Nothing In The Past 5 Years Has Made Sense…

It’s been 5 years now since the ministry that Brian and I had lived for over 20 years closed down. Those years made sense. It’s what we had trained for and felt called to. God combined both of our giftings and training and placed us in a setting where we could be used. Then it suddenly ended and Brian couldn’t find a full time job. For 5 years he has worked a job that he was not trained for, in a setting he is not comfortable in, and has only been able to use his giftings on a part time basis.

This is not what we felt called to. This does not make sense.

One day at a time we have put one foot in front of the other as we have grieved the loss of what we loved and what was our life for so long. We have questioned why God hasn’t provided another ministry for us to serve in. We have experienced the loss of both of Brian’s parents. There have been tears, questions, confusion–and a resolve to be faithful no matter what. Why?

Because life isn’t about us!

Of course we would be beyond thrilled if God provided a job doing what we feel we are most suited for, but clearly He has different plans. He has spent the past 5 years stripping us of who we were and drawing us into a more intimate and reliant relationship with him. But it’s not all about us…there is something else he has done!

The following is a list of some of the people that God has brought into our lives through the jobs that don’t seem to fit our idea of what is right for us:

  1. Two millionaire Buddhists from China who now own the property we live on.
  2. Two nonbelieving men who have been Brian’s bosses – one who lost his mother about the same time my precious mother-in-law passed away, giving Brian an opportunity to share about his hope in Christ.
  3. One of the highest ranking Muslim Sheiks in his country (think the royal family!) who flew in to look at the property we live on with hopes of buying it.
  4. One of John F. Kennedy’s nephews who toured the campus hoping to purchase it for his non profit organization.
  5. A professional basketball player who is now training in our on-campus gym.
  6. Multiple contractors and people from the community who are renting space on campus.
  7. A pastor who spent multiple hours talking with Brian while  holding church services on campus, finally discovering that his “denomination” was actually a cult.
  8. Dozens of residents who rent apartments in the on campus housing – some that Brian has had the privilege of helping get their feet back on the ground financially and who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.
  9. The opportunity to work part time with, travel with,  and serve a professional sports team.
  10. And the opportunity to teach part time at a local University and share Christ with unbelieving students.
  11. And I could go on and on!

Each of these people have had, at the very least, a brief encounter with Jesus.

No. This life is not about us. It’s about giving God free reign to use us in any way he chooses. It’s about quiet acceptance when God decides to take us out of our comfort zone, putting us in places that we don’t feel qualified or into positions that we weren’t trained for, allowing Him to work through our inadequacy.

This way of living is not easy and it doesn’t always make sense humanly speaking. But in light of the gospel and eternity, it is all a part of God’s bigger plan, and I am so grateful that he has included us in that plan!

We’re in this together! Keep clinging!

Am I Enough?

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing“. John 15:5

Now that my children are both in their 20’s, I often find myself in the middle of one of those “Remember when you did THIS, mom?” conversations. You know those conversations? The ones where we get to reflect on the moments that your children remember you messing up or doing something that you now know was “too much”!?

If I am being completely honest, I have to admit that my initial heart response is to become a bit defensive. In one split second I can go from being defensive, to embarrassed, to fearful that I messed my kids up for life! Thankfully, the Holy Spirit quickly interrupts my racing thoughts and reminds me of how he has faithfully taken my mistakes and is using them for his glory and my children’s good.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5

One memory they often reflect on is that short season when their mom was drawn into legalism. Those few years when they were young and I analyzed everything to death, filtering everything through a very black or white lens. I’m actually grateful for those conversations because it gives me another platform to be able to share with them that I am in a process of growth, that I am still learning, and that I am so thankful that God opened my eyes to the error I was walking in! It also gives us a great opportunity to talk about legalism and how it goes directly agains the message of the gospel.

Because of my mistakes, and having experienced the changes in our home because of the work of the Holy Spirit, they have learned how to better understand the message of grace and the dangers of legalism. Ultimately, I am so, so grateful for these conversations because it is an opportunity for me to humbly point them to our need for Jesus…to MY need for Jesus!

I loved what my friend Brooke McGlothlin shares in her book “Hope For the Weary Mom“:

I know you want to be enough for your kids. I know you want to be enough for your husband, your work, your home, your everything. And I know there are other people who will tell you that you ARE actually enough. That you have what it takes…can do this…can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. But I disagree.I believe their intentions are good. I believe they want to help you put one foot in front of the other, keep going. I believe they want to encourage you as a mom. But I believe they’re wrong. I just don’t see anywhere in the Bible that says we’re enough. If we were, we wouldn’t need Jesus.”

Reflecting (and even laughing at!) the mistakes I made is a much needed reminder that I will never be enough. I am flawed. From day one I have been determined and intentional to be the perfect mom and have failed miserably!

God sees my sincere desires to honor him, takes my messy attempts, and chooses to redeem them and use them in the lives of my children. Not only is he enough, but he is the definition of grace and mercy!

You are not enough, but he is! Keep clinging!

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

 

To Know Me Is To Love Me…Anyway

 

This photo was taken about 30 years ago when Brian and I were dating! I met Brian when I was in my sophomore year of college. He was a handsome seminary student and he was everything I had ever dreamed of: godly, compassionate, loyal, romantic, handsome, athletic, he loved people, and he was called to career ministry.

Yes. He was everything I had dreamed of  and I was sure that he would never take a second look at me!

One fall evening after an event, we ended up spending some time talking in the parking lot that was next to my dorm. I was sitting on the hood of his car when he told me that he was interested in dating me. I was so shocked that I literally almost fell off of the hood of his car and onto the concrete! 2 years later we were married. It truly was a dream come true!

I could not wrap my brain around the fact that a man like Brian would actually pursue a woman like me! There were times when I feared that once he really got to know me he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore. Thankfully, that didn’t happen! We’ve been together for over 30 years and he still loves me! And I am still amazed that he chose me.

Today I spent some time reading about how God pursues his people. When I stop and think about this truth I feel very much the same as I did when Brian began pursuing me. Knowing my  sinful heart the way that I do, I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that the God of the universe would actually pursue someone like me.

He knows me. He sees me at my worst. He pursues me anyway.

  • God knows me  – He’s always known me, known my heart,  known me better than I know myself, and has been pursuing me since before I was born.

  “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb…You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:13, 15-16

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.” Psalm 139: 1-4

“My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:15

  • He sees me  at my very worst and at my very best. He is always with me. 

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.”

He knows me and pursues me. He wants a relationship with me…and YOU!  Yes! You read that correctly! He pursues me and he pursues YOU. Isn’t that incredible? We don’t need to understand it, we just need to believe it, accept it, and move forward into the life he promises we will find in him.

Therefore behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” Hosea 2: 14-15

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Zephaniah 3:17

Amazing, amazing grace!

I Will Not Let Him Win

Accusation. It stops me in my tracks. Like a sharp knife being thrust into my stomach.  That’s how it feels.

Yes. That’s how it feels.

The accuser. The enemy. Always looking for an opportunity to attack, defeat, sidetrack, and accuse. That is exactly what he has been doing. I barely even recognized it for what it was until I found myself in a heap on the floor-feeling defeated. Wanting to quit.

The accusations: 

“You are not qualified to serve. You are a hypocrite. You are not relevant. You don’t fit.  No one understands. You have not responded well to life’s challenges. Withdraw into your home. Withdraw into yourself. QUIT!”

The guilt:

“You feel unhappy in your circumstances – but you say that God  is sovereign! You feel hesitant about the future – but you say that  God  has a plan! You feel overwhelmed – but you say that God is supposed to carry you! You feel like what you have  been given is not enough – but you say that God  will withhold no good thing from you!”

While reading the book of Acts and learning about what kind of men the disciples were, these words stood out to me.

Then Peter was filled with (and controlled by) the Holy Spirit…and  when they saw the boldness and unfettered eloquence of Peter and John,  and perceived that they were unlearned and untrained in the schools (common men with no education) they marveled; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  Acts 4:8,13

The disciples were: Imperfect. Sinful. Simple. Untrained. They doubted. They fought among themselves. They were prideful. One of them even denied Christ in His darkest hour! But God used them anyway. He chose to fill them with His spirit and enabled them to speak with“boldness and unfettered eloquence”!

He used them. He filled them. People recognized that they had been with Jesus.

I wrestle with the accusations and hold them up to truth. I choose to offer my feelings up to Him. I Repent where necessary. I Submit. And He chooses to fill and use me.

Amazing, amazing grace!