For What It’s Worth


photo by Elena Lagaria

I’m 32 years old, but sometimes I share the thoughts of that 15 year old girl that I once was. Even though I’ve gained years and wisdom and maturity, there are times when my logic engages in tough battle with my insecurities. There are days when I look in the mirror and scrutinize the reflection, days when I study my legs and my stomach and offer a harsh critique. There are days when I forget from where my worth comes.

This weekend I listened to our pastor deliver a convincing sermon arguing that we’ve let culture shape our views in regard to fashion instead of our Christian values helping to shape culture. None of the ideas were new to me–our culture screams loud and clear that the perfect woman’s body screams ‘sex,’ and no woman can actually reach the ideal that they’ve set; no matter how a woman dresses, men have to take hold of their thoughts and are responsible for where their mind goes; and we parents have to communicate to our daughters that they carry far more beauty than what the world would try to tell them and that their worth comes from their Creator, not the label on their clothing.

I have heard these teachings before, but at the end of the sermon, I had tears in my eyes. Near the beginning of the sermon, our pastor played a clip of a 15 year old girl who looked closer to 25 explaining why she dressed as she did. She wanted boys to look at her, to desire her, because it was then that she felt she was worth something. She flaunted her body because she tied her value as a person to her physical appeal, and the reaction from boys validated these feelings.

Fifteen was a long time ago for me, but I remember. I never flaunted my body or dressed seductively–I knew in mind that acting that way was wrong and that any boy who wanted me solely for the way I looked was not a boy that I wanted for a boyfriend–but I still wanted that validation. I wanted to turn boys’ heads when I walked by; I wanted them to want me. And when that didn’t happen, I doubted that I had any beauty.

And, unfortunately, sometimes I still do.

More often than not, I feel good about myself. I have a husband whom I love and loves me, children who bring a smile to my face, and I don’t desire anything more. Yet, there are those days that sneak up on me, days when I hate my reflection, days when I doubt that anyone other than my husband could find me attractive.

A few months ago, my son asked me why I didn’t wear a shirt that showed my stomach when I worked out at the gym. Initially, I was taken aback that my five year old noticed the trend of skimpy work-out clothes. However, I explained to him that I wanted to dress modestly, so I wasn’t going to wear shirts that showed my stomach (and I really didn’t want to show my stomach, either).

And I meant what I said–I do want to dress modestly–but sometimes when I’m working out I wonder if I could cause a head or two to turn. It’s not that I’m interested in anyone other than my husband, but I have moments like that 15 year old girl. I have moments when I’ve measured my worth by the heads that I’ve turned instead of by the One who gave me my worth.

I am in control of my thoughts, and I can’t blame anyone for them but me, yet the culture of which I am a part doesn’t do much to chase away these lies, either.

The other day my daughter tried on a superhero costume. After many days of my girls dressing up with their brother and their cousin in his costumes, my sister decided to buy some female superhero costumes to join the mix. The girls’ hero was Diana, also known as Wonder Woman, so my sister excitedly presented this costume to Hannah Grace. After putting on boots that were a little too high and a skirt that was a little too short, Hannah Grace looked at her appearance and exclaimed, “My daddy would freak out!” My sister agreed and returned the costume for a more modest Captain-America’s-daughter-costume.

When my sister told me this story, I had to wonder how is it that my four year old has more sense of what is appropriate for a child than those who manufactured the costume? And why do we as parents perpetuate the idea that our daughters’ value lies in the sexiness of their bodies by the clothes that we buy for them?

I know some might think that Matt and I are too strict when it comes to our daughters. We’re not fans of dressing our little girls in two-piece bathing suits nor painting their fingernails painted bright pink. Some of the outfits or accessories that we say ‘no’ to aren’t bad–they’re just not for little girls. We want our daughters to hold on to their innocence. We want them to look like little girls, not teenagers, because some day they will be teenagers. And when that day comes, we want them to be content with how they are, not striving to look ten years older. We want them to feel beautiful because God made them beautiful, and His beauty does not come in a box of hair dye or a tight shirt.

Last Sunday I had tears in my eyes at the end of the sermon because my pastor was talking to me. I know the feeling of that teenage girl wanting to look older, wanting to attract young men by looks alone. I’ve know the feeling of that 32 year old woman who wonders if she could attract anyone. I’ve known the feeling of tying up my worth in the latest fashion trends and the firmness of my muscles.

And I know that I don’t want my daughters to know that feeling. I want them to believe the words we speak into them, that they are beautiful and kind and truly a gift. And I know that if they are to believe they are worth something, their mother needs to believe that she is worth something, too.

Linking up late with Michelle for ‘Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.” These personal posts can take me awhile….

 

Have you ever fallen into the trap of tying your worth to your physical appearance alone? When you do find yourself placing more emphasis on the physical, how do you speak truth into yourself?

He Danced

He danced wildly, with abandon, befitting of the red hair atop his head. Jumping and turning, landing in karate-like stances, he moved to the music. His mother stood in the back row with her infant asleep in the carrier, but he danced. Whenever a person walked up the aisle, she would gently touch his shoulder, and he would reign in his movements to allow the individual to pass. But when the aisle was once again clear, he reveled in the music.

I watched as he stood still for a moment and lifted his arms to the sky. I was not singing the words on the screen at that moment, and I wasn’t as focused on my own worship as usual. But as I watched him dance, my affections turned to the sleepy one in my lap who, with arm around my neck, stared in wonderment at this little boy. I smiled.

I could feel the Lord smiling, too, as He watched the little children come to Him.

Linking up with Michelle to share how a little boy taught me how to approach God like a child. How has a child taught you about God?

In Real Life

When I pictured myself all grown up, I imagined a beautiful wife (somehow age would completely transform my looks) who was loving and kind. My husband and I would have passionate sex all the time, the excuse of tiredness never creeping in our bed, and when we had a disagreement, we would fight fair.

I saw a mother who laughed and played and performed puppet shows and dress-up frequently. My children displayed evidence of their mother’s discipline, all having exceptional manners and self-control. And when they went astray, my temper did not, and I never yelled or spanked out of anger.

And one day I woke up in real life.

I woke up without makeup many days. Sometimes sleep really did sound better than sex. I didn’t always fight fair and carried more grudges than grace. I yelled at my children, my children who were far crazier than the children in my vision, and I found that I carried many of those traits that in others I hate.

Luckily, God never had to wake up. He knows what real life looks like and was prepared a little better than I.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. What surprised you most about your real life?

 

Heaven

Heaven should be one of those topics that brings peace and joy to one’s heart, but I think I’m a little strange. Heaven was the topic at church this past Sunday, and for at least half the sermon, I was squirming in my seat. I actually have given a lot of thought to heaven, probably too much, wondering how far past the clouds I’ll have to travel to get there, if the streets are really made of gold, and if I’ll get bored at some point during eternity (I know, I know–silly, right?). And the concept of eternity? Yeah, thinking about it can send me into a mild panic attack.

When I try to think about time that doesn’t end, something that lasts forever and ever and ever, I start to freak out. Everything’s supposed to end. How can something not end? And at this point in my thought process, my body gets tingly and jittery feeling, and I have to shake my head to get rid of the thoughts and take some deep breaths.

I am willing to admit I’m a little crazy.

I know I need to trust that I won’t want heaven to end, just the way that I don’t want my time here on earth with my family to end. I need to have faith that a God who is good and merciful and love has figured this heaven thing out so that when I’m up there with Him I won’t spend eternity trying to figure out how eternity actually works. And I need to trust that panic attacks don’t happen in heaven.

But apparently I’m not the only one who has issues with heaven. During his sermon, our pastor offered that most people want to go to heaven but not now. I could raise my hand in agreement. Yes, even though I know heaven is a perfect place with Jesus (shouldn’t He make it worth it for me?), I’m happy to stay down here enduring the hell of carpool lines at two different schools every day.

But why?

Our pastor suggested one reason is that we don’t live our everyday with eternity in mind. We forget that our stay on earth is really a passing through point. We were made for eternity, and we are to live with eternity in mind.

We looked at the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

(God’s in heaven right now and always has been)

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

(My life now should be consumed with doing God’s will here on earth)

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever…

(This life is temporary, but God will reign forever)

My life here on earth is sandwiched between eternity, but I have the tendency to live my life as if it’s the main event. Perhaps this point of view contributes to my fear of that wonderful home that’s prepared for me.

The fear of the unknown also contributes to my nervousness about heaven. Everyone has a different opinion on heaven. Some think we’ll spend eternity singing praises with the angels to Jesus. All the time. That sounds nice, but I have to admit, I’ve wondered if that would get boring (I know that’s horrible–I’m just admitting the very human thought that entered my mind).

One pastor told me that he doesn’t think we’ll have any recollection of our relationships from earth because, if we did, we’d notice who wasn’t there in heaven with us. Knowing we had family or friends in hell would make it impossible to live in joy for eternity. I guess that view makes sense, but it leaves me feeling sad and empty.

I want to remember my family and friends. I want to open my arms wide and help welcome my children one day, and I want to feel the sweet embrace of my husband again. Yes, of course I want to see Jesus, but one of the comforts that Christians find in death is knowing that death is not the end. We hope to see our loved ones again. I cling to that hope. When I think of friends who have lost a spouse or a child, I find comfort imagining their sweet reunion one day.

In the second part of the sermon when I wasn’t squirming as much, we watched an interview with Colton Burpo and his father, Todd. Colton was almost four when he got very sick and nearly died. The book Heaven is for Real is his account of entering heaven. Colton’s mother had had a miscarriage earlier but never told her son; however, he told his parents that he met his sister as well as his great-grandfather who had died 30 years before. He described them in astounding detail and counted spending time with them among some of his favorite parts of heaven.

Colton also describe sitting in Jesus’ lap as one of his favorite memories. What an image–sitting on the lap of Jesus. After hearing this little boy’s testimony of a powerful God and loving Jesus and beautiful animals and welcoming family, a wave of peace washed over me. Oh how I wanted this little boy’s account to be true!

And then I realized something. Whether or not every detail of this child’s account is exactly what heaven will look like for me doesn’t matter. What matters is that the God I worship wants me to realize that He has prepared a home with many rooms. He knew what He was doing before. He knows what He’s doing now. And He’ll know what He’s doing for all eternity.

My life wasn’t made for this earth; my life was made for communion with Him, and when I reach heaven someday, I’ll finally feel at home.

So maybe it’s best if I stop trying to figure out how long eternity actually is and how it works. Maybe I should stop trying to figure out what heaven will look like and instead focus on what I do know: God is good. God is love. God is merciful. And He will always be all of these things, even when I’m a nut. So I think I’ll take a deep breath, relax, and trust Him.

Would you raise your hand as one who wants to go to heaven but not now? Has thinking about heaven ever caused you fear? Linking up with Michelle and Jen today!



 

 

Beauty

I’m constantly amazed at the work of God’s hands to take the ugly, jagged pieces of our broken lives and make a beautiful mosaic. Where we once saw pain and death, we see a new masterpiece where God has used all those experiences to shape us into something stronger, better.

Over the last few months I’ve witnessed some of these pieces. I saw God’s hands hold the sharp piece holding death, and He painted soft colors through the middle where friends brought comfort. I saw pieces containing disappointment over lost jobs and an end to one phase of life only for God to draw a new picture for the future in its place.

And I saw the small, insignificant pieces become part of the masterpiece, the pieces of messes on the kitchen floor when a little girl wants to feel like a woman. The pieces where banana pudding recipes contain thyme and honey and pepper and are joined to a new piece, one with the opportunity for a mother to help clean up the mess and make something beautiful. I saw the beauty of the new piece, a memory of creating something new and good out of the misguided intentions of an almost four-year-old.

Just the way God does with our messes when He comes alongside to gently clean away the spills and create a work of art in its place.

Joining up with the Gypsy Mama for her ‘5 Minute Friday’ on ‘Beauty.’ In an attempt at full disclosure, today was more like a 10 minute Friday for me due to a brain freeze in the middle of writing, but I did not edit my work per the rules. Where do you find beauty?

 

What My Parents Taught Me

It was late Sunday morning, and I took a break from packing and cleaning to meet Matt in the den. “Are we going to church?” We had planned to, but with the non-stop pace of vacation (is that an oxymoron?), we never made definitive plans. Matt whipped out the computer and began looking up local churches and church times.

And as Matt searched, I thought about my parents.

We never missed church. If we went on vacation, we found a church. If I had a gymnastics meet in another state, we’d catch up with the crew after Mass. There was never any question as to whether or not we would go–we always would.

One of the benefits of being Catholic was that we knew exactly where we were going and what to expect. We knew the dress code, the formalities, the length of the service; there weren’t any surprises. I can’t remember exactly what my feelings were toward church as a child–I’m sure I thought we should go–but I’m fairly certain I didn’t actually look forward to the idea of pausing vacation to go to Mass.

I did like noticing the differences between the church we were visiting and ours at home–whether or not the church was crowded or empty; if the church pews had cushions and if so, what color; from what country was the priest; did his homily have anything to do with the readings; and, if in the midst of tradition, the church had a relaxed feel or not. I would take in all these differences as we took the hand of the priest after Mass thanking him for letting us visit.

At that time, my parents didn’t understand that God desired an intimate relationship with them, but they did know that He was and is worthy of their awe and respect. I never had the sense that we were going to church to put a check in the box but because we should. God was God, and giving Him an hour of our lives every week to learn about Him was the right thing to do.

So that Sunday morning at the beach, Matt and I looked at all the church services we missed because they started at 10 a.m. (what happened to 11 a.m. being the church standard?). And then, doing something that my Catholic grandmother would have said didn’t count as church, we typed in the web address of a local church at home and watched their service live. We listened as the pastor taught that sometimes we don’t need a reason other than God. When He calls us to change jobs, adopt a child, move–whatever the call–we don’t always need to know why, just that God is God. And God can be trusted.

My parents knew part of that fact, and now they know His grace and the rest. And I am forever grateful for their example, an example that taught me that sometimes the questions are not necessary. Sometimes, we just need to take the time to do what’s right. Because God is God. And, really, that’s the only reasons we need.

I enjoyed our few days away, but it’s good to be home where we’re taking another ‘vacation’ day of lazily unpacking, a little writing while the kids watch T.V., and some relaxed cleaning. I’m linking up with Michelle and Jen today before we get back to business tomorrow!

 

 

Parting the Red Sea: Part Two

photo via photobucket

Last week I wrote how God had given me an unusual calm, but as the week played out, I became fully aware of the gift He had given me. I want to write this post not to entertain or improve my writing skills but simply to remember.

I wish I could recount all the details; a part of me is afraid that the change won’t stick, and I want a formula to follow to produce the desired results. But I know better; faith is not a formula but a condition of the heart, a way to live.

Last Sunday night I came home from small group utterly dejected. I went to bed as I had done many Sunday nights previous, with a heaviness on my chest and a dread for Monday morning. Not only was I physically tired but mentally tired, too; as hard as I had tried, my attempts at observing a Sabbath never produced the rest of which I hoped.

Monday morning, I remember sitting up in bed and praying as I do most mornings. I don’t remember the words, but I think the prayer was simple. In fact, I think I said something to the effect of “God, I want to have a good day.” I can’t remember if I had thought these words Sunday night or if they were part of my Monday prayer, but I remember the cry of my heart to God was that I wanted my children to have good memories of their mother. I wanted my husband to like me and not grow to hate me over time.

As much as it pains me to admit, I had grown to thinking that my children would be better off if I went to work full-time, my husband if he married someone else. I didn’t feel happy, and while I put little stock in the fleeting feeling of happiness, I didn’t have contentment, either. My entire life I had been called a calm and patient person, but I had discovered my temper and the ease that frustration came to me after the birth of my third child.

The last two years were rough. I think most moms would find having three kids in three years challenging. Then add a husband whose work is far away and his hours away from home long, and the situation is tougher. And I resented the hours that I was home by myself. Even though I knew in my heart my husband was good and was providing the best way he knew how, I was tired. Waiting for him to come home until seven or later every night, eating dinner at nine after the kids were tucked away in bed, was taking it’s toll. And I didn’t think I could handle this routine that we had established any longer.

Last Monday morning I prayed, but I think even before I thought the prayer I felt different. As I already wrote, I had a calm. During a week which should have sucked, I felt a peace. I didn’t feel the weight on my chest, and I felt like I could love, be a good mom for my children, a supportive wife for my husband.

That day I wrote my blog post not looking for help because I honestly felt fine. However, that night a friend sent me a message that she was coming over to help make the light sabers for my son’s Star Wars party. The next day another friend called and said, “Oh, honey! I just read your blog–what can I do to help?” She went to the store for me since my kids were sick, and later that week, she brought her kids over to play with mine and watched them all while I cut out belts for the Jedi robes. A friend from small group brought my family a meal on Thursday, the day of Matt’s procedure and Caleb’s first baseball game, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner. Another friend sent me messages of love and support on Facebook.

And I knew God was whispering, See? I will take care of you. When you focus your eyes on what’s important and not on all the other stuff that is a distraction, I will give you the help you need.

To some, the help of my friends would seem a coincidence or just what friends would do regardless. But I know better. I know how I felt Sunday, and I know how I felt all the Sundays before. And more importantly, I know how I felt Monday. God was confirming that He was in this change.

I didn’t do anything different. But there was peace. God lifted the darkness and depression that was crushing me, and as I shared last night with my small group, the same group whose prayers I coveted the week before, I broke down in tears. God had answered their prayers.

I don’t know why God answered our prayers on Monday. I had prayed many, many times before. In fact, during this past year as I have increased my writing and been more consistent with prayer and reading my Bible, I have felt closer to Him than ever before. But I struggled daily.

I wish I knew the formula, but I think God just wants me to have faith. He wants me to acknowledge that He is the source of all good and all miracles, and I don’t need to know the hows or the whys.

He is the One who parted the Red Sea, and He is the one who brought me peace. And that is enough for me to know.

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, New International Version, 2010).

I’m linking up with Michelle today, and I know I’ve kind of cheated because I’m not sharing what I learned in a sermon or book that I’m reading, but I think learning something straight from the Source counts, too! 🙂

I’d love for you to join me on Friday, as well, and share what God has taught you. This week’s journey is on ‘gentleness.’

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010).

Finally, I want to thank everyone for all of your thoughtful comments on my blog. I am severely behind in my replies! I love replying and/or visting your blogs, too, and I promise I will get there; it just might take me a little while.

To Speak Blessings

Many times, I’ll hear a sermon at church on Sunday, and by Friday I have forgotten the topic.  Other times, however, the message won’t leave me, and weeks later I am still pondering its significance in my life.

A few weeks ago, my pastor preached on the events in Genesis 27.  Jacob deceives his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was actually reserved for his brother Esau, the firstborn.  When Isaac discovers his mistake, he trembles, and Esau cries out like a three-year-old having a temper tantrum, “Bless me—me too, my father!” (Genesis 27:34).

I’ve always found this passage peculiar.  Isaac doesn’t actually give anything that exchanges hands with Jacob, and God, knowing everything, knows that Isaac had never intended, in fact, to bless Jacob.  Why couldn’t Isaac simply fess up, “My bad, Esau.  I thought Jacob was you.  Here you go,” and bless him instead?

My pastor provided the answer that has wrestled with me for weeks: The ancient people believed that what they said mattered.  When a person asked for God’s blessing, he couldn’t simply undo those words; the words carried meaning and power and were not spoken lightly.  And this truth is no different for our generation, either.

Two thoughts continue to race in my mind.  First, I’ve continued to think about my pastor’s sermon, the power of a blessing.  As a Christian, I believe in God’s supernatural ability to take my words, the blessings I would speak on my children, and make them true.  I believe in the power of touch, the power of taking my children by the hand as I speak words of confidence in what they will do and God’s presence in their life.  And I believe when they hear these words, something will change inside of them, as well.

Second, I began to think about another lesson that wasn’t in my pastor’s sermon.  If my words really matter, if I can speak blessings on my children that God brings to fruition, wouldn’t the opposite hold true?  All those careless words, the negative thoughts that enter my mind and leave my mouth, do they hold power as well?

Since becoming a parent, I’ve tried to give extra hugs and kisses to my children, knowing that showing physical affection isn’t the first way that I show my love.  I tend to be better at praising my children for their kind hearts, for their good character, for a task successfully completed.

However, after this sermon, I began to listen to my other words. What words am I using when I discipline?  In an attempt to correct my children, am I actually heaping curses on their shoulders? Are my children inwardly crying out, “Bless me–me too, Mommy!” when my words sear their soft skin?  Not only do my praises matter, but so do my criticisms.

I want my children to remember a mother who blessed them with her actions and her words. I want my children to remember my words for their ability to inspire creativity, to bring  joy, to cause laughter.  And I want to remember how much my children matter to me so I will choose wisely those words I want to matter to them.

The Cost of $20

When I got strep throat, I began to fear my $25 copay multiplying if the kids got sick, too.  And that was the extent of my worry.  Last Friday I wanted to post another “Focus on it Friday” saying how thankful I was for the quality healthcare that my family can receive, but really my thanks goes beyond that.

When someone in my family gets sick, my mind rarely goes past getting a doctor’s appointment and the necessary medicine, but for moms around the world, sickness carries more terrifying consequences.  According to a UNICEF press release, 24,000 children under the age of five die every single day from mostly preventable causes. I can’t even wrap my mind around that number.

Frankly, the number is too big, and sometimes big numbers have little effect on me.  Then I read a post the other day  by Billy Coffey with a smaller number: 20.  For $20, I could give one person clean water for 20 years through the organization charitywater.org.  Until recently, I had not really understood that there were people who lived in areas where clean water simply was not available and, as a result, were dying.  My church began a project to build wells in Mozambique, and for the first time, my mind allowed this need around the world to enter in.  But when I read this post, again, I was floored.

I don’t throw money around.  I take my family’s budget seriously, and I rarely buy anything on a whim.  Matt and I are trying to act responsibly, so $20 is not an amount of money that I would take for granted.  Yet, even on a tight budget, I know that $20 is not a lot of money, especially when someone’s life is at stake.

I wrote in a previous post that my mind was in overdrive, that I felt God really working on my heart, and truthfully, I feel a little confused right now.  So many ideas are rolling around in my head, and I don’t know where to start, and on some things, I don’t even know what to think.  But I do know that God has taken my heart and is showing me the tragedies that break His.

This week a group of bloggers traveled to Guatemala with one of my favorite organizations, Compassion International.  They will visit the child development programs set up by Compassion and share about the children whom they meet, children who live in poverty that we cannot imagine.  Yet through the good works of Compassion and sponsorship, these children will receive medical care, basic needs, an education–things I take for granted.   One of these precious children can be sponsored for $38 a month.

Compassion Bloggers: Guatemala 2010

I went to Target today, and I spent a little over $20 on socks for the kids and a file box in an attempt at organizing the influx of artwork that comes in now that preschool has started.  My kids genuinely needed new socks as their little feet have grown bigger, yet as I handed over the $20, I thought about a child without water, a much greater need.  And as I took a shower tonight and felt the warm water roll off my body, I watched as the drops I wasted ran down the drain.  As much as I want to, I can’t fathom a need this great.

My goal is not to cause myself massive guilt every time I make a purchase; however, I think feeling a little uncomfortable now and then is probably a good thing.  It’s a good thing to evaluate how I’m spending my 20’s–how many children could I sponsor or individuals could I give clean water for the cost of the cable TV, iphone, or restaurant meals I purchase?  After all, when I die I can’t take any of my earthly treasures with me to heaven for eternity, so shouldn’t I want to relieve a child who is living a hell on earth now?

While I don’t believe that God has called Christians to live a life of poverty for the sake of others, I know He would have us think about the money that we have and how we are using it.  If you are like me, you might feel overwhelmed with the different problems in this world and not know where to begin.  Perhaps, you are already giving to an organization that you love.  Maybe you’d love to give but can only give to one cause at a time and need to wait until next month.  I’m not asking you to give.  I’m asking you to think.

I’m sharing my journey as I think about these issues and opportunities, deciding where to act in the hopes that some of you will take this journey with me.  We can’t all give to everything, but some of us can give to some things.  Perhaps some of us can find $20 to provide clean water for one person.  Maybe others will want to sponsor and build a relationship with a child living in poverty.  We all have different journeys, and we can’t change the whole world alone.  But we can all think.  And maybe today some of us will decide to change the life of one.

Please visit my sidebar, and visit the different links for my favorite posts on the web.  Each of the links featured show a different way you can help change the life of an individual in need.

In All Things

I love it when a sermon confirms that I’m right.  A pastor spilling bits of God’s truth to the congregation, I scoop up those precious morsels that I’ve uttered before, admiring the way they shine under the stage lights.  There’s nothing better than to nod my head in agreement without feeling the twinge of conviction that can so often come in the lonely chairs of a church.

This past Sunday, pastor Jason Britt preached on God’s omnipresence, God’s ability to be everywhere at every moment.  He challenged that if we really believed in God’s omnipresence, our daily lives would look different.  We would speak to our loved ones differently, conduct business more honestly, allow our hearts to break for others’ suffering more openly.  I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I thought of different moments when God was watching me from within the same room.  God’s omnipresence meant conviction.

But then the pastor moved on to his next point, and I could breathe easier again.  As he spoke that God’s omnipresence can also bring comfort, he made a distinction that caused me to lean forward in my seat: God’s presence in every situation does not mean that everything always works out.  There is a difference between ‘everything is okay’ and ‘God is here.’  Yes! I scooped up the pastor’s last sentence. That was exactly the point I had tried to make  a couple of years ago!

Two years ago I was overcome with worry.  I was a stay-at-home mom facing the need to look for a job.  The job for which my husband transferred and moved our family didn’t turn out to be the best fit, and he began the search down a new career path.  To complicate matters, the house from which we moved had still not sold, and our renters vacated the premises.  We had two mortgages and no jobs.

I remember praying and the situation not changing.  I would convey my fears to others, but sometimes instead of feeling encouraged, I would feel frustrated.  These well-meaning individuals would tell me, “God will provide,” implying that God was holding next month’s mortgage payments in His hands, just waiting to hand them over.  One person asked, “Don’t you have faith?!”

I was angry.  Yes, I had faith!  But I also knew that God’s provision did not necessarily translate into money.  God could provide peace or His Word or meet our basic needs through our extended family, but there was no guarantee that He was going to provide jobs so that our homes didn’t end in foreclosure.

Look in the Bible–Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.  He ended up in prison for years!  Paul had stones hurled at him on more than one occasion, and he was left for dead many times.  I believed that God was there during all those moments, but those lives were definitely not okay.

This sermon was vindication for me and  all those feelings I held two years ago.  I had no guarantee that everything would be okay and knowing that fact did not make me a bad Christian.  Obviously, I was an insightful Christian since the pastor was speaking what I already knew.

And as I listened to the rest of the sermon, God tapped on my shoulder.

In all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.

I knew the verse.  I clung to Romans 8:28 many times during our mess, but it didn’t bring me comfort.  I was focused on the years Joseph spent in prison, not the glory to God he brought as a result.  I didn’t see that he saved Egypt from famine or was reunited with his family–only that he was 30 when it all happened after being sold into slavery as a boy. I was focused on the beatings Paul received, not the spread of the Gospel across the world.  I didn’t see that he sang praises to God while sitting imprisoned–only that he had shackles around his wrists and ankles.

Two years ago, I was hung up on the balance between God’s will and freewill.  I knew bad things happened to good people, and I couldn’t find comfort in God’s promises.  But sitting in that seat in church, holding that nugget of truth that I knew so well, I saw something different as I looked it over.  Everything isn’t always okay,  but God is always there.  And if God is always there, He is continually taking the broken pieces of our mess and, as the true master craftsman, making them part of something beautiful.

Two years ago, I was right.  Everything isn’t okay, and it isn’t necessarily helpful to tell someone that it will be. However, two years ago, I was also wrong.  I couldn’t find peace in the midst of turmoil knowing that God would use this heartache for His purpose.

As I sat in that church chair, I experienced God’s omnipresence as I felt His conviction and comfort simultaneously. And I was thankful for the hand of God who used a sermon to confirm how I had been wrong.

*Post edited at 9:36 am on 7/14.  Anyone who read the post prior to this time, please know that the pastor used the term omnipresence and not omnipotence.  The error was solely mine in editing and thus proof that I should not write early in the morning.