Stormy Faith

Here’s what I know:

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this move that is right now set to happen between Tuesday and Wednesday.

I don’t know where we are going to live because we haven’t found anyone who will rent to us due to our current circumstances.

I don’t know how there can be so many people praying for us and yet I know nothing about what happens next.

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Here’s what else I know:

I know God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts.

I know nothing is impossible for God.

I know God created the heavens and the earth and the oceans and he placed the stars in the sky.

I know God cares deeply for me and will never abandon or forsake me.

I know my faith does not depend on my feelings or my circumstances.

Even so.

Fear battles faith with every flaming arrow the enemy has in his quiver and doubt swirls like a storm only Jesus can quell as He did for His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

The storm is fierce and my faith is not only little, like the disciples, it is shaky at best.

Even so.

God is faithful even when He seems silent; and I will trust Him and I will wait on Him. I will say yes, even when He says wait a little longer. I will say yes, even if He says no.

Though every ounce of my limited, broken, bone-weary, and fear-filled humanity cries out, “No!” and, “I can’t!” and, “I won’t!” and, “Where are you?” and, “Why, God, why?!” I will trust Him. I will look back at the places from which I have come and recall the ways He has provided and that He has always met me where I am. I will remember His faithfulness.

I will say, “Yes.”

I will.

No matter what, I will say, “Yes.”

Faith on the Move

We’ve lived in this rental house for just about four years, and, the thing is, from about the first three months, I vehemently disliked it and began thinking about moving. It’s poorly insulated and an oil-fueled furnaced (which was expensive to fill and when it ran, because of the poor insulation, barely kept us warm enough without space heaters; the landlord has since had to replace the system), it had a leaky roof (that the landlord replaced), several windows whose cranks didn’t work, and a laundry list of other things, including an uneven gravel driveway upon which I broke my leg and no backyard in which our now 6.5 and 8.5 little girls could play.

imageThe location was not ideal for homeschooling because the co-ops were at least 45 minutes away and the autism-related therapists and other resources for our 8.5 daughter were a 45-50 minute drive each way. We felt isolated and my husband was driving an hour each way to work for the first two years we lived here.

We talked about moving. Often. Still we put it off. We made the best of things. Even so, it’s never been a good fit for us, for our family and what we desire, like community and fellowship and friendships. We knew this. In fact we were completely convicted of it, and, yet, we stayed put. Until now.

Sometimes, you know what you need to do, even what you should do; but you don’t do it. Maybe because of fear. Maybe because of lack of resources. Maybe because it’s too much work or too hard. Maybe, just maybe, because of shaky, wavering faith.

And, sometimes, in light of these things, if you are so wildly bold as to ask God to increase, strengthen or otherwise grow your faith, you may find yourself walking on water despite your every inclination to stay in the boat.

Because, sometimes, unlike Peter, who immediately stepped onto the waves at the invitation of Jesus, when Jesus bids us to join Him on the water, we choose to sit and stare out at Him. Maybe we’re hoping to work up the courage it requires. Maybe we’re waiting for the storm to subside. Maybe we’re hoping He’ll change His mind and not ask so much of us.

Yet all the while we know this is our moment. Even so, we sit idly in the boat.

And so sometimes, rather than waiting on you to climb out on your own, Jesus allows circumstances to swirl into chaos and life’s storms to grow fiercer until you’re tossed out of the boat and into the raging sea.

Faith Like Peter

Then, you have no choice but to make a choice: walk on the water like He’s been calling you to do, or sink under the weight of your fear and doubt and uncertainty.

For us, walking on water looks a whole lot like moving to Wilmington, North Carolina. The storming circumstances have demanded we walk on water or sink. Those circumstances include a job layoff for my husband and the unexpected sale of the rental house we’ve been in for four years. Moving is no longer something we can talk about or consider; it’s a reality.

Walk on water or sink.

We’re choosing to walk on water. We’re choosing to keep our eyes on Jesus in spite of the swells that surround us. We’re choosing to trust Him even when everything inside us screams with doubt, even panic. We’re choosing faith over fear.

WHAT FAITH LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

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We have stacks like this all around our dining room and in several other spots. We are living in chaos now even as we cling to the supernatural peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

WHAT FAITH SOUNDS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

I have two playlists that are in constant rotation right now. The first, Life is Hard, includes songs that remind me to hope in the face of struggle, with titles like, Breathe by Johnny Diaz and Worn by Tenth Avenue North and Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman and several selections by Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves and Sidewalk Prophets.

The second, Balm for My Soul, includes several hymns covered by some of my favorite artists, including Sara Groves, Mark Schultz, Casting Crowns, Chris Rice, and Bart Millard. These songs are rich in tradition and hope and faith and they keep my eyes, my mind, and my heart turned toward Jesus.

WHAT FAITH FEELS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

Faith in the midst of a storm tends to feel like a hundred things at once. The “right now” moves through myriad emotions, but even so, one thing remains true through this roiling rollercoaster: faith is not based on how I feel in any given moment. Faith is a choice, and it’s one we sometimes have to make from moment to moment. And I believe God appreciates and understands and even honors that.

Faith feels like truth. It feels like solace. It feels like an adventure. It feels like a whole lot more God and less me. Faith feels like walking on waves that swell, crest and trough. But mostly, faith feels like the hand of Jesus reaching down to pull me back out of the depths whenever I misstep.

Prayer For The Weary

(note: The Faith Like Peter image is a print of my words on a gorgeous photo taken by a fellow writer, David Bouchard, during one of his mission trips to Brazil. This print, and the one above, Faith for the Weary (my words also over one of David’s photos), are for sale for $15 and you can contact me about them on Facebook. More information to come in a separate post.)

The Force of Faith

One by one, our friends and colleagues were called into managers’ offices and let go. The rumors of layoffs were no longer rumors and tensions and second guessing were running rampant as folks gathered in small groups to discuss who would stay and who would go.

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You’re safe. They’re not going to let you go. They need you.

These words were echoed by several of my co-workers as we waited to meet with our boss. Although there were two other paralegals and two law school interns, I’d been with the company the longest and Mike depended on my litigation experience.

Even so, when I sat across the desk from Mike, he said the words nobody expected me to hear: Judy, I have to let you go.

I smiled. I mean, how could I not? I’d talked about leaving this job to pursue writing and I didn’t really love being a litigation paralegal. After all, I’d left my job at a New Haven law firm three years earlier in order to attend graduate school in Boston to get my MFA in creative writing. I’d taken the in-house paralegal job at this engineering firm because Mike was super flexible with my class schedule and pretty easy to work with as well.

But this wasn’t where I wanted to be, so, when Mike said those words, I smiled. When he offered to fight for me to keep my position with the company, I smiled even wider, and shook my head. I appreciated his willingness to do so (it meant a lot to me), but what I knew about what was happening was God was at work, not the company.

God was pushing me out of Egypt because He’d heard my grumbling and listened to my prayers and He knew I wasn’t going to go without a well-meaning shove. Faith works that way in my life sometimes. I like to think of it as the force of faith.

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The force of faith is when I pray and I know what I probably need to do. Actually, I know without the probably what I need to do, but I hesitate. I cling to what I know and I stick around my Egypt a little bit longer and, then, I wander in the desert and grumble about God’s plan and yearn to return to the now-glorified memory of my Egypt.

Like the Israelites, when Moses showed up and led them from Egypt with promises of a land flowing with milk and honey, I longed for freedom in the promised land as long as it came with the constraints and safety of my comfortable Egypt. But we all know that’s not how life with God works; that’s not what living by faith looks like.

Thus, the force of faith.

Because sometimes faith looks like a layoff in order to set your feet upon the path that will lead you toward better things. And when we take that step (even if we are sometimes forced into that step), faith can propel us in ways we cannot know when we are standing still.

Quite often I reflect on the moment I was laid off and the journey it started for me. It was a journey that involved learning to say, yes, to God when God said, no, and when He said, go. I find myself thinking about that moment even more these days because it reminds me that God truly keeps His promises and He is who He tells me He is. That time in my life drew me into a deeply personal place with God and I still marvel at how He worked in me and my life; it was a time of deep abiding and it was a wild adventure, too.

And that is something I need to hold fast to in the days to come because God is at work again with another well-meaning push, only this time it involves leaving the rental home we’ve been meaning to leave for over a year now. But, moving is overwhelming and expensive and brings a host of unknowns.

Except God knows. God knows we need to go. God knows where we should go. God knows how we’re going to get there.

And He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to say, yes, when He says, go. I’m fairly certain there will also be some noes along the way, too. But my experience reminds me to trust Him without hesitation.

So, it isn’t all that surprising that the couple who came and looked at the property on Thursday last week had a contract to purchase the place by Friday and that we have to move by the end of August.

It wasn’t surprising, but still it was overwhelming. At least at first it was. It was until I remembered that day in Mike’s office and how God began yet another good work in me then, like He is now. Because now, I see it as another adventure in faith with God. And, so, we go. We go in faith. We go with God. We go with prayer.

We go…

It’s Who You Know

IMG_6928My husband and I are facing some big changes which ultimately translates into big unknowns. Unknowns can inspire fear or they can inspire faith.

We’ve chosen faith. And prayer. Actually big, bold and specific prayers for things that seem impossible if we were to pursue them in our own strength and ability. But we are praying with awesome expectations because of what God can do in our lives.

In other words, we are taking God at His words in His Word:

  • (He is) able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20)
  • Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

This list could be much longer, but my point is, that not knowing what’s coming next can create a paralyzing fear or it can invite us to a deeper, fully-surrendered faith. Nothing we try will allow us to see the future but we can trust in the One who not only sees the future, but knows it intimately and wants our best in that future. He’s interested in our future.

And, so, our faith grows deeper. It is stretched and pulled so that it covers the fear that threatens to paralyze.

And, so, we walk in faith and not by sight because that is how we choose to live (2 Cor 5:7). Because it really is all about Who you know and Who knows you. And we know who holds tomorrow.

Here is a reminder in song of that Truth from Alison Krauss:

Not Afraid of Monday

I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:11

Fear Not

It’s Sunday night and a new week looms not too far off in the distance.

Are there things coming up this week about which you are uncertain?

Are there moments you’ll face maybe tomorrow or later in the week that you when you consider them cause you to worry?

Is there something on your calendar that makes you afraid?

Maybe you have a job interview or a client meeting.

Maybe you have a first date.

Maybe you are in your first week running your own business and it feels overwhelming.

Maybe you are contemplating counseling or a conversation that’s waited too long and that you need to have with your spouse.

Maybe there is doubt or worry or fear edging into your evening and trying to knock down your confidence or slow your progress or make you second guess what you’re planning to do tomorrow.

Whatever you may be facing this week, I hope you’ll take heart and heed these words today: I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

As you prepare for this new week, take your eyes off the fear and focus on the Spirit that God gave you that brings confidence, and self-discipline.

As you prepare for this new week, remember who you are in Jesus and walk boldly into the moments that await you.

And as you boldly and confidently face each challenge, feel free to proclaim, I trust in God, so take that, fear.