Your sweet way, Lord

It’s been many months since I’ve updated or posted.  I am in a season of life where almost all energy the Lord grants is poured out into the care of my sweet family.  I’m tired and extremely foggy, but truly thankful.  The Lord impressed on me a sense of purpose in suffering at an early age.  I was born with 2 heart malformations.  At the age of 2 I had one of the malformations, a coarctation of the aorta, surgically repaired.  Without the surgery I would’ve only lived into my teenage years.  In the future I may need a 2nd surgery on my aortic valve which has 2 cusps/leaflets instead of 3.  I realized as a young child that the Lord was incredibly merciful when he granted my first surgery a success.  When I was baptized at the age of 15 I remember thinking, “He must have a plan for me.”  Little did I know that much of His plan for me would be to keep me fully reliant on Him for the strength and grace for each day.  My health struggles multiplied into adulthood beginning with a mono infection at the age of 23, just months into marriage.  I now battle with POTS, Chronic fatigue, allergies/asthma, chronic migraines, seasons of anxiety, insomnia, neck/shoulder pain, etc.  After living in this reliant position for many years I must say that although it’s very difficult and my sinful heart wants to fight against it at times, living humbly and fully reliant is a wonderfully refreshing place to be.  Where else can I be and see daily displays of His grace, strength and resulting peace?  At the age of 35 now, I see all the more clearly that in my weakness, He is faithful and uses weakness/trials for my good and to remind me of my helplessness.  He is so gracious and knows my heart better than I do.  He knows that I constantly need to be reminded that I have no strength apart from Him and that He is glorified in my weakness.

Last night I read this devotion from Susannah Spurgeon.  Her words resonated with me.

“My blessed Lord, how tender and pitiful are you to me!  What a delight it is to tell of your mercy and grace to one so unworthy!  Yet it is no singular story, for this is your sweet way and will, dear Lord, towards all who put their trust in you.  When depression and sadness come to me, by reason of the sin within, or the discouragements without; when the thorns and briers of daily cares and vexations prick and tear the weary pilgrim’s feet and hands; then you turn my footsteps to where the pines and myrtles of your loving mercies grow, and in their shelter and fragrance my troubled spirit finds rest. 
No, more than this, dear Lord, your power is so great that you sometimes transform the very things that hurt and grieved me into means of grace and blessing to my heart and life.  Disappointments in my work, obstacles to its performance, the estrangement of friends, conscious incompetence and weakness, and often an overpowering sense of deepening responsibility — these experiences are all like thorns and briers, which irritate and worry by their persistent and close contact; yet all these vanish when you, my gracious God, give the word, and I wonder as I find myself walking peacefully among the fir trees, where the pine needles lie thick upon the ground, spreading the softest of carpets under my tired feet; and where the myrtle’s snowy blossoms and glossy leaves promise perfume and sweetness even to those who bruise them.  Your ways, O Lord, are past finding out, but they are very gracious and tender; and this turning of seeming evil into good, of making your children’s trials grow into triumphs, and their pains into pleasures, is a wonderful proof both of your pity and your power. 
‘It shall be to the Lord for a name.’ My Father, can this be really so?  Does your great Name receive added glory when you thus manifest your sovereignty on my behalf?  When I come to the next sharp thorn hedge in my path, will it honour you if, instead of trying to force my way through it, and getting wounded for my pains — or attmepting to avoid it by some roundabout course, and plunging deeper into the thicket, I should just calmly sit down before it, and pray, and wait for you to wither it up, or turn it into a myrtle grove?  Yes, I believe it will, and I seek faith and grace from you to do constantly this otherwise impossible thing.  Past mercies and deliverances should strengthen me to expect yet greater displays of your marvellous love.                                                                                                                                      Dear Lord, when troubles come, I should like to learn to look upon them as ways and means of glorifying you, to accept them as tests and trials of my faith, and to meet them with a brave heart, expecting the salvation of God!

If my path were always smooth and pleasant, with never a thorn or brier to vex and trouble me, there would be no opportunity for the glorious exercise of your love and mercy in deliverance from them. 

Courage, my soul!  Your God will give you grace to say as did his servant Paul, ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’.”

Oh how I pray Lord that your “great Name will indeed receive added glory when you thus manifest your sovereignty on my behalf.”  Your power is indeed so great that you  “transform the very things that hurt and grieved me into means of grace and blessing to my heart and life.”  What a great and merciful God you are!

Familyeasterpiccropped2014

Gripped by fear or dwelling in His house?

As my due date approaches, I’ve found myself in a constant battle of putting off sin.  I’ve allowed myself at times to be gripped by fear, and it hasn’t been pretty.  The months following Lillian’s birth were some of the hardest I’ve ever experienced.  My body felt as if it was shutting down and it was really scary.  My emotions were all over the place and I found myself often feeling a sense of despair.  Here I was with this precious gift from God, my little girl, and in a sense felt like the early weeks/months were a whirlwind of pure survival.  I realize every mom experiences “survival mode” and emotions that don’t make sense, but this was so intense that I often have to run to the Lord with the thoughts and feelings that accompanied this time of great trial.

As I approach another delivery, the battle has begun.  Will I trust the Lord and His plan for me?  Will I trust that even the most difficult of days are for my good?  In a sense I feel badly that I even have this battle.  After losing a precious child to a miscarriage last summer it seems almost ridiculous to be approaching this season with anything but joy and thanksgiving – yet, the reality that my body may not respond well is so real and feels so near.

I’ve been trying to prep my heart and mind for this season.  Listing out verses of truth to fight the lies that will try to creep in and arming myself with songs to make my meditation.  One thing that’s come out of these efforts, as of late, is the realization that the answer to fear and anxiety is immediately turning to God in prayer.  It seems so simple, yet I so often dwell on my fears first, not bow in prayer.  Phil. 4:6 has been ringing in my heart, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Will you pray for me that I will trust my loving, faithful God and quickly turn to Him in everything?  Over the next few weeks/months I’d love to hear (through comments or personal emails) verses/songs of comfort, courage, truth, peace that will help draw my heart and mind to where they are called to be, humbly bowing before my Savior in complete trust.

Psalm 27

“1 The Lord is my light and my salvation —
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
    to devourme,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face! ”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.”

 

An encouraging song

I’ve been enjoying this song lately.  Simple, honest, full of Truth.  Listen Here

JJ Heller – “Your Hands”

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn’t there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
You would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost and hurt
I know you hate to see me cry
One day you will set all things right
Yeah, one day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still
Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave you
When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave
I never leave your hands

No valley is too deep

No valley is too deep for Christ’s light to illumine.  Keith and I’s summer speaks to this.  In early July, I miscarried our 2nd child.  Nothing can prepare you for the pain that comes along with a loss of a child.  I felt so paralyzed and confused.  So many hopes crushed.  So much joy that turns into pain, and yet, the Lord has taken our hands and walked slowly.  He’s counted our tears (Psalm 56:7) and replaced them with joy and peace.  He’s sustained my life, even when my body seemed like it was shutting down.

The following months have been some of the most difficult of my life.  The emotional healing is coming slowly as I have had very little physical energy to spend processing and healing.  When I feel weak and overwhelmed, it’s good to think about how far I’ve come.  At my worst I couldn’t even lift my head without blacking out.  My body went into shock and I needed a blood transfusion.  It’s been many many weeks of slowly building back and sometimes feeling like I was sitting on the “sidelines” of life.  The reality though is that these weren’t the sidelines.  This was God’s calling for me this summer.  He has a plan for my life, a good plan, and this was part of it.  He is showing me, once again, that living in a place of complete dependence on Him, is a blessed place to be.  His word has sustained my soul and granted light and peace when things felt out of control.  Through blackouts, sorrow, weakness, confusion, anxiety attacks, daily migraines, insomnia, grief, shortness of breath, and fear, the Lord has showed me His faithfulness and given me a firm place to stand.

Psalm 91 has been my daily, some times hourly, meditation.  This verse in particular has comforted me continuously in my battle.  Psalm 91:4  “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge”  Every night, I laid down with the vision of His feathers covering me.  What comfort in such a time of need!

As I slowly begin the ascent out of this valley I’ve been able to more clearly reflect.  To more clearly see how and where His light was illuminating the path and giving glimmers of hope in the darkness.  Here is my song, Psalm 40:1-3

  I waited patiently for the LORD;
   he turned to me and heard my cry.
  He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
  he set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
  He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.”

Kristen’s Testimony – “A Deeper Need”

One way I have seen the grace of the Lord poured out on me while facing trials is by surrounding me with faithful followers of Christ who have been examples of perseverance in hardship. My friend, Kristen, is one of these sweet friends. The Lord allowed us to meet through the POTS website (dinet.org) that I am a part of and the Lord has used her emails, blogs, and prayers to greatly encourage me and to draw me closer to Himself. Kristen has suffered greatly and continues to persevere and hold to the precious promises of Scripture. I recently asked her to share her testimony to post here because I knew you would be greatly encouraged/challenged by her testimony, as I have been.

A Deeper Need

       “A question was asked at my Bible study tonight: When do you experience the most spiritual growth? Without pause, I piped up, “During hard times.”
I wish it wasn’t the case. When I am not in a trial, the last thing I want is to enter into one. When I’m currently enduring difficulty, it is very frustrating to think about growth when I just want relief.
But the truth is, God expresses his love for us by putting his followers in the furnace.
If you had asked me years ago whether I would like to endure a domino-like train of hardship, sending the carefully ordered tiles of my life flying into a pile of chaos, I would have adamantly declined. To think God would take me at 17 and not stop the trials even by age 30, I would have questioned how that shows love. Sometimes we can’t see God’s purposes from our frail vantage point, but we can be sure that his Word is true.
When I was 17, my family discovered that we had long-hidden water damage in the walls of our home. This water intrusion allowed toxic forms of mold to grow, and the toxins affected my health severely. By my senior year of high school, I could barely get out of bed. On the days I could struggle in to school, I sat in a foggy haze of disorientation. Something was wrong, but no one knew what it was. My pediatrician failed to take my symptoms seriously.
Thanks to my mother’s research and persistence, we obtained professional mold testing which revealed high levels of toxins and bacteria in our air, making the house completely uninhabitable. To make things worse, all of our possessions were contaminated as well, and almost everything had to be discarded.
The incredible material loss from this disaster was nothing compared to the emotional and physical impact of chronic illness which followed. I became acutely sensitive to chemicals in my environment that wouldn’t bother the average person. It was to the point where I had to leave my office job and abandon my first college after a semester of intense reactions to the pesticides used around campus.
These back-to-back losses put me in the position of commuting 50 minutes each way to an engineering school near home and facing the obstacles of completing a major when I could only tolerate being in a handful of classroom buildings. Being the weird girl was my new norm, and I had to work twice as hard to attend study sessions, plan my limited time on campus wisely, obtain some lectures via videotape, and work on assignments alone when others worked in groups or with a TA. When I finally graduated with my degree a year later than the rest of my class, I was already on my way to finishing graduate work and looked forward to a promising career.
It was then that my life began to fall apart even more. I started having more concerning physical symptoms that I tried to ignore, but when I passed out at church one morning, I never bounced back. I was diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) along with PDH (Postural Diastolic Hypotension). The cause was unknown, but I felt I had never fully recovered from the damage done by mold and pesticide exposures. A flu virus and stress had pushed my fragile body too far, and now I faced a long road to recovery.
I was not quick to embrace my new vulnerable position of waiting on God. I could no longer work, but I still tried, dragging myself in and feeling lightheaded and ill while I sat in meetings. When I finally passed out at work and was taken out on a gurney, it finally occurred to me that I was not going to be able to overcome this setback with sheer willpower and medication.
I sat at home with the wind knocked out of my sails. I had just turned 24. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t go to school. I had no guarantees about my prognosis, and I could barely get off the couch to go to the bathroom. It was soon after that when my family was suddenly victimized by a group of my grandfather’s caregivers who had been working for us. They stole from my grandparents and eventually from us too. Due to poor police response, this turned into long-term harassment and stalking.
I thought at the time that God would let up, but more obstacles and problems kept coming my way. My grandma had a stroke and developed severe dementia, requiring our full-time care here at home. My father’s anger issues escalated, causing my mother and me great pain and heartache. I wanted to get back to my focus of working, earning money, my career, and eventually marriage and having children. But when I realized that my dreams had been derailed, I had a choice to make. I could accept both good and hardship from God’s hand, or I could become bitter and conclude that a good God would not allow so much pain and loss to happen to his child for so long.
I struggled with the incongruity of God saying he loved me, yet not acting to relieve my intense pain. Trial upon trial drew out over multiple years, but my prayers for deliverance remained unanswered. I finally read a book by Larry Crabb called Shattered Dreams. Initially, I felt skeptical of the thesis – which is that God allows our dreams to shatter so that we can see that He is our ultimate dream.
However, the more I read of the book, the more I began to see that it was true in my own life. The whole time that I had been suffering, a longing was forming in me – for truth to prevail, for compassion from others, for a sense of justice, to see mercy extended to the hurting, and for healing to take place. I found myself gravitating toward people who had also suffered but who had courage and joy. I suddenly realized that my trials had created in me a strong appetite for the very characteristics of Jesus himself! It was a turning point in my life to find my shallow, earthly desires stripped away in order to lay bare my aching, penetrating need for Christ. I was a sinner who had been broken, and I found my Lord sitting by the well offering me the living water of forgiveness and love, rather than the dirty well water of earthly ease I had been convinced I needed for so long.
As I continue in my trials undelivered, I give thanks that God loved me enough to help me discover that my longings for success, approval, and pleasant earthly circumstances were symptoms of a deeper cry – a bigger wound – one that demands Christ and will never heal unless He is my focus and my first love. If you are in a trial – praying to God and still undelivered – take heart that you are a not alone. God is good all the time, and even in our most painful hours, we can count on Christ to carry us until that glorious day when all wrongs will be made right, when we will finally be with Him, the true and ultimate satisfaction of our souls.”
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, 
’He who is coming will come and will not delay.'”  Hebrews 10:35-37

“Blessed Be His Name”

While listening to one of my favorite Pandora stations this week

(the Sovereign Grace Music station) I came across this song that has encouraged me greatly.

Here’s the link – Just press the “play” button…

“Maker of the earth and sky
Ruler of the heavens
He whom death could not contain
Blessed be His name

Bring to him your troubled heart
Lay your cares before him
He has suffered every pain
Blessed be His name

Perfect and unchanging
Sinless son of man
Author of our simple faith
Blessed be His name

Constant through our darkest time
Stronger than our weakness
Bearer of our grief and shame
Blessed be His name

Humbly bow before him
Praise Him for His grace
Ever will his love remain
Blessed be His name

Present and abiding
Usher in his reign
With us through the end of days
Blessed be His name
Author of our growing faith
Blessed be His name”

Adversity and Vigorous Trust

I recently finished the book by Nancy Guthrie Be Still My Soul, a collection of readings about God’s purposes in suffering.  In it I was struck by a quote by Jerry Bridges that has really resonated with me.  Adversity has recently sought to overwhelm me.  It’s been difficult and trust has been exactly this – “a vigorous act of the soul.”  It’s been vital for me to keep in mind that I can’t just sit around and find myself trusting the Lord.  I need to actively, vigorously attach myself to the promises of God in order to persevere.  His word is so sweet and is my lifeline – especially in times that feel bleak.

“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us.”

Psalm 19:7-10  ” The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”