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Living With and Without

Hey did you guys know life gets busy around Christmas? Nope? Just me? Okay well then I apologize for not posting but I’ve been enjoying the season and being busy serving where God puts me. Annnnyywaaays..on to the today’s post!

If I could go back and meet any one Bible character it would definitely be Paul. (Jesus being exempt from this theoretical question, of course.) I love Paul. His testimony, life, example, writing…everything. I love his rhetorical and sarcastic questions in Romans (he cracks me up) and his love for all the saints. Yup, he’s my favorite.

In Philippians 4, Paul talks about how he has learned to be content in whatever situation God has him in. He has learned to live with plenty and to live with nothing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been thinking about finances. (I work at a bank for goodness’ sake, people!)

I never really worried much about money in the past. I always had more than I needed and I lived what I considered simply. In 2017, when it became clear to my doctor and I that I needed to take a break from working, things changed. It meant I needed to move into an apartment and (gasp!) actually pay for housing. It meant no income until I could go back to work. It just meant a lot more expenses in general. And I was prepared but it was still a little nerve wracking.

There was one Sunday I never want to forget. It was right before I was going to be done at the Farm and I was having a really rough time emotionally, physically, mentally- all of it. I had just finished up a conversation with a lady who meant well but was stressing me out with details that I didn’t have yet. I just wanted to trust that the Lord had things figured out that I couldn’t answer yet and that wasn’t good enough for her. I walked around the corner and (in my usual, fake fashion) I flashed a smile at one of the elders of my church as I started to walk by him. But he didn’t let me walk by. He pulled me around and I realized it was a group of elders there. They didn’t ask me if I had everything figured out; they put their arms around me and prayed with me. And that wonderful man is now in heaven getting some reward for calming and encouraging a discouraged heart at that moment.

But at some point, I did have to think about money. It just wasn’t then. God SO blessed me that I had plenty saved so that I didn’t “have” to worry during my rest time. It was still in the back of my mind that I didn’t have any incoming money, just outgoing, but I knew how much was there and I kept an eye on it.¬†

In general though, I don’t spend a lot. But I found out that when finances got tight, I didn’t get to spend money on the things I loved doing. Random baking adventures for my friends kind of stopped because suddenly butter looked really unnecessary. Not that I COULDN’T have bought it. It was more evaluating the need.

This year, as I looked at coming off my Dad’s insurance, panic came into my mind. I knew there would be a 3 month gap between coming off and when my work insurance kicked in and I was honestly scared. I prayed and worked my butt off to organize because in case you forgot, meds are REALLY expensive. And just when I thought I had it all figured out that I could get a 90 day supply before coming off insurance, that fell through.

Do you know what I learned? To be content with and without, in every circumstance. Over and over again, I have to remind myself that God has ALWAYS supplied my every need. Sometimes that’s been through other people saying, “Hey, I’m going to get that for you. I know you CAN but I don’t want you to have to worry about it.” And that’s really humbling, folks.

But wait, there’s more. I’ve had money show up anonymously in my church mail box. I’ve had my medications drop in price for NO REASON. To the point that the pharmacists can’t figure it out! This last time I went to get my most expensive med and it wasn’t ready yet. She looked at me hesitantly (they always do) and asked if I was aware of the cost. I said yes and confirmed it. When I came back 20 minutes later, it had dropped over $300!!! I just stared at her. She had no idea why. I’m convinced God creates computer glitches in my favor. That’s literally not the first time that’s happened to me.

Maybe this post sounds to you like a plea for help or money. Oh no, it’s not. It’s an exclamation of praise! And it’s an encouragement. I know a lot of people that worry about finances. Sometimes it’s still a mind struggle for me and I rehearse God’s faithfulness to myself. I’ve never been in need. And I’ve certainly never been in need to the extent that Paul was!

It’s also a reminder to continue to be generous even when you don’t have much. I remember hearing a sermon as a kid on finances and my pastor said as an example that the first check he writes out every week is the one to the church. And I remember thinking, “Huh? What’s the big deal?” Yeah…I get it more now. The temptation is to let that be the last thing because it’s not necessary like a bill and THAT’S exactly why you put it first! I’ve been blessed to remember that this year. I’ve gotten creative with how I choose to bless others. Sometimes, all people really want is a listening ear. It doesn’t cost anything to go to the nursing home and read your Bible to an elderly lady and listen to her story. There are ways to give that involve money and there are ways to give that don’t; both are vitally important.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on enough tonight. What has God taught you about finances and trusting him through it?


 
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Posted by on December 13, 2018 in contentment

 

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The Fight for Joy

Obviously my time has been filled with things other than blogging recently. The IDEAS are here, it’s the motivation and energy that’s been lacking. So here’s what I’ve got for you today.

My evening devotions the other night talked about fighting for joy. To be honest, I was taken off guard. I feel like this really shouldn’t be a new concept but it was for me. I have always been such an upbeat, cheerful, and content (mostly lol) person that I didn’t have to work at it much. I mean it. Optimism and joy was just naturally part of me. My best friend has told me that I used to be obnoxiously cheerful. Which was her (kind) way of saying I lacked compassion. ūüôā

But recently I’ve been having trouble finding joy. I KNOW how blessed I am and I KNOW that thankfulness is the key to having joy but the days keep dragging on and my joy is missing. I’ve read the verses and I’ve prayed over and over about it, asking God to give me back my joy in him.

And I think that’s why this devotion hit me so hard. Joy has always been easy, a part of me, something God provides. I have NEVER considered fighting for it. I’ve never thought that joy was really a choice in my life. It was just something God gave me and I wanted it back.

I love this definition of joy by John MacArthur:

“Christian joy is the emotion springing from the deep-down confidence of the Christian that God is in complete and perfect control of everything, and will bring from it our good in time, and our glory in eternity. That’s Christian joy. Christian joy is not an emotion on top of an emotion. It is not a feeling on top of a feeling. It is a feeling on top of a fact. It is an emotional response to what I know to be true about my God.

I love that. So when I drag myself out of bed every morning, weary before the day starts, I don’t feel very joyful. But I know what is true about my God. I know how much he loves me, I know he is faithful to his promises, I know he cares for my whole being, I know he is good, I know he never changes. And in THOSE things, I can find joy. You can too, friend.

It really is a battle, and I’m aware and ready for it now.

“If the¬†Lord¬†had not been my help,¬†my soul would soon have lived in the land of¬†silence.¬†When I thought,¬†‚ÄúMy foot slips,‚Ä̬†your steadfast love, O¬†Lord,¬†held me up.¬†When the cares of my heart are many,¬†your consolations cheer my soul.”
Psalm 94:17-19

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2018 in contentment, joy

 

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Lonely in a Crowd

I can’t say that I EVER remember being lonely as a kid. In fact, I’m pretty sure until I moved away from home I still had the idea that usually lonely people were elderly ones who couldn’t get out of the house and sat by themselves for days on end. I had 5 siblings so there was always someone to talk to. And if you got tired of one person, you just went and found another. ūüôā

But I’ve grown up a little since then and I know the pain of loneliness. But I also know that most people don’t admit that they are lonely. My friend’s mom has this saying, “If all the lonely people in the world would turn on their porch lights at night then everyone would be a lot less lonely.” Oh, that just makes me laugh. Lonely people don’t TELL others they are lonely! And, from experience, I think I’ve figured out at least one reason why.

There are different types of loneliness. There’s the kind where you actually are alone. When your spouse is out of town for the week on business or when your kids grow up and leave home. I live by myself so I know that every night when I get off work, I will come home to an empty apartment. I will be alone. How about when you are alone in your convictions? When those around you don’t share your faith? That can set you apart and make you feel like an outsider too.

But there’s another kind of loneliness and I actually think it’s worse. When you are surrounded by people and still feel alone. I have often felt this way and it’s taken me a long time to figure it out. How can I be surrounded by my friends and family and STILL FEEL SO LONELY?? Finally a light bulb came on and I realized that (at least for me), while everyone else is present and accounted for,¬†I’M the one not there. My body may be there but my heart and mind feel trapped somewhere else. Somewhere that makes it hard (practically impossible) for others to get there or me to get to where they are.

Maybe this sounds crazy to you. There is a good possibility that I am crazy so just go with it. Or maybe you haven’t experienced this kind of loneliness before. And this is the reason people are afraid to admit they are lonely. They don’t want to make their friends feel bad. And they have found that more “social gatherings” doesn’t help with anything. There doesn’t seem to be an answer.

At this point maybe you were expecting some incredible cure for loneliness? I’m going to have to disappoint. I really don’t have anything to cure but here’s what I know: I KNOW our loving Father never leaves us so we are never truly alone. Talk to him more than ever if you are lonely. Even if you don’t feel like it’s helping: just keep praying and reading his Word. Also, keep in fellowship with his body. Let others know even though YOU. WON’T. LIKE. IT.

I’ll leave you with this quote I read the other day by Paul Matthies on loneliness. As you and I talk with the Lord this week, let’s ask for a deeper joy in Him.

‚ÄúIn¬†Philippians 3:10, Paul uses the phrase, ‚Äėthe fellowship of his sufferings.‚Äô So many of us love to enter into the fellowship of God‚Äôs joy, but Scripture also calls us into the fellowship of Christ‚Äôs sufferings. And sometimes, we don‚Äôt need to avoid the pain or numb the pain; we need to look at that pain and ask God for a deeper joy.‚ÄĚ

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2018 in contentment

 

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Cool Runnings Conundrum

Have you seen the movie “Cool Runnings?” If not, you should get it right now and watch it because it’s a classic and everyone should see it. There is one scene in the movie where the Coach is talking to Derice about winning and he says, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” Derice then comes back with, “How do I know if I’m enough?”

I think that’s a question a lot of people are trying to answer. And everyone thinks that if they just get the right job, car, spouse, or you-name-your-thing, then they will be happy and feel fulfilled. Sometimes you might even be doing this subconsciously and don’t even realize it until you get the thing you SO desired and realize you still aren’t satisfied.

You know, I’m a huge fan of Paul. If I had to pick someone in the Bible to sit and have coffee with, he would be at the top of my list. I just finished reading To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain by Matt Chandler (which is a fantastic book, by the way) and in it he does a compacted biography of the life of Paul. I’m not sure I ever grasped before how quickly and drastically this man’s life changed All. The. Time. I think it’s because you have to compile all his writings to get the full story and our Bibles aren’t really laid out that way. He seriously went from being on top of the world one day to being mostly dead the next from the moment of his conversion!

You have this man who goes from hunting down Christians to being one and it radically changed him. From then on his life is full of extreme ups and downs: from him beholding God’s miraculous works and seeing whole families converted to being shipwrecked, stoned, and beaten.¬†One moment he’s casting out a demon from a slave girl and the next he’s being tortured in prison. This was his life! And yet you read in Philippians 4:11-13:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be¬†content.¬†I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and¬†hunger, abundance and¬†need.¬†I can do all things¬†through him who strengthens me.”

And this is what Chandler says (pg. 200) “Do you see now how Phil 4:13 is not about chasing your dreams, following your passion, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, accomplishing anything you want with God’s help? It is instead the testimony of those who have Christ and have found Him supremely valuable, joyous, and satisfying. In a life constantly marked by these extreme highs and lows, Paul has found the great constant security, the great centering hope: Jesus Christ Himself.”

And I say AMEN! That verse is SO misused and it’s about time somebody said something about it!

So to answer Derice’s question at the top: “How do I know if I’m enough?” I don’t really think that’s the right question to be asking. Because if you try to place your value or focus in anything besides Jesus Christ, you will never be enough. We were made to be with Christ so without him you will always feel a void and emptiness.

The question instead for you and me is: is Christ enough for you? Is he the ‘Great centering Hope’ of your life? If everything else was gone, could you say that statement with Paul? If you have everything you want and need, could you say that statement with Paul? That is my constant prayer- that I will be fully satisfied in Christ.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in contentment

 

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Refining Gold

I always tried to be a helpful child when I was younger. I liked to make people happy so was usually eager to be accommodating and obedient. Sometimes I took this method a little too far. For instance, when I was about 5 or so, I remember coming home from an evening church service with my family and I heard my Dad say, “Did I leave the stove on??” Always one to be helpful, I eagerly exclaimed, “I’ll check!” and placed my hand flat on the burner before anyone could stop me. Turns out, it was on and I burned my hand and learned a good lesson.

I was thinking about that story recently as I heard someone referencing a verse in the Bible that talks about God refining us. There are actually quite a few verses on the topic and I got to wondering how hot a refiner’s fire was anyway? I’ve been around a lot of fires and sometimes I turn my oven up pretty high…how hot does a fire have to be to melt metal? So I did some research. Turns out that to melt gold a fire has to be anywhere from 1600-2000 degrees F. Whew! (Guess I won’t be doing any of that in my kitchen…)

And the more I thought about it, I realized the huge significance of those verses. One of my favorites: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,¬†and the¬†Lord¬†tests hearts.” Prov. 17:3 The parallel drawn here is pretty clear as the author compares the method of refining metal to how the Lord tests and refines our hearts. Suddenly it became apparent to me that it’s not a pleasant parallel. The more I read about refining, the more I realized that I didn’t want that done with my heart! It’s hot and it hurts! It’s not a fun process and that’s why it’s so important to have God’s perspective and not ours. Right now, I just see the temporary pain and loss but according to God’s Word:

According to his great mercy,¬†he has caused us to be born again to a living hope¬†through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,¬†to¬†an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and¬†unfading,¬†kept in heaven for you,¬†who by God’s power are being guarded¬†through faith for a salvation¬†ready to be revealed in the last time.¬†In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by¬†various trials,¬†so that¬†the tested genuineness of your faith‚ÄĒmore precious than gold that perishes¬†though it is tested by¬†fire‚ÄĒmay be found to result in¬†praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7

All that to say this: every year I pray for a specific thing that I want God to teach me that year. In 2016, it was compassion and we all know how that turned out. This year, I prayed for the Lord to give me a richer prayer life. You know what happened? I moved to an apartment by myself, I was under rest orders from my doctor, and wasn’t even able to read my Bible for a while. My only resort was to talk to God.

I know what I want to learn in 2018 but I am actually terrified to pray for it. I have truly seen that God answers prayers but not in the way I expect and I am afraid for this one. I’m not sure I’m ready for the heat of this fire. I want to learn true and full contentment in Christ. I want him to be my life and the fulfillment of it. Right now, I often feel restless and discontent because I want my life to be how it was before. I want my old life back and the more I realize that isn’t going to happen, the more upset I become and I don’t want to live like that. I want to embrace the life God has given me even if it’s not what I would have chosen for myself.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but on January 1st, that is what my heart will be crying out and what I will continue to pray for the entire year. Would you pray with me?

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in contentment

 

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I had a Dream

This may be one of the most personal, open, and honest posts I have ever written and it was hard to write. But I was telling this story to someone last week and it really encouraged them so I thought I would share it here. I should be writing a medical update since I was at Cleveland Clinic on Friday but that will have to wait. ūüôā

A while back I was on this medication that caused me to have nightmares. Now before this, I had really not had very many dreams. At all. I rarely ever dreamed, good or bad. But something about this medicine suddenly cause an influx in dreams. They were only bad dreams and they were very, very vivid. The kind that you wake up from in a panic or wake up crying. Sometimes they were so vivid I would wake up and had already jumped halfway out of bed before I realized what was happening. Every night I would climb into bed and pray that I would have no dreams that night.

One night, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was pregnant and gave birth to this tiny little baby. It was so small that I could hold it in my hands only. This is really hard for me to write and some of you are going to think I am crazy, but did you know you can love something in a dream? I don’t know how that’s possible, but I loved that tiny little human in my dream. Shortly after it was born, some soldiers broke into the hospital where I was which was a big room with a bunch of people in it. I was going to spare the details but I think I’m going to tell the complete story. One of the soldiers grabbed the baby from my hands and killed it by stomping on it with his boot. And I woke up crying.

These are the kinds of dreams I mean. I don’t read into dreams or try to interpret them; I just take them as dreams. For days after I would think of that dream and still cry because of the love I felt for that baby. How can you love something in a dream? That’s ridiculous, right? The months went by and the pain of that dream slowly faded until I didn’t think about it anymore. I came off of that medicine, the dreams stopped, and I praised the Lord!

Fast forward to two weeks ago. Suddenly, that dream came to my mind in the middle of the day. And not once, but 4 times that day. And the next day. And the next. And I found myself thinking about it a lot. I prayed and asked God why it was coming to my mind and that he would fill my thoughts with things that were pure and lovely. I would recite Phil. 4:8 every time it came into my head.

One day I was talking with Natalie, just exasperated that I couldn’t figure out why that dream kept coming to mind. She asked if I had been thinking about babies or pregnancy or anything like that. And it suddenly hit me. Like a light bulb moment. I had had one thought a week or so earlier that if I started to date someone, at sometime I was going to have to tell him that I can’t be pregnant.

You see, you can’t be pregnant while on seizure medicine because it almost always causes severe birth defects in the baby. It is still possible to have epilepsy and have babies, you just have to come off your medication and go through a process with your doctor. And while I wasn’t anticipating being pregnant anytime soon, I realized that I hadn’t fully given that desire over to the Lord yet.

It’s odd how God uses stuff in our lives sometimes. How a dream from months before was used to show me an area that I needed to pray about and be at peace with. And the dream has vanished. I haven’t thought about it once since that day. But I am thankful that God used it to bring me to the place where I am now. I don’t plan to be pregnant anytime soon but I am confident in God’s will in that area and will cross that bridge when it arrives and I wasn’t able to say that honestly before.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in contentment

 

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Summer Debrief: Part 1

I’ve rewritten this post three times now because there is so much to tell and I can’t figure out how I want to tell it. I’m almost tempted to just make a list on here about the summer but I know that’s cheesy. You should see how my journal looks when I don’t write for a while. ūüôā

This week marks the final full week of summer camp. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone; seems like just yesterday that all the staff were arriving, new and nervous, and now they are thriving here at camp. This summer was so different from last year in a good, stretching way. The staff were different, my role/perspective was different, and many changes took place as the summer wore on.

I think the Lord really taught me contentment this summer. Now, I would have said I was a content person before- I’m usually pretty happy wherever I’m placed. But, it seems like this summer I had to lay down every desire I had and things just didn’t go the way I planned. I never did get to be a counselor because I was needed in the office. And it was OK. I recognized that the Lord had placed me in that spot for a reason and my job was to serve joyfully there. There were so many new things to learn in the office because I wasn’t in there for camp last year. My days were very busy and on some days, I wouldn’t leave the office until 7:30 or 8:00.

My new motto has become: Does it really matter? I ask myself that all the time. In the whole scheme of eternity, is this going to matter? Is it going to matter if I miss this event, if I don’t get to eat dinner until 8 or 9 tonight, if this has to wait until tomorrow. Now, not to say I just threw everything to the wind and don’t care what happens or if I’m doing my job to the best of my ability. I’m just trying to throw in some eternal perspective. Some things just aren’t worth getting upset over because they don’t matter that much.

And other things do. Souls matter.¬†Christ’s glory matters. Did I impact others for the gospel? Did I shine Christ in a dark world? Was I glorifying God in everything? Those things matter.

And those are the things I want my life to be focused on.

 

(Stay tuned for part 2!)

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2014 in camp

 

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