God Can Take It!

How much of what you say do you really mean?  Most days I manage to talk a good talk, but I wonder, how much do I truly mean?  Let me give you some personal examples:

I say: “Sure, I’d love to be there, can’t wait!”
I think: “Ugh! How can I get out of this?”

I say: “That sounds awesome, y’all have fun!”
I think: “Why didn’t I get invited? I thought we were friends.”

(Yes, I do realize these two example are in direct juxtaposition to each other, but they have both been realities of my life…many, many times!)

Surely men can relate, right? For example:

You say: “Yes honey, you look amazing!”
You think: “You look okay, now hurry up we need to go!”

Sad to say, but I know I tend to do this with God too!

I say: “I trust you…”
I think: “…but I’ll go ahead and handle it my way.”

I say: “Thy will be done.”
I think: “Except if it’s something bad because I don’t want that!”

I say: “Thank you for the struggles that force me to look to you, and to depend on you.”
I think: “Okay, can you make them stop now??? (Pretty please with a cherry on top!)”

I know this tends to be human nature and we all do this.  I think when it’s with people, we are trying to spare hurt feelings.  With God we try to hold on to our perceived sense of control.  You know what though? God desires such a close relationship with us that He can handle our brutal honesty.  He wants it even!  It’s a lot like earthly parents and children…as tough as it might be to hear and process, we want our children to be honest with us.  After all, how are we to help them learn and grow and keep them safe if they don’t tell us exactly how they are feeling?

When I think about brutal honesty with God, I’m reminded of the psalmist David:

How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?                                                          Rescue me from their fierce attacks.                                                                                      Protect my life from these lions!
Then I will thank you in front of the great assembly. (Psalm 35: 17-18a)

Does it seem to anyone else like David is testing God?  It’s like David is saying, “Hey, wake up God and get down here and save me! THEN, I will praise you.”  Talk about honesty…it seems David feels that God is distant and not in control of the situation (haha, right!), and that God needs to march Himself down to earth and rescue David, pronto! Then David will praise Him.  That’s pretty brazen if you ask me!  But guess what, I am so guilty of the exact same thing! For me it usually goes a little like this: “Father, why this? Why me? If you… then I…”  Can you relate?

How about Psalm 38 for honesty?! David admits that he has sinned greatly, but also states that God’s “arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me.  Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins.” (vs. 2-3) Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like David is blaming God for his own choice to sin, and the subsequent results.  In verse 8, David continues his honesty, admitting that “I am exhausted and completely crushed.  My groans come from an anguished heart.”  (Hey, I think I’ve felt that too!) In verses 21-22 David writes, “Do not abandon me, O Lord.  Do not stand at a distance, my God.  Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.” I think I’ve also prayed something along these lines.  Through David’s heartfelt honesty, I find comfort. I can relate to his pain, and after all, David was a man after God’s own heart, so maybe I can be a woman after God’s heart!  Wow, how amazing is that?!!!

I’ll do one even better.  How about when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)  In that moment, Jesus shows us how we can be brutally honest with God.  Jesus shows us it is okay to question God’s presence in the midst of our suffering. Boy, have I done this lately!  How about you?  What is that thing you are struggling with? That thing perhaps you feel you cannot be honest with God about.  Is it a hurt? Anger? Worry? Fear?  Sickness? Loss of job?

Could I challenge you with this thought?…God already knows.  He knows the pain you are in, He knows every tear, every ounce of anger…all of it!  Maybe He’s just waiting for you to be truly honest with Him so that He can rescue you.

Father, help us to remember you are the great creator of all.  You are the alpha and the omega.  There’s not a thing that happens on this earth that you do not already know about. There’s not a feeling or thought we have that you do not already know.  Help us remember we can come to you with our brutal honesty in the midst of our storms.  May knowing that you are in control of all, bring us great comfort and peace as we rest in your loving care.  Amen.

Love,
Olivia

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In Due Time

It’s so hard for me to wait on things that I’m really excited about. There have been some things in my life that I desire so deeply that I feel like I just can’t wait another moment or I may explode! I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced these times of waiting on a dream to come to fruition. No matter how big or small it may seem on someone else’s scale, it’s huge for us when we’re in the middle of it. But how do we wait patiently on the Lord when He obviously is not on our same schedule?

“…and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:20 (NLT)

The most prevalent story in the Bible that covers this topic is the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. I read this recently with fresh eyes. I remember learning about how desperately she prayed and how she prayed so hard that Eli thought she was drunk. (Now that is some serious praying!) But what stood out to me this time was one tiny little phrase. “In due time…” I hadn’t paid attention to those key words before. After previous readings, I just assumed she desperately prayed and then she got pregnant and God blessed her with a baby.

HOWEVER! We cannot overlook those three key words. IN DUE TIME. She didn’t just lay it all out there in prayer and immediately get her dream-come-true. She still had to wait. And pray. And press in continuously—believing in her mighty God and His power to control her life and her future—even if her future did not actually include a baby. What faith! Have you experienced waiting like this? What kind of waiter are you?  

In our society, we wait for all kinds of things. I mean, it feels like half our lives are wasted waiting in some kind of line: in traffic, in the grocery store, in the post office, school drop off and pick up, restaurants, etc. We just line up and wait. But, in these cases, we typically know that the wait ends and at the end of the line, we will inevitably get whatever we got in line for and go on about our day. So what makes this “Hannah” waiting so much more difficult?

When we’re waiting for an outcome that we can’t control and that we can’t fully anticipate, we have two choices. 1) Frantically fight and strive to control every aspect of the situation, clinging desperately to anything that we can analyze or manipulate in order to fit events into our desired timeline, or 2) Pray so intensely and continuously that others may actually think we’re crazy…and let God do His thing in HIS TIME. Which will you choose?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

As easy as it sounds to just choose #2, it is HARD! But here’s what I’ve learned just in the past couple of years on this journey of discovering how precious the waiting can be if I wait and rest in the timing of my heavenly father and not my own:

Wave the white flag! Surrender…everything. We cling so fiercely to our desires that we end up running the risk of veering off God’s course for our lives. Selfish ambition will always lead us down a path of destruction. We must succumb to the fact that God’s plan for our lives is and will always be so much better than anything we could ever conjure up on our own.

Pray without ceasing! The Bible gives us the story of Hannah as an example of faith and follow-through. Trusting God for the outcome is the ultimate key to successful waiting. We must trust Him and His ways. When we can’t comprehend the events taking place, we must be willing to accept His outcome even if it ultimately looks different than what we had in mind. Don’t stop praying for God’s will to be done!

Reflect and Remember! If you get caught up in the “why me’s” or the “why not me’s,” then you need to stop and reflect back on your life thus far. Record all the times when God was faithful. (Because there have been many, many times—I promise!) Write it down and allow yourself to remember how amazing it felt to see God’s goodness come to fruition. Write down what you thought you wanted, what happened during the waiting, and how God surpassed your expectations with His outcome. If we don’t take the time to do this, we can easily forget our most amazing blessings and misplace them in our memories as our own accomplishments. Thinking that we actually performed in some way that created our own outcome will surely lead to our continued striving to control the future. But if we actively reflect and remember how all of our blessings are from the Lord, we can build our trust and faith for future answered prayers on top of the foundation that He has been providing all along.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Father God, thank you so much for your plans and provisions for my life. Thank you for making me wait on your perfect timing. Help me to rest during the waiting and recognize that the best you have for me will take place in due time. Forgive me for trying to manipulate my life to fit my very narrow scope of what I think is best. I trust you, God. May I be more like Hannah and press in with sincere prayer for your will to be done. Search my heart and show me where I need to surrender fully to you. Holy Spirit, help me recall all the times where God’s plans surpassed my wildest dreams and let me not misplace those memories as my own accomplishments. May my life and my story be an example of your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love,

Jamie

More Than the Sun Rose

Another Guest Post from Toni Cowart~

In the last blog I wrote, I shared some of the intimate corners of my heart. Today I will share more…

Easter Sunday is approaching and it represents both the darkest and the brightest, most victorious time in history.

I love spring and all the fresh new growth bursting from the ground, trees and the flowers just begging to be noticed and admired in all their glory. It’s also a time of new birth. Many baby animals are born, baby birds are hatching, baby chicks, bunnies and so on. For all of this bright, fresh and new life, there was something dark and dormant before. Before the flowers and new shoots of grass erupt from the earth they are in the cold dark ground.

In spite of all the beauty coming forth in spring, there was a time that March was once dark for me. It was a reminder of a baby I lost months before. The baby was due in March and as that month rolled around my heart and arms were reminded of the fact I’d never hold that child this side of heaven.

I lost that baby between my third and fourth child, and that was a first in a line of such significant loss for me. At that point in my life I had never even lost a grandparent. It doesn’t matter how many children you already have, or go on to have. The loss of that baby is still gut wrenching and life altering. The grief is real. (Just a side note: I use it, but really don’t like the phrase “lost baby”, “lost children”, etc.; It sounds like I am not sure where I put them, but I do know exactly where they are.)

I shared with you before, how tragically my 6, 8, and 10 year old were killed. I literally found myself on a Monday in October 1997 picking out caskets for three of my children instead of the usual Monday scramble of picking out school clothes and finding the lost shoe.

TALK ABOUT A DARK TIME! Grief is the darkest thing I know. I was sucked, so quickly and deeply, into a deep, dark vacuum. For me, it’s only equal would be Hell.

If you will bear with me, I would love to share a conversation I had with my 8 year old son, Taylor, just weeks before he died.

Brandy, Taylor and Sara-Frances were killed the last week of October 1997, just at the onset of the holidays. With me feeling like I had just buried my heart with my three oldest children, needless to say I, was not in the holiday spirit. I mustered through Thanksgiving, which was tough, and I was not looking forward to Christmas!

I felt that my other two children, Gus, 2, and Mary Alice, 1, were young enough, provided no one mentioned anything, that they would not even notice we had “skipped” Christmas. Given the mood of the whole extended family, I didn’t feel anyone would argue with me over us not celebrating that year. So, I continued my daily routine with no mention of the upcoming holiday.

I don’t know about you but when I am driving it gives me a lot of “think time”. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes it turns into a crying session. Either way my mind is at full speed. On that particular day, something brought to mind a conversation that Taylor and I had just a few weeks before he and his sisters were killed.

Taylor had been sitting up front in our van; this was before airbags were on passenger sides in all vehicles. They would take weekly turns sitting up front in the van on the way to school. Therefore, the front seat was highly coveted among the kids! It was his turn to sit up front and this always made great talk time for me and whoever was getting the front that week. The kids were all excited because Gus had just had a birthday and within a couple of weeks both Taylor and Brandy had a birthday coming up and then a week later Mary Alice had a birthday (not sure how Sara-Frances ended up with a July birthday!)  With Brandy and Taylor’s birthdays being three days apart in October, preparations were being made and excitement was running quite high. Each year we had what seemed like 6 weeks of non-stop birthday partying.

During the conversation in the van, everyone’s birthday had come up and there were moments of excitement and even a little fussing at some point because not everyone agreed on plans. I had begun to tune them out and thought they could work it out amongst themselves. As the conversation escalated I finally jumped in and as mom, I said, “That’s enough; there are no more birthdays until next year, so end of conversation.” Things never end so easily do they? But as a mom you can hope.

Taylor and I were going back and forth now with him saying, “Yes it is,” and me with a, “No it’s not.” I decided to pull the ole “so prove it” routine. I asked, “Then just whose birthday is next?” With a very triumphant grin and a sparkle in his eye, Taylor declares, “Jesus has a birthday next!” My “I’m so right” attitude may have just been popped, but I couldn’t help but smile too. I told him he was absolutely right. I think that child grinned all the way home.

If your child is going to set you straight, what a way to do it! Remembering that conversation with Taylor did something to me. Jesus was born and died for us. If it weren’t for Him, I wouldn’t know where my children are today. How could I not celebrate the very birth of Jesus! I could not get home fast enough and I put up every decoration we had and hung EVERY stocking (to this day I still hang ALL five kids’ stockings!)

The amazing thing is, that up until that point in my life, I had always loved Christmas but there was always a letdown sometime during the day. From that first Christmas after remembering the “conversation” I have never been let down once. (I know you are thinking “She’s talking about Christmas, not Easter,” but I’m getting there.)

Easter is just as glorious if not more so to me. Yes, I still miss my children something terrible and still ache for each of them – there is something different now and it’s something that no one can take away. It’s what true life and death are all about, what true celebrations are all about. I actually have children that celebrate the Savior’s birth and resurrection right there with the Savior Himself and one day I will be able to join them too.

It took the darkest time in my life to grasp a fuller understanding of what my Savior has done for me. As I sit at my desk typing this, I am surrounded by pictures of my children – I smile and yet tears run down my face. It is completely ok to cry because my tears were created by my heavenly Father and he catches every tear in a bottle (psalm 56:8). My tears are God given and there is not one that escapes my eyes that He does not know about before it hits my cheek. Before I ever held my new born children, He already knew the indescribable love I would feel for them, and the unearthly pain I would experience again the day I learned, that for three of them, I would never get to tuck them in again, feel their arms around my neck, hear their sweet individual voices say mama again or smell the scent only they had. He already knew the day that I pulled up to the funeral home to go through the motions, that my knees would buckle when I saw three hearses outside, and the reality slapped me all over again.

It took the darkest time in my life to understand just how glorious an empty tomb really is. It is not some nursery rhyme – it was an earth shaking event that changed all of history. Between the Old and New Testament God went dark (or silent) for almost 400 years. But that silence was broken by the cries of a baby, Emmanuel.  So again, one Friday all of earth went dark for a few hours and then Sunday rolled around. An empty tomb changes everything. I am sure it was felt among the underworld. Imagine that in the wee hours of that first Easter Morning – when the stone began to roll away there must have been thunderous sounds to be heard as the demons began to tremble.

Due to His supernatural peace he has showered on me, even in the dark, I can praise Him.

Once upon that first Easter…More than the sun rose!

He is Alive!

He is Risen!

Because of this, I can smile.  Because of an empty tomb, I can praise Him.  Because of the Great I AM, I know how the story ends!

Love,

Toni