Monday, December 30, 2013

He Encourages

As I look back on 2013, I think about all the heartache, bitterness, loneliness, and hopelessness that Simeon and I have gone through. You all know the story, you all know the pain. However, as I look back on the very same year of desolation, I also see whispers of encouragement, hands giving blessings, arms reaching out in love, and the tiniest of slivers illuminating each truth we have needed  oh so desperately in our souls.

As I look back on it, I also look ahead. Not to my own life, but to others. As I look on friends I hold dear, and friends that I would like to know better, leaders, helpers, mentors, and my families, I also see the same desolation--not in the same area, but Satan has an ever changing face--an ever changing persona. He comes to seek. He comes to steal. He comes to destroy.

I have felt God bless me with encouragement from others. I have felt His comfort in the love others have shown me. I have felt Satan coming seeking to make my relationship with Christ a desolate wasteland. I have felt the hopelessness and the hope, the pain and the joy, the heartache and the balm.

If you have reached out to Simeon and I in love, please know that your efforts were not in vain, because we, in turn, are doing something about it. As of January 1st, a portion of our giving budget (to clarify, this is not part of our tithe, completely separate budget), will be going towards encouraging someone, or multiple someones each and every month of 2014.

We had thought about sponsoring another child through Compassion International (which is a great way to sponsor a child, please pray about doing so). We had also thought about saving this money for our own possible adoption of a child (undecided). We had thought about giving to our church more, or missionaries, or for wells of drinking many thoughts and ideas went through my head until I finally settled on this (with Simeon on board of course). You see, in this decision process, it was all so easy for me. Since Simeon does most of the bills, I never feel the sacrifice of giving to church. I never feel the pinch of finances like my obedient husband does. More importantly, if it's a habit, it isn't hard, and it requires such little work. I feel God wants us to be more of a blessing. I feel that God wants us to be aware of who needs encouragement and/or a blessing--and this is the way that we can do this. This will be hard to change our mindset to actively thinking about who we see needs encouragement, or a blessing in their lives. However, I think having to be so active in such a way, will be the greatest blessing of 2014.

So, this is a challenge to you as well. Maybe you have a budget for extra giving other than tithing. Maybe you don't. Either way, please take time and pray about this next year. Where you can take someone's heartache, bitterness, loneliness, and hopelessness, and whisper words of encouragement, reach out with arms of love, hand out blessings, and ultimately, illuminate the Truth.

I know what 2013 looked like. I don't know what 2014 will hold--and that, my dear friends, is an adventure waiting to happen.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
Hebrews 10:23-25

"See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end."
Hebrews 3:12-14

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

He Gets It

This past Sunday, my heart was heavy but at the same time light. The Holy Spirit was alive and well in my heart--something I have sorely missed. I have a confession, these past few months, I have found it increasingly difficult to have an attitude of thankfulness and joy. I know that I have many things to be thankful for, but being thankful is the challenge. I have been in this pit of joylessness, and hopelessness. But this week, a spark of understanding has taken root in my heart.

This Sunday, I was looking for verses about the barren woman that conveyed hope--there are quite a few, but something that totally astounded me, was all of the verses that conveyed understanding. They didn't convey harsh critical words for being a failure for my hopelessness. They didn't convey disappointment. They didn't convey judgement. They conveyed understanding. For so long, I have been living in disappointment and blame of myself. No more. In Proverbs 30:15b-16 it says that there are four things that are never satisfied....four! 'The grave, the barren womb, the earth that is never satisfied with water, and the fire'. Four things, and God understands my unsatisfied desire. Four. The number blows my mind. Granted this passage was written by a man, but it was put in the Bible by God. It is God-breathed. There are so many more references of not only barrenness, but miscarriages also. In Job it mentions how "he preys on the barren, who do not bear, and does no good for the widow". Simeon and I are preyed upon, as well as many others in our situation--no wonder our marriage, our relationship with each other, as well as with Christ, have needed copious amounts of effort, and work. No wonder our marriage has suffered and has needed so much wonder.

Aside from understanding, some verses bring joy right where I am, and hope for the future. What a marvelous Father, who not only understands the heft of not having children, but also knows in advance what is needed--reasons for joy now, and hope for what will come to pass. Omnipotence is truly a potent thought. The verse for the future? Psalm 113:9 "He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children." I am clinging to this verse...holding on with all the desperation in my soul. At this point, I was crying, because for once, I found hope again. God gave me the gift of hope. Then He gave me another gift--the gift of understanding and joy with Isaiah 54. The very chapter starts out with, " 'Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,' says the Lord". This undid me, because it is the truth. The scales fell off. The truth lit the way to the source of joy.

You see, I began thinking about it--if I had my own children, would I be babysitting and miss out on the treasure of the little ones there? Would I have time for them? Would I receive all the blessings they give me on a daily basis? Would I have so many young ones telling me they love me? Would I be such an integrated part of their lives as I am now? I can pretty easily say that I wouldn't be where I am. And where I am, is right where God wants me. Trusting, faithful, joyful, and hopeful.

The rest of Isaiah 54 is ripe with joy and hope for my circumstances. Even my verse that I have thought about with our children in heaven is in Isaiah 54. "All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great shall be their peace." I have always remembered this verse and the comfort it brings.

So finally, after many dry months, after so much darkness, after so many valleys, I can see the joy and hope that I can have in where I am. Does this mean that I am no longer sad about my children? No. Nor does it mean that the desire for children is quenched. All this means, is that I can now see hope and joy where there was none before. This means that I don't have to be so hard on myself, because my Father isn't looking at me with disapproval, He is looking at me with understanding and sadness. He gets it.

For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back
In a surge of anger,
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
(Isaiah 54:7-8)