Waiting on God – How to See the Joy

1 Samuel 1-2 tells a powerful story. I encourage you to read it for yourself if you have not, but here is a brief synopsis. This account tells about Hannah; she was unable to have children for years, which was a source of great pain for her. However, rather than wallowing in self-pity and becoming bitter and resentful, she chose to commit herself to prayer. She poured her heart out to God. Scripture says “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.” Hannah promised God that if she were given a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord. The prophet Eli joined Hannah’s intercession as well, and scripture says that IN DUE TIME, the Lord blessed her with a son whom she named Samuel. As soon as Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the Tabernacle and fully dedicated him to the Lord.

The words “in due time” jump off the page at me. Hannah did receive what she passionately prayed for, but it did not happen right away. What does “in due time” mean? One week? One month? One year? Seven years? Twenty years? We don’t know this information based on the text, but we do know there was some kind of waiting period. We all experience times of waiting in life; it is unavoidable, even in our instantaneous, microwave society.

But here is the question you should ask yourself: What do you do in the waiting? Will you allow God’s perfect plan enough time to unfold? Will you trust his process, standing on the promise that His ways are higher than your ways and that He loves you more than you can comprehend? Or will you lose hope and become bitter?

Friends, let me be transparent. I struggle greatly in the waiting; I might actually be driving the struggle bus in this area. I loathe traffic and long drive-thru lines, and PLEASE do not place me on hold when I call you! When my prayers take longer than I would like to be answered, I am easily discouraged and I am tempted to seek my own solutions to problems that are not mine to solve.

So if I struggle with this, why am I sharing with you all about the importance of trusting God in the waiting? Because Jesus loves me (and you!) too much to allow me to remain impatient, untrusting and immature. Lately, my life has been riddled with situations that require patience in the waiting. As a result, God has taught me how to place my trust in Him. God is using present struggles in my life to refine my faith and exponentially increase my joy that is in the Lord. And if I am sitting here, writing a blog about trusting the Lord’s plan, to include his timing, it really is true that nothing is impossible for God!

Look, God’s instructions for our role in the waiting are clear in scripture. Read these, and allow yourself to rest in God’s sovereignty:

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalm 37:7)

 Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

In the end, Hannah’s obedience in dedicating Samuel to the Lord was richly rewarded. The prophet Eli prayed the following prayer over Hannah: “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:20b). The Lord went above and beyond in honoring this prayer! Hannah gave birth to three more sons and two daughters. Hannah only asked for one son, but God blessed her with 6 children!

Today, I encourage you to place your trust in God’s plan AND His timing. Choose joy, even when things are uncertain and even when they seem hopeless. God will never leave you or forsake you, and he has good plans for your life – much better than any plans you could imagine on your own!

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do super-abundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20 AMP)

~Lacey

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What’s in God’s Fanny Pack?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   Colossians 3: 1-4

 One night, after I had gotten the kids down, and was collapsing into bed myself, I found just enough energy to do a little reading in my Bible.  I honestly don’t remember the passage that I most likely turned to randomly, but it was followed by a humorous fleeting thought.  I wonder what God and Jesus look like?  I mean, I don’t think that every musing about God and Jesus in heaven is accurate, but it brings me joy to think about what it will be like to meet them one day. I giggled so much writing this blog.  I hope you will “go there” with me and come up with your own images as well!

I know many have wondered this at some point in time, but I really allowed myself to ponder it.  I thought of how I have often heard and read we are made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 9:6; James 3:9), but what do they REALLY look like?  Instantly I pictured long flowing blaringly white robes that shine so brightly that one would have to shield their eyes even to get a glimpse.  Then I wondered, “what if Jesus and God have updated their wardrobe?” you know to stay current with the times.  I pictured Jesus in more modern clothes consisting of a pair of khaki cargo shorts, Chaco sandals, and a blazing white t-shirt.

Now, the image I pictured for God was more like my grandfather!…again, a blazingly white t-shirt, pleated jean shorts that meet the tucked in shirt about half way up the belly, solid black orthotic shoes with white mid-calf height tube socks…and the best part…a Fanny Pack!!

Y’all, I started rolling with laughter, out loud, at this visual!  I can honestly say that in that moment, it felt like God was right there in the room laughing with me.  It was a beautiful, joyful moment that I so desperately needed in the midst of my struggles with anxiety in recent months.  Finally, laughter!  Finally pure joy!  It was my God hug! But I digress….

This little fleeting thought has encouraged a lot of additional pondering since then though…what would God have in His Fanny Pack?

I’m sure that those things one would normally think of are in there, like love, peace, hope, faith, forgiveness, etc.  All the spiritual emotions one could need.  But what else could be in that handy dandy fanny pack?

I know without any doubt in my personal heart that God’s fanny pack is chocked full of signs he uses to communicate with us…be it a butterfly that passes by at the perfect moment to let you know things are going to be okay, or a sailboat that was asked for as reassurance that current suffering will not last forever, or a sweet whisper from a child’s lips that “I’ll never leave you,” in a very dark moment that was immediately followed by “Now let’s go play.” Maybe it’s even a Dodge Charger to encourage you to move forward with buying a house (you know who you are and I love you dearly for introducing me to asking for signs, because I have seen it at work in my life too!).  Maybe it’s the most beautiful sunset imaginable that just refreshes your soul to the core, as something that beautiful could ONLY come from God!  I truly believe God communicates with us through signs when we ask through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

*Note: I am NOT saying that if you ask God for a million dollars to show you that He loves you and when it doesn’t happen, then correspondingly He doesn’t love you.  What I AM saying, is rely on the Holy Spirit to show you what to ask for and then when you receive it, you will know it’s God’s way of answering.  Remember though, He’s going to show it His perfect timing and in His perfect way.  It likely won’t be how our earthly selves anticipate it.

Personally, I’m a “seeing is believing” kind of girl, so visual signs are how God typically communicates with me.  But, I believe there are other forms that He uses as well (i.e. auditory, spiritual movement)…such as the most appropriate song on the radio at just the moment you need it, or an encourage word from someone, or that faint tugging within that can only be God reaching out.

I think God’s Fanny Pack probably also includes the objects or blessings that we overlook the most!  They may be everyday ordinary objects, like a cell phone to call someone when your car breaks down. Or even a car to get from point A to point B.  For David, his everyday object was a sling shot and some rocks that took down Goliath.  For Moses it was a staff to part the Red Sea that lead to the Israelites escaping Egyptian rule.  Simple loaves of bread and two little ol’ fish were ordained by God to feed the masses by Jesus’ hands.  For Jesus, it was a cross that lead to His death, but also lead to our forgiveness and salvation to eternal life.  All of these objects were anointed by God to be in the right place at the right time to serve His purpose.

I think His Fanny Pack would also include His Body, the Body of Christ.  God gives us our fellow believers, some of whom have gone through exactly what we are going through in that moment, and are able to help us through the trials of life.  For me it has been a loving and supportive husband who holds me and comforts me, and yes, in rare occasions, might cry with me through my darkest moments.  It’s a mother who reminds me that I can do this and that she is so proud of me. A work mate, who is willing to be that shoulder I cry on and say “What if this happens?” to which she tough-love responds “What if it doesn’t?” and thereby bringing me back to God’s reality.  It has been the most loving and beautiful neighbor who has seen me at my absolute worst and still loves me and is willing to help guide me through the forest when the trees get in the way.  It has been the friends I allow myself to be vulnerable to whom reach out and let me know they are thinking of me or praying for me.

Do not be discouraged if your sign or person doesn’t come when and how you expect…it doesn’t mean it’s not in God’s Fanny Pack, but rather that He closed His Fanny Pack so that He could use both hands to give you a hug!  He has promised to never forsake or leave you, so open your arms and grab hold of your hug (just watch out for the fanny pack)!

Love,

Olivia

 Question: If you could ask for something out of God’s fanny pack, what would it be?  For me it would be new eyes to see myself as God sees me…comment below what it would be for you!

When You Help Someone Else, But it Really Helps You

Isaiah 58:10-11 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.

A few weeks ago I was walking out of the grocery store in my little town.  I had my oldest son with me and I was in a rush.  It was right after work and I was so ready to get home. I saw an older woman in the parking lot approaching people as I was walking back out to my car.  I thought to myself, “Please do not approach me.  My son is begging to get home and I am ready to get home too!” I was running out of patience at that point. As soon as I started loading my groceries, I heard, “Mam?”  She had approached me.  She asked me if I knew of any local churches that might could help her.  She said she stopped by one and it was already closed.  It was after 5:00 and I knew that all the churches would already be closed.  My son was staring of course and grabbed my arm.  I realized I had two choices: 1) tell her she’s out of luck because it is after 5:00 they are closed, or 2) ask her what she needed.  I ended up saying both… it sounded something like this, “Well it is after 5:00, so most church offices are closed.  What is it you are needing?”  She said her car was on empty and she was trying to get home. She also told me that she needed food.  I told her to follow me over to the gas station so I could fill up her car.

As I was filling up her car, she told me she was 71 years old and living on a fixed income. She said she could hardly make it paycheck to paycheck. She explained that she never thought she would be in the situation she was in.  She told me her strength in the Lord gets her through each day and she depends on Him to make it from day to day. She asked me if I went to church.  I told her yes.  (My son is looking out the window the whole time.  He was curious about what was going on.)  I opened my car door and took $10.00 out of my purse.  I handed it to her and told her to go get her some dinner and be careful going home.  As I got back into my car my son said, “Momma who was that woman?”  I told him I didn’t know who she was, but she needed help and today God chose me to help her.

Did I do the right thing?  Some may argue.  Maybe she really did need help…or maybe she took advantage of me. Did she spend that money on food or something else? I don’t know but God knows.  I feel certain that I said yes to God that day.

As I reflected about it all that evening, I started thinking that God may have sent her, like an angel, to me that day to remind me of a few things.  Have you ever helped someone else but realized later how much you gained? God taught me some invaluable lessons that day.

First, I am the person my child looks up to. If he witnesses his father and I extending gratitude, he will grow up and do the same.  Our kids are watching us and will inevitably mimic our actions one day. Even when we don’t feel like dealing with someone else’s problems, God relies on us to carry out His plans.  Even though I couldn’t guarantee that she was going to use that money for food, I was being obedient to God. What a great lesson for our kids to learn by watching us!

Secondly, the most important lesson that I got out of helping her was that God is in control even when our life isn’t what we think it should be. She told me she relied on God to get her though each day.   Do you rely on God to get you through each day?  I would like to say that I do, but the answer is no.  I do not fully rely on him every day.  Some days I want to be in complete control of my day.  I am a control freak and there are days when I let it get the best of me.  What would I do if I’m in this lady’s situation one day? Oh, how I want to have her faith!

I’m so thankful when God reminds me that He will provide for His children. When we help others, He will restore our strength and faith.

There are a few verses I would like to leave you with today:

Romans 8:28– And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 12:8– If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Proverbs 21:13– Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

Culture Shock: You don’t have to be busy.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
(Haggai 1:5-6)

School started back for my boys last year like a whirlwind; we were racing around town and struggling to find time to actually complete homework—or even a full meal.  I actually enjoy solving the logistical issues of this kind of craziness. It’s fun for me to plan and time things to all come together like a perfect little puzzle.  So naturally, I had things all planned out.  This party-of-five was operating like a well-oiled machine.

In our culture, the busier we are and the more money we’re spending, the more we appear to have our share of the “American Dream.”  And isn’t that what we’re all after anyway? <Please note the sarcasm here!> But seriously–there’s a thrill when we are checking things off the to-do list. We have that amazing sense of accomplishment when we do stuff.  Society tells us that kids should be in plenty of activities year-round, we should volunteer as often as possible, we should spend more money than we make, and we should always have lots of meetings and places to go. In fact, don’t we sort of rave over those people who seem to be in “a million places at once” or those moms who appear to “have it all together?”  We feel important when we are needed and when we’re able to keep up with our busyness! And oh, doesn’t it feel good? We thrive on this sense of urgency and excessive planning and doing. We are just so—busy!

But one day I failed at being busy—I realized I couldn’t quite keep going at this pace. And just as there was no stopping this daily cycle of busyness—there was no stopping this anxiety and panic that came over me like a crashing wave, crushing my lungs. It came fast and without warning. I was suddenly immobilized in the middle of my madness.  I shoved the casserole in the oven and landed on my knees on the kitchen floor.

My mind was whirling. My heart pumping so fast. Tears spilled from my eyes as I tried to catch my breath.  The only thought I could formulate was, “I can’t do this.”  A million thoughts were churning in my mind.  “But I planned. But I had everything timed perfectly and it was all working just fine…we were going to make it to soccer on time and dinner would be ready when the others came home from football!” So what was happening to me?! Suddenly I was full-on sobbing—just a blubbering mess! In the midst of this chaos, I heard something so clear and profound.

“I’ve given you everything you’ve ever wanted.”

What—who—was that?! I don’t even know how to describe that I knew it was God. I just knew. It wasn’t actually audible—more like a thought in my head.  But it absolutely wasn’t my thought.  Something shifted in my soul. My sweet friend, the Holy Spirit, had finally had enough of me trying to do it all on my own. I felt instantly convicted.  The thing is—I did, in fact, pray for every single part of this rat race. All of it. It was exactly what I (thought I) wanted.  But He had one more thing to say:

“Your wants don’t align with mine.”

Ouch. How did this all happen? How did I get to this place of total desperation? I didn’t pray for chaos…but I prayed for a lot of selfish and greedy desires, without checking to make sure my wants aligned with His. And oh, how I suddenly longed for God to teach me how to realign my priorities!

Are you living in your own version of this rat-race? Do you feel like people are expecting you to say how busy you are when they ask how you are doing? What are praying for? Do your wants align with God’s priorities or our culture’s priorities?


Our culture says you are better off if you stay busy.

 Our God says you are better off if you stay close to Him.


Friends, you have a choice.  Will you believe me if I say that you can have a fulfilling life without racing around like someone is always expecting something from you? Where is God on your to-do list? Is He getting shifted to the bottom because you are so busy?  Give careful thought to your ways—choose to put God’s wants as your top priority.  It will be a culture shock at first, but you will discover that you really can have a very fulfilling, joyful life if you will allow yourself to relax and slow down. I promise that your kids don’t actually have to be in a bunch of activities every night. They’ll be fine, and quite possibly happier, if they get to spend more time around the dinner table with you.  Maybe they’ll have more time to play in the yard or be creative with forts and paper airplanes or dolls. Slow down.  Choose to spend time with God before anyone, or anything else. You might finally have time to see the things He’s been trying to show you all along—when you were too busy to notice.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

I love this song, Breathe, by Johnny Diaz. I feel like it fits perfectly here.

Click here for the video with lyrics!

Love,
Jamie

Speak Life

Most of my life I have been a person who “always speaks her mind” and “doesn’t have a filter” as I have heard many people express over the years. Believe me, Godly communication is something I continue to struggle with. I still open my mouth more often than I would like with a sarcastic rebuttal or a joke that (come to find out) hurt someone’s feelings. But my weakness is an opportunity to allow God to be strong in me – to change me from the inside out. My weakness is an opportunity to surrender this area of my life to the Holy Spirit every day so he can make me look a little more like Jesus.

Throughout my walk with Christ, he has convicted me about this (sometimes inappropriate) tendency to “say what no one else will.” Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it should be spoken at that time or in that place. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it should be spoken in that tone of voice. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s my place to bring it up. Honesty, openness and accountability are of high value, but we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us so we are speaking the truth in love that builds others up, not in harshness that tears others down. Here is a simple, Biblical prayer that is helpful for anyone who might share my struggles: Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).

The truth is that most people are fully aware of their flaws and shortcomings; most people spend (too) much of their time internally reviewing their own inadequacies. But can they see their own potential? Maybe that is where you come in, armed with the love of Christ, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

The words you and I speak over people have the power to bring them life or death. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21). This is especially true in your most important relationships, specifically your marriage and with your children. I do not have children of my own, but I was blessed enough to have parents who spoke words of life over me. As a result, I knew that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to; I did not doubt that I was loved because they made it a point to tell me so. They spoke life to me, and it gave me life. Now, it is my mission (my calling) to speak life over my sphere of influence, especially my own family.

The Message version of 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) says that love Trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Always looking for the best in someone is an accurate reflection of Godly love that is required in order to speak words of life over others. Before you can speak encouraging words to someone, you have to see the good in them. God does this for us; He does not see us as we are but as we CAN be. He doesn’t see actuality, he sees possibility.

We have a role to play in the growth of others through our actions and words. We have the authority to prophesy over people in Jesus name by telling them, “you are a mighty man or woman of God!” even if their actions do not yet reflect that. Speak things that are not as though they are through the authority you have in Jesus. I am so grateful for the people who have done this for me, and it is an honor to be able to speak life over the people I love.

Who can you speak life over? Who can you encourage today? Make it a point to tell someone about the good you see in them. You never know how much it may change the trajectory of their lives.

Love,

Lacey