How Surrender is Clearly Revealed in a Murky Pool

Yesterday, I went out to the pool to do the usual maintenance and was stopped in my tracks. I walked along the edge of the pool, staring into a turquoise, murky mess with skimmers clogged with leaves. It’s summer. What in the world?

I could not see the bottom of the pool. It had rained the day before with two heavy downpours accompanied by strong winds. I was seeing the results. The chemicals in the pool hadn’t been able to compensate for the detritus that the rain had brought. I had my work cut out for me.

On another front, I had been dealing with a situation that was complex and needed a quick resolution if a large, unexpected expense was to be avoided.  In my eagerness to restore equilibrium I could only see what was apparent to anyone. There needed to be a change and quickly. I could only see one resolution. The one of my own making.

I learned two things {again} from those examples given to me yesterday.

            1. There are times I have to address an issue immediately when the solution is obvious.

            2. There are times when I have to sit, be still, turn it over and let the Lord handle it.

He gives us a brain, He gives us ability, and He gives us the proper tools.  It’s what we do with these that can make all the difference.

In the first instance I took the most likely action that would restore the pool to its usual state of sparkling blue clarity; trusting that the mixture of the chemical treatment and physically addressing the removal of leaves, etc. would quickly resolve the murk.

On the second issue, I spent the entire day turning possibilities over and over in my head. I tried to reach the likeliest outcomes from every angle I could perceive and the damage control that would be required to minimize the expense that would be incurred in each instance. My minimalist conversation with the Lord was one-sided and rather short.

“Lord, how in the world can You provide something so good and take away a portion of that provision at the same time?”

I think you can see where I’m going with this. It goes back to the one word that keeps staring back at me when I look at my blog. Surrender.

The murky pool was the object lesson. The one thing was showing me what I needed for the other. There are times when we cannot see clearly; the whole picture is murky and complex. On the surface, we see a little, but the deeper we go the more difficult it becomes. The solution becomes more elusive. 

“The Worst Case Scenario” kept my thoughts occupied. Instead of turning to God and laying out my case to Him and trusting Him for the best solution I kept wanting to do something. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted it wrapped up and tied in a bow solved.

What strength have I left, that I should wait and hope? And what is ahead of me, that I should be patient? Job 6:11

Then He did something that brought my consuming thoughts to an abrupt halt by resolving the issue that was really out of my hands from the beginning. 

This morning, I am fully amazed, not at His provision, but at my dullness and density. Like looking at the murky water and not seeing the bottom, I could not see the solution, but He could.

It was His action that was needed to take care of the problem-not my dithering about. I was not able to change one thing about that situation. His grand resolution showed me that my self-reliance interferes with my ability to surrender.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

Again.

#BeautifulDeep

Last August, sitting at the table on the last night of the Declare Conference I heard Eryn Hall announce that the tickets would shortly be on sale for this year’s conference and that the theme would be “Beautiful Deep”.  My heart skipped a beat. I wanted to go straight to my computer and log on and order my ticket. 

But I didn’t.

Something, Someone said: “wait”. So I did. Time passed.

Later, I read that there were only 4 tickets left. And I tried, but they were gone already.

I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be attending this year.

And then- there was this conversation on FB regarding the wait list and that everyone would be notified in the order they were on the wait list when a ticket came available. Still I hesitated to put my name on the list. I wanted to be sure that I was not taking a spot that was meant for someone else, perhaps someone who had not been and was just starting down the road of blogging her faith to the world.

So….

I posted something to the effect: “if you get to the end of the wait list and find that there is a ticket available I would like to come; but I don’t want to keep anyone else from the opportunity.”

The week before the conference I got an email. There was a ticket available if I still wanted one. I bought it! And I’m so glad I did.

 beautifuldeepweb

Here’s why:

In the scorching hot heat of this Texas summer that melts our very bones it was like a spring rain.

Texas style.

There was a torrential downpour of words that kept pointing me back to my purpose, to our purpose in Christ.

I heard Words of Life, Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words, Wonderful Words of Life.

They are the ethos of that old hymn I grew up singing. Such great treasure troves of wisdom were delivered to us.

“Your life’s purpose is to give God Glory.”

“The world is always telling us who we aren’t, God tells us who we are.”

“If Jesus is not in the heart of it, may I be so bold, you are wasting your time.”

“Plant deep the things of God into deep places of your heart.”

“Sometimes, just because you are good at something, it may not be what you are made for.”

“We were made to swim in deep water in a life that requires Jesus; where life doesn’t make sense without Him.”

“Using someone else’s voice is exhausting; using your own is effortless.”

“A heart willing to hear ‘no’ can be trusted with a ‘yes’.”

“Do the work of an evangelist-speak Truth and Life. Fulfill you ministry. We are Digital Evangelists. It all matters!”

“Never publish unless you read a post aloud before you post.”

“When He interrupts it’s a good thing-always.”

“You can only be where you are; if you wait until you are where you want to be you will miss a lot.”

And, finally, I think this one thing is just now sinking in-deep: “Sometimes, it’s the dream you never intended to birth….” 

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, oh Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

I am in a season of waiting, meditating on His Word, and for the first time in a long time I am content to dream of what might be.

Surrender: Letting Go of Who You Think You Want to Be

This little word came to me in December; God whispered: “this one, this word, surrender, we have work to do here, daughter.”

Since then He has whispered something about it nearly every day in many different ways. {He’s very creative and He knows how to get my attention}

Surrender- it may be the one thing I need to tattoo on the back of my hand where I can see it every day.

Surrender don’t come natural to me

I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want

Than to take what You give that I need

-Rich Mullins

Because, you see, I have to. Surrender. Every day.

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I have an elevated confidence level when it comes to my profession. Not when it comes to self {still working on it}.

My self-confidence was so low as a child and as a teen and as a new mom, I’m not sure I had any back then. Heck, I barely knew who I was.

Then came nursing school and my instructors taught me that women living in the era we were living in had the right, nay, the responsibility to be bold, assertive and confident if we were ever going to get anywhere in that socio-medical minefield that was female nurses caring for male doctor’s patients.

The times they were a changin’.  Women’s lib and feminism made the headlines. Every day. Our attitudes about ourselves changed with each new item in the news.

After all, I was entitled. I was woman…. Thank you, Helen Reddy, for that one…

We skipped completely over “do unto others” during the late 70s to the rhetoric that said – you have rights, you are whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do and no one can take your rights away.

We bought into the mantra that said: “I want what I want and I should have whatever I want, whenever I want it, and my wants come before everything and everyone else.”

So much for families, friends, faith….

My wants came first and people were in my life to ensure that I got what I wanted or they needed to get out of the way because they were hindering me. My wants were paramount.

That was the loudest message I received in nursing school. Everything we were taught was wrapped up in those newspaper articles and tied with the bra straps from the burned bras.

It almost destroyed my family without me even realizing it. Submission was a dirty word in my newly grown up world. It was all about me.

Then God got my attention and put my head back on straight. It wasn’t a bolt of lightning or anything that was sudden and public. Just some circumstances at church, a nugget of a verse here and there, comments by friends and then, umm, there was that whole month my husband and I did not say one word to each other; and the kids, oh, yeah, the kids, who were all of 2 and 3 then- I did have to think about the kids didn’t I?    {insert sarcasm}

There were some tense conversations when we did talk and I woke up one day from the “dreams” that had been placed in my head; the tape set on repeat that said: “All that matters is what you want ”.

It was, of course, the enemy, whispering to me as my instructors treated me as if I were the darling of the class many days and encouraged me to strike out on my own. I could do anything, be anything according to them.

Oh, how that stroked my infinitely small quantity of self-worth.  Perhaps you know the feeling?

When your ego is pumped by people with no vested interest in you, it can be very flattering.

It’s one thing when the people who love you compliment and build you up- that’s their job after all, right? They’re saying it because they love you, right? But when someone in authority over you chooses to stoop low and boost your confidence it must be real, mustn’t it?

Go ahead and laugh.

I was that naïve that I didn’t see the truth at first.

Oh, he’s an expert at that.

Reality check: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

By the Grace of God, I got back on track. Yes, I was living through that period of time when women’s lib was front page news every day, and I was still in nursing school, but the reality of the fact that I was a wife and mother first and my responsibilities were to them had pulled me back from the brink of destruction of a family- mine.

He helped me realize:

First: I am His child

Second: I have an earthly family that came way before the world’s siren call

Third: I am responsible and accountable to Him for the way I behave, treat, and teach that family

Fourth: His purpose for me uses the brains He’s given me and the knowledge I learned to help others, not further my own selfish agenda.

Fifth: I am His child. He will not let me fall.

Stumble, maybe. Learn from it, definitely.

Surrender. Yes.

Those “dreams” that weren’t part of my calling.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV

 

The Blame Game: Are you trapped in the maze?

 

Fall is here. Ok, autumn, really. But someone forgot to tell Texas that the temps can cool down now- the calendar says it’s October, not late August. We are still experiencing mid to high 90s in the day(high 30s for you centigrade folks). Some days we get teased with lower temperatures and then it’s right back to the dog days of summer.  Ah, but enough about the weather.

leaveschangingweb

I want to talk about the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” Maze – aka – the Blame Game. I find myself trapped in this game almost every day.  The phrases roll through my mind like wildfires through a forest on a hot, dry day in summer: look what you did with the time today; you could have helped someone;  you should have done that; you should find someplace to volunteer; God would want you to do this; if you could do anything you should be spending your time intentionally on a mission project instead of spending money on a vacation; there’s a Sunday school class out there with your name on it, you could teach it if you would.

And so it goes. Endlessly. Trapped in the Maze.

I waste time. We all do. Do you beat yourself up over it? I do.

I go from watching Netflix to Amazon to Apple tv.

I go to the grocery store for just that one thing and end up strolling the aisles for an hour and a half. {I know. How could anyone do that willingly?

Or I read through FB, email, blogs, other social media or shop the internet.  I could go on. I’m sure you have your own list.

What I could do, or would do, or should do I daydream about frequently. Those daydreams become grandiose at times.  Great things I could do, would do or should do for God.  Back in reality, I blame myself for not doing those grander things;  for not doing something more.

But-what God wants me to do has nothing to do with any of that.

His plan and purpose for me is fulfilled in how He designed me and where He has placed me.

I’m right where He wants me to be.

Here.

Not there.

Not off somewhere loving on orphans for a few days and then back home- broken hearted and wrecked (as some say), writing about them in the hopes that others will contribute to their welfare because they are touched by the words I write or the 4×6 glossy prints I post. 

Don’t get me wrong. I wish I could be Jesus’ hands and feet to the great big world out there. I am forever amazed and impressed by fellow bloggers that can and do travel and help in the way that they are gifted and purposed by Him. I love reading your stories and seeing the pictures, I pray for you and for the people you reach out to, I ask for blessings in the middle of the barefoot poverty that is the mission field.

But I know in my heart of hearts – down deep – there, where my spirit and His commune together that His purpose for me is here. That I’m right where He wants me.

Preparing the next generation to listen for His voice and recognize when He is speaking to them. I do that by loving on those littles; reading to them; singing –sometimes off-key, and pointing them to Jesus. 

I talk with friends and family. I pray for them. I help where I can. I am just being me. I’m the me that He made me to be.

No, I’m not a missionary anywhere but here. He has brought me to where I can help the way He wants me to help. I’m ok with that when I stop daydreaming and really think about it. 

And, those of you who can and do go to where He sends you? I will be here; praying for you and cheering you on. Knowing that you are just who and where He designed you to be.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 AMP

 

Life Lessons

 

Through an event this past weekend I learned that I still have a lot to learn- about me. About people. And most importantly, about God.

I’ve spent most of my life learning. Drinking in knowledge. About life, the universe, everything. About God, about what a Godly woman/wife looks like, about Godly mothers, daughters, friends.

Yet, a painful discovery of how I can {still} make life miserable for everyone around me has hit me in the face.

I won’t expose the details here. It was not pretty, just downright ugly.  Most others would just shake it off and move on. Not me. If life doesn’t go as I expect, if others don’t do exactly as they said, my applecart is upset. And MY apples are ruined-at least for that moment in time.

This is not just due to my elevated expectations, but a lack of trust.

My entire life up through 2008 was spent dealing with an untrustworthy parent.  I can hear you saying: “surely not.” Maybe it is an exaggeration. 

Let me rephrase that: In a world where, if we truly trust God to be Who He is and that, like Joseph, things meant to harm me, God intended for good, then we can bear up under most anything thrown our way. 

For most of my adult life, someone managed to throw harmful things my way. Whether intentional or unintentional-that’s what my parent represented in my life. Lies, accusations, victimization, manipulation of circumstances, all were a daily part of the interchange with my parent.  It was standard operating procedure to try to control through deceit.

Expectations by me that said parent would change, maybe this time it will be different…. Went unmet… There were the occasional times when a surprise glimmer of the person I wished for would show, but those fast faded in the next sentence spoken or question asked. I kept believing that eventually there would be a place where everything would fall into place, but that was not to be.

I had a functionally insane parent who re-wrote the rules of behavior every morning.

The erosion of trust in my heart began long ago and continued until death us did part.

Fast-forward. I find myself still operating on those same expectations. I just want people to do what they say they will do, exactly when they say they will do it. When they don’t there’s another erosion in my trust bank.  How sad is that?

All that time God intended for good, was to mature me, to teach me to trust Him for everything and depend on Him only. Yet, I find I still haven’t quite learned the lesson well enough that it has stuck. 

I still try to trust that my expectations will be met. My skepticism and cynical nature have not served me well in that department. I still want to believe that, someday, everyone will do what they say they will do and when they will do it.

So, this lesson is being re-taught. Again.

From my earliest recollection in nursery school{preschool to the younger generation}, the first two Bible verses I memorized were:

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3

 And

 Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Trust. In. Him.   

Know. Him.

The preschool lesson I am still learning.

 Is He still teaching you a lesson you haven’t learned yet?

 

 

Questions, Questions, What’s With All the Questions?

 

When I was a little girl and questions were a large part of my day I would ask my mother a questions and she would respond {in rather a smart-aleck tone}: “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”  Profound.  I know. {rolling my eyes}  It didn’t take me long to figure out, when she answered thus, there would either be no answer from her to my question or the answer was “no”.

I didn’t get many answers from her that I could use; however, I did get quite a few examples of what not to say and, I suppose, from her actions I saw many answers to my questions that she gave without realizing.

I hadn’t thought about that quote for some time until the past couple of weeks. I’ve been pondering questions and answers since my Bible Study leader made this statement:

God is not afraid of our questions but we may be afraid of His answers.

And then, this week in my notes on the lesson came this gem:

Pressure from changes and threats in personal life or the world around them make people look for answers.”  

That quote came on the heels of this verse:

“Watch out that no one deceives you.” Matthew 24:4. 

The wheels started turning just about then and I began to think about what it is I question and who I ask for the answers. My mother is no longer around to “not” answer my questions. I am no longer a child who asks those childish questions either. Somewhere in the middle, between my child’s mind full of questions and my mother’s non-answers, lies the “answers” to questions I still have.

I realized as I began to grow up that I had to ask questions of myself. First the basics: What? Why? How? Where? When? Who? And then more complex questions that brought me back to the basics. And most of the time I didn’t get the answer. Because I didn’t have the answer and no one else did either. Like being on a merry-go-round. 

I came to the conclusion that I can take all my questions to God. He has the answers to all of my questions. 

Oh, but, You don’t want to bother Him with that…(insert any subject here).  He doesn’t want all of your questions. It’s impertinent to ask God questions”.

So you say.

Pardon me, but He does want me to ask questions and keep asking! If I choose to seek Him and to look for the wisdom that is there in His Word I will get the right answer at the right time. 

No, I’m not talking about answers to the next physics question in the book or what’s on TV tonight. It’s really much bigger and better than we could imagine.

Aha‘ moments abound.

Answers to what really matters. Like: Who is God? Who am I? Why Jesus? What does He want from me, really?  Who can I trust? What am I supposed to do with my life? How do I know whether it’s true, right or correct?

All these answers and more He will answer.  Simplistic? No.  Just Simple. We tend to make things hard on ourselves, don’t we?

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 6:7-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

How about your questions? where do you find answers?