the reason He put us on this earth that bless my heart to no end. They are starting to truly grasp that what Jesus did on the cross was the ultimate act of love.

Love.

How can we not respond to this kind of love?

Ephesians 3:17 says, “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love…”

Rooted and grounded in love.

Do you know what kind of love that is? Agape.

I have always been taught that this kind of love means an unconditional love. This is true, but when I went digging a little more into the meaning of that word some things stood out to me that I absolutely love!

The Greek definition of agape includes a description of “a love feast.” Can’t you just feel that? When God’s love shines through us it is as if we are at a love feast! Completely satisfied, lacking nothing. We have our fill of being loved and giving love simultaneously. The perfect kind of love that can only be obtained through the love that Jesus showed us on the cross.

It is a benevolent love. Well-wishing. The idea that the one doing the loving does not need any motivation to love. They simply love, unconditionally.

The Lexical Aids to the New Testament says this:
“Its benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires,
but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved.”

How many times do I think I know how I need to be loved? But then God pours his love into my soul in only a way that He can do, and my desires pale in comparison. He knows what I need. He loves in such a perfect way.

So as I sat in the glow of my perfect little desk lamp, with my hands wrapped around my warm mug of tea each morning at 5am, I found Jesus loving me in ways only He can do. My life was quiet enough to listen. I was still enough to notice. He wants my agape love, he wants me to feast on Him, to enjoy him.

One of the things I have been working through on these still, dark mornings is Experiencing God, by Henry & Richard Blackaby. Right there, on page 54, something soaked into my soul in a way that it never has before…

“A love relationship with God is more important than any other single factor in your life.”

I have worked at making time for my relationship with God for as long as I can remember, but have I ever loved Him the way He should be loved? The way He wants to be loved? Yes, I know there have been moments throughout my life where His love has blown me away, left me speechless and utterly grateful, but have I made loving Him the most important single factor in my life? I know what I want to do, but do I do it all the time? I often stumble through this humanity of mine, but I have come away from 5am knowing that all I want is to be so in love with Jesus that it is the most important single factor in my life.

Will I continue to get up at 5am? Truthfully, probably not as constantly as I did this month, but definitely more than I have ever considered before. Why? Because Jesus is there. Waiting. And I want to keep falling in love, as if it is the single most important thing in my life.

 

It’s my Blogiversary!

blogiversary

Wow! Has it seriously been a year? Yep, it’s true. One year ago today I sat staring at my first post, wondering if I was ever going to click the “publish” button, but I’m so glad I did! God has been so faithful and what I have learned over the last year astounds me.

I thought it would be fun to go back through all of my posts and compile a “What Have I Learned” list. Some of you have been with me from the beginning, others joined us along the way, but regardless I think you will enjoy taking a look at our journey over the past year. I am humbled and honored that you are here with me and have decided to let me and my story be a part of your lives.

These are my favorite snippets from each post. The first word has been linked back to the original post if you would like to read more. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life in this way. I absolutely love writing to you! This verse I read this morning really sums up my heart right now and why I take the time to share with you:

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people
it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 4:15

1 year. 33 posts. Countless blessings…

Just act.

Checking off my Bible Study tasks from a list does not equal intimacy with Jesus. (also, I love art.)

I was made to be in love with God.
The more you practice this, practice intimacy with Him,
the more you will find yourself desiring it.

Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, PRODUCING WORKS TO BE APPRECIATED PRIMARILY FOR THIER BEAUTY OR EMOTIONAL POWER….Take a few minutes and reflect on times of emotional power or beauty in your life, and start to notice your role in “producing these works of art.”

When I turn my focus on Jesus instead of the anxiety-prone questions that crush me like dead weight, my perspective changes and it becomes about my calling in that moment.

If there is one thing I want to convey through my words, it is that we have hope in Christ and you are not alone.

Let someone in, and be amazed at what blessings are set in motion.

Whatever situation you are in or what ever struggle you are facing God sees you, He knows you, and He is with you.

His “how” changed to a “why” when he took his eyes off Jesus.

God loves to bless us, in big ways but I think He gets a special kind of pleasure out of the small ones.

No matter how many desires I had, they were nothing compared to the desires God had for me…The more I lean in to Jesus, the more I take my desires and place them in his hands, the more His desires for me BECOME my desires.

God wants us to flourish! He loves us more than we can imagine. If we let that thought permeate our mind this season, the anxiety will melt away, we will rest in His power and we will thrive!

Contentment is found not when you resign yourself to the way things are, but when you align your heart with God’s and the future He has planned.

My obedience has made an impression on my son. As I have set out to be a “faithful influence”, and teach others what I have learned, I am inherently influencing the people the closest to me, including my own children.

Sharing with you has lightened my load and changed my perspective.

The more you spend time with God, the more you get to know him.
The more you get to know Him, the more you fall in love with Him.
The more you fall in love with Him, the more you trust him.
The more you trust Him, the more you surrender to Him.
The more you surrender to Him, the more you will have the peace,
freedom and victory that only comes from Him.

I stopped running and I faced God. I faced Him and I surrendered, yet again. We never run out of chances with God.

There is love, but there is also selfishness.
There is compassion, but there is also impatience.
There is occasional peace, but it continually gets drowned out by anxiety.
There is humility, but the battle with pride is real.
There is a desire for order, but it is easily derailed by procrastination.
There is a willingness to surrender, but a drive to control.
There is a creative soul, but it is inhibited by fear.
…there is imperfection and weakness, but God.

I don’t have to do everything ALL the time.

It was then that the seed of faith was planted in my 10 year old little heart and I knew that nothing was beyond the power of God.

My heart began to melt at the personal attention Jesus was giving me.

Right now it feels like somedays I just want to close my eyes and wish it all away. But do I? Is that what I really want?

PERSPECTIVE. The one thing that keeps it all from swallowing me up.

The tears started to fall, accompanied by feelings of remorse, and guilt, not for anything I had done but for Who I had left out.

Prayer takes us straight to the heart of God. It is what connects us to His plan already in progress. It takes our out-of-control life and brings it increasingly under the control of our Father, our Father in Heaven.

Circumstances are constantly changing, but God is constant and unchanging.

A good relationship with your teenagers doesn’t start when they are teenagers.

Mother’s Day is hard and it hurts. There is no way around it. But that doesn’t mean you have to do “the hard” alone.

God is calling you to be a faithful influence, and trust me, if you answer that call the only thing you will want to do is more.

I don’t know what that life would have looked like, but this is the life God chose for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5am isn’t so bad after all.

This is where strength of heart is born, not in anything we do, but in who we trust.

This blog is really my heart laid out for you to see. You have been so responsive and it blesses me to no end. This is only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in all of us!

Quietness: The Anxiety Antidote

morning-desk

Isaiah 30:15
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In [repentance] and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

I wish I could say this is how I live all the time, that at every turn my heart is quiet and I am trusting God. But it’s simply not the case. This world we live in gets the better of me sometimes. Shock, sadness, and disappointment fed my anxiety this week, but I recognized it for what it was and knew where to go with it. Thank God for the 5 am quiet. 

Who knew I would ever thank God for 5 am??

I don’t know why I am still surprised when Godly people turn out to be fallen creatures who are just as in need of God’s grace as everyone else. Or that brokenness is sometimes the tool God uses to shape a life like nothing else can. Or by that helpless feeling that creeps in as I watch the look of disappointment on my son’s face when the job interview didn’t go as planned. Or even by the recent news that the failing health of a dear friend just got worse.

Life is hard.

As each of these circumstances threatened to dominate my mind this week, I whispered a desperate prayer throughout my day: “Jesus, help me…” Just saying his name caused the tension to loosen its grip and I could breathe again.

God is good…All the time.

It is when I lose sight of that that the anxiety slides back in, threatening to take control. I want to be the strong one, the one that can somehow fix what is going on. But this need to fix things, this need for control is what feeds the anxiety. I sit here and worry about things only to come to the realization that they are simply beyond my control. The illusion begins to crumble and I look for ways to escape this feeling, to find peace again. But the strength I am looking for doesn’t come from anything I do, it comes from what He has done. 

…in quietness and trust shall be your strength.

It is only because of His sacrifice that we have the priceless privilege to sit in His presence, at any time, to let the quietness wash over our anxious heart, to let go and fully trust in Him. This is where strength of heart is born, not in anything we do, but in who we trust.

Your feedback is such a blessing to me. I would love to hear what you are discovering in the quietness, or to pray for you if you can’t seem to get there. A simple comment or reply might be exactly what someone else needs to hear to realize that they are not alone. No matter how big or small your community is, your faithful influence in their life might be just the thing they need today.

5am isn’t so bad after all

5am

Don’t you love summer? I do…well, mostly. I live in Florida, but I can honestly tell you I was not created to live here. Summer is HOT! Not just hot; sweltering. Like my skin is just going to melt off and all I can think about is sitting is the shade, drinking an ice cold Diet Coke, and hoping that a breeze will kick up that is slightly less humid than the air that is presently trying to boil me alive. Yep, that is pretty much how I feel about Florida summer.

SummerTIME, however, is something I look forward to every year. No more schedules, no more teaching, just me and my bored amazing kids. Even though I always start off summertime thinking that I will just do whatever I want, whenever I want, it never seems to quite work out that way. Our schedule tends to fill up quickly with all kinds of travel. This last summer was no exception. Brian went to Alaska for work in June, followed by each kid having their turn at summer camp. We then wrapped up the summer with a family trip to Alaska, a piece of this earth that is quickly taking up residence in my heart. It was a sweet time of ministry and family time which none of us wanted to see come to an end.

Transition is hard for me. I don’t know exactly when it happens but somewhere between coming home from vacation and having to start real life again, I get beat down emotionally. There was some of that this year, but as I started looking toward the fall and thinking about my goals, my mood shifted. The Lord gave me an idea and anyone who knows me will quickly see that this did NOT come from me.

I am calling it “The 5am Experiment.”

Yep, starting today, for one month I am going to get up at 5am on the weekdays and watch how this effects my life.

I have been talking for years about writing a book on “Surrender” and what better way to start the writing process but from a place of surrender in my own life. As a self-professed “NOT a morning person” it was the first thing that God impressed upon me as I began thinking about what I needed to surrender in my life. I’m always saying, “I don’t have enough time!” Well, if I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier I just might find the time I have been looking for.

My posts over the next month will either be about this experiment or about something the Lord taught me during my time with him.

As I planned and prepared for this first morning, I found my excitement growing for what was to come. To sit with the Lord in the stillness of the morning. To hold a warm cup of tea in my hands, close my eyes, and just be still. To feel a sense of calm come and fill my anxious places. To study His Word and let His knowledge fill me. To seek his plan, to pray about how I can be used as I come across people who are in need of Him. This is what it’s all about. And as all of this came true this morning I realized…5am isn’t so bad after all.

My First Guest Post!

Summer pretty much equals a lack of routine for our family, which means my writing took a little hiatus. But I’m back! And I’m pretty excited about it, too! I have had the honor of guest posting for a fellow writer on her blog. She features a post once a month titled, “Your Story.” August is my turn. 🙂

Some of you already know that we traveled the infertility road for many years, but this is part of the story that you might not know…how we almost gave up and how God intervened in an astounding way.

Join me at:  http://kristiwoods.net/2016/07/yourstory-terah-lites/ as I tell “my story.”

And look for regular posts to resume right here in September as I continue to be A Faithful Influence right where God has me.