Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Draw Me Near Lord

I've made it no secret the past several months have been incredibly hard.  There are some hard, life-altering things happening in my life.  Other than Nathan, there are only a couple of really close friends who know everything, but I promise, if you knew all you would wonder how I'm even sane.

It's only because of Jesus, and His grace and mercy I am able to put one foot in front of the other ... figuratively and literally.

Actually, I'm learning there are people who believe I'm not.  Seems there are some who have a lot to say, but instead of saying it to me they've chosen to say it to others.  It just adds to the heartbreak.

I have taught my girls their identity is in Christ.  The One who died for their sins.  It's not wrapped up in what others say or believe about you.  I've taught them that, and yet, I'm discovering I'm having to really search my heart to find out if I truly believe what I have taught them.

I do.

But it's so hard not to buy into the "I need to be liked and loved by everyone" syndrome.  The reality is, it's not possible to be liked and loved by everyone.

And it really only matters that we are loved by Jesus.

Loved unconditionally.  A love that never, ever let's go.

I have found myself at a point many times over the past couple of weeks of not even knowing how to pray.  I"m tired, and formulating words is hard at times.

The past couple of weeks this song has been playing over and over in my heart and my head.  Sometimes when I lie down I play it on repeat.

"Draw Me Nearer"

For your nearness Lord I hunger
For your nearness Lord I wait
Hold me ever closer Father
Such a love I can't escape

For your nearness I am hoping
For your nearness Lord I long
Have no need of any other

I have found where I belong
Yes, I have found where I belong

So draw me nearer Lord
Never let me go
Closer to your heart

Draw me nearer Lord
Draw me nearer Lord
In your nearness there is healing
What was broken now made whole
Restoration in it's fullness
Lasting hope for all who come
In your nearness I take shelter
Where you are is where I'm home
I have need of only one thing
To be here before your throne
To be here before you throne
So draw me nearer Lord
Never let me go
Closer to your heart

Draw me nearer Lord

So draw me nearer Lord
Never let me go
Closer to your heart
Draw me nearer Lord
Draw me nearer Lord

And keep me here, keep me here
There's nowhere else I rather be

So keep me here, keep me here
There's nowhere else I rather be
There's nowhere else I rather be
So draw me nearer Lord
Never let me go
Closer to your heart

Draw me nearer Lord
Draw me nearer Lord
Draw me nearer my Lord

I don't understand everything that is happening.  I hate most of it.  But I know God is sovereign even over the darkest of days.  I know nothing happens in my life without Him having a purpose for it.

And that does bring me comfort.  I just have to keep being reminded of truth.

Friday is my Mom's birthday.  She's been on my heart a lot more than usual this week, and she's never far from my thoughts.  This will be the third birthday she's spent in Heaven.  I'm grateful I know she's with Jesus.  I cannot even express what a comfort it is to know that.

But it still hurts not having her with me.  I miss my daily phone call ... sometimes multiple calls in one day.  I miss her unsolicited advice, and her asking me every day if my laundry is caught up.

No, it's not.  Not even close.

I just keep wondering, "When does this get easier?"

And then I have to remind myself she is as near to the Lord as you can get.

One of the things I long for is the day I can climb up in Jesus' lap and Him hold me close.  When I think of what is the most comforting thing to me, sitting in the lap of Jesus would be my happy spot.

Physically, I can't do that yet, but spiritually I have the opportunity to stay there.  I never have to climb down and let someone else have their turn.  I can stay there and here Him say to 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I could really use your prayers this week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy 19th Birthday, Sara!!

This sweet baby girl is 19 today.


I remember people telling me to savor every moment warning me time would go by in the blink of an eye.  They weren't kidding.

It seems like yesterday she was born.  It's hard to believe how many "firsts" we have experienced with her.  She was our first born.  I remember the first time I saw her over the curtain in the operating room.  Four hours later I finally was able to hold her for the first time.  I remember the first time I fed her and changed her diaper.  Her first bath when she pooped on me for revenge when I lifted her out of the water.  The first time she slept through the night I felt like a new person.  Her first smile made my heart leap, and her first laugh out loud made tear up.  There was the first time she rolled over, the first time she sat alone and the first day she crawled.  The first morning I walked into her room to find her standing in her crib all smiles and giggles.  Her first word was a delight to our ears.  Her first steps we cheered.  Her first birthday came all too soon.

Before we knew it, she was experiencing her first day of preschool.  And the first day of kindergarten where I embarrassed her because I cried.  Her first day of high school I was more fearful than she was, but not near as fearful as her first day of college.

So, now we enter the first day of the last year of her teenage years, and I'm finding myself full of mixed emotions.  Mostly, I'm grateful.  Grateful she's my daughter, but mostly grateful she's a daughter of the King.

This past year we have watched Sara mature way beyond her years.  Our little girl has become a precious young woman.  We've watched her compassion for others grow, and the love for her Savior become deeper.

And we are grateful.

Sara is now a sophomore in college.  She was just hired a few weeks ago to work on staff at Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic where she is surrounded by Christian women of all ages.  She was asked this year to join the ministry team for RUF (Reformed University Fellowship).

And we are incredibly grateful.  Grateful the Lord holds her close and continues to soften her heart toward others.  Grateful that she deeply desires for those around her to know Jesus, and for her own love and knowledge of Him to increase.

We are so blessed to have her in our lives.  I could write a book about how much I love Sara and how proud I am of her, but Hannah and I thought it might be fun to do something a bit different.  We sat down and I asked Hannah nineteen questions about her big sister.  I'm still laughing at her answers, and still teary over how sweet and precious some of her answers were.

So, I asked Hannah ....

1.  Describe Sara to me.  She is a true blonde at heart, efficient, compassionate, a protector and photogenic (a.k.a. a camera hog).

2.  Describe your sisterhood.  For Sara it's what yours is mine, and what's mine is MINE.

3.  What is your favorite thing about Sara?  She provides me with many opportunities for new jokes.

4.  What is your biggest pet peeve about Sara?  Refer to my answer in number 2.

5.  What is the greatest thing Sara has ever done for you?  She always puts me first, and she's overprotective of me.

6.  What do you think is Sara's favorite thing to do is?  Plan her future marriage to Judah Akers from Judah and the Lion.

7.  What does Sara want to be when she grows up?  Well, if she marries someone poor and she has to work, she wants to be some sort of social worker.  If she marries someone rich then she'll be a shopaholic.

8.  What would you say Sara's motto is?  Work hard, play hard, nap hard.

9.  What is the funniest thing Sara has ever said?  "If you put too much salt in the water it will dry it up."

10.  What is the craziest thing she's ever done?  She tried to put me in the dryer when I was a baby and tried kill me.  (For the record, Hannah had the colic 24/7 the first 4 months of her life.  Sara overheard someone telling me to put her on the dryer because the vibration might help soothe her.  Sara thought they said in the dryer, so I walked in the room while Sara had Hannah around the neck trying to put her in the dryer because Hannah was making her ears hurt.  I was literally out of the room less than 2 minutes when this happened.)

11.  What is your favorite Sara quote?  "My family should really count their blessings.  I've cooked dinner two nights in a row and I've not caused anyone to die yet."

12.  What is your best memory of her?  Anytime we have sister time.

13.  Is she a good sister?  Depends on her mood.

14.  Are you ready for her to move out?  YES!!  Will you miss her?  She'll be back when she's hungry.

15.  Will she make someone a good wife one day?  I pray her future spouse can go days without eating or is rich enough to afford eating out every day.

16.  People are always asking both of you who is the oldest.  How does this make you feel?  She must act pretty childish, huh?

17.  Is there anything about Sara you would change?  No, because I wouldn't want her to become the favorite daughter.

18.  What is the sweetest thing Sara has ever said to you?  "When I move out will you move out with me?  I can't live without you."

19.  As the oldest, Sara is supposed to be setting an example for you.  How do you think she's doing?  I would love to be just like her.

From the moment Hannah was born, Sara referred to her as her baby.  Another child tried to touch Hannah while we were still in the hospital, and that was the beginning of Sara being protective of her little sister.  Don't get me wrong.  They fight like cats and dogs sometimes.  They've hit each other, scream at one another and call each other names.  They are sisters, after all.

But I have loved watching them grow into being friends as they get older.  I tell them I am praying that they would just at least like each other when they get older.  I'm actually praying they are best friends as adults.  I pray they are all always close.

Hannah may have answered these questions like a true little sister, but I've watched Hannah plan for weeks what she was going to buy Sara for her birthday.  The saved money she earned from babysitting jobs and the time and effort she put into Sara's gift was so precious.  Sara was super excited about everything in her bag, and when she had time to stop and think about what all her sister had done, her sister's efforts meant more than the contents of the bag.

Those Judah and the Lion tickets are a close second though.

Happy Birthday, Sara Bear!  I'm in disbelief you are nineteen today.  I know we tease you ... a lot, but we are so proud of you.  I pray this coming year you grow deeper in your love for Jesus and you learn to show that love to others even more than you already do.

You are so very loved.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brokeness, Friendships, LIGHT and a Mosaic of Redemption

I'm in a funk.  A very dark funk.  I've been doing everything I know to do to climb out, but I honestly just don't even have the energy to climb.

My friend Kathy called me yesterday, and during our conversation I told her, "I feel like I'm in a deep, dark hole that I can't climb out of."

Her response, "Then I will climb in the hole with you and help push you out."

I don't think Kathy has any idea what those words meant to me.  After we hung up I laid down to try to take a nap, and I started thinking through all she said to me during our 35 minute conversation.

Kathy and I have been friends for 24 years.  There was about a 12 year gap where we lost touch.  We both married and had children, and through the busyness of life we lost touch.  We reconnected when my family started attending the church we attend now, and we literally picked up where we left off.

I love Kathy.  I don't easily call someone my friend, but I consider Kathy one of my most treasured friends.  I think we tend to overuse that word.  We call people "friends" on Facebook, and let's be honest.  Most of those "friends" are really just acquaintances.  How many of them could you call if you needed them?  How many of them would you trust your heart to?  I have 793 Facebook friends at the moment, but the number of them I would call if I needed help is no where near that number.

For me to call someone a friend I have to trust them.  And I just don't easily give out trust.  My husband is the type of person who will trust someone until they prove to be untrustworthy.  You know how we are supposed to believe the best about one another?  Well, my husband does this very well.  I am just the opposite.  I don't trust someone until they have proven themselves trustworthy, and I'm not the greatest in believing the best of people.  I'm working on that, and I'm better at it than I used to be.  However, I still have a long way to go in that area.

A friend loves at all times ... ~ Proverbs 17:17

A friend, a true friend, is someone who loves you unconditionally.  Someone who you count on to be there when you need them, but someone who also counts on you to be there when they need you.  Friendship is a two-way street folks.  You also have to be trustworthy and love unconditionally.  I do believe there are different levels of friendship.  There are, in the words of a 12 year-old, our best, best friends.  And then there are friends who we aren't as close to.

I consider Kathy to be one of my closest friends.  One of the things I love most about our friendship is how completely, sometimes brutally, honest we are with each other.  We know each other's hearts.  We know we each love the other unconditionally, and our desire for each other is for us to grow in our love for the Lord, to know and understand the TRUTH about God's word and show that love to those around us.  That truly is the foundation of our friendship.

A friend loves at all times, and sometimes love doesn't come in a nice, pretty package with a beautiful bow on top.  Sometimes love means confronting each other with the truth.  More often than not, the truth can sting.

Especially when your heart is believing lies.

Kathy prefaced what she had to say to me with, "You know I love you, and you know my heart.  BUT ..."

If she had been sitting in front of me she would have seen my eyes roll as I thought, "Here we go.  She's going to fuss at me and tell me all the things I'm doing wrong."

That's not exactly what happened though.

Instead she listened.  She listened to me as I shared my broken heart with her.  She didn't judge.  She didn't fuss.  She listened.

"I'm sorry your hurting.  What can I do to help?  I want to help you."  She probably said those words a dozen times.

Kathy also very gently started combating the lies going through my head.

"I'm worthless.  God can't use me.", I told her.

"But He has, and He is using you."  And then she gave me examples.

And then she told me she would climb in the dark hole with me and push me out.

So often we claim to be someone's friend, but when push comes to shove that's not really the case.  We want to be friends with the one who makes us laugh.  We want to be friends with someone who is happy and loving life.  Those "friendships" are easy.

But are they really friendships?

Most of us have someone like that in our lives.  Someone we love to be around because they make us laugh and feel good.  But if your hurting ... your heart is broken ... is that the person you would call and know they would love you unconditionally?  Or would they just try to joke about your circumstances and try to make you laugh?  So often we do this because pain makes us uncomfortable, and we don't really know what to do with broken hearts.

It's not easy to walk along side of someone who is hurting.  It can be tiresome, and can even make you feel weary yourself.  But that's what a true friend does.

And they climb in the hole with you and push your out when your too weak to climb.

Nothing about my conversation with Kathy "fixed" my broken heart.  It still hurts.  I'm still weary and the world still seems awfully dark to me.

But when satan tries to tell me, "No one cares.  No one loves you." I can lament on my conversation with Kathy.

Ultimately what Kathy said in those 35 minutes was, "I love you, and more importantly your Heavenly Father loves you."  I know she's praying for me, and that makes my burden just a little bit lighter.

I keep thinking about what my friend Connie said to me on Saturday, "Whispers are so loud in the dark."

Satan keeps whispering lies in my ear, and because I'm in a dark hole they keep echoing in my heart.  So, I'm having to be purposeful in shining a light, THE LIGHT of all lights, into this dark hole.  I keep reading scripture, and I've re-read sermon notes.

In reading sermon notes this is what I discovered ...

Highlighted in pink and underline twenty times, "Are ready to go, but are you willing to stay?"

My former pastor Caleb probably said this half a dozen times in different sermons.  Kathy asked me yesterday, "Are you safe?"

I am.  I'm hurting, and I'm longing for heaven.  I would love nothing more than for Jesus to come back today.  I'm not going to lie.  Thoughts of wishing I were dead instead of hurting so much have crossed my mind, but they've only been fleeting thoughts.

I have two daughters that need me, even in the broken mess I am in right now.  This is temporary.  I don't know how temporary, but like Paul says ...

 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17

Connie has taught a ladies' retreat titled, "The Beauty of Brokenness".  She talks about how God takes all the broken pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful mosaic out of them.

A mosaic that is such a beautiful picture of His grace, mercy and love.  A beautiful picture of His redemptive story.

That is my hope.  That one day God will take my brokenness and make a beautiful mosaic, and when people look at it all they see is His grace, mercy and love.

His redeeming love.

The world seems very dark to me right now, but I know where to find the Light.

He's actually with me always.  Never leaving me and never forsaking me.  I just need to remember to grab onto Him.

And I'm grateful for friends who point me to that Light.  Friends that are willing to climb in the darkness and push me out.

Pushing me out with TRUTH.  The truth about my Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally.

The TRUTH about my Redeemer.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Afraid of Darkness

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-24

These verses have been on my heart all morning.  Over and over I have said to myself, "His mercies are new every morning.  He is faithful.  My hope is in the Lord."

I'm having to repeatedly remind myself of this because the past few days have been very dark.  Darkness has crept in and grabbed a hold of my heart, and it has become really hard to see truth.  I'm afraid of the darkness.

Satan is whispering a lot of lies to me, and it's becoming really hard to discern between what is truth and what is a lie.

Connie said to me the other day, "Whispers can be so loud."  When things are dark, whispers are so much louder and harder to ignore.

They become all I hear.

"You are worthless."

"No one really cares about you."

"You ruin everything you touch.  God can never use you."

"Everyone hates you."

"No one would even notice if you weren't here anymore."

"You are in everyone's way."

Then satan likes to remind me of things that have happened to help make his point.  He reminds me of things people have said in the past.  He reminds me of things people have done to hurt me, and of all those times I've messed up.

It becomes harder and harder to fight him, and the more tired I become the harder it becomes to combat what he's saying.  Before long, satan starts making sense.

It's a scary place to be, and honestly, it's where I am right now.

I am broken.  My heart is completely shattered.  I'm at a point of desperation.  I just want the pain to stop.

The physical pain my body feels, and emotional pain my heart doesn't know how to handle.

I'm trying really hard to remind myself of what is truth, but satan is really good at making me believe him.  I have to keep reminding myself he is a master deceiver.

It's so hard to fight him.  My flesh is weak.  I'm tired.  Very tired.

I know my strength comes from the Lord.  I know I can only fight satan with the truth of God's word, so I start repeating it over and over.

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. ~ I John 4:4

I've always been afraid of the dark.  It's in the dark we are the most vulnerable.  When I was a child my mom always left a light on at night.  Even if my bedroom door was closed, I could at least see the light shining from the crack at the bottom of the door.  The darkness wasn't so scary when that little bit of light was shinning through.  Life is dark right now.  It's so dark I can't see my hand in front of my face.  I can't see to even stay on a straight path, but I know in this darkness the light can only come from the Lord.

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

I have to keep reminding myself God is faithful.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  He hasn't forgotten me.  I may feel all alone right now, but that feeling is a lie.  He is with me always.

And in Him there is no darkness.

Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. ~ Psalm 139:12

His mercies are new every morning.  He is faithful.  My hope is in the Lord.

This is truth.  His truth is light, so there is no need to be afraid of the dark.

You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” ~ Lamentations 3:57

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  ~ Isaiah 41:10