Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ruin is A Gift

It is a bit unbelievable that I am writing today sitting at my desk overlooking my new neighborhood that is over 500 miles away from what once was home.  Had you told me this time last year that this is where I would be, I would have sighed and thought....really...doubtful.

But, what story is stagnate when God is involved?  I have shared our journey many times on this page.  It is funny to me that when I began writing here, it was all mommy stories and cake recipes.  But God took my flighty fun with words and began a journey that mimics deep canyon grooves in desert rock.   My story has changed a hundred times.  The thread of my life continues its weaving, and my Great God keeps tilling the soil of my heart finding ways to show Himself more mighty and more precious to me at each turn.

Would I have willingly taken this path?  I don't know that in my own strength I could say yes.  But, I do know that I would not trade the jewels of our journey for the riches of the world.  What once felt like ruin now seems like transformation.  It is not perfect or glossy.  Life still has its bumps and cracks.  We are still flawed, but I see God in such a rich way that I can not even begin to regret the valley that brought me here.

There really is no ruin, when God is molding a soul.  It is only when we take ourselves out of His grasp that we find bleakness and emptiness.  If we can release our grip to His and fall into His grace, ruin becomes the gift of a lifetime.  To come to an end of self is to tap into the Holy of God.

I never did let go perfectly.  It was full of struggle and heaviness.  I sometimes long to retrace my errors to become more yielded to His grace because I have weathered those storms and I know of His faithfulness.  But the beauty of ruin is that even in my gravest mistakes, God replaced my ashes with His Beauty.

I often long to reach through the miles and hold the hearts of those that feel they are in the wreckage of their life.  I want to whisper assurance that this wreckage is only the beginning of a transformation when released to our Maker.  I want everyone to know that....ruin is a gift.  I dug out these words I scribbled when the heaviness seemed impossible.  I sit here and read them from across the country, from out of the depths completely transformed:

"Can I take this fiery-melting-dripping heart and hold it out to the Creator and trust that it is for the good of my soul?  Can I go a little deeper in my faith and open my clutching fingers and release this same heart to the Refiner?  Can I walk willingly into the whirlwind of Glory?  Can I trust that overturned is really the grasp of God's Divine Hand drawing me nearer to the image He has in mind for me? 
I sit in silence.  I long to be a soul on fire.  I ache to drip with this molten grace that I hope He is working into my soul fibers.  I do not want to take myself out of the flame if the flame is burning His glory on my heart.  It is painful often and full of tears.  It is revealing so many imperfections and failures.  It is uncomfortable and leaves me heart-searching.  But I know...I know it is for my good. I am overturned, and I will wait.  There is more, and He is not finished."

 Ruin is no doubt the road to transformation where God does His truest work.  Hold on dear soul, there is another side to this canyon.  There is a God that brings strength for despair.  And - He does his best work when we find ourselves living in the ruins of life.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

If I Told You My Story....

Would you even believe?...

It is hard to say where "our story" really begins.  I guess I want to start thirteen years ago when I met my husband Kevin and we began dreaming of  a life together.  We had high hopes as any other newly engaged couple.  We dreamed of doing big things together for God.  Our dreams took us to ideas like aviation ministry in hard to reach places or tribal work in Africa.  We felt that the sky was the limit. We soon found that limits come more closely than we could have imagined.

It wasn't long after we were married that my husband began having some health issues.  We sort of dealt with things and didn't think too much of it.  We found out that aviation school was out of the picture because of strict health exams that would be impossible for Kevin to pass.  Houses, mortgages, babies, and work demands began a slow fade of our grander dreams.  I think both of us hit a gray space where we were just trying to make it through the weekly musts.  We longed for more, but we lived under the weight of the American lifestyle that thrusts reality heavily and quickly upon most young families.

Not long after our second child was born, Kevin began to rapidly decline.  We could no longer put it on the backburner.  One morning, he did not awake.  Despite my best attempts and in between crying babies...he lay lifeless in our bed.  The paramedics arrived and whisked him away to the hospital.  Diabetic shock was the verdict.

The next months were full of a treacherous downhill fall.  Everything seemed to be unraveling.  We were told so many things, including news that he would be completely blind very soon without miraculous intervention.  His body was fighting itself.  His immune system was attacking from within.  We picked everything up and moved to be closer to good doctors and better work.  We struggled endlessly for three years.  We hit deep valleys often full of nothing promising.  Sheer exhaustion became the new normal.  Each week brought no better answers and only a weakening husband.  I watched him fade right in front of me.  He became a shell of the man he once was.

We prayed.  We cried.  We remembered our old dreams.  We asked God to just help us understand. We asked Him to grow our faith.  We were quiet.  We were scared.  We had deep moments of faith and deep moments of weakness.  Hospital stays began to run together..but even then God was working.  Somehow, in the middle of the chaos, He granted a deep root of peace.

Eventually, we got the news that he had to have a life-saving procedure.  Ulcerative Colitis had claimed his entire lower digestive system.  The only hope was to remove it all.  It was sure to alter his life forever, but it was the only hope that would allow him to live.  Our friends and families rallied around us in prayer and support.  God met us tenderly as we faced the reality.

The surgery was complicated and left Kevin with a terrible infection.  One surgery begat 6 more.  The days stretched endlessly.  But in those moments of silence in the hospital God was working.  We sensed His presence and His peace.  I felt assured that no matter the outcome, God would make a way.  He grew our faith and love in Him and in each other in priceless,  indescribable ways.  We asked Him repetitively to use this for His glory.  We determined that no more would we live our lives just tending to jobs and mortgages.  We knew that God had planted a seed in us long ago to serve Him unreservedly, and we asked every day that He would still use us.  No matter how it looked, or where it took us, or if it kept us right there in that hospital....we wanted to make it count for the Glory of God.

Slowly but surely healing began.  The road was long but God was always faithful.  We were changed entirely.  We could no longer see our lives the same.  God had walked with us through the fire, and we could feel the molding of our hearts in His hands.  We kept praying to be used.

Eventually, things began to look a bit more normal.  We were back to work and picking up the pieces of life that had been stalled for so long.  Kevin was healing.  His eyes were healing.  Our hearts were healing...but searching.

One afternoon we began looking online at jobs for Kevin in ministry.  We had no idea what to even look for or where to go.  I stumbled across a web-site that posted ministry positions.  In the middle of my searching for Kevin, a position popped up on my screen that I was qualified for.  I chuckled and nearly forgot about it.  I shared with Kevin that I had not found much yet for him, unless he wanted to be a Director of Children's ministry in Toledo, Ohio.  He laughed and  relayed that children were my specialty.   We went to bed without another thought. the morning I could not get this Toledo job out of my mind.  I asked Kevin his thoughts, and he told me to just apply.  I kept thinking it was crazy.  But hours later I found myself writing the church of Westgate Chapel a letter.  I gave them an easy opportunity to decline me as I told them I was contracted at two schools for nearly 6 more months.

But they wrote back...that very day.

This began a journey that I can not begin to explain.  From February until May we spent time answering questions, flying to Ohio, and feeling like we were caught in a whirlwind of Godly adventure.  What began as one simple letter and resume turned into a journey that involved a solid partnership with both Kevin and I in this ministry opportunity.  Every time we found an obstacle, God would completely knock it out of the way.

But could we move to Toledo?  I know we said we would go anywhere, but Kevin would have to find a job as well.  Financially it seemed impossible without an avenue for work for Kevin.  We saw one job posting  in one newspaper that might be a possibility.  We sent one resume.  In the same weekend we both had initial interviews in Toledo and later we were both offered jobs within twenty-four hours of each other.  God was on the move.

When we realized that we were really doing this, we knew we had to think about our home.  It would need to be sold and rather quickly.  We contacted our realtor.  We signed the paperwork and received a phone call before the sign was even in the yard that someone wanted to see our home.  We were truly not ready to show it, and we were very reluctant to agree as we had boxes everywhere.  However, we agreed.  The next morning our one buyer made one offer and we were under contract.

How does anyone explain God's workings?  I know I cannot.  I know that in that hard, hard place where we met Him so tenderly, I was convinced that life in Him was worth every ounce of any difficulty.  I could feel the pulse of His calling on our lives to live it fully and with abandon to His cause.  It has really been one prayer in this season....Anything, Lord.  We have been praying that since those dark days, and God has been answering with the miraculous.  We both feel so undeserving of this journey.

How will God use this?  We don't know.  Where will He take this?  We can't see.  But what we do know and what we can see is His grace.  He never wastes a moment of our difficulties.  He works our stories for our good.  He uses the scraps and creates treasures in spite of every single weakness we posses.

I dare you to pray "Anything Lord".  While it might not lead you across the country or even across town, it will change your life and it will change your heart.

Our story has really always been God's story...and we will tell it as long as we have breath.

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