There’s Comfort in the Unknown

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day (Psalm 91:4-5)

Fear Not

(46/365 Days of Fear Not)

Without the challenges and trials of this life, I’m pretty sure that I would become far more self-reliant than I already tend to be. It’s in my nature and it’s the part of my nature that I have to die to every day.

I’m a yankee from New England. Add to that the fact that I have a strong streak of Irish stubbornness and with more than a trace of my parents’ blue-collar work ethic and I’m pretty much prone to be self-sufficient. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for God to be my refuge, my strength or my dream builder.

Obviously, God knows this about me.

And so I’m thankful that He keeps me in check. I’m thankful that He reminds me how much I need Him.

He can do this with the God-given dreams and purpose that He plants in my heart.

He can do this with the unknowns of my circumstances.

He can do this with the upheaval of my marriage from its rut of ordinary.

And, He can do this with the recent diagnosis that my seven-year-old daughter has Level One Autism Spectrum Disorder (pretty much a diagnosis of Aspergers before they reframed the system of diagnosing Autism).

The learning curve of how to equip and empower my sweet girl is steep. And because of that, it can feel overwhelming.

For example, tonight I sat down to create a schedule of our day for tomorrow that includes only two main focus points that she needs related to this ASD as well as the Sensory Processing issues that she faces each day. As I looked at the notes on the page I found myself thinking, I have no idea how this is supposed to work.

But that isn’t a new thought for me and, honestly, I like the comfort of it, the comfort of not know how things are going to come together.

Really, I like the comfort of knowing that I don’t have to know how everything is supposed to work or how it’s going to work — dream building, my marriage, parenting, ASD diagnosis. Because this, this is where God steps in. This unknown is where God does more than I can possible ask or imagine or predict.

He knit her together in my womb. He created her. He designed her. He knows her gifts and talents and how amazing she is and will be.

And He knows the challenges she will face.

Right now, I know so little of any of that.

But, I know Him. He is my refuge and my strength. He is my dream builder and my miracle doer.

I know that I live in a broken and hurting world and that I am blessed with a purpose and a dream that can bring hope and healing to my small part of it. And I know that I am blessed to be the mama to two amazing little girls who will shine a light in this world in ways I have yet to even begin to realize.

But God knows.

He’s calling them just like He’s calling me.

I have the privilege of guiding them in discovering their gifts and their purpose.

And the most amazing part is that as I fulfill that part of my life and my calling as their mama and their dream shaper, I discover and uncover more of who God is calling me to be in this world.

Mostly, that involves being dependent on Him. Completely dependent on Him. Not self-reliant. Not self-sufficient.

Dependent. Because it is there, in my dependence on Him, that I am not afraid.

I sense His hand.

I trust His voice.

I lean on His understanding.

And I rejoice in the challenges and trials set before me because they draw me closer to Him.

Because His grace is sufficient for me, I will not be afraid.

Rather, I will strive to remain dependent.

Silence the Storm of Ordinary

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)

Fear Not

(45/365 Days of Fear Not)

There is a life to which I am drawn. One that I sense somewhere deep within me, within my soul. Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, when the house is silent and all is at rest, my spouse, my children, my worries, I see myself clearly.

I see the me that I am. The me that God designed me to be and to whom He is calling in the wee hours and the quiet.

Do you ever sense your true life?

That life for which your were knit together in your mother’s womb.

That life for which God planned many good works for you to do even before the beginning of you and your time here.

Sometimes I sense Jesus standing before me in my desperation and desire. This desire to be something more than ordinary. This desire to do something more than survive the days I’ve been given.

The storms of life threaten to overwhelm and I panic. I see Jesus sleeping calmly as this vessel in which I travel these oceans is pitched and swamped with the waves beyond my control and I shake Him awake. Don’t you care that I am about to drown in ordinary?

His response is as matter-of-fact for me as it was for His disciples that night on the Sea of Galilee: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

I rationalize and hedge. I tell Him that it’s not that I don’t have any faith, but that the world, my circumstances, they cause me to falter, to doubt, to second guess. And to fear.

But even as He questions me, He stills the storm. Quiet and calm envelop me and it is there that I hear the whisper of my true self beckoning me to the life I’m meant to live.

The life of risk and of boldness and of absolute, radical faith. A life lived with seemingly reckless abandon with and for the One who gave me life.

The life of extraordinary.

It’s there.

Do you sense it?

There, in the midst of the chaos and the chores and the children and the noise and the fear.

There, in the midst of the storm there is Jesus. And with Him, there is peace.

But it requires faith.

Will you choose it?

That’s the question we all get to answer. Will we choose faith? Will we choose extraordinary?

It likely will be scary. It likely will be messy. It likely will be stormy.

But it will be worth every moment if it means discovering that wisp of vision that calls you forward.

Leave fear behind and discover the life for which God created you.

Faith Doesn’t Make Sense

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:49-50)

Fear Not

(44/365 days of Fear Not)

It’s one thing to say that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s timing is perfect, but it’s another thing altogether to believe those ideas.

To trust them.

To hold on to them when life throws its worst at you.

But sometimes that’s exactly what faiths asks us to do.

And it’s what Jesus asks of us if we are going to follow Him and trust Him instead of the world.

Faith and fear cannot exist simultaneously in our conscious mind. We will either be afraid or we will trust God and take Him at His word. And, always, despite what reality tells us or what circumstances indicate or what others seem to know, faith is the better option.

Trusting Jesus is always the best option.

That’s what Jairus did, isn’t it?

Even though someone came from his house with the news that his daughter had died.

Even though someone had more information than Jairus did.

Even though someone told him to give up, that it was too late.

Jairus trusted.

Jairus believed.

And Jesus responded. He responded in the face of laughter and unbelief from those who thought they knew the truth. Those who thought they knew more than He did.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve responded that way. Responded toward Jesus as if He weren’t God and as if He didn’t know the future, my future.

I’ve questioned. I’ve doubted. I’ve been afraid.

But Jesus responded and He has always been faithful.

And His ways are not what I would do. Isn’t that good news?

And His timing is perfect. Though I usually don’t see that until much farther down the path.

Jairus believed.

He trusted even though everything said it didn’t make sense.

And, then, Jairus stood beside Jesus as He took the girl’s hand and told her to get up from the bed. Jairus received his daughter back. He received a miracle.

We don’t all get the kind of miracle that Jairus got, but God still offers us His faithfulness and His presence. He still invites us to trust Him and to stand beside Him as He works all the things in our life together for good because we love Him and we are called according to His purposes.

God sees you in your struggle. He sees the world telling you its version of reality and truth. He knows your doubt and your fear.

And He’s inviting you to trust Him.

God Overshadows Life’s What Ifs

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:29-31)

Fear Not

(43/365 days of Fear Not)

Worry is something that can quickly develop into fear. We can translate the what ifs of our worry into paralyzing circumstances. Eventually fear grows where we planted seeds of worry.

But Jesus is as clear about worry as He is about fear: it’s unnecessary.

And it gets in the way of our relationship with Him.

But we can choose not to worry. We can choose not to be afraid. We can choose instead to seek Jesus.

So far through 2015, I have clung to my One Word: abide. And I have discovered that as I abide in Christ, as I seek God’s face and His kingdom, I live differently. I live without the same degree of worry and fear as I have in the past. No, it’s not that I don’t ever worry or fear, but I am learning to take those thoughts captive and I am choosing to focus on Jesus and not the storm. What follows is what has happened in my life as a result of abiding in Christ and seeking Him over my worry and accompanying what ifs.

It is a reflection of the story of The Widow’s Olive Oil:

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” (2 Kings 4:1-7)

And today, I am praising and thanking God for a miracle in our life that mirrors the widow’s. For us, this miracle has been part of an on-going provision from God during what can only be deemed extremely lean times for us.

We have scraped the bottom of the financial barrel more than once in the past six months and worry and fear have teamed up and knocked loudly on the door to my heart. But as we approached the end of 2014 and I began considering One Word on which to focus, God drew me to Himself, inviting me to abide in Him.

And so I began the year focused on abiding in Christ.

I also began working through a series of posts tracing God’s words to Fear Not.

As I have focused on these things, focused on Jesus and not on the storms of our circumstances, I have experienced God’s presence and provision in ways previously unknown to me. It’s not that God was not faithful before, but that I was not tuned into what He was doing.

But, as we have had to lean on Him and trust Him more, as we have had to rely on Him to provide, I’ve become acutely aware of His movements in my life. Of His whispers in my heart.

None of these has been more obvious to me than the extremely low heating oil level that has lasted us far longer than it should have.

We have not had the four hundred dollars needed to add the 100 gallons we usually eek by with. In fact, we have not added oil to the tank since we added 100 gallons on March 17, 2014. Typically, we had at least another 100 gallons in the fall.

Every time the heat has come on, I have been reminded of the Widow’s Olive Oil and how she filled jar after jar after jar from a single small jar that she had. It was all she had and when she obediently took what she had and sought Elisha, the man of God, what little she had became an overflowing abundance.

We have since received our tax refunds and my husband received one of his twice monthly paychecks on Friday and we have been playing catch up on bills.

And this morning, the heating oil tank finally ran dry. I woke up to a chilly house and called Burrells. They have delivered our 100 gallons and the heat is running and we are cozy.

And I am not overlooking that God has been our provision and continues to be.

He continues to provide in ways that I am realizing I never noticed before.

Courage: an Unlikely Result of Humility

because I will remove from you
    your arrogant boasters.
Never again will you be haughty
    on my holy hill.
But I will leave within you
    the meek and humble.
The remnant of Israel
    will trust in the name of the Lord.
They will do no wrong;
    they will tell no lies.
A deceitful tongue
    will not be found in their mouths.
They will eat and lie down
    and no one will make them afraid.” (Zephaniah 3:11-13)

Fear Not

(42/365 days of Fear Not)

What an interesting juxtaposition: being meek and humble and not being afraid.

By the world’s standards this doesn’t seem possible, does it?

It’s usually the other way around. The strong, the boastful, the self-centrics tend to be the ones we think of as courageous, unafraid, unbothered by life.

But, God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not like ours. So, it makes sense that in God’s view, there is no room for the boastful, the arrogant, the haughty, the self-centrics. God’s world view is focused on the meek and the humble. On those who will trust Him, not themselves. On those who recognize and acknowledge their weakness and their need of Him.

When we are able to do that, when we are able to acknowledge our need of God, we will eat and lie down and no one will make us afraid.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a promise I need to hear.

Because I was raised a strong, independent New England Yankee girl who does things for herself. And for a long while, that worked pretty well and I was fairly successful. At least according to the standards that the world sets and by which it measures us and our abilities and our achievements.

But, this way of life is also exhausting.

Perhaps it’s because it is like a game of make believe that never ends. I have to carry my mask everywhere I go and it becomes too heavy to carry let alone hold to my face and hide behind.

But this life as a redeemed New England girl who depends on God and who abides with Christ?

It’s refreshing.

It’s life-giving.

It’s invigorating, even when it’s a difficult struggle according to what the world sees.

These first 40 days of 2015 have been amazing.

My husband and I have struggled well beyond what we have ever experienced in our 14 years together.

Our finances have scraped the bottom of the change barrel more often than I care to recount.

Our circumstances have challenged us beyond what we are able to handle or fix.

But God has been faithful and He has met our every need.

He has not done this at our demand or according to our expectations, but in His perfect timing.

He has met every need and His provision and His grace have sustained us.

And I have been learning, one day, one moment at a time, one abiding moment at a time, that when I trust God, I have nothing to fear.

It is not rational.

It makes no sense.

But it is absolutely true.

And each moment of provision and met need has shown me that I can indeed eat and lie down and nothing and no one, no one, will make me afraid.

And I’ll take that every single time over my own self-centric efforts that lead to nothing but exhaustion.