Themes of Late

     There have been many times in my life where I have felt that God was working in a particular theme. Over the past few weeks, the major theme has been God showing me what He has been up to in my life for the past few years. He has been using my classes, various Bible studies, and life situations to show me this. The truth is, I absolutely love when everything lines up like this because I know He is communicating a certain message to me, and it gets repeated 4-5 times for emphasis.
     This week in my Spiritual Formation class we studied and discussed suffering a lot. Through the various assignments, I realized that I have just recently been released from a two-year appointed time of suffering. I will leave the whole debate over whether or not suffering can really be “appointed” for another time. For now, just go along with me because I truly believe that this time was appointed in my life. Now, was every day of those two years completely miserable? Of course not. Was I not able to experience joy during this time? Absolutely not. But looking over my life as a whole, I know that these two years were a time of suffering. They began in Spring 2012 with a severe illness-double pnemonia in both lungs. I was hospitalized for 18 days, started relapsing a couple of weeks later, and then began a one-year long treatment plan that included high dosage steroids that were to eventually be weaned off over the year-long period. Steroids ended in April 2013; in May I married y best friend. My suffering had about a 3-month long relief period in which God gave me some much-needed relaxation time, and in August it began again with various trials and challenges of being both a wife and college student. It finally ended in Spring of this year (2014).
     Sorry to be so brief about this time period,  but for the sake of this post the details are not really important. If the Lord leads I will outline those in another post. There were several incidents that occured during these two years that could have shaken my faith. At the beginning of the two years my faith was shaken up several times, but by the end of the two years, God had been molding me into a much stronger Christian. However, the funny thing about periods of trials and suffering is that you usually do not know what God is working on in your life. Yes, I believe He reveals bits and pieces here and there, just enough to keep us going. Yet, the big picture usually isn’t revealed until later, if ever. I am blessed because for the past month God has slowly been revealing to me the big picture of those two years. It’s almost overwhelming at times to have a small glance of what He sees-the big overview. It makes me very thankful that He is God and I am not because I cannot fathom the whole story. Yet, He knows everything, past, present, and future. What a glorious God! That’s why for the past month I have experienced humility at a whole new level as I think about all the temper tandrums I have had with Him, how many times I have shaken my fist at Him, and how many times I tried to take control. I forgot who He was and that He knows what is best because He does know the whole story to my life, and everyone’s life for that matter.
     I could bawl my eyes out-and have done so many times over the past month-when I think about the person I was in the Spring of 2012. On the inside, my soul was very weak, very hurt, and very lonely. Insecurities were knocking on my every door. I did not truly believe God’s love for me. I did not believe I was beautiful or valuable. I was not secure in my relationship with Christ. And so, my Type-A, OCD personality dominated my life and I thought I had to be in control of everything. I practically begged and demanded of God for Him to let me have my own way. For the first time in my life I really saw (then, not now) that I was the prodigal son. So God, being the gracious and not forceful God that He is, let me have my way, and I did my own thing. Now, I still had a relationship with Him, it wasn’t like we were separated, for we never can be separated from His presence. Yet, in winter 2013, I realized how wrong I had been. It was time for the “son to come home”. God, of course, accepted me back into His loving arms and I knew in that moment that I never wanted to follow my own will again. I completely surrendered to Him and knew that no matter how hard things got, I never wanted control again. I wanted to follow Him alone, and that is what I have sought to do.
     A few months later I married and things were great for a little while. We had no major issues and life flowed smoothly along. Then in August I began school again. A new set of trials developed and continued for months. At first what I thought I was going through was normal, but as trial after trial hit, I soon felt discouraged and like Job. I wish I could say I remained completely faithful to God during that time, but I did experience moments of doubt. It was not unitl earlier this week that this was part of my “appointed time” of suffering. Finally, in March of this year, I received the biggest blow I have ever received in my whole life. I am not comfortable yet explaining what this “blow” was; I will simply just say that my biggest fear came true. I was devastated. I felt utterly alone, rejected, and most of all, completely deceived. It seemed like my whole world was just built on lies. I wanted to flee. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was at the time. I just wanted to disappear-I didn’t care where. Yet, I stayed, or at least I stayed physically.
     Things got better in the months to come and my suffering ended in May. Things began looking up. My husband and I were doing better, I began leading a Bible study for the women in my church, and our finances were more stable. In June my husband and I went to the beach with his family and it was the first time we got to all be together in Ft. Myers for the week. This was the third year I’ve been and it is a place I hold very dear to my heart for many reasons. One of the most special reaons I love it is because for a whole week I get to leave everything behind and escape to be in the presence of God. I am surrouned by His beauty and have endless time to spend with Him. He also blessed this time dearly. This year was no different. By the time we were getting ready to leve that Saturday morning I had gained a new excitement in my heart. I had an eagerness to pursue God in a new, meaningful way. I wanted more of Him and I wanted a more real, radical relationship with Him. He was drawing me out of my comfort zone and I was loving every moment of it-something I had never experiened before. I just knew God wanted more of me and more from my marriage. Plus, I had this overwhelming sense that God was about to do something BIG in my life. These thoughts are very specifically written down in my journal.
     Well, God revealed to me very soon what one part of that BIG thing was. On Monday my husband started his new job as a deputy-well, almost-in our county. Two days later, I found out I was pregnant. My whole world was very quickly turned upside down, for the better I might add. At the time I thought these were the only big changes God was working in our lives. Only recently have I seen otherwise. Brandon (my husband) left for mandate a couple of weeks later. This is an 11-week training program he went through in Augusta where he eventually received his certification to be a deputy. For 11 weeks he was only home on the weekends. He graduated in late September and although I was much overjoyed to have him home, it certainly took some time to transition back into “real” married life. Only this have I realized how independent I became during this time. In a few areas of my life I build up walls to protect myself from hurt. I put on my best “survivor” instinct and tried to be the best I could be, but I soon saw I was only pretending.
     Two weeks ago I learned some information that provided another stab to my heart, but the hurt was different this time. This time, the stab was partly my own fault. Yes, the person involved had sinned, but what’s worse is that in a way, I had really caused this sin to happen. I saw what I had been doing over the past few months, and I was failing miserably. I had allowed that big blow from March to creep in and cause pain again. I thought I had been healed from it, but I hadn’t. Instead, for fear of being hurt again, I began building a wall around my heart. I played my role in my household well. I was doing the right things and even saying the right things. But on the inside I was really hiding. I didn’t allow myself to be open and vulnerable with the one I loved most. And so these walls led to other problems beneath the surface, problems that I knew were present, but I chose to be selfish and in denial instead.  So, when I heard the news of this little stab, I was once again hurt, but not surprised. I knew all along it would happen, but I chose to deny it.
    For the next day and a half I was once again devasated, but not destroyed. For the past month God has been drawing my closer to His heart and showing me the great love He has for me, and I have been experiencing this love on a whole new level. Therefore, this situation was just another in which God poured His love out on me. So that night as I layed on my bed, bawling my eyes out and pouring out my heart to Him, He showed up and spoke to me. I realized I had these walls and I remorsed over my sin. I was truly broken, but never more beautiful to Him. I prayed for Him to reconcile me fully and show me how to love again. Most importantly, I needed to know His love for me and I needed to be able to love myself. He has been faithful and I have been experiencing His love in a deeper, more intimate way than I ever have before. I am also learning to love myself again.
     Things are getting better. God is not only showing me His love; He is allowing me to experience it myself. He is revealing to me my beauty that I have in Him. He is answering my soul’s deepest questions: “Am I enough God? Am I worth it? Am I beautiful?” He is answering loud and with a resounding “YES!”
I want to close with a word of caution to my fellow ladies out there-and men too if there are any reading. You will experience trials and suffering in this life. Sometime these times are needed and appointed my God so that He can work on weak areas of our spirit and teach us things we could not otherwise know, such was the case in my own life. We will be hurt and more importantly, we will be hurt by those closest to us. Yet, these times should only drive us closer to God, not further away from Him. These times are opportunities for us to cling to our sweet Jesus’ heart and let Him fulfill us in ways that only He can. Don’t run away physically, and don’t run away in your heart as I did. Don’t build up walls that will only have to be torn down later. Just allow the presence of God to fill you and run to Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

“Lily Among Thorns”

This morning in a response to a fellow student’s post I heard the words “lily among thorns”. They just came out of nowhere to me in a gentle whisper, so I knew they were of God. I did a quick Bible search and found out where they came from. The verse was Song of Solomon 2:2 and it says, “Like a lily among the thorns,so is my darling among the maidens.” (NASB). I shared this verse with the student and said that God wanted her to know His great love He had for her. As I wrote, a visual of a lily among thorns appeared in my head.

I figured that would be the end of it, but no, this verse has haunted me all day long and now I am absolutely obsessed over it. I have picked it apart and have ruminated over it for hours. I thought about the context of the school posting: suffering being a “window into the soul”. I was sharing with this student of how my two-year long period of suffering had brought me into a wonderful new place in my relationship with God, in which He is now “wooing” me to Himself and I am experiencing a love for Him and with Him I have never experienced before. It goes beyond the typical Savior and Lord, Father love into a deeper romantic love from God. I think sometimes we are afraid of this kind of love, but as I have been reading through “Captivating” by John and Statsi Eldredge I am beginning to realize this is the deeper kind of love God has been drawing me into.

This leads me to find two meanings in this verse. First of all, God is saying to me that the verse refers to my time of suffering. The thorns represent the dark period in my life in which He was growing me and transforming me into, well, a beautiful, delicate, but strong lily. Secondly, God is showing me my beauty, which I actually prayed for him to do just the other night. You see, lately He has been showing how much He truly does love me. Yet, despite having all this, I wanted more from Him, and I think He delights in this. It gives Him joy when His children desires more of His presence. So I prayed for God to show me my beauty; show me how I am attractive. He did this by not only giving this verse to this student, He’s also giving it to me. He is showing me my own beauty and the love He has for me.

Really, this verse is for any woman of God. I know we all struggle with beauty and self-worth, and on the inside our desperate hearts cry, “Am I beautiful? Am I lovely?” We long for someone to tell us that, to show us that. No, actually, we crave this. Why? Because God designed us with this feature and it is a void that only He alone can fill. Once He does, and we come to experience this from God, He blossoms us into a vibrant lily.

Whenever I obsess over a verse like this and pick it apart I tend to research all the details of it, just because that’s the way God made me. In doing so, I found some neat information about lilies that I would like to share with you.

  • “The Lily flower symbolizes purity and refined beauty.”
  • “They are magnificent flowers that command attention wherever they are planted.”
  • “Lilies can grow up to 6 feet tall.”

Lilies are beautiful on their own, but there’s something about the thorns that hold value as well in this verse and the visual it creates. Sometimes, the thorns are necessary to see the true beauty of a lily. If a lily is among other lilies, we may not see the great value that it holds. Sure, we can admire the collection, but not the individual. Yet, a lily among thorns shouts beauty. It is unique. It has survived, and it will thrive. It magnificently blossoms from the thorns victoriously, and doesn’t become weighed down by them. Times of adversity and trial do not crush the lily-they add to its beauty. I think that’s what God does with us, and we come out more beautiful and strong and lovelier than ever as a result of these times.

Praying these words from God bless you today, dear lily!

Why Blog?

I would be lying if I said this was my first attempt at a blog, but it’s not. It’s actually my third. Twice I have tried to blog and lost interest or couldn’t stay committed. In all honestly, blogging is something I have felt God calling me to do for a while now, but I kept making excuses and putting it off. Most of the time I would simply say, “What’s the point?” or “Who really wants to read my thoughts?” or even, “Well I prefer good ole fashioned paper journaling.” Now I have had a change of heart and see the many benefits of blogging. While I still do not see why anyone would want to read my thoughts, I realize that a lot of people do want to read God’s thoughts. God frequently interrupts my thinking and takes over with His Spirit. That being said, I am starting a blog in obedience to Him, having faith that it is He that will speak through this blog, and speak through me. Therefore, I will make time to break away from the routine, everyday busyness to blog as He leads.