Fruit at Your Fingertips, and Strength When You Need It

This has been my year of abiding. I’ve written about it before – about how Ben tricked me into getting up early every morning, so that I would have time to pray, journal, and read my Bible before my family got up, because I read that when we abide, we give the Holy Spirit the chance to change us in ways we can’t change ourselves. My year of abiding is coming to an end soon, and I wonder how much has changed. It becomes clear how much I need a lifetime of abiding, not just 12 months, and maybe I’m not that different than I was a year ago, except for this: I’m aware of how much I need this time each day. I’ve felt empty on the few days I missed it, because of sickness, or the couple of times when the alarm didn’t wake me up.

So if nothing more, I’ve developed a habit of making time for abiding each morning, and that’s worth a lot.

When I’m finished my quiet time on the couch, I spend half an hour stretching and exercising while I listen to a message, usually from Bridgetown Church (if we ever have to move, please let it be to Portland!). I just started a fantastic series about the Holy Spirit (which you can find here), and it fits well with this year of soaking in God’s presence. It’s a different way of looking at things for me – less doing and trying, and more just being and quietly focusing.

A strange and beautiful picture came to my mind the other day as I was praying and thinking about living my day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was as though I was leaning against the trunk of a huge tree, and I could see massive, leafy branches spreading out thickly about my head, loaded with fruit, hanging there ready for me to pick whenever I needed the Fruit of the Spirit (give me all the “patience” apples!!!!). And when I looked down at my feet, it was as though I could see deep roots growing far down into the ground beneath me, giving me strength and depth, securely grounding me in all the power available to me in the Spirit.

It gave me a feeling that’s hard to describe – like the strength was already there, filling me up, and the fruit was so close, right within my reach at any time I might need it. In my mind, as I saw this picture, there was such a feeling of steadiness, security, and relief – I knew I didn’t need to do this on my own, it wasn’t up to me to try to produce patience, kindness, or faithfulness, because it was all right there, ready and waiting to be picked at any moment.

I’m trying to remember this picture everyday. One of my lovely, adorable children has decided to express all anger with screaming instead of words, and there’s often bad attitudes or conflict to work through with three kids in the house all day. I try to picture that fruit right within my reach. I try to remember the feeling of leaning against a thick, strong trunk, knowing those roots are beneath me.

This was the picture I got, but maybe it can be a picture for you, too. If you close your eyes, can you imagine that beautiful fruit, already waiting for you to pick it during those tough moments? Can you feel rough bark, a strong trunk to lean against when the craziness of getting back into the routine of the week is sapping you of all your strength? Do you feel the strength that flows into you because you are rooted in Christ, and He is grounding you, holding you steady, and keeping you strong in every single moment?

Let’s not pretend for a second that this always comes easily. I weathered an hour and a half long tantrum this morning – my sweet child was exhausted by the end of it, and so was I. It’s always difficult for me to be in the middle of a tense situation, and I tend to take on the emotion of people around me. But this morning was different. I kept leaning into that strength, and continued to remind myself to be the peace and calming in the midst of the chaos. I don’t always remember, but today I did, so we celebrate the progress, and know that if things don’t go so well next time, there is still growth.

So whatever your Monday holds for you today, know that you can picture yourself with that sweet fruit of the Spirit in your hand, its juiciness dribbling down your chin, and your feet firmly planted, because you are His, and He’s got you covered.

 

Choosing What I’m Going to Listen To

Almost every moment of the day, I am quite aware of the fact that I’ve got a passenger on board. I feel the extra pounds I’m carrying around, I can’t fit through small spaces anymore, and those wild kicks inside are a frequent reminder that my body is shared property right now!

Us girlsBut the other morning, I woke up, and just for the first moment or two, I forgot that I’m pregnant. Baby was completely still, and there was nothing to remind me of my big belly. Of course, realization quickly kicked in, but I lay there for a bit, thinking of what it felt like to be “the old me”.

And something amazing came to my mind – once this baby is out, and my body goes back to the usual way of things, I will never, ever be “the old me.”  I have another child, and our family will be forever different.

I will be different. I suddenly realized one of the interesting changes this pregnancy has brought – it has destroyed a label over my life. For years, I was told that I couldn’t have another baby. My body was not strong enough, and I was not healthy enough. There was such an intense longing inside of me for another baby, and I thought I would carry that unfulfilled longing with me for the rest of my life.

That morning, it hit me – the longing is fulfilled, and I am free. My body is strong enough, I am healthy enough. I am not that person anymore, and suddenly, I felt as though I could do anything, be anything – that anything is possible.

God has poured out this blessing on my life, and I have been reminded once again that His words are the only ones that really matter. All those therapists who said this pregnancy wasn’t possible? They don’t get the final say.

I used to take in those words people told me – I let others label my life, and tell me how it would be. But that’s changing.

A few months ago, my dear friend was told her little girl may never walk. She emailed me to ask for prayer, and as I brought the situation to God, I asked Him, “What do you want to say in all of this?”

And the words that came immediately to mind were, “What God has to say about that little girl’s life is far more important than what any doctor has to say.” I saw such a clear picture of God holding that sweet girl in His hands. He had the situation covered.

You know what? Just a short time later, she’s now walking.

I’m not saying we don’t need doctors.

I love doctors. I’m very thankful for them.

What I am saying is that God is still doing the impossible today, and if there are words I’m going to play over and over in my mind, I want them to be His words. I want to hang on to His promises. I want to throw off the old labels, and become the person He made me to be.

What He has to say about me is far more important than anything else that will ever be said.

Getting Pulled Up by the Roots

Last week, I had such an amazing experience – I keep going back to it in my mind again and again, and when I was thinking and praying about what to write today, that experience popped into my mind once again….

I was having a really hard day last week – struggling with something weighing far too heavily on my mind. I asked Ben, “How many times have I cried over this same issue?” He said, “Too many.” Too true.

As I sat there on my bed, praying and crying yet again about the issue I was struggling with, I kept getting this extremely clear picture in my mind of roots being pulled out of the ground. It was as though I saw this emotional pain as the physical pain of uprooting. I wanted desperately to be free of that nasty weed, but the roots were hanging on tight. Somehow, it seemed clear to me that I needed to go through the pain and uprooting, even if it would hurt for the time being, so the weed could be gone.

roots

An hour later, I was reading to Anika from Matthew, and suddenly a verse jumped out at me:

“Jesus replied, ‘There are plants that my Father in heaven has not planted. They will be pulled up by the roots….'”

Jesus was talking about the Pharisees, so this was used in a completely different context, but it was so strange to read that verse after the crystal-clear picture I’d had earlier in my mind. Jesus was saying the Pharisees would be uprooted later, but for me in that moment, I felt as though that truth sunk in deeply – if God has not planted something, it must be uprooted.

I could actually feel the release of those roots slithering up from the soil of my life, and I kept thinking, “No matter how hard or painful, I want Him to pull it out. I want to learn to release the roots of what He has not planted.”

And something has changed in me. Every time I’m tempted to go back into that place of pain and sorrow over the issue I was struggling with, and return to that weight I keep insisting on dragging with me, I picture those roots being pulled up. I keep surrendering the issue to God, and asking Him to teach me how to release it.

Is there anything needing to be uprooted in your life?

For Anyone Longing to Belong

A few years ago, Anika took her first acting class at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and I will never forget what Ben’s mom said when she saw Anika’s first performance that Christmas. She said, “Anika has so much more confidence – she acts like she’s not asking anyone’s permission to be there anymore.”

I sat there for a few seconds as that hit me – I could see that change in Anika myself, but what was sinking in for me in that moment was that I suddenly realized how I’ve spent my whole life waiting for someone to give me the permission to be here.

In some situations, I think I can come across fairly confident, but the truth is that most of the time, deep down inside me, I enter a situation feeling hesitant, and holding back, waiting for someone to draw me in, make me feel included, give me the permission to be there.

I try to hide it as best I can – I never want anyone to know that I’m dealing with insecurity, because I’m embarrassed to be 36 years old, and still struggling with something that seems so junior high-ish. But the truth is, I still carry scars from junior high, when I was told over and over again that I didn’t belong.

But then I get curious – surely I can’t be the only person who feels this way. How many other adults are there, right around me, who also carry some secret, hidden longing to be included, to really feel as though they belong, and there’s a spot for them that will remain a gaping hole unless they fill it?

belongsource

A friend told me the other day that she doesn’t understand this struggle. She enters every situation, thinking, “Who WOULDN’T want to be my friend??! I have Jesus in me, and I am an asset to every situation I encounter!”

I love it. I want to be that way. But I think there’s some old, deep-rooted junk that I’ll need to deal with first.

As I’ve been reading the book, Can You Hear Me?, I came across a fascinating exercise:

Picture yourself standing beside Jesus in front of a mirror. Imagine that he’s just exhaled a big gust of steam onto the mirror. If he were to use his fingertip to write a message on the mirror about your true identity, what would he write? Read it.

I decided to give this a try. I spent some time quieting my thoughts, and then I did exactly as the author suggested. I asked Jesus, “What do you want to say to me about my identity?”

Immediately, a word appeared: it was the word belong.

And suddenly, I felt as though this great, deep, consuming hunger and longing overtook me. How I desire to feel as though I belong!

Ann Voskamp once wrote a beautiful blog post about how we can always know we belong, because God longs to be with us – we belong. That’s stayed with me. And it makes me wonder if I’ve spent years being mistaken about my longing.

As we’ve moved from place to place, and I’ve made friends again and again, I keep wanting to feel like I’m home – like I’ve found the place I’m meant to be, and I belong. So I have these huge expectations of what that will look like and feel like, and then I’m disappointed each time, which leads me to wonder if I can really, truly belong.

But what if that hunger for home, that desire to belong, is all just this longing I have to be with Jesus? To be known deeply and fully, and to stop searching and striving, to stop being disappointed when others don’t give me the permission for being here, because it was never theirs’ to give?

I remember reading Psalm 139 over and over again as a teenager –

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways….”

There was something in that which spoke to my longing even then. I wanted to be known. I wanted to be searched out, sought after. I needed to be reminded of how He longed to be with me.

My friend, the one who is an asset in every situation, said to me, “What if this whole time, it’s been a lie? What if you’ve always belonged, but you can’t see it, because you’ve been believing a lie?”

It’s true, isn’t it? Since the day I became a Christian, I’ve always belonged to the only One who matters. He knows me, and He goes with me, and I need no other permission to be exactly where I am.

The lie has robbed me, not only of the security that’s been there for me all along, but also from the chance to help others feel it, too. When I spend all of my time wondering if there’s a place from me, I have no room to see the person beside me who’s wondering it, too.

Uproot me source

And so we all need to hang onto the truth that He longs to be with us, He gives us freedom from the lie that we don’t belong, and He gives us the security to go out, and share that truth with everyone around us.

So today, whether this is something you struggle with yourself or not, wouldn’t it be awesome to go out there, and say, “With Christ inside of me, I am an asset to every situation! I have everything I need to give to someone else who is lonely and hurting, and I can cover each person with truth and peace.”

We already have permission!;)

Water in the Desert

A few weeks ago, I attended a Prayer Retreat at my church, and a passage of Scripture was read to us that has stuck in my mind ever since.

It’s the story about Moses striking a rock and water miraculously coming out of it.

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephicim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

God goes on to provide for them, and water rushes out from a rock, but there was something before this that struck me as being very interesting: God led them to this camping spot.

He knew there was no water there.

And He didn’t do it because He had any intention of leaving them to die in the desert.

He put them right where He wanted them, which happened to be in a spot with no water – and then He provided it for them.

How often have I found myself in a situation where there wasn’t any water? I get stressed and frustrated, sometimes even fearful, because I don’t want to die in this desert. I see no way out of the predicament.

But how often have I also received the miracle of water rushing from that rock, where there was none before? How often does God make a way where there seems to be no way?

At the Prayer Retreat, my pastor provided a bunch of rocks for us to take as a reminder of whatever God might be saying to us through that passage. I put it on a shelf by my bed when I got home, and I see it every morning, and every evening.

rock

Whenever I catch sight of it, I still seem to be catching my breath a bit – the idea that even in the driest, most impossible circumstances, there is the possibility of miraculous water.

It’s changing the way that I pray. I spot that rock on my shelf, and I start asking for the eyes to see the miracle. I’m reminded to look for it, rather than jump to the conclusion that because it’s not right there, it won’t ever be there.

He’s waiting, and He has no intention of leaving me to die in the desert – the water will burst forth! Watching and waiting in faith seems much better that complaining and despairing!

In what area of your life are you waiting for water today?

Saying “Yes” This Easter

This week, I had the opportunity to speak at a ladies’ event at my church. Being so close to Easter, I was asked to share about my response to Jesus’ death on the cross.

At first, I had absolutely no idea what to say. What is my response to the cross? I feel as though I can’t fully take in all that Jesus has done for me, and therefore can’t come up with an adequate response to the cross. The cross overwhelms me.

But as I thought and prayed about it, what I began to realize is that Jesus is continually teaching and moving me, and my response to what He has done for me is always changing. As I learn and grow in my relationship with Him, I am able to respond in different, and hopefully deeper ways.

Right now, I am in a season of learning to say “yes” to God, in many different kinds of situations. But each time, I do this because of what He has done for me. I step out in faith, because He has shown He is faithful.

This adventure I’m on with Him has shown me that the cross not only gives me eternal life in the future, it gives me abundant life right now. That’s what is blowing my mind this Easter. So I respond by saying “yes” to Him, again and again and again.

What is your response to God this Easter?

The Size of a Life

Hey, Everybody, it’s “Retreat Week” around here! That means this is my last week to prepare for spending an awesome weekend with the ladies of St. Vital EMC at Winkler Bible Camp. In order to devote my attention entirely to preparing, I’m going to be doing some re-posting around here – some favorite posts from the past which I hope you can enjoy! I’ll catch up with you next week to let you know how the weekend went!

Anika and I have been reading the Bible story of Esther. I don’t know what it is that’s got me seeing it in a new light – if it’s the combination of thoughts in my head right now, or if it’s stopping to explain and trying to put ideas into words Anika will understand.

Whatever it is, I’m loving Esther right now.

I had never, ever thought about the fact that she was forced to go to the king’s palace.

The Bible says, “…Many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa…”(Esther 2:8). As I read that chapter to Anika, it suddenly hit me what it will have meant for Esther to have been chosen as one of the beautiful virgins brought before the king.

It would mean leaving her family, and never living with them again. She would have to spend the rest of her life living in the palace with the rest of the king’s concubines.

She would never be able to get married and have her own family, her own home, her own life.

And she was Jewish, living according to her people’s laws and customs, so I’m sure spending a night with the king was not an appealing prospect.

But she didn’t have a choice, so she went, and spent her first 12 months in the palace with the kind of attitude that “won the favor” of the people around her.

In our culture, winning a beauty pageant and chosen to become royalty would be seen as desirable and successful, but I doubt Esther will have felt the same when she was chosen to be queen. (I often find myself wishing the Bible included more details on the emotions people experienced in these stories we now read!)

So there she was, living the life of a queen, and God gave her the chance to save her people. She was scared to do it. She was human, she experienced fear, and she did not jump at the chance to be a hero.

But her cousin Mordecai said to her,

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

So she had her brave and shining moment, and she saved her people. She was amazing.

But Esther was still human. She did not seek out the opportunity for greatness.

She simply lived her life, and did what she needed to do, when opportunities or expectations presented themselves.

That’s also very different from our culture. There is such a pressure to do great things, to build a platform for ourselves, to get noticed, and be great, influential people.

And those things can all be fantastic…if the opportunity presents itself.

How much do we pursue it? How much do we long for it?

And when we long for it, do we do so in a way that doesn’t breed discontentment for all of the simple, small acts of faith done on a daily basis, because we desire something big and more “significant”?

What about Ruth? Her great move was being loving and faithful to her mother-in-law. She left her home and family to go with Naomi, and showed amazing loyalty and kindness. But her big finale? She got married. And had a baby. And then turned out to be in Jesus’ family tree, but she never knew that while she was alive.

She was just living her simple, small life.

I live my simple, small life. I love my husband and our girls, and I look for joy in all the little things.

But I also dream of greatness, even though I know being a wife and mom is important, but sometimes I dream of different things – “bigger” things, that don’t involve quite as much laundry, or cleaning scrambled eggs off the floor.

What is my big, important, noble purpose, besides being a mom? Why am I here? How is God going to do huge, amazing things through me?

What will I do with this life of mine?

Well… I’m doing it. I’m living it every day, and maybe it doesn’t need to be great and glorious. I don’t think it’s wrong to dream about the future, but I do wonder if we put too much pressure on ourselves to want more than what we were meant to want.

Ecclesiastes says we should love our spouse, and work hard. And if we’re faithful in the small things, God will take care of the rest, right?

He makes some to be like Esther, well-known and in a position of power. And He makes some to be like Ruth, living a quiet life with family.

Both women powerfully impacted the world.

One knew it, the other didn’t.

Do I really need to know my purpose, or my impact? It might be revealed later…if at all.

God knows – is that enough for me?

Oh, to find joy in whatever circumstances come my way. To find contentment in the small, simple things, while always being prepared for the moments of courage He brings to me, whatever size they might be.