Sunday, July 31, 2011

Letting Go is Hard to Do

This week has been pretty awesome! My sister, Melissa came to visit us...we haven't seen her in a year! She is in the Coast Guard and will be stationed in South Carolina for the next year. It's not next door, but it beats Bahrain! She is my go-to person when I need to complain about something or get something off of my chest, so this last year has been hard. My parents and nieces were also here for a visit and my husband told my nieces they could spend the night on Saturday night. Really, dear? I can barely get 3 kids ready on Sunday morning, much less 5 of them!! We have to leave our house at 8:30am to get there on time. Whatever, we gave in. Thankfully they all go to sleep easily because they are worn out from the day.
Somehow, we all manage to get ready and make it to church on time. I'm thinking it had something to do with the fact that I made them all shower at night (much to their protests). We filled up and entire pew! The kids each had $1 to put in the offering plate and were holding on to them. The time came to give the offering and each one put the dollar in the plate...except for my 5 year old, Ava. Her brother even tried to wrestle it from her to no avail. She was holding on to it with all of her might. When I asked her why she didn't give the dollar she really couldn't tell me, other than "I didn't want to". Okay. She promised me that she would give it to Sunday school and we went on with the service.
This afternoon I started thinking about why we want to hold onto things. Have you ever seen the show on TLC called Hoarders? This show is sometimes hard for me to watch. It boggles my mind that people will cry over throwing away rotten food or trash. If you ever want to feel better about the state of your house, this show is for you. But, it's not just physical stuff that we hold on to. We hold on to "stuff" in our minds and hearts that we need to be rid of to truly be free. This stuff can fester inside of us and cause us to be separated from God. Trust me, I've been there. We hang on to habits, attitudes and feelings that are detrimental to our spiritual growth because they are comfortable...because we have always done it this way...because it makes us feel good in the short term. Sometimes, like Ava, we can't even tell you why.
Just one example from my life is the way I eat and exercise. If you don't think God cares about our physical wellness, there are plenty of verses to back this up. Anything can become an addiction, even eating. For many years I have eaten pretty much what I wanted and how much I wanted. The only exercise I got was doing daily activities. This became habit. It was comfortable for me. Then one day, I sort of "woke up" and realized that God had a bigger plan for me. By leading a more disciplined life, I can impact myself and others in so many positive ways. Do I ever fail? Absolutely! I've skipped exercise to sleep and I've eaten cake, cookies, french fries, chips, ice cream (okay, you get the point). I've actually cried just like those people on Hoarders for having to give up something that I didn't need. Why did I do this? Because that's my comfort zone, it's who I am....STOP...who I WAS. Then I remember I turned that dollar over to Him back in March and I do not want it back. I don't have to do that stuff any's not me. I'm who HE says I am....the daughter of the most high God. I want to live my life like I know this to be 100% true. I want to be a light that stays on all of the time, not just a light that flickers and comes on sporadically. We can give up all of our "stuff". We don't have to haul around all of that baggage. We can give it up and not take it back...ever. He already knows everything about us. He knows our words even before we speak. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him, why would we want to walk around holding on to things that are junk? Listen to what the Bible says to do..."Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22
I hear people say "Let go and let God" all of the time. Are you ready for Him to carry it instead of you?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Can You See Me Now?

Things have once again been busy in my life. I am now in my third week of Boot Camp. I am surprisingly enjoying myself! There is something about exercising that early in the morning when most of the world is still asleep. We also have a devotional to start us out and that helps me keep my focus where it needs to be. I have discovered muscles that I never knew existed. Did you know there are muscles in between your ribs? Other than breathing, I don't think I have ever used these before. The words "bring the pain" have a whole new meaning now. Seriously, COGI and Danny Copeland are an awesome way to get your mind, body and spirit in shape.

A while back, I did a Bible study that included pieces from the Old Testament. I am more of a New Testament kind of person, but I believe that just like everything else, we can learn from our pasts and apply it to the here and now. The writer focused on the story of Hagar from Genesis chapter 16. If you are not familiar with this story, here is the Cliff notes version. God promised Abraham and Sarah an heir. They did not trust in His plan and Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham so that they might have a child after many years of infertility. Hagar became pregnant with a son who would be called Ishmael. Sarah, clouded with jealousy, started mistreating Hagar to the point that she ran away to escape. Abraham, of course, could not be bothered with this problem and offered no help. This is the part of the story I want to focus on. We find Hagar, alone and pregnant, and the angel of the Lord appears to her and tells her that God hears her cry of distress and sees what she is going through. The angel also tells her that God wants her to return to Sarah and submit to her. Was Sarah to blame for any of this? Of course. She felt inadequate and took this out on Hagar. What about Abraham? He went along with the plan, but when things went wrong, he refused to help resolve the situation.

Poor is easy for us to feel sorry for her. We have all felt wronged before. I can relate to her. People who were allied and were richer and more powerful than her were against her....even going so far as to bully and mistreat her. Nobody wanted to offer her help. There she was, alone and vulnerable, with no one willing to hear her or really SEE her. Guess what? She wasn't alone. God SAW her and HEARD her cries. I don't mean He just looked down from above and peered at her through the clouds....He saw into her soul, her innermost being and knew what she was going through. Hagar listened to God and went back to Sarah's household. She accepted God's promise of help and acted as she should. She learned that even though she was justified in her feelings, running away from problems does not solve them. After she made up her mind to follow God's plan, she gave Him a new name...El Roi or "the God who sees".

Going back to this story has helped me through so many times and situations. My heavenly Father loves me. He forgives me. He SEES me. Isn't that what we feel like is missing from our lives sometimes? People go about their daily routine and we feel unheard and unseen. Nobody notices that we are struggling, or if they do notice, they act like they don't care. I have definitely been there. More often than I would like to admit I have thrown myself a pity party. After studying this story, however, I began to view my struggles in a different light. Yes....I feel better when people support me and genuinely know me and my struggles. Yes....I feel better when people care for me physically and mentally. connections with people are very important to me and I love being around all types of people. But I wasn't turning my problems over to the One who made me and who knows the words I am going to say even before I speak them. Reading and studying His word and His promises has let me know that He really does see ME. The "God who sees" created me for a unique and special purpose and knows my struggles. Sometimes I have to turn to Him minute by minute to make it through.

I have had the story of Hagar on my mind for quite some time now. Last night, I attended a study done by Alabaster Jar Ministries called "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made". The story of Hagar came up once again. Coincidence? I don't believe in those anymore. What I DO believe is that God "sees" me and hears my cries. The Bible verse that I believe sums up this story is found in the New Testament in Romans.
"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." Romans 8:28