Thursday, February 14, 2013

Songs of Joy

I shared this at church a few months back, on the topic of joy....

Several years back I grew tired of making New Year’s resolutions. I would just keep writing the same things, year after year, on the next year’s list. Instead, I decided to ask God for one specific thing each year. I would spend a bit of time listening to what it was I thought God might be telling me to request of Him, and I would pray that first day of January for whatever it was I thought He was saying. A couple of years back I asked God to increase my faith. I had no idea that the way He does that is through some pretty painful moments, and, while I highly recommend that everyone ask God for the same thing, I also highly recommend that you brace yourself for what is to come.

Before the month was up I lost a baby.

And then a week later I lost my grandma.

During that year my then-husband lost his job. And then I lost an 11-year marriage. With the loss of the marriage came a loss of my home, the loss of my role as a stay-at-home mom, loss of financial security, loss of a life-journey companion, loss of free time, and even the loss of some friendships.

I can remember feeling scared and uncertain. Desperate about how I would provide for my two children. Fear that I might be alone for the rest of my life. There were moments throughout that year when it was all I could do to get out of bed. Get dressed. Show up at church. I sang on the worship team at my previous church, and there were times when praising God in worship simply meant that I sat, tears dripping, with one hand opened on my lap in surrender.

My faith grew. All throughout that year God showed up in little and big ways. There is a song by BarlowGirl called Never Alone that has these lyrics in it…
I cried out with no reply…and I can't feel You by my side…So I'll hold tight to what I know…You're here and I'm never alone….And though I cannot see You…and I can't explain why….Such a deep, deep reassurance…You've placed in my life…We cannot separate…'Cause You're part of me…and though You're invisible…I'll trust the unseen.

We often talk in church circles about God being the master potter. That we are His clay. That He molds us into what He wants us to be. I think we like to imagine that He makes us into these beautiful little pots, so pretty, so perfect. And that if we submit to His will, then He will create gorgeous masterpieces.

And we are wrong.

God IS the master potter. We ARE His clay. We are pretty little pots, which quickly, through our own sin, through the sin of those around us, through the brokenness that is the world, become broken shards of pottery.

We make decisions based on anger, fear, pride…and pieces of our pot break off.

An unexpected death. There goes another piece.

Loss of a marriage. Another piece.

All of the different ways that life has of causing storms, and our pot teeters and falls.

And we take those broken pieces, and hold them up to God, asking Him to fix it. And He does.

Only, not in the way we expect. We expect a perfect, pretty little pot to be returned to us.
And we get back a pot with holes, and scars, and cracks still showing. A pot glued together with His love and grace. And definitely not perfect.

How can God use this pot? Why would God use such a pot?

The answer lies in this. A perfect, pretty pot is a lovely thing to look at. But place such a pot over a candle and what happens? It blocks the light.

An imperfect pot, cracked…with holes…placed over a candle…shines the light in a unique way. In a way that only that pot can. It is a beacon calling others to the light.

What I learned that year is that my broken places, my redeemed sinful moments, my pain, my loss, everything which hurt within me is useful to God.

He doesn’t waste a hurt. Beauty from ashes.

What does all of this have to do with joy? The next year I asked God to give me joy. And He did. Overflowing, abundant, exuberant joy.
I am married again. To my best friend. I have been given four more children to love on. I am more than halfway through a master’s degree program which is pointing me in a direction where God can use more of my broken pieces.
Each of these gifts is more beautiful, more joyful, because of the previous pain.

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Life is full of painful moments. Let God use those to bring others to Him. Let God use those to pour out joy into your life, and into the lives of others.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Opening? Closing? Leading?

At the beginning of this year my boss told me that he would like for me to gift him something in this new year...he wanted me to stop thinking, and just say okay when he asked me to do something. He said that he was always two steps ahead of me, and he just wants an okay. 

And I was hurt.

A few weeks ago my hours were dramatically cut at work. Everyone's hours were cut, but mine were cut twice as much as anyone else's.

And I was hurt.

I have wallowed in that hurt. Allowing Satan to whisper in my ear both that I'm not good enough and that I'm too good for this job. I have replayed the words in my head, hearing that I only think I'm smart, responding with thoughts of anger and a desire to cut him down to size, focusing on his errors. I have given in to anger and frustration. I have sat and calculated everyone's hours, kept track of how much more I work, focused on  my bitterness. 

I admit all of this because I aim to be honest here, on my blog. I aim to present a true picture of who I am, who God has saved, just who He is calling. I am not perfect. I am often angry and bitter and frustrated and arrogant and hurting.

Sunday, in church, our pastor spoke about our identity in Christ. But what spoke to me louder than his words, were the songs we sung in worship.

 Be Thou My Vision. 

This verse.... Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise, thou mine inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

My vision has been focused on me, again. I was striving for man's praise, when, even if I did receive it, all it would be was emptiness. I have struggled to find my identity in a job which I have known was only temporary, was stopgap given to me for a short period of time. I have allowed words spoken, not out of hatred or disgust, to reverberate in my mind. I have responded with pride and arrogance, chin lifted high. All along, what I needed to be focusing on was my Father. The praises of my God. 

I confessed to Him during worship that I had forgotten, once again. He whispered "I know". I told Him I was sorry. He whispered "Already forgiven". He whispered "I love you, my child". And my tears flowed. 

Why have I clung, in bitterness, to something which may simply be a door that God is closing so that I can walk through another door? 

Yesterday, in facebook conversation with my mother-in-law, I expressed how I so long to do God's will for my life, and how I have felt like my husband and I have been in a holding pattern for awhile, with God providing basic needs and prepping us for something, but how inpatient I am to discover what it is He is preparing us for. So much of the past year and a half has been "wait and see", and I want to see it already! I mentioned that I probably should focus on improving my spiritual life and keep waiting on Him.

And then today, for one of my graduate courses, I watched a presentation by Katie Brazelton. She's an author, life coach, etc. I actually read her Pathway to Purpose for Women book a handful of years ago and loved it so much that I bought the workbook to go with it and shared it with my mother. She was talking about Life Purpose Coaching: what it is, what it looks like, etc. And every word resonated within me. The talks we've been having about developing a program to help blended families navigate those difficult waters, the longing I've had my entire life to help others, the courses I've been taking on counseling others, the life experiences I've gone through which God has used to shape me for His future plan, the books I've read, the talents I possess, the desire of my heart to work with women, even my love for Bolivia and the ministry possibilities there (hello, the company is INTERNATIONAL)..all of it, being used in that manner, in helping others through Life Purpose Coaching. Katie Brazelton mentioned her Do-Be-Do life today what God is calling you to do today, be striving toward living a life of holiness, and then, when those two things are being done, God will reveal what you are to do with your life...His grand purpose for you. 

Could this be what I am being directed toward? There is training course and curriculum to go through to become a Life Purpose Coach. I have asked my mother-in-law to be in prayer in regards to that course and whether God is leading me there. I will ask my own mother to do the same. I will ask my husband to lift it before God as well. And I ask you, anyone who is reading this blog, to do the same. Tell me your thoughts of this ministry and how I might fit into it.