facing the impossible

“The impossible is GOD’s comfort zone!” – Mike and Kate Battistelli

For most of us, “impossibles” are the exact opposite. They challenge us. They stretch us. They cause us to fear and to doubt.

What is GOD calling me to do?  Where is He leading me to the bottomless ocean of trust?  What has He spoken to my heart?

I asked myself these questions and spoke the same words in prayer after listening to a podcast in which Kate Battistelli described the heart and message of her new book, The GOD Dare.

Two very clear things echoed back:

(1) “Look up!  Bear witness to My majesty!  Soak it in, breathe life eternal, glimpse glory.”

He knows I long to find just the right words.  To string them together in a way that touches hearts, speaks truth, offers hope and courage.  Many times it seems bigger than I can tackle.  I get in my own way, tangled up in my own ambitions.  I believe He delights in my passion, yet reaches out to steady me with His pace, and His plan.

More than anything I will ever write, He invites me to LIVE this story, His story written on my heart.  To go where He sends me.  Love like He does.  To let others see JESUS in me!

His Spirit is training my heart not to worry about what comes next.  To let Him write the rest of this story.  Every single day of it!  To watch Him give me just the right words, at just the right time, and just the right place to share them.

(2) “The guidance you are seeking for your daughter’s college search, asking what will position her best for any future pursuits?  There is no better earthly mentor for her than you.”

“LORD how? I don’t know what to tell her!?!,” I thought.

His Word tells me that He will guide me, just as He will guide her.  That there is no greater prep for her, to position herself for the path forward, than to find her knees more than any counselor or internet search.  Those are only tools.  The LORD is the Guide.  The best and only true option.  Always.

This is a very real and present weight on my heart.  I can’t pass this one off.  I need to stay in the game.  The most important part is the final mile, the last quarter.  He urges me that I am needed NOW more than ever!  To hold her gaze.  To encourage her heart.  To lead her back to Him, however many times that is necessary!

So many times, that job seems over my head!  But He keeps lifting my chin to keep my own eyes fixed on Him.

.   .   .

“What hard thing has He asked me to do, to give up, to risk everything to answer His call?”

Reading Kate’s book, I continued to process these same questions.  The LORD reminded me of other “impossibles” through which He has gently and kindly walked with me.

More than anything He has asked me to *do*, there have been things He has asked me to hand back to Him in surrender, trusting His bigger plan:

(1) a ministry opportunity that seemed to be falling into place that I was truly excited about stepping into, confident He had been preparing me for it, eager to see how He would work through me, if I was just brave enough to step forward … until the door slammed shut and I asked Him to hold me until it all made sense again as hot tears of disappointment and confusion spilled down my cheeks.

(2) when I realized I was battling crazy homesickness and had to confess I had grown weary of His call for us to leave PA and move south 12 years ago … that I had prayed for a job change for my husband that might take us back to the northern hills, only to have that door slam shut as well… and in the end, I needed to humble myself before Him and hand “home” back to Him, recommitting to wherever He leads us.

My heart broke both times, with fog and pain and questions that seemed impossible to sort out or overcome.  BUT, there was utter freedom in surrender.  A flood of peace that couldn’t be explained, and fresh joy in what was right in front of me.  I can confidently say that the better choice both times was a wide open door to simply follow JESUS and hunger to know more of His heart!

.   .   .

Our “impossibles” challenge us.  Stretch us.  Cause us to fear and to doubt.  Ask of us what seems more than we are able to give.  Sometimes break our hearts.

But GOD.

He longs for us to bring our “impossibles” to Him, to ask Him how we can meet them with His help, His wisdom, His power.  The LORD intentionally presents us with opportunities to face the impossible – not to crush us with defeat, but to draw our hearts to understand just how capable HE is and how He desires to do impossible things through us!

What are you facing that seems impossible?  Something bigger and “crazier” than you ever pictured yourself tackling?  Something desperately outside of your control?  Or is it simply impossible to imagine the GOD of the universe speaking His plans directly to your heart?  Or that He would ever declare value and eternal purpose over the countless moments in your life that seem unseen, small, or insignificant in your eyes?  Or that His plans for you could stand undeterred by a part of your life you struggle to overcome?

Let Kate Battistelli take you by the hand and help you revisit accounts of men and women just like you.  Their names may be familiar (David, Esther, or Joseph; Abraham, Hagar, or Jonah), but take a closer look at their stories, as they encounter the one true GOD, hear Him speak His plans and purposes to their hearts, and watch Him transform their “impossibles” into mind-boggling reality that draws their hearts to awestruck worship!

Kate concludes with the most precious appeal of all… the greatest invitation the LORD extends to each of us.  To follow JESUS.  To live like He does.  Love like He does.  Stand firm and unhurried and unwavering, confident in the Father’s plan!  His purposes are always moving forward, undeterred, and right on schedule!

Left to our own devices, we are just not capable of such a goal.  But GOD.  JESUS gave everything to redeem us, to breathe new life into us, and to supply any and every need we have.  His Spirit dwells within us, remaking us from the inside out.  So our hearts can beat along side of His.  So our character can reflect His.  So our choices will align with His!

Read.  Consider.  And be encouraged!  I, for one, am so grateful to be reminded that we can trust the LORD to meet us in our genuine desire to hear from Him.  We can trust Him to reveal His heart to us.  To equip and direct us as we step forward to fulfill His purposes for us.  He longs to show us how His redeeming love and power can transform our “impossibles!”

“GOD still seeks those who will say YES, even when saying yes makes no sense, even when it’s hard, even when it’s costly.” – Kate Battistelli

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Read more here…

For we are GOD’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things which GOD prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

With man it is impossible, but not with GOD.  For all things are possible with GOD.

Mark 10:27

Commit everything you do to the LORD.  Trust Him, and He will help you.

Psalm 37:5

 

 

 

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our new ride

“Ride the wave,” I told myself.  I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, while my adept husband braved the stormy seas of negotiating a used car sale.

I fell asleep praying the night before and woke whispering the same petition.  “Guide us, O Thou Great Jehovah.”  I was still in shock that the vehicle that had served us faithfully for over a decade had suddenly reached an urgent “needs to be replaced” status.

We sweat the beating summer sun to empty out the personal items and drove to the dealership.  The test drive in our best replacement choice was a dream and I felt the much needed shift in my heart to receive this gracious provision from our Father.

Then, the storm began.  The debate over dollars.  NOT my comfort zone.  I felt yanked, being asked to risk it all on the table, my fragile excitement about our new ride, trusting the right path to emerge from the tense exchange of words.

I stared at my feet, pretending to check my phone.  I sipped from the complimentary water bottle.  I glanced up, briefly, trying to read faces as both sides worked hard for their best deal.   Were they honest men?  Would my husband sense a clear nudge from His Spirit to reconcile the numbers or walk away?

The steadying efforts rolled along in my head.

We NEED a new vehicle.  GOD will provide.  I told myself again to ride the wave, to consciously settle my racing heart and just trust!  The LORD has always been faithful. Faithful He will remain. 

And just like that, they shook hands.  Exchanged relaxed, contented smiles.  Done deal. The signal that I could breathe again.

90 minutes later (paperwork is no joke!), we were cruising south on the turnpike toward home in a new-to-us mid-SUV.  In my favorite cranberry color with cool grey interior and a combination of cup holder placement and spacious ride that will be just perfect for our summer road trips to the northern hills.

Why, I ask myself, when I can manage a cool-as-cucumber exterior, do my insides always have to be so dramatic?!  Father GOD indeed is faithful.  He not only meets our needs – He loves to lavish us with abundance!

.   .   .

Without a doubt, I believe the LORD went before us to provide for that very moment.  Sudden and unexpected to us.  But not to Him.

He knew exactly when our faithful vehicle would reach its last useful day.  I believe He orchestrated those events to protect us and position us to be confidently decisive.

In the coming weeks, we have two long road trips planned to the northern hills (with more than one rather steep mountainous climb!).  What grace that we will not embark on those journeys with concerns about the reliability of an aging vehicle!

When we needed an expedient trade-in, the local dealer just “happened to have” a used car in the exact make and model we preferred, with low mileage, in good condition AND in my favorite color.  What extravagant grace!

I am so grateful.

#newride  #Heisfaithful  #graciousFather  #Hegoesbeforeus  #trustingJESUS  #northernhills  #herewecome !

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Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things…  Matthew 6:32

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory for ever and ever!  Ephesians 3:20

people of GOD’s promise

reflections from a year-long study about “People of the Promised Land – Part I” with Bible Study Fellowship …

In a world of uncertainty and unfaithfulness, Almighty GOD was faithful. He chose a people for Himself.  And He made a covenant with them – it was a sure thing!  Not one of His promises failed.  All game to pass!  (Joshua 21:45)

Parts of this study caused us to wrestle.  To squirm uncomfortably as we saw key players act in ways that disappointed our expectations.  From Joshua stepping in because Moses had stumbled, unable to enter the promised land because He failed to honor GOD before the people in a moment of frustration, to Eli, to Saul, to David and then Solomon.  The LORD chose them and placed them.  He was faithful to them, and yet they faltered.

Scripture doesn’t pretty it up.  The LORD doesn’t hide those missteps.  They grieved His heart more than ours.  But He tells it like it is because He wants us to know that NONE of us are capable of a pure story.  He wants us to realize we need Him and to reach for only Him to meet us in the pain and destruction that sin has brought.  To humble our hearts and lift our hands to Him, open to receive what He has longed to give us all along.  His redeeming love and power that sets us on a new path and refocuses our efforts on His plan, His way.

There were some sweet spots along our journey with GOD’s people.  The not-so-key players, whose humble, servant hearts and statements of courageous faith in the LORD and His perfect plan had resounding impact – not just in their small circle of interaction, but for generations after them.  Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail … Jonathan.

How precious that a lot of them were women.  The LORD did not call them to be military leaders or priests or prophets or kings.  But their words and actions were clear.  The one true GOD had made Himself real to them.  They poured out their hearts to Him and risked so much to align themselves with His plans for His people. And He used them to touch hearts, to change the course of history, to draw others to honor GOD by their example.

Maybe the faithful few understood with clearer vision the sure thing promised to them.  By the only One whose words of promise are always true and unchanging. They could risk it all on Him because He never fails!

We will fail.

Sin brings pain and destruction into our lives too.  But the one true GOD still reveals Himself to us today!  He makes Himself real to us and pursues our hearts.  We have the same opportunity to respond to Him.  To reach for Him with humble hearts and lifted hands.  Open to receive what He has longed to give us all along.  –  His new covenant sealed with the blood of JESUS.  Chosen people of GOD.  Held and beloved with promises that never fail.  Our very own sure thing that is ours today.

.   .   .

Will I treasure His gifts and align myself with His perfect plan? Will I take whatever steps are necessary to stay close to Him, to keep my heart in tune with His, so I am less likely to be distracted, drawn away and deceived into believing the lie that anything else can satisfy?

Will I have compassion for faltering moments – in others and in myself?  Will I understand that none of us is capable apart from Christ?  Will I quickly recognize my own detours and desire to find my way back?  Will His correction cause my heart to bow in praise, to receive His mercy with a grateful heart, to seek His face to guide me back into His ways?

Will I honor His faithfulness by simply choosing to be faithful – to Him and to whatever role He calls me to, especially as a not-so-key player?  Will I trust that in His narrative there can be ripples of impact I couldn’t imagine?  Opportunities to draw hearts to Him and change the course of history in unseen but powerful ways – priceless opportunities that I don’t want to miss?

I join with those who believe He is precious.  He calls me Chosen.  He offers me His faithful promises.  They will never fail.  It is the only sure thing.  It is mine.  Because JESUS died for me.

hold fast

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Read more here…

Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel

Know therefore, that the LORD your GOD is GOD, the faithful GOD who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations.  Deuteronomy 7:9

Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.  2 Timothy 2:13

The LORD is faithful, who will establish you and guard you.  2 Thessalonians 3:3

The LORD’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!  Lamentations 3:22-23

parenting matters

I quit wiping the tears and just let them fall as I finished reading “parenting is do-overs times infinity” in Lisa-Jo Baker’s “The Middle Matters.”

My Dad often seemed absent while I was growing up.  Not physically, just not always engaged.  Sometimes we seemed to come in second to more pressing matters like work or church eldership or lawn care or prep for preaching.  When he did get involved it usually meant he was displeased or disappointed enough to speak words he felt were needed for correction.

As we’ve all gotten older, he’s tuned his ear to listen… listen a lot… and listen well.  (Maybe he’s been listening all along, and I simply failed to recognize his quiet presence.)

On a recent visit, with my husband away and me wrestling with whether to invest little available funds into a rare opportunity for a reduced-cost session with a writing coach (to feel out whether or not I am crazy to pursue anything beyond my humble blog), it was my dad who commanded my attention from across the kitchen table and stated with conviction and not one ounce of hesitation, “I’ll write the check, schedule the session!”

He’s not flowing with cash either, but he said in the depths of his eyes meeting mine, “I believe in you and what the LORD has placed in your heart to share through your writing.  Let me help you be brave and step forward.”

I don’t know where it will all lead.  It’s still baby steps into a huge and intimidating world of incredibly gifted writers.  BUT.  I will never forget that moment at the kitchen table with my Dad.

I’m 51.  He’s 82.  It’s never too late for a do-over!  It’s never too late for deeper understanding and deeper gratefulness.

#whythemiddlematters #listen #dream #doovers #howgraciousisourFather

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. . .

If tears fell freely while reading “do-over times infinity,” they flooded in quiet heaves while trying to make it through “sobbing in my mini-van over honor roll” (still in Lisa-Jo Baker’s “The Middle Matters”).

Our son’s challenges haven’t been academically, but socially.  For 14 long years, I turned his struggles every which way in my head, desperately trying to make sense of them.

When it all came to a scary head at a family gathering, I sat with him in solemn stillness in the dark, while the voices haunted his heart: “why am I so different?  why can’t I just join in?  why is it so hard?  what’s WRONG with me?”

It had to be GOD’s tender spirit guiding my words that day as I held his defeated eyes in my gaze and said, “listen to me, Bubba, when GOD created you, He didn’t miss something… different isn’t wrong… we just need to ask Him to help us understand the uniquely special person He created you to be and to teach us how to help you navigate the situations that are harder for you because of that wiring.  Let’s ask Him to show us, because I truly believe it doesn’t always have to be this hard.”

And GOD was faithful, leading us to a sweet counselor who helped us sort through 14 years of mama-heart observations and questions and the insights that came pouring out of him in a far more articulate manner than I ever dreamed possible.  He’d been wrestling in silence for a LONG time.  What was baffling fog and frightening mystery to us was known and explained, identified and validated in her kind and capable hands.  And all of a sudden SO many things started to make a lot more sense.  He found his voice.  He stood taller in the person GOD created him to be with the unique and special gifts he brings to this world.

And I sobbed through the realization that all those times I didn’t have a clue, all those prayers for help and wisdom, our gracious Father answered every one.  He gave me courage to champion for him when no one else understood his struggles, to bear the weighty, judgmental gaze or well-meaning but not helpful words from others, and braved a calm and encouraging exterior while my insides raged and doubted and panicked, fighting for him to have the freedom to process the world the only way he could.  I couldn’t possibly explain how incredibly brave he had been all along! – and I feared that very few people truly cared to know his reality.  BUT GOD.  He knew.  He saw.  And He helped this mama show her son that someone in his world would give anything to understand.

And now… every. single. time he has overcome those challenges and stepped out in courage to meet a goal at taekwondo or take that first trombone chair with confidence or decide that yes, he can commit to a grueling, crazy “peopled-out,” demanding marching band program to achieve his next goal… every. single. time … I break out in an ugly cry.  I just really can’t help it.  GOD is SO good.  He blows way past what I don’t even dare to hope for.  The victory He works in and through our kids is staggering.  The fact that He walks us through the long hard road and welcomes us into a front row seat to see each shining moment in their lives is simply overwhelming!

#theheartofamother #notforthefaintatheart #notashamedtouglycry #Heplansgreatthingsforourkids #fearfullyandwonderfullymade #GODsamazingcreation #trustingJESUS #heldandbeloved #whythemiddlematters

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. . .

In the midst of one amazing launch team and a few other book reviews (all SO good!!!, I can’t wait to share more), this was one opportunity I just couldn’t pass up!!!  So, I threw caution and a full desk to the wind and bravely applied for a 2nd launch team!

Lisa-Jo Baker is one of my favorite podcasters (with Christie Purifoy on “Out of the Ordinary Podcast”).  I love her deeply expressive heart and her passion for the LORD and for people – alllll people, especially her own near and dear people!  And I am honored and excited to dive into her new book, “The Middle Matters.”

When my copy of her book arrived, I opened it at the kitchen table, right in the middle of where I do battle for my family and my own weary heart.  Where He restores my soul and pursues me again and again.  By the window, with my Bible and journal.  Many, many tears and prayers and laughs and smiles have happened right here!

At the risk of overloading my sweet friends with my many literary loves, stay tuned for great take-aways from this real and raw and treasured (and sometimes hilarious) look at all things in the middle!

#whythemiddlematters #launchteam #readagoodbook #encouragehearts #Hislovemeetsusinthemiddle

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courageous HOPE

Raw. Vividly described.  Heart-wrenching ache.  Crushing burdens.  Wave after wave of a whole new level of “hard.”  Hers is a reality I honestly cannot say I have ever experienced.  I took in page after page in solemn stillness.  I wanted to honor her pain with attentiveness.  A genuine search for understanding.  To simply listen and really hear.  To pay attention and really see.

In her book, Glorious Weakness, Alia Joy bravely describes the many difficult trials she has navigated in her life.  A path few of us are ever called to walk.

With passion and vulnerability, she details her unexaggerated, harsh reality, devastating hardships on so many levels: physical, mental, financial, emotional, and spiritual.  She sheds tragically needed light on the additional pain of being unseen, ignored, misjudged, neglected – by the very ones she hoped would notice her deep struggles and offer any help they could, even just to be present in her pain.

With honesty laid bare, she shares her struggle to understand and trust GOD in the depths of her darkness.  Her outright rebellion against Him, and the miraculous ways He reached her right where she was to draw her heart to His.  The ways He used His Word to disarm her darkness, and His Spirit to place the desire in her to read and receive it.

Many of her struggles, Alia carries with her still.  Decades running.  It is unthinkable to imagine the depths of her felt weakness.  Yet she boldly claims HOPE in the LORD!  He has given her different eyes with which to view the gaping lack that characterizes her life.  Her heart has been drawn to surrender the most painful places, to see them as caverns the LORD’s presence is welcomed to fill.  She now sees weakness as a precious gift, where He can meet her uniquely and intimately and give her priceless glimpses of His glory, a sacredness far beyond herself.

Alia’s words remind me of many of the Psalms.  Raw honesty.  Desperate agony.  Bold questions.  Unfulfilled longing.  And yet… in the midst of unresolved trials, a determined choice to believe!  To hope in GOD.  To trust in His unfailing love.  These words of wrestling yet choosing hope could have been her own:

“O LORD GOD of my salvation, I cry out to you by day.  I come to you at night.  Hear my prayer; listen to my cry.  For my life is full of troubles.  I am forgotten.  I am in a trap with no way of escape.  My eyes are blinded by my tears.  Each day I beg for Your help, O LORD; I lift my hands to You for mercy.  Can the darkness speak of Your wonderful deeds?  I have been sick and close to death since my youth.  I stand helpless and desperate before You.  Terror has paralyzed me.  It swirls around me like floodwaters all day long.  Darkness is my closest friend.”  Psalm 88

“For You have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.  I will ever praise You.  I will always hope.  I will yet praise You more and more.”  Psalm 71:5-6, 14

 “Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.  Hear my cry for help, my King and my GOD, for to You I pray.  In the morning, LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.”  Psalm 5:1-3

 “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.”  Psalm 143:8

 “I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my GOD.”  Psalm 42:5

.   .   .

As one of my favorite podcaster’s described it, Alia’s book “wrecked me.”  I have struggled to process it all.

Do I recognize the needs all around me?  Do I take time to look and really see beyond someone’s brave exterior?  To pick up on cues that they are desperately longing for someone to notice?  Am I willing to respond to nudges from GOD’s Spirit to reach out in any way that I can?

When I face my own struggles, when I am paralyzed by my own fears, do I dare to believe He is still there?  That He is who He says He is?  That He will meet me in those hard places?  That His Word will give me fresh hope, exactly how and exactly when I need it?  That with His help, I can always take one more step, face one more day, endure what seems unthinkable?

Can I learn from Alia how to look for ways the darkness shows me the LORD’s wondrous works?  Have eyes to see His glory revealed through my weakness?  Determine to choose courageous hope, even when a difficult path remains unaltered?  Am I willing to let the tender touch of My Savior, the very presence of His person, to steady my heart and heal my pain?

I lay it all before the LORD.  He simply whispers, “keep your eyes on Me… I will help show you how…”

Alia closes with these words as she bears witness to the redeeming power of GOD’s unfailing love, her every reason to HOPE:

“We keep company with sadness.  We learn the lament of everyone who holds quietly to the knowing: things are not as they should be.  And still we hope.  Still we see our Redeemer come.  We speak in a dialect of our kin, our native tongue.  We are fluent in the language of hope.  We bear witness to the goodness of GOD in the most unlikely places.  He is our all in all – we know this from the desperate spaces when we had nothing else.  No other route, no calmer sea, no other choice but surrender.  And that is a gift.  That is our glorious weakness.” (p.222)

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If you long for courage to believe in the One who offers hope and healing, Alia Joy’s story may help you discover a precious new reality in trusting JESUS.  Look for Glorious Weakness, published by Baker Books, wherever books are sold.

set free

“What a wonder to treasure this place where I was broken and spilled out. 

Where we counted the cost, but still chose to follow CHRIST. 

Out of trust and obedience that has always propelled us, but now also out of worship! 

For He is worthy of the surrender of my whole heart!”

I had just finished writing those words as part of another project when my husband returned from the mailbox with a package I expected to arrive weeks before.

It was not late in coming, as I assumed.  It was intended for that day.  Specifically.

I pulled two books from the Baker Publishing Group package.  Seeing the first cover, I sunk into the back of my chair and closed my eyes with a knowing smile – Joyful Surrender, by Elizabeth Elliot.

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This woman’s heart for GOD’s truth and straightforward, let’s-be-about-the-Father’s-business challenges grabbed my wandering heart as a twenty-something.  I have a bookshelf filled with her writings.

I knew.  I just knew the words I had just strung together to express a very real and present wrestle with the LORD for my full heart surrender would be reinforced by her thoughts in this book, a reprint of what she originally published in 1982, called Discipline.  It was time for my own heart to circle back – a return, but with fresh eyes and a newly tuned heart.

As she has done many times before, Elizabeth Elliot’s thoughts in Joyful Surrender cut to the chase of my own thinking and set my mind squarely on things above.

“Discipline in the wholehearted yes to the call of GOD.  When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master.  I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.” (p.16)

The word “discipline” causes us to cringe, conjuring up images of hard work, strict expectations, harsh sacrifice, severe limitations.  We shrink back when we feel our comfort bubble threatened.  Elizabeth Elliot’s no-nonsense language admittedly caught me off-guard.  I squirmed uncomfortably and felt the urge to argue.

But just like our Savior, she took her time setting a very different scene to which my heart could respond.  She reminded me that I am “created, cared for, called” (p.9) by One who attends intimately to the unique details of my life.  Almighty GOD is my Creator.  I honor Him when I acknowledge my “createdness.”  He is GOD.  And I am not.

“Discipline” is simply the life of a disciple, one who has chosen to follow the One who has captured the heart, whose very Person commands full trust and loyalty.  “Discipline is the believer’s answer to GOD’s call.” (p.15)  “We may choose to say yes and thus fulfill the Creator’s glorious purpose for us.  GOD calls us to freedom, fulfillment, and joy.” (p.15)

The tug on my heart goes deeper still.  As Creator, the LORD is fully worthy of my surrendered will.  His creation is not mine to direct.  But He is also my Savior!  He gave everything, His own life’s blood, to reconcile me to GOD and draw me to His side!  How could I not respond?  How could I not desire to offer Him all that I can?

“The disciple is one who has made a very simple decision.  JESUS invites us to follow Him, and the disciple accepts the invitation.  The disciple is no longer on his own.  He gives himself to the Master.” (p.23-24)  JESUS CHRIST is Savior because He is LORD.  He is LORD because He is Savior.”  (p.26)

Now with my full attention, Elizabeth Elliot moves chapter by chapter through seven key areas of surrender in the life of a Christ-follower: body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, and feelings.  She offers snap shots of what this surrender will require in “real time.”  Again, I felt myself wince a few times.  But His Spirit helped me to pause each time and admit she is not wrong.  She unapologetically presents the truth of Scripture!

In a few places, I hoped for a little more sensitivity to the unique struggles of individual people with certain challenges she mentioned, but the truth behind the call of GOD is right and true.  I can trust Him to direct my heart to respond.  He will show me what surrender in each of these areas asks of me.  As my Master, I simply need to ask Him.  And decide again and again to follow where He leads.

I started the book with a heavy, uncomfortable feeling.  But I can honestly say, with each new wave of surrender, I felt a lightening.  A falling away of so much that bound me.  Expectations – real or perceived, my own or other voices – that held me captive in pursuit of ideals my Creator never intended for me.  Pressures and burdens from which my Savior died to free me!

I reached the end of the book with a true sense of JOY!  There is a single-mindedness in following CHRIST.  A beautiful simplicity.  A pure and singular focus.

He plans and directs.  I follow.

He refines my heart.  I learn and grow.

He creates beauty.  I receive it with JOY.

My Creator and Savior only asks me to surrender what takes up space in my heart He longs to fill with something infinitely better – Himself!  He delights in pouring His best and abundant provisions into my open arms, lifted to Him.  In GOD’s economy, nothing surrendered to Him is ever a loss.  It is only gain.  When my heart responds to Him, I always “trade UP!”

Elizabeth Elliot includes a beautiful analogy:

“Is there any image of freedom and joy more exhilarating than a full orchestra, everybody sawing, tootling, pounding, strumming, blowing, clashing, and hammering away for all they are worth, under the direction of the immense energy and discipline of a man who knows every note of every instrument in every concerto and knows how to elicit that note exactly so that it will contribute most fully to the glory of the work as a whole?”  (p. 38)

How thrilling to imagine!   Surrendering who I am and what my life can become into the hands of the One who orchestrates all things to perfection!  He knows exactly when and how to call me to play my part, to offer to His masterpiece what I, alone, was created to contribute!  In that yielded place, His flawless design shines in its full glory.  And I have the unspeakable joy of hitting my note in full strength, feeling with chills the harmony with which it resounds in concert with every other exactly intricate piece!

Elizabeth Elliot concludes with these words:

“He offers an exchange:  His life for ours.  He showed us what He meant by giving Himself.  He offers us love, acceptance, forgiveness, a weight of glory, fullness of JOY.  Is it so hard to offer back the gifts that came in the first place from the wounded Hands – body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, feelings, and more?” (p.150)

Elizabeth Elliot doesn’t pull punches.  She is not concerned about being “politically correct.”  Her straightforward, unapologetic delivery may catch readers off-guard, as it did me.  I fear this is more likely a sad commentary of how loud the voices of a worldview have become.  Our hearts are too easily draw away to listen to what we think we want to hear, rather than wrestling to fully understand the desires of the One who created us in the first place.  The One who gave everything to redeem us so He could give us all things!

The Savior called Elizabeth Elliot Home to heaven a few years ago.  Imagining her in His very Presence, face to face after a lifetime of longing to know and serve Him more, I can only guess that she does not regret one thing she ever surrendered to the LORD.  If anything, it is not until then that we will fully understand how much we owe Him.  Given the chance to step back in time, I believe she would long to have given Him more!

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

How can we, in turn, not freely offer all things back to Him in Joyful Surrender?

give Me your heart

Find Joyful Surrender, by Elizabeth Elliot, published by Revell Books, wherever books are sold.

jubilee

Exhaustion was setting in.  We had toured so many homes that we stopped counting.  New in town, but with high hopes of settling there to raise a young family, we pressed on, determined to get this right.  Convinced there was a house the LORD had set aside just for us, we were prepared to search until we found it.

When yet another home seemed not quite right, we stood on the front porch as our realtor checked the listings one. more. time.  A look of surprise and hope spread across his face.  He turned to look at a brick house on a corner lot just across the street.  “See that house?  It is not even on the market yet, but they are scheduling a tour for agents tomorrow.  Maybe I can get us in for a sneak peek?”

The specs of the home were unknown to us, but the lot was lovely.  The timing and location seemed too convenient to pass up, so I agreed to take a look.  From the moment we set foot inside the house, I just knew.

The original wide plank floors in beautiful condition, the spacious living room, stunning fireplace, the breezy side porch, the staircase, and the soft, butter-yellow paint on the walls that appeared so dreamy in the late afternoon sun!  I quickly moved from room to room, mentally checking off the list of bedrooms, bathrooms, play and office areas, and even abundant storage in the garage, full basement – and the best of all – a sweet untapped space in a walk-up attic!

A vision for so many spaces in that house began flooding my mind.  My heart started to race.  The sun was sinking fast, but I held out hope that my husband could still make it around the corner from his new office to see this property in daylight.  Eager prayers for confirmation were lifted.  In the core of my being, I just knew… this was HOME!

By the next day, we were under contract!  In a matter of weeks, the initial wave of painting and cleaning was complete and we were settled in a home we would enjoy every single day we were blessed to live there!

We renovated rooms, installed a gorgeous white picket fence, and planted flowers in gardens that circled the entire yard.  That old house was new to us, warm and inviting, mysteriously familiar, and ripe for all our dreams to find a beautiful reality!

This new chapter in a new place felt like setting foot into an old familiar dream we hadn’t known to hope for!

jubilee 11

*   *   *

The journey toward home. The shaping and reshaping of a place until it feels like it was made for us. That place of comfort and belonging where our truest selves can emerge and grow. A place of peace and joy that inspires us to open the door wide, set extra places at the table and welcome others in to make themselves at home there too.

These endeavors capture beauty in so many forms … in the physical space of a sunlit room or a cozy chair or a bustling kitchen, in the natural space of a blooming garden or a patch of green, but also in the faces of the people who treasure and reflect the beauty that touches them.

This is what Christie Purifoy calls “placemaking,” a pattern given to us by our Creator when He first fashioned man, made a home for him, and placed him in a garden.  In her new book, “Placemaker,” Christie welcomes us to journey with her through the many places she has lived, the ways she and her family have shaped (and been shaped by) those places, the joys and sorrows along the way, and the gardens and trees that help tell her story.

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photo credit: @christiepurifoy

Christie has awakened in me a deeper interest in history!  For at its best, placemaking first seeks to know a place, its natural surroundings and its people, the backstory that frames the present.  When we treasure those details and weave them into the history we ourselves bring to a place, a beautiful vision for the future materializes.

Intentional placemaking will cause us to fall in love with each place we live.  I now understand why moving more times than I would care to count has carried with it a grieving process for me.  “Placemaker” has helped me to begin long overdue healing, appropriately acknowledging the loss associated with each place in my own history.

But this journey toward home also brings JOY.  When I truly understand that history builds and adds rather than subtracts, I see it as multiplied beauty rather than loss.  Each new place, each new experience can carry with it a sense of returning.  A rediscovering of old joys in new places, a bringing in of something treasured to shape a new place and make it home.  A realization that seeds have been sown all along the path and there is an enduring and a harvest of the work that has been done.

Just before Christie and her family discovered their home at Maplehurst, a brick farmhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania, a friend shared a dream she had about their new home… with its long tree-lined driveway… where she sensed the trees whispering a single word… “Jubilee.”

Simply stated, the Year of Jubilee for GOD’s people in the Old Testament was a time of celebration, restoration and return.  Debts were canceled.  Slaves were set free.  And property was returned to its original owner, as allotted by GOD when His people first entered the promised land.

I’ve read this book twice.  And both times I’ve stopped and stared at that word, “Jubilee” through brimming tears.

“Why?” I asked myself.  “Why does this strike a deep cord in me?”

Because I have spent years nursing an intensifying hunger to return home.  To the northern hills.  And yet the stronger pull on my heart has been in the opposite direction – to follow where the LORD has led and placed us – hundreds of miles away in tropical south Florida.

So how do I reconcile the truth of Jubilee?  And this beautiful thing called placemaking?  In a place I never imagined I’d find myself, a place I still struggle to call “home?”  Christie brings it all into focus in the final pages of her book…

We find our truest home in and with the One who created us, who first placed us in a garden, who agonized in a garden and stepped bravely forward to secure a forever Home for us with Him.

Until we make our final return to that place where we were first imagined, every bend in our path can be a step of return.  Home on earth is wherever He places us, welcomes us to make ourselves at home, draws us closer to His heart, allows our truest selves to emerge and grow, and inspires us to open the door wide to welcome others in to make themselves at home there too.

*   *   *

For over a decade, We have lived far away from that little brick house on the corner lot with its beautiful white picket fence surrounding a favorite saucer magnolia tree bursting with petal pink blossoms.  Stories and pictures of that place still bring a warm, enveloping smile to my heart!

In that place I embraced my new life as a mom.  It was within those walls that I surrendered my heart to the LORD, receiving His call to move south, wherever He would lead us.  Our story of His stronger pull to the home He had planned for us here began in that beautiful living room with wide-plank floors.

I have thought for a while that the first floor of our current home needs an update.  Maybe, just maybe, I need to return to a little bit of my own history, and allow favorite touches from the past to transform the present… shaping it until it feels like it was made for us!

Maybe, we can save our pennies to replace bland white tile floors with ceramic that looks more like wide planks of wood, and paint our walls soft, butter yellow, like the filtered afternoon sunlight spilling from the breezy side porch of that brick house in the northern hills.

There is a sweet and honored place for all of our story… past, present, and future!  A place that fills our days with comfort, beauty … and peace.

Return to the LORD your GOD, for He is gracious and compassionate,

abounding in loving kindness.   Joel 2:13

 So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you,

being rooted and grounded in love…  Ephesians 3:17

 

 peaceful place

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