life of faith

taking baby steps & leaps & everything in between


God Blesses Our Obedience

I had a girls’ night in with a dear friend of mine this past Friday, and she told me all about the decision God was asking her to make in one of her most important relationships. Evidenced by the amount of tissues we went through, this was not an emotionally easy or pleasant decision. In fact, it was a pretty rough decision given that she was going to have to trust God – not to give her what she wanted, but to give her what He knows is best for her in the end. In fact, that is having to trust God’s character more than anything else – that He is good and that He has our best interests, and the world’s best interests for that matter, at heart.

It wasn’t easy to watch my friend go through all the hurt that goes along with obeying what God was calling her to do, and part of me wanted to “fix it” for her, which in my limited human view would have been NOT making the decision and keeping the potentially destructive yet quite comfortable patterns going.

However, both of us had full confidence when she left that night (despite strong, selfish emotions) that God is sovereign and that disobeying Him leads to deep heartache…

Saturday morning, my husband and I got up early to go to marriage counseling. (Yes, we go to marriage counseling. It is awesome. I fully recommend it.) Anyway, in retrospect of the last few weeks, I realized that I had obeyed the Lord and grown in faith. I know because I never would have done anything like this naturally. I took a difficult situation that I felt VERY strongly about, and I surrendered my feelings about it to God and to Dayne and waited. I gave Dayne weeks to ponder the decision we had to make together without inserting my two cents everyday. I prayed through it and prayed for Dayne’s wisdom in making the decision. I talked about the situation with others in an honest way without putting Dayne down for having a different viewpoint (showing respect for my husband). And when it came time to make the decision, I gave Dayne a few days’ notice that we were going to have to talk soon so he could wrap up his thoughts and bring it up when he felt comfortable. And it came out in marriage counseling that he really appreciated the way I handled the situation. We were able to make a decision together quickly after our counseling session and now we are on the same page as a team with a beautiful compromise that I couldn’t have envisioned for us…

Last night, I was feeling really discouraged and anxious around the time I was going to have to go to youth group (I’m volunteering as a leader with my church). I didn’t feel well yesterday, and a lot of thoughts were running through my head about my health situation, my job, my friends, etc. I talked with Dayne about how I was feeling and how I wasn’t sure if it was worth it for me to be at youth group anyway, since I haven’t gotten to know the girls very well yet and it didn’t feel like we were getting the chance to connect. Dayne reminded me that it’s only the third week (see how my emotions run away with me?) and that I have to keep trying. I almost turned around twice on my way there. In fact, I warned Dayne that I might be coming home. And I had to pull over at one point to gather my thoughts and calm down. BUT I felt an extra push to go the second time I tried to turn around, and I went. And wouldn’t you know – I got to have some good conversations for the first time with four girls last night, and I finally learned ALL of their names. I love ministry and encouraging younger girls in their lives and walks with Jesus, and I know God has gifted me for it. I just have to learn to step forward in faith (with a little push from my husband) when my selfish emotions tell me to walk away. I really felt like God clearly rewarded me for obeying Him last night…

I got to catch up with my good friend from Friday night on my drive home from youth group. She told me all about how well things went when she went forward with that difficult decision. Beyond her wildest expectations. And I can clearly see God working in her life and in that relationship, and it is thrilling…

Whatever God’s calling you to do in your life, keep walking with Him. He won’t leave you when things get tough.

I’ve almost finished the Old Testament in my Daily Walk Bible (I’m in the book of Zechariah). Even in some of the most trying of times for the Jewish people (God’s temple being destroyed and the exile in Babylon – the consequences for all of Israel’s idol worship and sins), God kept promising them that He would establish a remnant in Jerusalem, and He would be with them, and He was going to send the Messiah to take care of their sins once and for all. On the other side of Jesus’ sacrifice, I can see just how faithful God has always been to His people. All He desires is for us to fix our eyes on Him and to walk in obedience with Him.

“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. … Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 11:16, 18-19 (NIV)

“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge…” – Psalm 141:8 (NIV)

“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” – Isaiah 46:8-10 (NIV)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

“Becoming a Christian has been likened to taking a step into the unknown… and landing on a Rock.” – today’s Daily Walk Bible devotional

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DIY DAW (Doesn’t Always Work).

Dayne says he wants me to blog more. So this one’s for Dayne!

(For the record, I’d like to blog more, too.)

A couple of months ago, I was convicted through a number of channels (my Beth Moore Breaking Free study, our book study on The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel, and a particular sermon Phil gave at church) that I depend too much on myself and too little on God.  I always grabbed life by the horns, and I had established a foundational mindset that I was in charge, that I knew better than God, and that no one was going to take care of me or anything else, so I’d better get cracking.  This illness has shown up in many wonderful places, like the way that I have habitually ruined relationships, sabotaged my mental and physical health, over-scheduled myself to burn-outs, and hid (or, at worst, ran) from God.

Coming to this realization was a huge turning point for me, but recently I’ve discovered that, even with my shifted perspective & general surrender to God, I still have some major death-grips on key aspects of my life.  I can recognize them by the knowledge that I would be majorly ticked if God messed with any of these areas (listed in order of tightness of grip):

1) my relationship & its future.  To be honest, I would hate more than anything to see another relationship fail.  I want nothing in this world more than to never lose Dayne.  For all the challenges that a committed relationship brings, I have learned and grown SO much and been encouraged more than I could ever imagine.  He is an incredible human being and an even more incredible boyfriend.

2) my employment & pay level.  I’ve worked hard over the past two years in my nanny job, and I finally reached a level of pay that I am more or less satisfied with.  I don’t want to be let go from this job unexpectedly, and I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m making less (or no) money.

3) my home life.  I like being settled in a nice apartment with the comfort of some personal space, a nice kitchen, a warm bed, etc.  I don’t want any unexpected moves or big changes.

4) my friendships.  I (unfortunately) work very hard at maintaining these and I think sometimes they are a source of pride, like “I have such incredible friends!”  I really do have incredible friends, but I have to remember that I’m not the One who put them in my life, and it is only by God’s grace that I can do anything (including spending time with and growing my relationships with these incredible friends).

Although I’d love to be in a place where I can just let these things go and say, “Sure, God, whatever You want!”, I just am not there.  I’m disappointed.  I wanted to hand over the keys to my life to God and be done with it — growing in my new freedom to relax and enjoy closeness with Dad.  To follow His direction and His leading only.

Turns out it is not quite that easy!  I’ve been reading Walking with God by John Eldredge with my book study, and in the past two weeks’ readings, John has repeatedly talked about asking God about even the smallest decisions BEFORE we make them.  And actually expecting Him to speak.  It’s not a novel concept, but he presents it in a way that seems novel and is totally practical.  So I’ve started to ask God about the little things.  Should I start going to counseling again?  Should I join the YMCA?  Should I go to the informational Kenya meeting?  There’s no way I’m ready to ask bigger questions, like, “Should I marry Dayne?” or “When should I find a new job?”, because I haven’t even practiced listening for God in smaller situations.

“This is step one in learning to listen to the voice of God: ask simple questions.  You cannot start with huge and desperate questions, such as, ‘Should I marry Ted?’ or ‘Do you want me to sell the family business tomorrow?’ or ‘Do I have lung cancer?’ (Paranoia rarely enables me to hear God’s voice.)  That’s like learning to play the piano by starting with Mozart, learning to ski by doing double black diamonds.  There is way too much emotion involved, too much swirling around in our heads.  I find that to hear the voice of God, we must be in a posture of quiet surrender.  Starting with the small questions helps us learn to do that.” – John Eldredge, Walking with God, p. 30

So surrender starts small.  And builds up.  And eventually I won’t feel any more need to DIY.  Because I’ll know that the One in Charge has my back, and He will show me consistently that He has what’s best for me.  My intimacy with Him will grow, and my fingers will gradually loosen from those bigger areas of my life.

“…The sheep listen to [the shepherd’s] voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice…  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:3-4, 10-11