Today was a day that required several deep breaths, relaxing of my ever-tense shoulders and the need to watch the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake #Hashtag skit for comic relief. I was bombarded with problem after problem that got in the way of what I planned to accomplish with my day--just one of those frustrating days. (What is funny is my daily devotion started with..."I plan out each day and have it ready for you...I also provide the strength you need each step of the way." Oh how God does have a sense of humor!) Throughout the day, the words "elevated", "I'm going to lose it", and "I am having a moment" came out of my mouth more times than I would willingly like to admit. At the end of the day a co-worker jokingly asked if I was going to blog about the day. My initial response was "No, the day was frustrating but it was filled with insignificant, frustrating things and in the big picture, these things don''t matter." To which, the co-worker said, "Well, blog that." I disregarded the suggestion at first but then I got to thinking how much effort we exhaust on insignificant moments, worries, and things. "Little things" get in the way of the big, amazing things and cause us to totally lose perspective.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25,26
25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?
These problems are really small in the grand scheme of things and if we aren't careful we will allow the insignificant moments to blur the really important ones. Reflecting on the day caused me to think back to a few nights ago. I was rushing around town and stopped by my grandpa's to pick up something, I had no intention of staying...I had just finished up a run in the rain and was soaking wet. I got to his condo and he asked if I had dinner. Anyone that knows me, knows I don't really stop to eat so I basically told him I would grab something later. To which he asked me to look in the refrigerator; I opened the fridge and saw two little plates with fruits and vegetables cut up with little dipping sauces. He had also boiled an egg and split it for us. At that moment, I realized he had made us dinner...and not just any dinner, he had made something he knew I would actually love to eat for dinner. At that moment...the soaking wet, running clothes I was wearing, didn't matter. The homework assignment that was due that night, didn't matter. The fact I was exhausted from work that day, didn't matter. The only thing that mattered were the few extra moments in my day that I would sit and have dinner with him. We spent the entire time talking about my grandma...our usual topic of conversation. This moment was a BIG one and I almost let small, insignificant things (homework, wet clothes, etc.) cause me to miss it. As I drove home after our nice meal, I thought how much I would have given up to have the same dinner with my grandma and how I would one day miss these moments with my grandp when he is gone.
Let God take care of all the small, frustrating, insignificant moments of day so you can enjoy and cherish the BIG ones. The moments that matter.
Little plates, dipping sauces and BIG moments,
Today I woke up with a heavy heart for a friend...I just felt this overwhelming need to lift her up in prayer. She isn't a particularly close friend or someone I see very often. However, today she was heavy on my heart. So I prayed. Seems simple enough. But as the day progressed, my heart just felt heavier. I went back and forth on whether I should send her a text to let her know I was keeping her in prayer or not. I didn't want to be that weird friend that all of a sudden, out of the blue sends random texts for no reason about "God things". But as my heart got heavier, I broke down and just sent her a simple reminder that I was praying--just in case she needed it. Well, turns out her family really needed the prayer. In the past 48 hours they had lost an unexpected family member...in the midst of dealing with another difficult situation that has been going on for a few weeks. The moment I heard this, I knew my heavy heart was not in vain.
As the day continued on, I heard about two other families going through horrific events. A very young lady is burying her dad tomorrow...who died as she tried to fly home to be with him for his last breath. She didn't make it in time. And another child attending her mother's funeral as she battles from the same disease that took her mother's life. As I heard these stories today, I had to thank God for giving people heavy hearts to pray for random people and random things. There are so so so many people going through horrible, unbearable, tough circumstances...circumstances that make my 'bad days' seem like rainbows and butterflies. And these people need prayers to carry them through the unbearable moments. I've been on the receiving end of the heavy heart...when a random person you rarely hear from lets you know they've been thinking about you or praying for you and it just means so much. It is a simple reminder that God is there and He is working despite the horrible situation. I recently read a blog about God never giving you more than you can handle--the blogger didn't believe this to be true and after reading the blog, I had to agree. This blogger said something like: God always gives you more than you can handle because honestly, you can't handle this life on your own--But He never gives you more than He can handle. And this random blogger couldn't be more right. We can't handle this life; it's too painful, too horrific, and too sad. BUT He can handle it and He does handle it. Sometimes through BIG ways but I wonder if sometimes He handles it through heavy hearts and random prayers.
So if you wake up tomorrow with a heavy heart...pray. You may be getting someone through saying goodbye to a love one, fighting a horrific disease, surviving a horrible accident, a broken heart, etc. God might just be using you to help someone get through an unbearable circumstance. You might not even realize what you are praying for...but God does and that's all that matters.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words.
Heavy hearts, random prayers and simple reminders,
This evening I am feeling so incredibly blessed and all because of a dining room table. I found a dining room table and chairs I loved this weekend…but haven’t had a truck, trailer, etc. to actually go and pick up the set. Through an unfortunate turn of events involving a small flood in my kitchen last night (oh the joys of living in a house!), my mom stayed in town an extra day. While I worked today, I jokingly suggested my mom and grandpa go to the furniture store and get my table and chairs. Never did I actually think they would go and do it for me but sure enough I arrived home from work after an 11-hour shift to my mother and grandfather waiting for me to help them unload this table from his truck. I said to my grandfather, “I can’t believe you guys actually went and did this for me.” To which he responded, “What do you mean you can’t believe it…that’s what family is for!”
I haven’t really lived close to my family since I was 17. I went away to college an entire year early and after graduation never moved anywhere back near family. Several years ago my grandparents moved to the area and I’ve been blessed to spend time with them on a regular basis (and extremely blessed to have spent the last couple years of my beautiful grandma’s life visiting and loving on her!). I guess over the years I have forgotten what family is for…family is supposed to be there for you when you need them; when you can’t do something on your own or you simply don’t want to do something on your own. In less than 48 hours, my grandpa, mom and I accomplished more in my very empty house than I have accomplished since I moved in at the beginning of December.
My house is slowly starting to feel like a home. (And my awesome room-turned closet is finished and I LOVE it. Hands down, my favorite room- full of clothes, shoes, jewelry, make-up and more!) Anyway, there is just something great about having family around…and remembering what family is for. 1 Timothy 5 instructs us to take care of each other…especially families that are separate, missing or broken.
1 Timothy 5:8a
But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith.
And if your family is not the “what family is for” type of family—remember God might place substitute people in your life to be your family. I have a few substitute family members for times my family is not near…and these are the best substitutes a girl could ask for (God blessed me with a great substitute family for Christmas Eve two years in a row!). As family we are supposed to take care of one another, be there for one another, and support one another. So whoever or wherever your family might be…remember what family is for. My dining room table will forever serve as more than a table for me...it will be a reminder of so much more.
Table, chairs and a home,
I took part in a discussion last week that I can’t seem to get out of my head. The discussion was about emergency readiness. Being a Floridian, I immediately associate emergency readiness with hurricanes and other natural disasters. But after spending a week in a city rocked by not only the Boston Marathon bombing last year, but relatively close to the site of 9/11 and the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, emergency readiness has taken on an entirely different meaning for me.
No longer are schools, hospitals and federal establishments preparing for only natural disasters but now emergency readiness encompasses massive acts of violence. Did you know elementary schools are conducting ‘active shooter drills’ to teach children as young as 5 years old how to recognize the sound of gunfire? For example, children are taught if they are in the bathroom and hear this sound [insert sound of gunfire], they are to pull their legs up, be really quiet and stay still until a teacher comes to get them. School administrators are surveying classrooms for the least visible location in the room from the door to serve as a hiding spot in the event one is needed. Teachers have a stash of lollipops, called Lockdown Lollipops, to use in the event there is an active shooter and children are scared and unable to be quiet. Lockdown Lollipops...seriously? Active shooter drills? What happen to good ol' fire drills, ya know...stop, drop and roll? What kind of world are we living in? Reflecting on several discussions I had with friends still rocked by the marathon shooting...my heart wanted to cry out:
“O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city – the city that bears your name – lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help but because of your mercy. 19 O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.”
If the conversation wasn’t bad enough, the discussion shifted from school emergency readiness to the hospital setting. We discussed the high probability of an active shooter situation arising in a hospital setting and the particular vulnerability around a pediatric hospital. As we talked, I found myself thinking about my office and where might be the best hiding place, in the event I might need one.
This conversation has left a fair amount sorrow in my heart for the world we live in. Children should have to worry about not falling off the monkey bars, not how to hide from the lunatic on a massive shooting spree. As I think about all of the horrible things our world has experienced in my lifetime, I go back to a few verses that remind me one day there will be joy.
1 Corinthians 4: 15-18
All of these things are for your benefit. And as God's grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now, rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
The troubles in this world…the bombing, the terrorism, the lost lives, the pain, the suffering, the Lockdown Lollipops…will come to an end and there will be joy.
Monkey bars, lollipops, and joy,
Today I had a meeting with my mentor. Have you ever been faced with a situation that you knew was going to be an absolute disaster? I mean the type of disaster that is front-and-center, focused around you with potential to ruin your career or reputation. Well, my mentor began as an absolute disaster.
The disaster began when my co-speaker had to back out last minute from our joint lecture at a conference, leaving me to cover both parts of our lecture by myself. One part of our lecture, I knew quite well (obviously, my part) but the other topic (her part) I knew essentially NOTHING about. This wasn’t just any lecture. This was my first conference lecture…at a national conference…and I was on the conference planning committee so technically I was supposed to know what I was doing/saying/etc. And to make matters more embarrassing, I was speaking immediately prior to a well-known, well-published, expert nurse leader. She was a “big deal” if you know what I mean! I was completely in over my head and I was confident it was going to be a disaster.
One of my favorite passages to read in the Old Testament (and let’s be honest, the Old Testament…not my favorite. I find it challenging to read and apply.) is the first 9 verses in the book of Joshua. Quick background, Moses has died and Joshua is going to assume Moses's leadership position—so God offers a bit of encouragement. Because let’s face it, Moses is probably one of the more well known biblical figures…would you want to suddenly have to step into his shoes?
2”Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people… [the verses lay out a relatively detailed description of the forthcoming trek] 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. 6”Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and success in all you do. 9 This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I’m not sure how great I did with being strong and courageous but I do know the 'absolute disaster' ended up a success. Little did I know that I would bond with this “well-known, well-published, expert nurse leader” and be sitting in her office two years later discussing plans to collaborate on future projects! I also had no idea she would transform our two lectures into one awesome workshop. The moment can only be described as a blessing. And this absolute disaster evolved into a beautiful disaster and ultimately an amazing mentorship.
So as I sat in her office today and discussed ways to make a doctorate practicum work between Florida and Massachusetts over the course of a semester, I thought about how sometimes horrible disasters work for the good of the order. When faced with pending disasters, we need to remember to be strong and courageous and allow God to handle the disaster in His way. Because when we don’t know the way, He places people in our lives to carry us, lead us and mentor us in the right direction. It’s like a puzzle. It starts out as one big pile of puzzle pieces that look like a disaster and ends up a beautiful picture of success.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.
Strength, courage and absolute disasters,
Tonight, it’s snowing in Boston. I mean really, really snowing. Pouring down snow and this Florida girl is like a little kid seeing snow for the first time. I am probably the only girl in Boston that took a walk on Newbury Street tonight…just to walk in the snow. It’s so beautiful. And it makes me wonder if I could ever live in Boston.
Friday night someone bet that in 5 years I would be living in Boston. I spend quite a bit of time in Boston doing nursing research, due to an incredible opportunity I was offered 18 months ago. Every time I am up here, I wonder if I would ever be able to live here. I love this city…it’s amazing. But it is so different than any place I have ever lived and it is so very different than the life I live now. While I was walking in the snow having flight of ideas, I realized for the first time in my life, I really cannot imagine where I will be in five years. I spent the evening trying to get a glimpse of my future and I was simply unable to imagine it.
I really have no idea where I will be in five years and while this is incredibly scary, it is also thrilling. I do not have a plan anymore. For my ENTIRE life I have had a plan and suddenly I have surrendered my plan and am taking it one day at a time (although very few things I have "planned" have come to fruition...you'd think I would have learned by now). I love surprises and I am allowing everyday to be a surprise. I feel like I am finally living out Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all yours ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” This is a life verse for me…and it is also tattooed on my foot as a reminder to trust Him each day (thanks to my awesome tattoo artist sister!). I feel like I am slowly reaching the point where I trust Him. And I don't just trust Him for today; I am trusting Him for my future.
And the best part of this entire equation, is that although I have no idea where I will be, who I will be with, if I will be married, if I will be a mom, what I will be doing...I can be confident in one thing: things will be awesome, because nothing will top His plan for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Still I wonder, if I will know whether it is snowing in Boston in 5 years.
Snowflakes, knit caps, and surprises,
One of the biggest hassles for women in getting married and/or divorced is the name change process. It seems to take forever and the more ‘established’ you are in life, the more of a hassle this process is. Men, most of you will not have to endure this hassle – be thankful.
So I have been divorced for some time now but I have just finally, finished the name change process. For a young woman, this is similar to wearing a scarlet letter alerting the entire world of your personal business. This is particularly humiliating process because when your name changes in your late 20s/early 30s, everyone assumes you have just gotten married. Never mind the fact that you are NOT wearing a ring…I cannot tell you the number of times I have been congratulated on getting married. What newlywed bride doesn’t wear her ring? Seriously…can the world demonstrate a little situational awareness? Or at the very least, be slow to jump to a conclusion on a situation? I was at the social security office the other day (what a scary place!) and when I submitted my name change application, they lady asked me for my marriage certificate. I responded, “I would prefer to submit my divorce decree and return to my maiden name if that would be okay with you.” My response to these situations varies based on the state of my sense of humor for the day. Some days I respond patiently and some days I fail miserably. I consider the day at the social security office a “fail” in patience and understanding.
A good friend of mine has also went through this experience over the last couple years and we were discussing the endless times we were faced with these awkward moments. My friend made me laugh because sometimes she rolls with it and responds to the congratulations with “thank you”. I guess, in hindsight, my divorce was something to be thankful for…it’s definitely opened up a bright and exciting future I had previously lost. Anyway, the name change experience has highlighted for me the fact the world is quick to make assumptions and judge a situation. In general, we see what we want to see and maybe the world would be a better place if we took a breath and stopped assuming. Life is tough and there are so many people going through horrible circumstances. Maybe we would see less sorrow in the world if we supported one another a bit more and jumped to conclusions a bit less. Just being aware of the situation prior to opening our mouths might be a good first step. Don’t assume you understand before listening to the other person.
So the next time you are faced with an opportunity to jump to a conclusion…the homeless man on the street, the pregnant teenager, the married couple without children, the heavyset child, the young lady sitting alone in church, the cashier in a lousy mood or the young woman with the name change application…be slow to jump and quick to listen.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 He will delight in obeying the LORD. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.
Offer a smile and remember there may be more to the situation than you ever realize.
Situation, judgment and patience,
I feel like this blog might need a disclaimer because I am not an expert on being single, being married or being in a relationship. This is based on 30 years of observations and personal experience...nothing more, nothing less.
I am a pretty strong, self-sufficient woman. I do not like to ask for help from anyone, for anything. If I have ever called on you to help me or do a favor…I hope you realize two things: (1) I trust you more than you may realize and (2) It was REALLY hard for me to break down and ask for help. A perfect example is the fact that I climbed up on top of a ladder last night with a hammer, nails, extension cords, etc. to put up decorative lightening outside. This is the 3rd time I have gone through this process in the last month; clearly I am doing something wrong since these lights have fallen and/or busted each time I have hung them. As I was leaving for a night out, I commented, “If these lights are NOT hanging in the morning, I am going to lose it.” To which my friend replied, “If those lights aren’t hanging in the morning, we are going to get some testosterone up in here and get them to stay up.” I thought, excuse me…why? I will just climb up on the ladder again and rig a different method. That’s what Google is for…
In the past week I have had three separate conversations with women regarding being strong and independent and each of these ladies feels this hinders her from settling into a relationship. I would tend to agree that strong women seem to be a turn off to most men in general. I have a great job, am working on my doctorate degree, have my finances in order, have a plan for the future, etc. I really do not “need” anyone to ride in on a white horse and save me. I have actually had men tell me they were afraid to approach me because I carried myself with confidence. Well ladies, I am not sure about you, but I really do not want a man turned off by confidence or strength or independence.
While I can appreciate a man’s natural desire and tendency to want to take care of me, dependence and being cared for are two entirely different things. There is only one person I want to be dependent on and that is the LORD. I would, however, like to be cared for by whoever God elects to walk beside me in the journey of life. At that point in time, I will wholeheartedly embrace:
Ephesians 5:21-26, 33
21And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. 24As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything. 25And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her 26to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word….33So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
I will submit to my husband, because he will demonstrate the love of Christ toward me (at this point in my life, this is a deal breaker!). Marriage isn’t about a 50/50 compromise; marriage is about a 100% sacrifice by two people. You sacrifice yourself 100% for the other person and the other person sacrifices 100% for you. Submission isn’t about power or strength or dependence; submission is about love and respect. Submission isn’t about helplessness. It’s not about weakness. And in my eyes, it’s earned by the role of being my husband not by any man passing me on the street.
The thing I think us “independent women” often do not realize, and something I am also trying to learn, is that I think men like taking care of women. I think man was actually design by God that way. We sometimes need to let the “independent guard” down a bit and allow ourselves to be lovingly cared for. Not because we can’t take care of ourselves but because we love (or value) someone enough to let them take care of us. This is not easy for a strong, independent woman. Wait, maybe I am generalizing…this isn’t easy for me.
But despite not being easy, I think it’s something you learn to do when a man walks into your life that isn’t intimidated by your strength or independence. And until that day, I do not think we should have to settle for being damsels in distress for men not deserving of love and respect.
And just in case you are wondering…the lights are still hanging bright outside.
Strength, independence and submission,
Yesterday was amazing. I completed my first full marathon; more specifically I completed this crazy Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge where you run 48.6 miles over the course of 4 days – a 5K, 10K, Half-marathon, and a marathon. Finishing this race was a great feeling, but it is not what made the day amazing. Yesterday was a day of answered prayers; more specifically two answered prayers and this was what made it amazing.
The first was a prayer that the Lord would bring a circle of Christ-centered friends into my life that actually live in close proximity to me (I have friends that encourage me in my faith but they aren’t near, but very far away.) Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed with incredible friends—friends that I would not had survived the past year if it weren’t for each of them. But I also need friends that are strong in their faith to help encourage me in my own.
I prayed for Christ-centered friends rather than church-centered because I believe there to be a BIG difference. I aspire to live out Christ’s love and if you study Jesus he lived it both inside and outside the church. It’s about Christ’s love, not a love for church (okay, I will step down from my soapbox now!). I also asked that these friends be normal because there is sometimes an association with “church people” being a bit wacky and a little out there. I am sure everyone knows exactly what I am talking about. I’m not exactly into wacky but I am very much into demonstrating Christ’s love for others and living for His glory. So as I raced my heart out yesterday, I was surrounded by a handful of friends that represent my answered prayers. Over the last year, God has slowly infiltrated my life with strong, non-wacky, Christ-centered friends. To these friends: although you may not realize it, God is using you to constantly encourage me in my faith and you are each an inspiration in different ways. For today and every other day, thank you.
The second prayer has taken quite a bit more patience, understanding and perseverance. The Lord teaches us A LOT about prayer and one of the more simple but challenging elements of prayers is:
1 Thessalonians 5:17
“Keep on praying.”
This is easy when you get an answer, relatively quick to when you pray. For example, “Lord, please help me finish this marathon without dropping dead”. You pray for 26.2 miles and then you finish, still alive (okay…barely still alive!). I can handle that form of “keep on praying”. It becomes more challenging when you pray and pray and pray and pray…and there is no answer. Then 1 Thessalonians 5:17 transforms into this huge mountain that you just can’t climb.
In these times, we need to remember the concept of time: time is something man-made and God really doesn’t operate on our clock. Then we must look for more than “keep on praying” to encourage us.
18 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
For those unfamiliar or less familiar with Jesus, he often taught in parables. This story aims to remind us God hears our prayers but our prayers are answered on God’s time. And His time spans over eternity—in dimensions we will never understand. He always hears our prayers…and He always answers them, it just may not be on our timeline or the answer we are expecting. This concept is important to understanding the second part to “keep on praying”:
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
“17Keep on praying. 18No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.”
When we pray, we need to remember there is an answer. The answer might not make sense to us but it is God’s plan for us. So we should pray with confidence and thanksgiving. Pray as if He has already answered you…because He is going to give you an answer. And sometimes if we aren’t paying close enough attention, we miss the answer altogether—this was me yesterday.
Have you ever prayed for something so long, that God answers the prayer in front of your eyes and you don’t even realize it? You almost get stuck in the routine of praying for it, that you forget there’s going to be answer. For over a decade, I have been praying for my mom. I prayed God would take care of her and motivate her to take care of herself. There are many details entwined in this “taking care of herself”…but this is my blog, not hers, and I will not be blogging about personal details of the people in my life (in case any of my family/friends were starting to get scared)! The point is…I don’t think she was in a good place and I was praying, praying, praying. Well yesterday, my mom completed her first marathon (that’s 26.2 miles for the non-runners out there). Over the past year she got a personal trainer, ran 4 half-marathons, changed her diet, and dropped a ton of weight. She also found a church she absolutely loves that motivates her and surrounds her with people that love Christ. (It is actually an amazing church! Even if you aren’t a ‘church’ person, it’s worth checking out if you are ever in Coral Springs, FL. One Sunday the pastor literally had a lion on the stage to teach about Daniel. A real, live, growl-at-you with big teeth, lion. It’s a “have to see-it-to-believe it” type of church. Check it out: http://cbglades.com) Anyway, yesterday as I was running, I was thinking about how long I prayed for her to take care of herself. And slowly over the past year, God started to answer this prayer without me even recognizing it. Without me even thanking Him for it. So yesterday, in the midst of running 26.2 miles, I gave thanks for answered prayers. Remember to pray without ceasing but pray with thankfulness because He is going to answer the prayer. We just need to be watching for an answer…not necessarily for ‘our answer’ but His answer.
So when praying for an unanswered pray—healing a family member of disease, to get pregnant, a husband to know Christ, a child fighting for their life in an ICU, a parent to stop drinking, a friend battling from depression, or a mother’s state of health…keep on praying and remember to give thanks. God is listening…even if you have never prayed before or you haven’t prayed in a really, really long time. Pray with thankfulness and have confidence He is listening and will answer. Because no race, marathon, or Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge will ever top the feeling of answered prayers.
Running, praying and recovering,
A few weeks ago a friend sent me this bible verse:
3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
I’ve read this verse many times throughout my life but recently it has taken on a new meaning. It is no secret the last 18 months of my life have been tough; I’ve been through a divorce, moved twice-essentially starting from scratch, took on a new role at work, continued my intense graduate school program while simultaneously continuing a research fellowship in Boston, and lost my dear grandmother. As I think about Romans 5:3-5, I realize these sufferings are catalysts that produce perseverance, character and hope for my future.
Hope is not something I naturally embrace. I embrace planning. In fact, I am known for not only having a plan but also at least one back-up plan. I like things to be planned out in a fashion where I have control of the outcome. I tie my “hopes” into my planning. If I do not have direct control over the plan, I really don’t “hope” for it because the risk for potential disappointment.
Several weeks ago someone asked me what I planned to do after I finished school and in fact, I get asked this fairly often since I have been in a four-year doctorate program since 2011. My response is usually something to the tune of, “travel, take time for myself, relax, and advance my career”. This ‘plan’ works for me because it is in my control—I control if I travel, take time for myself, relax, and/or advance my career. And although all of these plans sound great, they really aren’t what I want to do after I graduate.
Although I will always be focused on my career because it is truly something I love, what I really want is to settle down and build a family of my own. I say ‘build’ because I’ve learned relationships, marriage and family are much like building. They take hard work, maintenance and then more maintenance. I want to serve a loving husband that adores me and more importantly, I want to be worthy of that adoration. I want to be an engaged, loving mom. I want the opportunity to demonstrate love toward my husband and children that is biblical-based.
So if these are the true desires of my heart, why are they never part of my response to the question, “What do you want to do after school?” Because these desires are 100% out of my control. These desires are dependent upon God’s plan. My path has to cross the right man to be my husband…that’s a God thing. I have to actually be able to have children (and so many of my friends have struggled with this)…that’s a God thing. My husband and I have to be committed to all the maintenance that comes along with building a family…that’s definitely a God thing. All of these ‘hopes’ are 100% in God’s control.
Regardless of the risk of disappointment, I have prayed for God to align my desires to His desires. In doing so, I have become much more comfortable being honest with God and myself (and now the world via blog…yikes!) about the hopes I have for my future. Hopes that are 100% left to God’s plan. I’m willing to sacrifice my plan (and my backup plan), share my hopes with Him and live out His plan. And although His plan doesn’t need a back-up plan, it does require faith.
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.
And Hebrews 6:19 reminds us...
"This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God's inner sanctuary." (For the background to this confidence and hope, start at Hebrews 6, verse 13)
Oh me of little faith. I have persevered through struggles, pain, loss, etc. and as I reflect back on the last 18 months, I see God working on my perseverance to make me a stronger person, conditioning my character to hopefully one day, allow me to be a wife to the man He has planned for me and instilling comfort to actually hope for the desires of my heart.
So the next time I am asked, “what do you want to do after school?” I will respond with my hopes in Him, the desires of my heart, instead of my seemingly 'safe' plan that I fool myself into thinking I actually exhibit control over!
Perseverance, character and hope,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.