My Journey to Joy

April 4, 2013

Mercy

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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“therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he had been taken.  And He drove out the man. And He placed cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”  Genesis 3:23-24

This has always seemed like such a sad verse to me.  Getting “kicked out” of the Garden of Eden seemed a severe punishment.  But read verse 22:

” And the LORD God said, Behold, the man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…”

Now imagine…you had been created with a perfect body, and lived your entire life in a perfect place.  Because of your choice to disobey, all of that perfection has changed.  Do you really want to stay around and watch the decay?  Do you want to live forever, seeing the far-reaching consequences of your sin?  Was this expulsion truly a mercy, from a protective Father?  Things are not always as they seem…*

“God never witholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — “severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”― Elisabeth Elliot

When we were told we were infertile, I was utterly devastated.  I struggled for months (years?), crying and asking God “why?”.  If someone had told me that our infertility was a blessing or a mercy, I’m sure I would have been grossly offended.  It was so very hard.  So very painful.  It seemed so “unfair.”  I couldn’t imagine the plan that God had for our family.  In the midst of my hurt, I couldn’t see the work that God was doing- changing my heart…teaching me to rely on Him…forging stronger bonds in my marriage…showing me the great love and support of dear friends…and preparing our family for our son at just the right time.  It was His mercy to me.

“Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perserverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?”  Ann Voskamp

A friend of mine is a quadriplegic.  He’s been in a wheelchair since he was 17 years old; he’s now in his late 50’s.  We were talking about how God works in our lives, and he said that his accident is what God used to get his attention.  He said God knew that is what it would take, and that he was grateful.  He found Jesus in a rehab hospital… and it was God’s mercy.

“This paralysis is my greatest mercy.” ―Joni Eareckson Tada

God is changing my vision.  Trials take on a different hue when I truly believe “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28  I don’t often have the answers or know the reasons, but I’m looking.  And trusting.  And clinging to what I know to be true of God’s character, when things don’t make sense to me.

Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great;  2 Samuel 24:14

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
Laura Story, “Blessings”
*I’d love to give credit, but I can’t remember where I read this idea!

February 14, 2013

Love

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called
children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1

Love is such a small word that encompasses so many concepts.  I believe it is often misused; I know I use it improperly.  “Oh, I just love those shoes!  I love this weather!  I love…”  Over the years, I’ve come to understand that love is much, much more than an emotion.  It’s a choice.  Sometime it’s easy, other times hard.  To love someone…

Sometimes love hurts.  Sometimes God’s love hurts.  Sometimes He loves us too much to leave us where we are.

“I wonder too…if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.  To see through to God…That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond.  To Him…”  ~Ann Voskamp

It’s only on a rare good day that I feel deserving of love.  I’m not worthy.  I feel it in my bones.  But He said I was, in the most real and poignant way possible.  Worth loving.  Worth dying for.  Oh, how He loves!

“Hardships are the Lord’s greatest blessing to the believer.  Without them we would love the Lord only for what He does for us.  Our troubles teach us to love Him for who He is.” ~ Jody Hedlund  This will take the rest of my life, this learning who He is and worshiping Him.  No, it will take eternity.

In Wales, we visited a church in Llangasty, Talyllyn.  It was built in the mid-1500’s, but had been a worship sight even before that.

It is said to be “a thin place” between earth and heaven there, because of all of the prayers that have gone up through the centuries.  I want my heart to be a thin place, however God sees fit to achieve that.  I want to be open to His voice.  I want Him to remove what stands in the way.  I want to receive His love, and offer my love and worship.

“…afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are…”

January 31, 2013

Trust

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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God’s persistent, isn’t he?  I’ve always liked CS Lewis’ description of him as “the hound of heaven.”  Faithful, determined, unrelenting grace shaping me into His vision for me. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…  Proverbs 3:5

He’s been nudging me for a while about this trust thing.  A couple of years ago we even wrote it into our family’s creed: Trust Completely, Live Joyfully, Serve Authentically.  It looks really good on the wall, but “trust completely” is a pretty tall order in day-to-day life.  Like I said, He’s been nudging, so when I read a few posts about selecting a word for 2013, “Trust” seemed like an obvious choice.

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.  Psalm 9:10

Well, He’s been digging around deep in my heart.  Turns out some of the trust issues tie in with the control issues.  Which tie in with fear.  Which is not how I want to live my life.  Something is going to motivated me to do and be, and I don’t want fear to be that force!

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.  Psalm 62:8

At this point, the awareness has gone from uncomfortable to actually painful.  My wimpy self says that I should just shove that big mess back under the rug and pretend it isn’t there.  Weren’t we doing just fine?  And there’s the rub.  I want more than “fine.”  (Which it really wasn’t…)  I want to live God’s big, scary, wonderful plan for my life.  For my future.  For my family.  I’ve had a taste through our infertility and adoption of how He can redeem tremendous pain into a most beautiful thing.  It makes safe seem sort of second class now.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

 

*This post got us thinking about a family motto: http://simplemom.net/back-to-the-basics-create-a-family-mission-statement/

January 30, 2013

Sarah Mae on Brokenness

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 10:34 AM
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“When you are broken enough and tired enough and angry enough that you just can’t mold yourself, fix yourself, do better, be better, when you are just done, grace is lavished on you like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

The world opens up and humility surrounds you and compassion overtakes you because you realize that life is just so hard and “everyone is facing a hard battle”, and instead of trying to be kind, you just become kind.

And you become grace to others.

Because that’s what the Spirit does in a broken beautiful one: He does the work, you just accept the molding.”

~Sarah Mae, author of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe

November 14, 2012

In Pain is God Still Good?

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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http://lisanotes.blogspot.com/2012/10/in-pain-is-god-still-good.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LisaNotes+%28Lisa+Notes%29

April 26, 2012

Speak

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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People often tell me that I seem confident and self-assured.  In fact, I often have a pretty low view of myself.  Infertility hasn’t helped.  When we initially told people that we were unable to have children, some of the responses were thoughtless.  “Maybe God knew you wouldn’t be able to raise a child to serve Him” and “Maybe something is going to happen to you…”  We heard: You’re not good enough.  Those statements were nothing when compared to my own mental torment.

Then we began the adoption process.  Our home, our jobs, our marriage, our spiritual lives-everything was intensely scrutinized, with what we perceived to be a critical eye.  It was uncomfortable and painful.  After that, we began being shown to birthmothers.  Each time, they either chose to parent, or selected another family.  “Not chosen” feels a whole lot like “rejected.”  (Again: not good enough)

I began to hesitate if someone asked how many times we’ve been shown.  It’s not pleasant to say that someone else appeared “better” than we did- 15 times!  My brain knows the statistics (so many parents are being shown each time).  I know that just because someone senses a connection, it doesn’t make one family superior to another.  Still, for a girl who really likes her gold stars, it’s been rough.  (And another reminder that it is vital that I get my worth from God-not what people think of me!)

The silver lining is that during this process, so many people have said kind things.  I hold onto those like life preservers.  Last night I explained to a friend who had inquired that we’d been shown 15x, but never chosen.  “They don’t know what they’re missing,” she said.  Have them call me, and I’ll tell them!”  And it was like medicine on a wound.  These people who don’t know us obviously aren’t impressed, but to hear that from someone who does and is…  She’ll never know what those words have meant to me.  And the other words of encouragement, telling us they don’t understand why it is taking so long, why we haven’t been picked…  The ones who say we’ll be great parents.  The ones who have even spoken on our behalf.  I treasure the words, and the love behind them.  I read the cards, again and again.  I cry over the e-mails.  And I remember what’s been said.  It’s how I keep going.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians  4:29

February 22, 2012

Job

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I just finished reading the book of Job not long ago. I avoided it for a while because I felt I wasn’t in the right emotional state to read it. Some difficult circumstances in the last several months had left me a bit fragile. However, after the new year Job and I got to know each other again. And once again, as I had before, I fell in love.

I don’t love Job because it is an easy book or a neat and tidy book or a book with all the answers. On the contrary, Job is messy, real, and leaves many questions unresolved. I love Job because he is transparent. He is honest. He doesn’t hide the depth of His grief. He speaks of depression that causes him to wish for death. He rails in the face of pain. He doesn’t just put a happy face on a broken heart. I love Job because he’s not afraid to plead his case even when he is the only one left on his team. He begs for an audience with the Almighty.

 We always quote the famous verse, “Though he slay me, I will hope in Him,” but we often forget that there is a second part, “Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him” (13:15). Job inspires me because he is CONFIDENT of his innocence before God – even when his circumstances and his best friends say otherwise. Would I be that confident in the same setting…or would I begin to doubt myself? Job delights me with his biting sarcasm to friends who doubt him. (Don’t believe me? Check out Job 12:1-3, 13:3-5, 16:1-5, 26:1-4. Wonderful stuff.) Job challenges me because even when he has no clue what God is doing, he refuses to question God’s character or His goodness. He acknowledges that He can’t find God, but he knows God can find him (23:8-10).

 Besides falling in love with Job while reading, I also saw another facet of my Heavenly Father which causes me to love Him all the more. I love the fact that God doesn’t sugar-coat this book. He doesn’t soften Job’s cries of grief or mute his violent protests. He lets us see the depths of pain unmasked. God doesn’t intervene right away. He lets us see one of His best and brightest saints in real life – untidy, questioning, angry, depressed – certainly not what we usually see on Sunday morning! God chooses not to answer Job’s questions or his challenges. God never tells Job that he passed a huge test and showed Satan up in his “wager” with God. God simply says, “look at Me.” And Job is reminded that he is not owed an answer.

 The fact that God shows us the “ugly” side of things actually makes me trust Him more. God is not a trickster; a sideshow huckster who promises one thing and delivers another. God gives us the truth – even when it’s not pretty. But the really beautiful thing is that nothing is ever wasted – not even the darkest moments. Our God can redeem EVERYTHING and use it for His glory. The shattered remnants of our world can give rise to monuments of His grace.

As a part of a broken world, I need the book of Job. I need to be reminded that it’s OK that life is not always tidy and I don’t always have the answers. What I do have is a sovereign God who is in His essence loving and good, who took on flesh and bore my punishment as part of His work to redeem creation, who will one day make all things new and will heal forever all the brokenness I see around me. I have the assurance of His steadfast love even when I cannot find His hand. What a blessed hope! What a wonderful God! How kind of Him to give us this honest, messy book to show us another facet of Himself.  ~Sonja Vernon

http://tickertrouble.blogspot.com/2012/02/job.html

February 2, 2012

Try

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 10:53 AM
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Recently, I was in a particularly difficult situation.  I was hurting, raw, and emotionally spent.  Then I had to face this, hopefully with grace and discretion.  Afterwards, someone complimented me on how well I “handled” things.  I appreciated their remarks, and it was very affirming to hear.  But…

I reflected later that there have been times when I’ve “tried” much harder, with poorer results.  When the best that I could muster left much to be desired.  When I couldn’t live up to expectations.  This didn’t turn out to be as tough as I assumed it would be.  Then I kept thinking…

About how I judge people’s reactions.  How I look at people’s attitudes.  How I evaluate others-when I don’t have a clue what they’re going through.  God help me.  I really don’t have any idea how hard they’re “trying.”  This may be the absolute best they can do.  Who can say?  Not me.

But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  James 4:6

Why does God sometimes give “special grace” and others keep silent?  Why is it that sometimes we’re amazed at how peaceful/calm/good we feel, and others we’re barely hanging on?  Why is it that sometimes we know we’re being carried beyond our capacities, and others we seem to be struggling on our own?

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;

Then your courage should appear,
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear
Try, try again;

If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again

~T. H. Palmer

I’ll keep doing what I can, and hopefully growing stronger.  I’ll keep calling on God for grace.  And I’ll try to assume others are doing the same…

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 12:8-9

November 19, 2011

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Let go of what you expected, and embrace what you have.  The tug of war between expected and actual is what kills the spirit.  God does his best work in reality. That gap between expected and actual is where grace takes over.  ~Jen Hatmaker

September 7, 2011

Grace

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I follow a blog called A Holy Experience.  Ann, the author, signs her posts “All’s Grace.”  She emphasizes eucharisteo, or always giving thanks, even for the hard things.

This is where I glitch, like a computer unwilling to read the data.  See, I can handle I Thessalonians 5:18: “…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  But Ephesians 5:20?  “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

I’ve become a good deflector.  When I see something bad occur, I notice something worse that didn’t.  “We had a wreck, but praise the Lord we weren’t seriously hurt.”  “A tree hit our house, but at least we have insurance for that.”  “Those words hurt, but I do have other friends.”  I dance all around the painful, the ugly, the unpleasant.

What if that thing that I avoid, what I refuse to accept, what I turn away from- is exactly what God intended for me?  What if He sent those things that I would never choose expressly for my good?  What if I hold Him responsible for what I have deemed “bad”?  What if my perspective is so skewed by my self-centered nature that I need a whole new vision?

This family’s testimony of grace is astonishing:

My God is gracious…but I don’t always know what that looks like.  I’m not who determines what is “good” or “bad.”  He is the potter (Isaiah 64:8) and the gardener (John 15), shaping and pruning at His discretionHe knows what is truly good.  My part is to present myself to Him, as a living sacrifice, to be transformed by Him, so that I can know His will, and what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:1-2, my paraphrase)

And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen youI Peter 5:10

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