A Time to Rest

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I love the quiet yet forceful beauty of a tree in Winter.

Light twinkling from outstretched barren branches reaching towards the grey expanse.

The peaceful stillness of nature blanketed in the newness of white.

As I ponder these beautiful, silent creatures bravely facing all the harshness of a cold winter’s day…

I wonder, do we all need a time to rest?

The process by which trees prepare for winter is quite fascinating. If you are a geek like me, you can read more about it here. “Based on a combination of slowly lowering temperatures and shortening photoperiod (shorter days as we head towards winter), a chemical chain reaction occurs that tells the plant that it’s time to stop growing, hunker down, and get ready for a big chill.”- source here. The tree then enters a period of dormancy. “Dormancy is like hibernation in that everything within the plant slows down. Metabolism, energy consumption, growth and so on”- source here.

Ok, enough with the science lesson. If you are still with me, let me just say we all need a time of rest and refreshment. For some of us that might be a day or a weekend…or even a year. God uses rest to draw us to Himself, to whisper to the quiet places of our soul. We need to make it a priority!

A daily time of rest and silence in His presence.

A weekly focus of making our Sabbath rests the gift God intended them to be in our hectic, busy lives.

A purging of obligations and stuff to simplify and create margin.

And perhaps, a calling to an even longer period of rest…

A couple years ago, I felt like God was calling me to step down from every leadership and volunteer position in which I was currently serving. This was very hard for me as a lot of my identity in the church had become tied to what I was doing. I was afraid of letting people down, I was afraid of what people would think; and I was ultimately afraid of feeling like I was useless in God’s kingdom. I wrestled with the feeling of being a pew warmer for several weeks, until I couldn’t deny the need to let go any longer. I didn’t know why at the time, but I knew God was drawing me closer to Himself. I needed to do some “pruning” in order to make time in my life. Now looking back, I can see why in His mercy, God wanted me to carve out greater margin in my life that winter. A few months later, our family left our comfortable life with a strong network of supportive friends and family to move across the country where we knew NO ONE. God knew I needed to hunker down with Him in order to help me weather the winter storm that was coming in my life.

After another hectic year of moving, starting school, and many new starts; have me yearning….longing to rest once again. I know my heart has got caught up in the hustle. The constant push to do more and be more. I find my mind reeling from all of it, and I desperately need stillness.

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

So this story always kinda bothered me. Being a Martha- getter done, easily distracted by my to-do list, kinda gal, I felt like she got a bad rap. It wasn’t until recently I realized that Jesus was saying that Mary chose what was BETTER. Not that one was good and one was bad. One was good and one was better. Also, Martha wasn’t admonished for serving but for being worried and upset over her many distractions. Serving God is good. Sitting at God’s feet is essential.

As we prepare for the start of the new year, I ponder what this season of rest will continue to look like. I know there is still pruning to be done. There are still other areas in my life where I feel like God is telling me to let go.

We need to look at our schedules, our priorities, our goals for the new year in light of our need for resting at Christ’s feet.

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Back to the science lesson…

The tree needs to rest through winter for its survival.

“Contrary to previous assumptions, the increasing length of the day in spring plays no big role in the timing of budding. An ample ‘cold sleep’ is what plants need in order to wake up on time in the spring,” said lead study author Julia Laube- NatureWorldNews

Did ya catch that? Trees need rest in order to bloom on time in spring. We need rest to grow and serve from the overflow of a heart and mind filled with God’s presence.

Our rest is what actually propels us towards further growth in our relationship with Christ.

” If you cease, then God will reveal. The opposite is also implied. If you refuse to be still, if you do not seek times for silence and solitude, you may gain some knowledge about God without Him at all. It is through times of silence and protracted periods of stillness that He makes Himself real.”                             – Charles Swindoll, So You Want To Be Like Christ?

 

How can you make rest a priority in 2016?

*** BIG NEWS***

Our Lent Study will start on Wednesday, February 10th! This devotional study will spend 40 days looking at the words of Jesus. We hope you will make plans to join us as we sit as our Savior’s feet and soak in His words. More information coming soon!

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Hugs,

Julie

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He is the Gift

 

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On the stage, the music begins, the story ignites with melody and lyrics, movement and nuances of character. The energy of the others there with me and those engaged from the audience thrills and drives me. It fills me with a passion and satisfaction like absolutely nothing else. I had almost forgotten. It’s been a long time. Like riding a bike it all came back to me. And I realized once again that this is what I was made to do.

This is part of my story. Part that has brought so much beauty to my life and much brokenness, much fulfillment, and much longing. You see, I was a singer from the womb! Music is part of my DNA, handed down through the generations. There are times when I am reduced to a blubbering mess over things like the musical underscore of a cartoon (and just for the record, I am not much of a “cry-er”). And I think, “My word, what is that all about?” Well, it’s the way I was made. Music moves me, like nothing else. That is why I am so passionate about worship. For me, there is no more powerful way to rehearse the truths of who God is and what He has done, to state my absolute dependence on Him, or to cry out to Him for mercy, than through music.

God made me in His image, and clearly my passion for music and the absolute pure fulfillment I feel when performing are innate, given to me by Him – part of Him. A gift given for His glory, my joy, and to serve others. But there have been times when the passion for those things became my end, my all, my only satisfaction. When I needed to perform to feel whole. When I needed the attention of performing well to feel that I had value. That is when the gift became a god.

When those good things that God puts into us become elevated to the position of THE thing, that is when the good things become god things, and we create idols.

Perhaps this is a basic struggle for all of us in this world. Every single one of us is created by God, in His image, and we bear specific gifts, specific imprints of Him, specific touches of grace meant to bring glory to Him, and fulfillment to us. Perhaps one of our greatest challenges as human beings is learning to see the gifts in us as part of God Himself. We must learn that only in seeking Him will those gifts bring true and lasting joy. Elevating the gift to become the thing we seek eventually leads to brokenness. When we seek only the gift we begin to operate in a counterfeit manner, independent from the God who crafted the gift and put it in us. In that place, temptation swells and sin lurks. The desires that God put within us can become contorted by the desires of sin.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (Romans 6:12).”

The Greek word here translated “passions” is epithymia, which means desire, craving, longing.

When I have craved that passion, that thrill, that fulfillment, and not sought God Himself, I’ve found myself in places I never intended to go. Sometimes the realization of it comes quickly. Other times the deception can take hold for a long time and a jolt of some sort is required to wake us. But eventually our eyes open and we look around in horror as we clearly see where we are.

For me, the jolt came when I realized that seeking and obeying sinful passion, the fulfillment it gave, and the admiration of others, had led me into a pit of betrayal. I was crushed. And when I came face-to-face with my sin, these words from Psalm 143 became my song of repentance:

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness! And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous…My spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me…I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;…Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul…Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble….I am Your servant.”

For many years I simply cut off that gift. I was afraid of it. I didn’t sing at all. The enemy of my soul was there with lies, keeping me convinced that singing made me prideful and that people would think I wanted attention if I sang. And that if I received that attention, I might slip into sin again. It was an awful feeling, but I listened, deciding that it was easier just to avoid all of it. All the while my soul grieved.

I believe that was necessary for a time – to help me gain some perspective. I needed to learn who I was outside of singing – where my value really was. God slowly began to heal me and I’ve begun to see that He is all about making things new. God doesn’t give good gifts to be hidden under bushels forever. His heart is to let those imprints of His nature shine out of us, though there may be times when we need to do some work before we are ready for it. In His time, God sent other people to speak truth into my life in this area and to minister peace and revival to my heart. He is a good and unchanging Father who desires good things for me. God was not my enemy. My gift was not my enemy. My enemy was my own fleshly desire.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”
 (James 1:13-17).

The Greek word for “desire” in James 1:14 is also epithymia. The connotation of this Greek word is not always negative. The desire or longing can be for good things. But when those good things, which are given by God, are elevated in our lives to become things we MUST have to be fulfilled, desire for them leads us into sin and away from God, and it brings forth death.
I believe we have God-given longings and cravings. But the passions and desires of sin can quickly hijack what was meant to be good and contort it into an instrument of unrighteousness.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

We all serve something. All of us. We may serve ourselves, our careers, our families, even our independence. But the One we are created to serve is God alone. Because we have been brought from death to life by the sacrifice of Jesus, we now get to present ourselves to Him, along with every gift He has given us, every nuance of our character, every emotion, and all our history. He is not only the giver of every good and perfect gift, but also the ordainer of the perfect plan for how the gifts should be used. Serving Him is the only way to find true freedom.

I need only seek Him. He is the ultimate prize, His presence my only goal. He is not just the giver of the gift. HE IS THE GIFT.

“I am the bread of life” – not just the giver of the bread, but THE bread itself.
“I am the light of the world” – not just the giver of light, but THE light itself.
“I am the door” – not just the one who shows you where the door it, but THE door itself
“I am the way, the truth, the life” – not just the giver of these things, but THE way itself, THE truth itself, THE life itself.

For every situation, our God says “I Am!”

So, now, as I step onto a stage and feel the emotion and passion rising up for what I am doing, I can almost hear His voice whisper, “I am the music in you. I am your song.” And as I present all that I am to Him, I feel the most perfect joy.

What are those imprints of God that He has placed in you? Can you relate to having sought after the gift rather than the Giver? Have you been brought to a place of repentance and developed a desire to present yourself fully to Him?  I pray that you will also experience the absolute, true fulfillment and joy that is found in that place of surrender, and that you will begin to see more and more the evidence of God Himself shining out of you!

Live Free. Live Loved.

~Kerri

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The Gift of Grief

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I remember that morning like it was yesterday, the image and feeling permanently burned into my heart and mind. Just coming out of the new mother fog into a whole different way of life, I was beginning to adjust to my dizzying new reality. The constant fatigue from lack of sleep, the non-stop feedings and care of an infant, the joy of holding and kissing and loving this amazing gift of life and the fumbling to find the rhythm and routine with a precious little boy now in our care. And there he was in the back seat. This happy, joyful, laughing baby. His eyes caught mine in the rear view mirror as the sun poured in… Smiling right at me! My heart was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our first-born son, having no idea this moment was a gracious parting gift goodbye.

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Everything can change in an instant. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will.  That moment when the bottom drops out. When everything you knew no longer is. 

“There’s been an accident.”

“I’m having an affair.”

“You’re fired.”

“It’s stage IV cancer.”

“He’s not breathing…” Those three words changed my life forever. And I knew it the first moment they registered in my brain… my world would never be the same. On that same sunny day, our 4 ½ month old child stopped breathing during a nap and could not be revived. Our world was turned upside down.

Many psychologists say there is no pain so deep as the loss of a child. It is excruciating. Some moments it physically felt like I could not breathe. There were times I begged to never take another breath of air again. And still there are days when the wave of grief crashes over me out of nowhere and I crumble beneath it’s weight. How does a mother continue to live when her child is gone? 

As devastating as the death of our son has been, there are other losses I’ve experienced which, while different, have been almost as brutal and life-altering in their intensity of pain. Rejection and betrayal are particularly overwhelming griefs to bear. I’ve come to believe that the depth of our grief is in direct proportion to the depth of our love and connection. Simply, the more we love, the greater the loss.

Grief is defined as a keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. The longer I live, the more I experience it and see it in the lives of those around me. Everywhere I turn, there is profound loss. The loss of dreams, of health, of relationships, of loved ones.

In this world you will have trouble” John 16:33.

For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” Matthew 5:45.

I used to believe it was Jesus’ plan to fix our broken hearts. That His intention in the lives of His children was to fit each piece of our shattered hearts back together, good as new. And one day God dashed my dreams of wholeness and gave me a new vision for His mission in my life and in the world. As I cried out to God to heal these broken places and make me whole again, He whispered, “That’s not how it works at all. My mission is not to fix what’s been broken as if it never happened.”

Behold, I am doing a new thing” Isaiah 43:19. A deeper work. Because in the kingdom of God, healing doesn’t mean fixed, healing means changed.

“I don’t put the pieces back together as if your heart had never been shattered.  I fill in the broken places with Myself.”

I have never in my life felt the presence of God more powerfully than in my moments of deepest grief. In fact, this is one of the greatest proofs of the existence of God to me. That in my moments of utter despair, I can testify with certainty that these promises are true…  

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.” Psalm 27:5

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

The GIFT of grief is the PRESENCE of God.

There is a sacred space in the agonizing prayers of God’s beloved where He meets us with His divine presence. Because there is no loss, no grief, “no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” (Corrie Ten Boom). It is more REAL than anything we’ve ever felt. Not only does He flood our souls with peace that passes understanding, but He gives us a glimpse of the magnitude of His love for us. That He willingly entered into the agonizing pain of this world and endured grief beyond description on our behalf.

In one of the most moving accounts of His humanity, Jesus shows us how He deeply identifies with the pain of His children. As Mary and Martha grieved the death of their brother Lazarus, so did Jesus. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” John 11:33. Jesus wept vs. 35.

What a baffling reaction. Why was Jesus so troubled? Why did he cry and mourn along with his beloved friends? Jesus knew not only the eternal ending of this story, but even the earthly miracle He was about to perform that would take away their sorrow in an instant, yet, He stopped to grieve.

Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” writes John Calvin. While Jesus experienced joy and love and friendship and peace, He also felt the deepest pains of rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and loss.  He was truly “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” Isaiah 53:3. We suffer no pain He was unwilling to endure Himself. Our own grief then leads us to the reality and power of the gospel. That the Creator drew near. He entered in. Immanuel, God with us. He not only paid the penalty for our sins, but He bore the weight of our griefs and afflictions. As God in the flesh, He actually experienced our sorrows. As God the Father, He is intimately acquainted with the loss of a child, His only Son. 

He has promised a time will come when He will wipe the tears from our eyes forever, when joyous reunions will leave the past as distant memories. When “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” Revelation 21:4.

Until that day, what do we do when our hearts are shattered by loss?

Where do we go for comfort?

Who can understand the depth of our pain?

“Even the glories of Christ afford no such consolation to afflicted spirits as the sufferings of Christ. Christ is in all attitudes the consolation of Israel, but He is most so as the man of sorrows. Troubled spirits turn not so much to Bethlehem as to Calvary; they prefer Gethsemane to Nazareth. The afflicted do not so much look for comfort in Christ as He will come a second time in splendor of state, as to Christ as He came the first time, a weary Man, and full of woes. The passion flower yields us the best perfume; the tree of the cross bleeds the most healing balm. Like in this case cures like, for there is no remedy for sorrow beneath the sun like the sorrows of Immanuel…

Let us go, then, without reluctance to the house of mourning, and commune with “The Chief Mourner,” who above all others could say, “I am the man that has seen affliction.” Charles Spurgeon

What a friend we have in Jesus, bearing not only our sin but also our grief. 

Held by Him,

Leslie

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Unexpected Blessings

http://calledforsuchatime.com

 

God works in mysterious ways. He is healing me in areas I didn’t even know were broken. He is so in love with me. And with you. I want to share a little of how He has shown up for me and poured His love out on me.

I am a forty-two year old mother of five. Five very active and busy children. Ages three to twelve. Years of homeschooling, private schooling, pre-schooling, parenting, and just plain ole mothering!  ADD, ADHD, LD…. you name it! Exhausting in and of itself.

Most Sunday mornings, I’m overwhelmed at the sheer effort it takes to get all five fed, dressed, ready and out the door – and then I realize I am still in my ROBE. Oh Joy!

Jesus says, “Come as you are,” and yet I can’t bring myself to show up in my pajamas. Yet.

I’m trying not to let the mornings get the best of me anymore. God is continually renewing my spirit and reminding me of what really matters. He has changed me from the inside out, in a NEW way. And I am living more freely today than I was yesterday.  He has given me NEW LIFE!

Let me tell you how He led me to this place.

The pace of taking care of a house and children, in addition to relational difficulty and life in general, led me to believe that my constant fatigue and headaches weren’t out of the ordinary. For years, I had been to doctors and specialists that tried to help, but inevitably all of them joked that my fatigue and pain seemed proportionate to my life stressors.

“You have FIVE kids,” the doctors would say, “No WONDER you’re tired.”

After watching me wrestle a kid into a stroller and my numerous whispered threats in the mean mommy voice, I’d hear, “I’d have a headache, too, if I had to do that all day.”

And with a chuckle and a suggestion for more sleep and perhaps a vitamin supplement, they’d be out the door.

So, I was alone. And overwhelmed. And sick. With no answers and no path forward.

This past fall I caught everything the kids had. Strep, Flu A, Flu B. Sickness upon sickness and I never got better. Lingering sickness for months and months that left me debilitated. I couldn’t lift my head. Something was wrong.

And then it came. Some answers. An unexpected blow.

“Abnormal cells in your bone marrow.  Highly probable that you will need treatment for Multiple Myeloma.”

“You will be contacted by Duke Cancer Center later today.”

And my life began to unravel before my eyes. 

I was listening. Or was I?  Did the doctor just say what I think he said? In a calm, soothing voice he’s asking me what kind of support system I have.  Who do I live with?  Who can take care of me?  Where do my parents live?  Do they live far away?  Do I have people who can help with my kids and make us meals?  Do I have a church family?  Do I have any questions?

DO I HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?

I thought I would explode. All I wanted to do was run out of there and collapse in tears. I could barely hold it in.  I ran to the parking lot and broke down sobbing before I could even get my car door open.

DO I HAVE ANY QUESTIONS? 

I felt like God was so far away in those first moments.  I couldn’t feel His presence or His hand on my life.  I felt unloved and abandoned.  I felt punished.  I felt completely broken.  Tired.  Alone.

Before my trip to Duke, I spent time researching the possible scenarios the doctor might present to me.  I researched treatment and prognosis options, and quickly realized that once I started chemotherapy, my life would look much different.  And the clock would begin ticking.  You see, Myeloma isn’t a curable disease.  It’s a chronic and fatal condition.  Once the cancer cells reach a certain percentage, treatment begins and you never go back.

When I began to think of how I may spend my last 10 years, walking through chemo, medications, surgeries, and stem-cell transplants, I was crushed at the realization that 10 years is not nearly enough.  Mary Kate will be 13 in 10 years. My oldest won’t be married yet. 10 years is not NEARLY enough Lord.  Please Lord, I begged, give me more than 10 years.

I had some extremely emotional and rough weeks following the initial diagnosis and subsequent visit to Duke.  PET Scan, CT’s, MRI’s, painful biopsies and bloodwork.  I really struggled with understanding God’s plan for my life and His reasons for allowing me to be sick.  I was angry with Him.  I was grieving the loss of health, but praising Him for answers.  I cried out to Him constantly for strength, for hope, for peace, and for joy.  And I buried my head in my pillow to avoid intimacy when it all became too much.  As it often did.

And I want to tell you this: God never left me.  My anger didn’t cause Him to remove His hand from me.  My questioning didn’t sever our relationship.

It cemented our relationship.

And it provided an opportunity for God to give me one of the greatest blessings He’s ever given me.

Perspective.

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Crisis brings perspective to what really matters in life.

When I was diagnosed, nothing in my life immediately changed externally.

But everything inside of me was altered forever.

In that moment, I realized how precious and important time is, and my entire perspective changed.

I wanted to live more than anything else in the world!  Real relationships became all that really mattered.  Being present for those in my life.  Being real with my friends and my family.  Knowing and loving God in a deeper way.  Every day began to matter.  Every breath and every day is a gift I had taken for granted.

In a supernatural way, God awakened me!  A diagnosis of cancer cells plaguing my bone marrow didn’t bury me, it awakened me.

I have been awakened to the reality that I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do have TODAY!

For instance, God has been working on me for years in the area of SURRENDER.  This past year, He has been inviting me to trust Him in the area of provision. I used to lay awake at night and ruminate on how in the world I would ever be debt-free. And “what-if” one day I couldn’t afford my house? Or car repairs. Or activities for the kids.  My mind would run in circles and I would find myself afraid and anxious.  I have spent plenty of time worrying about so many things, and instead of living life, I was just trying to make it through the day.  Wasting precious time and energy.

God is not inviting me to worry and waste the days He has blessed me with!

He is inviting me to live life.

He came to give me life. Abundant life!

Today, I rock my baby longer, linger over dessert and coffee with friends, and look for Him in the ordinary and everyday monotony. But it’s really not monotony to me anymore. Now that I can’t escape the fact that my time here on earth is a blink of an eye. This is not my home.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

I have been awakened to the fact that I must live in the present. Appreciate what I have. Seek His face above all else.  Satan would love to steal my joy and mar my witness, but God put me here right now for a reason. He is writing my story. He has trusted me with this story. What an honor and a privilege.

 

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After a life-altering diagnosis: how am I doing?

1) I feel more alive!

In Psalm 39:4 David says:

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days.  Let me know how fleeting is my life.”

God reminded me of what is important! He reminded me how fleeting my life is so that I can appreciate each day and live each day to the fullest!

Psalm 89:47

“Remember how fleeting is my life.  For what futility you have created all men.”

Psalm 39:5

“Behold you have made my days a few handbreadths, and the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.”

James 4:14

“Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

2) I have more joy!

I had been living without God’s measure of joy!  I had been overwhelmed by my marital difficulties and my limitations and my kids’ imperfections, while missing out on the fullness of life that God blessed me with.  He gives all of His children the same blessing.  The gift of Himself.

Psalm 5: 11-12

“But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; You cover him with favor as with a shield.”

Psalm 63: 5-8

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips, when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night; for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 30: 11-12

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. That my heart may sing to you and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”

3) I am more thankful!

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” ~Bonhoeffer

Just a month earlier, I had repented for my lack of joy and thankfulness. For my failure to go to God and have Him fill me with His presence.  And all of a sudden, a month after devastating news, I am so incredibly thankful!

I am most thankful for His presence. His goodness and faithfulness right now. In this lifetime.

Psalm 27:13

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

4) I have more hope!

Another gift from God as I studied the Psalms recently:

Psalm 39:6-7

“Man is but a mere phantom as he goes to and fro

He bustles about, but only in vain

He heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.”

“Illness increases our awareness of life’s limits…. so we turn to God for renewed hope.” (NIV Commentary)

On April 9, 2015, my life changed forever. But it was no surprise to God. There was no emergency meeting of the Trinity to be called.

This disease does not decide when my time on earth is over.  God is, and always has been, in control of my life.  My life will not end one second sooner than He has ordained.

I am secure in His hands and I trust in His love for me.

“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.”- Timothy Keller

My prayer is that He would bring health to my body and heal me, all the way down to my bone marrow.  In both Proverbs 3:8 and Hebrews 4:12, God referenced the importance of bone marrow.  The health of our bone marrow will contribute to our overall health.  God so lovingly placed that in His Word – just for me!

God is healing me.  He is healing me spiritually and emotionally.  I even have renewed strength and energy right now, and I petition Him to heal me physically and completely.  He is able and I go to His throne and ask for healing.  Like David in Psalm 27, I repeat to myself who God is and what He promises.  And that confidence in Him empowers my prayers.

In God’s grace and mercy, the specialists at Duke say that right now I need no treatment.  The abnormal cells aren’t at a critical number.  As the matter of fact, the specialist, an expert in her field both in the United States and abroad, said these words to me, “Go live your life.”

And I will. I will live it abundantly and faithfully.

Dear Lord,

Thank You, precious Father, for reminding me of how to spend my days.  My time on earth is limited.  This is no new revelation to me.  I knew I would one day die, but You have given me the gift of perspective.  I wouldn’t have gained that perspective without a wake-up call; Your severe mercy.  Like a rainbow in front of a dark cloud, I see your beauty more magnificently and clearly.  Thank You for healing the broken places in me I didn’t even know were broken.  My ability to see what was important was distorted.  The fruits of the Spirit in my life were muted, and I didn’t realize the extent of that damage.  My body is broken.  And only You can heal me.  Thank You for carrying me through it all. And loving me in my weakness, woundedness, and despair.  I love you, Lord.  You are my all.

In His Grace,

Lisa

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The Anchor for our Souls

anchor-chain-3671_640

Hi friends!  Today I am re-posting an entry I wrote almost exactly a year ago.  It was so good for me to go back to this place and remember how God revealed Himself to me that day.  I hope with all the tragedy flooding our news this week and whatever may be going on in your own life, that you will also be encouraged to trust in our sure and steadfast anchor. 

Today I am wrecked. That’s really the best way to say it. A four-year-old girl died this morning. Her family lives in the farm workers’ compound next to us. These ladies have come to mean so much to me and I am becoming more and more passionate about seeing them live free in the Lord. It’s so hard. Cultural complexities, language barriers, race issues. Sometimes I wonder if they really believe how my heart loves them. Can they see past my skin? Do they know they are more than a “ministry project” to me?

This morning we received the news that this little girl, named Priscilla, had died. So we went to be with the family, love on them, and, yes, pray for a miracle. Here in Zambia it is tradition for the friends and family of the deceased to gather at the “funeral house”. They remove all the furniture from the main room and ladies sit on the floor, backs to the walls, all the way around the room, and mourn together. The men sit outside. I’ve been to funeral houses before, and it’s all seemed so foreign to me. I’ve always felt awkward walking into situations like that, mostly because I’m self-conscious about doing things wrong or offending people. I’ve been detached from their grief and I merely wondered at their solidarity. At the wailing that rises up from the soul of one and grows into a chorus of voices crying out in pain. I haven’t understood it.

As I think about it, deep down the awkwardness comes from the fact that I don’t understand this grief. I’ve never been there. I’ve never lost someone young, close to me. Here, it happens all the time. People die. Young people die. Children die. Babies die. One Zambian friend of ours actually told us that the reason they try to have so many children is because they expect to lose some! I have another friend who is the oldest of three remaining siblings out of seven. The other four had died along the way, along with their father. Death is very real here, but just because it is more common, does not mean it is easier to bear.

Though I have always struggled to relate, this time it was different for me. As I shuffled respectfully into the funeral house, I was crushed. I looked and saw the body of a beautiful child lying in the lap of a family friend. She looked like she was sleeping. I watched as the “Auntie” rubbed the little arms, gathered a cloth carefully around the body, and then covered her head. She knew exactly what she was doing. She’s done it before.

I looked into the eyes of all these ladies that have become so dear to me and my heart shattered. I went to my knees before them and wept. I was overwhelmed as I have never been before. The presence of God was so strong. 

As the swell of wailing rose around me I began to understand it for the first time. It is raw and real. There is something so good and right about just crying out. And having those that love you cry out with you. No one told Priscilla’s mom to pull it together or maintain her dignity. They just cried out with her. One Auntie would gently squeeze her shoulder or touch her foot as she cried. I, too, put my hands on her feet and cried with her, and prayed for her asking the God of all comfort to hold her.

Then as the room quieted, a beautiful voice began to sing. And suddenly that small, concrete room was filled with the sound of harmonies lifted up to Jesus. It was one of the most exquisite things I’ve ever heard. God was there.  That was when it rang in my ears again – this scripture that has been ever present in my mind and heart lately.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Hebrews 6:19 (NLT)

Jesus. In their pain, they sang to Jesus. He is our hope. Regardless of our skin color, nationality, economic status, or position, whether we have experienced great loss and suffering, or a life of relative ease, in Christ we have one anchor for our souls.

Being anchored we cannot be swept away.

When things are good and when troubles rise – no matter what comes in this life, this anchor of hope is sure and steadfast, strong and trustworthy. It will not break and it will not fail. I believe this with all that I am, and I live my entire life based on this fact. 

Because Jesus has made a way for us to enter into the holy of holies, we can pass through the veil and right to the throne of the One who is Love and created us in love.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)

Kneeling on that dirt floor I felt what it was like to come boldly before the throne. Really for the first time, my heart broke. And there it was put back together by the One who created it and has held it all along.  There I was filled with a renewed sense of purpose.  This is why I’m here. It’s not to make these ladies’ hardships go away. It’s not just to educate them and give them things. My purpose is to love them, to laugh with them, to grieve with them, to learn from them, and to share hope with them. To share Jesus. Jesus is our living hope. To reassure them that this is a strong and trustworthy anchor for their souls, even in the midst of lives of hardships I will never fully understand. Christ in them is all the hope they need.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27 (NIV)

We are called for such a time as this, dear friends. Will you join me in declaring your faith to those around you by walking out a life of hope?

Live Free. Live Loved.

~Kerri

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Come and Find Me

hide and seek

We live in a small cul-de-sac where our three children spend most of their non-schooling/waking hours riding bikes or Dora jeeps, digging, flipping, chasing, rolling and talking very loudly.  My sweet neighbor and I sit in adirondack chairs or just stand in the middle of the circle many afternoons chatting and watching the Roanoke Circle kids, ages 9, 6, 4, 3 and 2, play.

One afternoon, the activity of choice is Hide and Seek. The 9 year old starts the loud countdown from 20, 19, 18… I look over to see the 2 and 3 year old girls just stop right where they are, in the middle of our neighbor’s driveway, and plop on the ground. Both girls lie belly down, faces in the asphalt, hands over their heads, “hiding.”  It’s adorable watching our giggly girls hiding in plain sight waiting for the seeker and yelling out, “Come and find me!”

Days later, I am reminded of this sweetly naïve image of our girls, whose only thought in the game of Hide and Seek is “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me.”  Only this time, it’s not quite so sweet.  This time, the naïve child in hiding isn’t 2 or 3… she’s 40.  And she’s not so sure she wants to be found.  This rescued, redeemed, reborn gal is hiding from the only One who has ever loved her completely and unconditionally…again.  I am strangely surprised and ashamed when I recognize just how far and how quickly I wander away from Him. Someone once told me, “No matter how far you are down the road, you are still always only a few feet from the ditch.” 

But as far from God as I find myself, this place is sadly familiar. It’s so familiar that it’s somehow painfully comfortable.  First there’s distance (space to breathe), which leads to detachment, and eventually complete disconnection. When I’m in this space my feelings vacillate between anxiety and numbness. The cause is most often trauma, sometimes simply change, but it’s always driven by overwhelming emotions I have no capacity to manage. This time it’s change. The change is good, God-directed. But with every change, there is always loss.  I must let go of what was to embrace what is.  And I do what I’ve done so many times before.  I shut down.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to handpick which emotions to shelve.  If I refuse to feel pain, I also sacrifice joy, excitement, hope, and most of all, intimacy with God. When the awful feelings begin to surface, I pull away from Him and out comes the full arsenal of coping strategies: daydreaming and planning, organizing, lots of chocolate or strict dieting, cleaning (not usually), television, shopping, controlling… and many more.  No matter what the ugly coping looks like, and no matter how ugly it gets, I am really only always doing just one thing.  I am hiding. From God. I disconnect from Him because He is truth; the Way, the Truth and the Life to be exact. To allow myself to come close to Him means I must rub up against the truth, and my experience has proven that truth hurts.  Numbness and anxiety are preferable to pain.

I am having a moment, way down the road, we’re talking weeks, where I realize I am really, really far from my source of love and peace and joy and satisfaction. I started out distant, numb, detached, and now I am in a full blown downward spiral. How do I find my way back to Him?  I need to repent.  Get in the Word.  Call a friend.  Confess and pray.

Everything in my heart and head and body resist. I just can’t do it.  Honestly, nothing in my flesh wants God. I know I need Him, but right now, nothing in me wants Him.  If I was actually feeling at this point, I would be overwhelmed by shame and disappointment in myself.  How is it possible to continuously reject the love of my life?  I know I’m not alone in this crazy push and pull.

“Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than our sin.  How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair.  And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.”   Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

At this point, I don’t think there’s even going to be any crawling.  I am too weak, rebellious, exhausted, fearful and dying of thirst for streams of living water to move.  And then I hear it, just one time, but loud and clear.

“Ask Him to come and find you.”

Instant waves of relief.  I am reminded that I haven’t wandered off anywhere that I can’t be found. Like our little girls in the driveway, I am face down, hands over my head, “You can’t see me, if I can’t see You,” hiding in plain sight.  Not from the Hide and Seeker of Roanoke Circle, but from El Roi, the God who sees me.  Yes, that’s His name, the God who SEES me.  Of course it is.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your Presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there, your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day; for darkness is light with you.” Psalm 139:7-12

El Roi sees me alright. He is well aware of my fear and desperation and sin. Like the sparrow, His eye has not left me for one single second. The truth is that even if I don’t ask Him to come and find me, He will move heaven and earth to bring me back anyway. The Good Shepherd finds His lost little lamb, one way or another. But today, against what feels like an impenetrable force field of flesh, my spirit says it, whispers it, not even out loud. Quietly, desperately, in my mind.

“Jesus, come and find me…”

And He does.

He has and He will, every single time.

 

Held by Him,

Leslie

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Lies

 

IMG_0959“I’m not good enough.”

“I’m not thin enough.”

“I’ll never succeed in this.”

“I have to make sure everyone is happy with me.”

“I am a terrible mother.”

Lies. Everyone who walks this earth is plagued by them. Whether we realize it or not, the lies are there, constantly knocking at the door of our minds and waiting to see if we will let them in. Often, we listen and open the door unconsciously.  God has set me off on a journey of becoming aware of lies I have believed in my life, and how those lies have snowballed into belief systems that have helped shape who I am and how I behave.

This, I believe, is one of Satan’s primary tactics for disabling God’s children. If he can get us to believe things that aren’t true about God, ourselves, and other people, he can begin to control the rudder of our lives through those lies. Here is the verse I’ve been chewing on concerning him:

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

Satan’s native language is lies! Just as I don’t have to think about speaking English, he doesn’t have to think about speaking lies. There is no truth in him.

Truth is a person.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6

Jesus. And He has given us help as we seek Him, the truth.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. John 16:13

So when those lies begin knocking, we must train ourselves to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see truth – to help us see Jesus. Then we can learn to capture those thoughts, dilute and destroy them with truth, and then tear down the strongholds that our enemy has built in our lives.  

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:32, 36

When we are free and living in truth, our perspectives will begin to change along with our actions and responses.  

What about you?  Can you see areas in your life where you have believed lies?  Join me in asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the areas we need to bring to the light of the truth.  The light of Jesus!  

Live free. Live loved.

~Kerri

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Getting Started: Glorious Grace, A Study in Ephesians

Ephesians Bible Study Lent calledforsuchatime.com

Ephesians is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Filled with such truth about who we are in Christ, the glorious grace given to us through Christ, and the promise and hope of life lived in and through Him. As we take the next couple of months to dig into these beautiful Scriptures, I don’t want to miss for a minute the wonder of it all. I hope you all are excited as well.

Throughout my life, I’ve done numerous Bible studies. Some topical, others expository. I have gleaned so much from the amazing authors who have written books and studies from books of the Bible and important topics such as freedom in Christ, experiencing God, having the mind of Christ, and who I am in Christ. 

For years, I have had an on again/off again relationship with God’s Word. I have always loved the time spent in God’s Word, but, like Leslie wrote in her post Four Obstacles to Reading the Bible (And How I Moved Past Them), there were obstacles I let stand in the way. About a year ago, I began an in-depth study of God’s Word that transformed my time with Him. I’m finding that spending time with Jesus and in His Word is an amazing opportunity and privilege that I get to do. And coming to know Him in a more personal way is helping me convert a lot of cognitive/head knowledge to heart knowledge. I am also learning to ask God for what I desire.

St. Ignatius, a man from the 1500s who deeply desired to know Christ more and encouraged others to do the same, said that at the beginning of each prayer period it is extraordinarily helpful to pray for a certain grace or a gift from God. In naming what we desire, it opens the door to receive what it is that God wants to give us.

Last year I began each day asking God for a specific grace: What do I desire in this time of study and prayer? It might look something like this:

  • God, I deeply desire to know You more – who you really are and not my version of You.
  • God, grant me the grace to understand more deeply your love for me.
  • God, please give me a more compelling image of Jesus Christ.

So, as we begin this Ephesians study, let’s ask ourselves what it is that we specifically desire.

  • God, I pray for a deepening intimacy with you.
  • God, grant me the grace to understand on a deeper level who I am in Christ.
  • God, I desire to understand with my heart, not just my head, your glorious grace which you have given me through Your Son.

Not only is this a great practice for the beginning of the study, but also at the start of each day as you sit down to spend time with the Lord.

Over the next couple of months, as we walk through the book of Ephesians, you can follow along by using our study guide (you can download these here, Glorious Grace workbook). This guide will give you, as the reader, the opportunity to Memorize, Read, Meditate, Reflect, and Respond.

Memorize: Memorizing Scripture is such an important practice that we as believers get to do. From the time I was a very little girl my Mom taught my brother and I how to memorize Scripture. To this day, many years later, I still remember those important Truths. And the Holy Spirit will often bring to my mind these Scriptures when I most need them.

I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” ~Psalm 119:11

I delight to do Your will, O my God. Your Law is within my heart” ~Psalm 40:8

Read: The passages of Scripture from Ephesians will range from 10-16 verses per day. As you read begin reading each passage, ask God to “open the eyes of your heart” (1:18) to see what it is that He wants to reveal to you through His Word.

Meditate: After reading the passage, meditation is an opportunity to ask questions about the passage.

The following questions will be provided for you on the study guide:

  • Is there a truth to be believed?
  • Is there a commandment to obey?
  • Is there a promise here to be trusted?
  • Is there a sin to avoid/confess?

You can also personalize your meditation questions, by asking questions such as:

  • How is the freedom of Christ being demonstrated in my life?
  • Where in my life is God inviting me to let go of self-centeredness or control that hinders my ability to connect with Him intimately?
  • How do I praise, love, and serve God?
  • How do I react to God’s call on my life?
  • Am I truly aware of and living out the glorious grace of Christ that has been poured out on me?

Rest: Worship God in your spirit by sitting still before Him. Ask Him move the Truths of His Word from your head to the deep places of your heart. Be still before Him and consider His great love for you. Listen for His voice as you quiet your heart before Him. I have found in these silent moments of contemplation, I am able to both hear God’s voice and respond to Him, deeping my faith and trust in who He is and how He is leading me.

Reflect: Also known as journaling. This is an opportunity to write down the important things that you sense you are hearing during your time of rest and contemplation. It’s also a great place to include anything that you sense God leading you towards or away from. Journaling has become such a vital part of my time spent with God and in His Word! I have found that in writing down Scripture and the things that God is showing me, I have a treasure that I can come back to time and time again. In times of hardship, distress, or confusion, when I am not sure which way to turn or what to do, I go back and re-read my journals. I am reminded of God’s promises to me and of His faithfulness. How He has shown Himself to me in the past and how He has been faithful to me time and time again. “He is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), so even if I don’t “feel” His presence in a way I have in the past, I can physically see how God has been with me time and time again.

Respond: This is a great way to respond directly to God regarding the time you have spent with Him and in His Word. Some ideas for this time are to write out a prayer to God based off of the Scripture reading, something you sense God calling you to do or a desire that you have. Another idea is to choose one of the verses from the passage and write it out in the first person. For example, from Ephesians 1:6-7:

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:6-7).

God, thank you for Your glorious grace that You have poured out on me, your beloved daughter. Thank you for your abundant kindness to me. Thank you for purchasing my freedom with the blood of Your only Son (written as a prayer back to God).

Our deep desire is that this not just be “another study.” Instead, our prayer both for ourselves and each of you is that it is an opportunity to KNOW God more. To see Him as He really is. To understand on a deeper level who we are in Christ Jesus.

We look forward to embarking on this beautiful journey with you. As always, we would love to hear from you as God reveals His glorious grace more and more in your life.

Lovingly His,

Carrie

 

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Be Still

Be Still.jpg

Well here it is, my first time writing a blog post. Words for others to see.  Intimidating.

And it’s where God placed me for this season.  Not that I don’t enjoy writing, or talking to God, or even talking to others. I do it all the time.  But there’s something about putting my thoughts onto paper in complete sentences into public domain that makes my heart flutter.

The reason I chose to write is to be obedient and to be further transformed to Christ’s likeness in 2014.

Sometimes God speaks to me very clearly. Those times are a wonderful gift and especially freeing for me since I don’t have to wonder where to start.

On the last Sunday of 2013, God clearly told me to “be still”.

I could have figured out all kinds of ways on my own to be still. I immediately knew I would need to spend more time in the Word.  Check.  Maybe carve out a specific prayer time. Got it.  Never mind the thought that I regularly re-committed myself to these things without consistent success. Perhaps I needed to volunteer less? Sit down at the dinner table?  Hmmmmm…

I knew what I had to do: make a list of ways to “be still” in 2014. Then I needed to decide how to achieve success in being still.  Challenge accepted.

Only three days later, I found out how God wanted me to begin my journey when I was asked to write for this blog.

You see, I don’t have time to sit down and write down what God is doing in my life.  Trying to even hear myself think can a challenge. Pouring through scripture of God’s promises to confirm He is working is an impossible task when my toddler is trying to rip the pages out of my Bible. But having a deadline is helpful. Because I don’t have time, I need to make time.  There won’t be this perfect window of free time or uninterrupted quiet time that suddenly opens up.  I have to make time to spend with God. As much as I desperately yearned for it before, I lacked the discipline to consistently make it happen.

Therefore, I think my participation in this blog is primarily for my own spiritual growth and connection.

As I prepare to write, I go back and ruminate on what God has done in and through me.  I search the scripture to see how His Word applies to my life.  I dig deeper in the Word to know WHO God is.  But more importantly, I am sitting still and listening to what God has to say to me personally.  I can not write passionately about God if I don’t intimately know him.

be still image

I find it humorous that there are very few things I have to do sitting down.  I don’t even usually sit down to eat or watch tv.  I am a “doer”.  I flit around the house, here to there – cleaning and cooking and chasing down children.  Truth be told, I like to get things DONE.  I like to see visible progress being made.  Sitting down is very difficult for me.  So I also find it humorous that writing would be one of the few things I can’t do while moving around.  Leave it to God to find the perfect venue for me to commune with Him.  That being said, I still struggle with being still, even when I make the time to do so.

 

I am Martha.

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

.. the Lord answered, “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary and Martha represent two approaches to the Christian life.  Martha is busy in the “doing” of life.  Her life, at this moment, is filled with “shoulds” and “have-tos.” Her life is fragmented, pressured, and filled with distractions.  I suspect that if Martha were to sit at the feet of Jesus, she would still be distracted with everything on her mind.

Mary, on the other hand, is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him.  She is “being” with Jesus, enjoying intimacy with him, loving him, attentive, open, quiet, taking pleasure in his presence.  (paraphrased from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero)

 I desire to be Mary.

I invite you to go on this imperfect journey with me.

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Finding Love

finding love

The hot sand burned against her skin as she knelt down to pray. What started as a few tears turned into gut wrenching sobs as years of painful rejection flooded her mind, replaying like a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from. Questions nagged in her mind: Why had God made her so ugly? Did he make a mistake? Was he just being cruel? What had she done wrong to deserve such contempt from her father? Why didn’t her husband love her? She had already bore him 3 sons, why did he love another? Would anyone ever love her? Would her situation ever change? It all seemed so hopeless..

My heart has always been drawn to this women in Genesis. Leah experienced a life of painful rejection. Not being physically attractive, she lived in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister. Her father pawned her off in marriage to Jacob through treachery. Perhaps knowing no one would outright chose to marry her. Then she spent the rest of her life married to a husband who was madly in love with another woman. Not just “some other woman”, but the one she had lived her entire life in the shadow of – her sister, Rachel.  I can’t even imagine the dejection Leah must have felt every day.

In the Jesus Storybook Bible, her story is titled The Girl No One Wanted. Oh, haven’t we all felt that way? Rejected from those we held close, labeled unlovable, cast off by those we longed to give us affection.

Leah felt loving arms wrap around her, lifting her to her feet. The baby inside her kicked and jumped at the sudden movement. She gasped as her eyes partook of the most magnificent sunset. As far as she could see pinks, golds, and orange danced into the horizon. She felt a whisper in her soul say…

“As much as you delight in the beauty of this sunset, it is nothing compared to how much I delight in you, my beautiful child. Just like the child now inside you, I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Before the foundation of the world, I chose you to be a part of my story. The son you now carry will be the ancestor of my beloved Son. The one who will come to rescue the hurt, dejected, and discarded. He will redeem them back to my family. Leah, people will despise Him, mock Him, reject Him, and call Him ugly too. He will bring my love to a lost and hurting world. He is coming to save people like you. Will you believe in my promise and rest in my perfect love for you?”

A peace filled Leah as this love penetrated deep into broken places of her heart. She cradled her hands around her belly. She would name him Judah…. This time she would praise the Lord.!

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.  Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.- Genesis 29: 33-35

Leah desperately wanted Jacob to see her, to hear her, to be attached to her and love her. Alas, he always loved Rachel more. But the Lord saw Leah in her pain. He heard her cries for love. He longed to be attached to her. He chose her to be his dearly loved child. He loved her with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. (*) When her heart was filled with that truth, she could praise the Lord with joy!

Oh sweet friend! I don’t know what rejection you have experienced. I don’t know the pain you currently bear. But I know you are loved. I know God sees you, hears you, and longs to be in a relationship with you. May you feel his love deeply!

Hugs,

Julie

(*) Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones

 

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