Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stepping out of my comfort zone!

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out 'Abba, Father'" (Romans 8:15). 

I think it's so interesting that the contrary spirit of adoption is the spirit of bondage to fear. Adoption says, "I am yours. I am accepted. I am complete and secure and made whole and safe and satisfied in You alone." Fear drives insecurity, intimidation - the exact opposite of adoption.

Being in a new town, a new church, with new friends -- all my insecurities and intimidation are only heightened. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than this week: helping with VBS. When Pam asked me (repeatedly), I felt fear literally creep into my heart. I wanted every excuse not to help: But I don't have kids. But I don't have time. But I don't know anyone. But that's not "my thing." And in the end, all I had were excuses. So, reluctantly, fearfully, I said yes. (She's awfully persistent, too. :))

I have never volunteered for a VBS -- the mere sound of VBS makes my anxiety levels rise. I am introvert, so something like that -- lots of kids, lots of people, knowing no one -- that stresses. me. out.

But, as an introvert, I am learning how to embrace who I am and all that God has called me to. There's nothing wrong with being an introvert--but there is something wrong with using that as an excuse to walk in fear and insecurity and intimidation.

So, I said yes. And for the first twenty minutes or so, I was incredibly uncomfortable: in a room full of women and volunteers and volunteers' children with no "task," knowing no one. But you know what? Uncomfortable is good because uncomfortable is where I get to challenge head on whether I will choose acceptance and adoption or fear and intimidation. 

In the end, I was so blessed. I got to work in the kitchen, which is the perfect place for me. Make snacks? Pour lemonade? Serve and play hostess? Clean dishes and throw away trash and wipe down tables? Sure, I can do that. Gladly!

And I still got to serve and love on others the way I  prefer: one on one, not in front of a group, not in a crowd. I talked to a sixteen-year-old girl off and on for three hours; every time we were alone for a few minutes, she'd pick up where she left off, telling me her story. And when a little four-year-old was brought to the kitchen because they could not get her nose to quit bleeding: yep, I can handle that, too. I know a lot about nose bleeds. So, maybe out of my comfort zone but in my own way, the Lord let me hold this little girl and encourage an older one in the way that I prefer.

In faith, I stepped into the uncomfortable, and He graciously gave me comfort.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Trust that Sustains: Faith in His Goodness

"You are good, and do good." Psalms 119:68

You are good, and what You do is good, and if I really believe that at my core, isn't that the key? When I lose heart, when my faith withers, isn't it really a doubt in Your goodness? Could You still be a good Daddy, even in the face of a "No"? Could You really be trustworthy to hold all my hopes and fears and dreams and longings? Or do I need to settle those for myself?

Faith and humility are the counterpart, the antidote, to pride and unbelief. 

Unbelief says You're not really all that You say You are -- You're not good, and I can't trust You. And so, in my pride, I'll believe instead I can somehow do better on my own.

But open palms and a heart surrendered says, Daddy, I can't do it. I can't and shouldn't and don't want to write the story that only You can write. The one that is already penned and perfect. Faith and humility says, I am not enough, but You are. You are good, and what You do is good. And I can trust You because I believe that deep down.

When at the core of me, I believe -- really believe -- You are good, then I am safe and secure. When, from my depths, I trust You deeply and fully, then I am free.

When we don't give thanks in all circumstances, we are faced with either our selfishness that forgets to pause and ponder, to acknowledge His grace that rescues us over and over, despite ourselves, or our doubt: Can I really thank Him in all things, for this? -- even this! And we begin to wonder, is He really good? Is He worthy of my thanks, He who allows this?

And so, if we thank Him at all, we thank Him despite this, rather than for this. But when we thank Him for it all, it's an expression of our faith, our gratitude, our humility, and our trust -- in His inherent goodness, despite all that we see and feel.

Eyes closed. Head bowed. I thank Him for it all: the blessings and disappointments, to find joy in every trial. The dark cloud leaks a ray of light -- the trapped glimmer of hope. I see it through the rain: a picture of His grace.

My trust buries deeper and deeper still, like the roots of our pecan trees in search of water -- and life and all that sustains. If I really plant my trust deep down, then I am free, I am released. I am safe to thank Him for it all because I know -- yes, I trust -- He is good.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Choosing Joy!

As of Saturday, we have lived in Plainview for one month. It is a little crazy to think about how quickly the time has passed, especially considering how many months and months (10 to be exact) we spent praying and waiting for God to move on our behalf. God's hand has so clearly been in everything that has happened--from the smooth closings, the available funds, the moving process, and even unpacking.

I will be honest, though... Our first month in Plainview has been a little hard. We have had a few bumps in the road, some unexpected problems, namely our plumbing, which quit working the day after we moved in, and even now, one month later, is somewhat fixed, but we still don't have 100% functioning.

What I wasn't prepared for was the emotional battle my heart would face. Here God has blessed us with this beautiful house we hoped and prayed for and a five minute drive to my work, and He has provided all that we asked and needed to get us here.

And yet, within a week of living in Plainview, I suddenly felt very lonely and vulnerable. I missed my friends and family in Lubbock, especially on the nights Hal traveled, and I was acutely aware that I had no social life. At the same time, I felt so overwhelmed to live in this kid-ready house with a playroom and a swing set and access to a community pool. Everything reminded me that I'm not pregnant, we don't have kids, and I'm still just an outsider looking in.

For weeks I have had this battle in my heart--and for weeks, I felt like I've been losing.

But this weekend the Lord reminded me that He is for me, not against me. I know He called us to Plainview. I know He gave us this exact house for an important reason. I know He has a plan.

Friday night, we got to hear Dr. Ben Carson speak. Among his many other accomplishments, his life story and all that he has had to overcome just blew me away. He repeatedly talked about personal choice, saying, "The person who is most responsible for what happens to you in life is you."

I get to choose. I choose what my attitude will be. I choose whether or not I'll have joy or sorrow. And when I don't choose His promises or all that He has for me, I am letting the enemy rob me of my joy. When I don't choose thankfulness for all that He has provided, I am letting the enemy steal my testimony.

So, we don't have kids... So, I don't have a lot of friends (yet). I have a lot of other blessings in my life, including an incredible husband, who is my best friend. And the friendships I do have are far richer in quality than they would ever be in quantity. (I mean, how many friends will spend 14 hours in one day helping you paint--and get back into the house you've accidentally locked yourself out of!!)

My God has abundantly and richly blessed me, and if I will remember that He is my provider, my sufficiency, my security, and my hope, then I can change the attitude of my heart and in exchange, receive His spirit of joy and grace and thankfulness. I may not have the full picture. I may  not see His full purpose for us in Plainview, but He does. And if I really believe in His goodness, if I really believe in His faithfulness, then I can trust Him, beyond my circumstances, beyond my emotions, that He is still working on my behalf, that He is still with me and for me.