My sweet friend, Jeanne, came across an article I had written over the holidays for the Local Church Connection in middle Georgia today and reminded me of it…I went back and re-read it myself and, wow, I needed the reminder today.
Jeanne is a godly woman…a blessing to all who know and love her. God used her today to minister to me…with my very own words.
I find myself in the midst of a season of both great blessing and great challenge…He knows…
The beauty is God has so profoundly used this time to show me the woman that I want to be…and the woman I don’t want to be, the woman I can so easily be if I entertain my flesh and my selfishness, invite anger or bitterness or unforgiveness into my heart. He has shown me the struggle and shown me the dangers and pitfalls, and He has enticed me with dreams beyond anything I dare to hope for or imagine…because I know me…
I need Him.
Here’s the thing: I want to be so much more than I can be. At the end of my life, I want to look back and know that I have loved my people well…no, not just my people, ALL people. I want to inspire and encourage. I want to speak the Truth of Christ and His Word, not with judgement or ugliness or defensiveness as I am so often prone to do, but speak it with graciousness and kindness and love. I want to let people know I was once someone I did not like very much…but Jesus changed all that. He made me better than I am, and I want my life to inspire them to Seek Him. And here lately with all the anger and discord in our world, I want to treat all people with honor, despite differences, and fight for common ground…while representing my Savior well. I want to have a peaceable spirit and a huge heart, I want to love well and forgive without question. I want to treat people better than my flesh tells me they deserve…I want to treat them better than they treat me…
I want His legacy. I want the riches I leave behind to be love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, self-control, goodness, and gentleness…
Y’all. I know who I am without Jesus. I’m so pathetic and selfish and NONE OF THE ABOVE things.
I can ONLY screw this up. It’s the truth.
I KNOW ME.
I NEED HIM.
He Knows…He knows my day to day, He knows the paths He has chosen for me and the world I live in, He knows the victories I will claim and the mistakes I will make, and what I will learn from every one.
He knows my heart, and what I treasure there.
Let it be Him. In every day and in every way, on the mountains and in the valleys and in every choice I make…let it be Him.
He knows me, and He knows and I know my only shot at being my very best me, finding the joy and contentment I so desire, being a blessing to ALL my people…is Him.
I. Cannot. Do. This.
I need Him.
Every day that I wake and every choice that I make…I NEED HIM.
I was shopping a few weeks ago with my best friend and my mother-in-law and, although I can’t remember the specific topic of the conversation, I can remember saying something along these lines: “Every single day is full of joy, and every single day has hardship. It’s what we choose to focus on that tells our story.”
Maybe that isn’t news to you, but in my heart and spirit, I took note. It has burned inside of me since it left my mouth, and these words I write are just as much for m as they are for you. Life is more than one event after the other. It’s just not that simple. At any moment in your day, you are dealing with countless experiences… home issues, work issues, spiritual issues, extended family issues, emotional issues, health issues…shall I go on? I could. I could go on and on and on.
Life is not one experience, nor is it simply one experience right after the other. Life is hundreds and thousands and millions of experiences that happen simultaneously day in and day out. Some of those experiences are completely wonderful, and some are completely tragic….but most fall somewhere in between. Some experiences are annoying and some are a blessing. Some are wearisome and some are rejuvenating. Some are edifying and some tear you apart. Some break your heart and some heal it. Some are mundane and some are life-altering. Some are worth mentioning and some aren’t. Some make you smile…and some make you cry.
But the experiences aren’t the real story, are they? It’s what you do with them that matters. Because the truth is that life moves forward whether you give it permission to or not….and experiences come and go. As they do, they have an affect us…and there, my friends, there is the rub.
There is the choice.
The older I get, the more inspired I am to be a certain kind of woman. I want to be intentionally joyful and encouraging. I want to exercise my talents and enjoy my people. I want to take care of myself and build a happy home. I want to not just live for what is right in front of me, but live for the someday.
It’s easier said than done.
Experiences distract and occupy, they control and dictate. Experiences crowd our days, and it becomes hard to tell the meaningful experiences from all of the experiences that might seem important right this minute…but don’t amount to anything in the long run. I can be inspired to be this certain kind of woman…but unless I learn how to take control over the experiences I am handed, there is no hope of being the woman that I dream to be.
What will we do with the experiences, friends?
I am more and more convinced that we are separated by this: those of us that choose to fight for the strength and fortitude to uncover ways to grow and cultivate thankfulness and joy day by day and experience by experience, and those of us who cannot seem to let go of the stresses and obligations and difficulties of the day…and the past experiences that have left us wounded and battered and bitter and scared.
It’s our choice.
Where does our mind rest? I‘m asking myself this as well as you. Does it rest in a state of gratitude, or does it rest in fear, or bitterness, or resentment? What dictates us? One of them has control over you every single day. Will it be gratitude, or will it be fear?
The truth is this: We, in our quest for ease and perfection in life, have a very difficult time embracing that the very experience that left you the most battered and the most broken may be the very experience that leads you to the greatest experience and blessing of your life.
Just ask Jesus.
Jesus was a real man, with a real life and real experiences. He had a choice, just like you and I do as to how He would handle them and He, thankfully, chose obedience to His Father. I’m so thankful He wasn’t too bitter or resentful over my sins to hang on a cross and save me. I’m so glad he didn’t let his fear of dying stop Him from His destiny…to save me, and give me eternal life with Him.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13
This is my heart song. This is the cry of my innermost parts. Beloved…embrace every single experience that life hands you. The blessings and the trials. There is a purpose and a plan beyond anything you could ever hope or imagine…
He has promised…His glory will be revealed.
Will we trust that, embrace that? Our decision to those questions will tell our life story. That is what will determine whether I am indeed a joyful and encouraging woman, or get to exercise my talents and enjoy my people the way God intended, or take care of myself and build a happy home…or not just live for what is right in front of me, but live for the someday.
I don’t want to just get the laundry done and the house clean and be on time to work. I don’t want to focus only on the experiences that demand my attention day in and day out.
I want to live for the dreams of my someday…
What will I do with my experiences?
I read a book a few years ago by Beth Moore and, in it, was an unforgettable quote by Beth’s daughter, Melissa Moore, that I think of so often…
“He knows it’s scary to be us.”
Those words struck me and they have stayed with me. He knows, friends. He knows our experiences can be tough. He knows that sometimes just opening the mailbox or picking up the phone is the scariest thing we will do all day. He knows that prayer lists are long and good news seems hard to come by. He knows that even in the time of greatest blessing at work, home may be in shambles. And He knows that even when all seems perfect, we sometimes lay in bed at night and worry over what will come next…
Jesus is the answer.
He will give us the peace, the wisdom, the faith, and the strength to find the joy and keep the faith and realize dreams we never knew we had until we looked to Him in our hardest moments. He will uncover our passions and talents in the midst of our trials and heartbreak and even fear if we look to Him. Just ask. He will reveal Himself in unimaginable ways on days you can’t seem to find your way home. He will give you the sweetest dreams in the middle of your worst nightmares. He will carry you and lift you high when the world has forgotten you and left you lonely and afraid.
Look to Him.
Even if you can’t seem to find Him, even if you can’t feel Him…He is with you.
So keep your chin up and find the silver linings in the dark clouds of your days. Cultivate an intentional lifestyle of thankfulness. Pray redemption over your heartaches, and forgiveness and blessing over those who have wronged you. Be kind and gracious and love those around you, the ones God has given you, love them well. Work…work…to find gratefulness for today and all you’ve been given, and don’t worry over what is next, but keep your focus on Who holds the future…you don’t know what is next, but rest assured…