Wednesday, March 30, 2011

These Are The Days

"This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

I am not a big fan of Daylight Savings Time. It's probably because I am not exactly what you would call "a morning person". Somehow, with the time change, morning seems earlier. Waking up to a dark house and stumbling over to the coffee pot makes me long for a bit more time underneath my covers. At least enough time for the sun to catch up with my day.

Finally, the coffee is done brewing and I sit down to take a few moments before my kids wake up to begin their morning rituals. The sky is still dark, but the birds are singing. The house is still. And it is like God is whispering, "These are the days. Rejoice. Don't miss it!"

So I think it over and I understand. These ARE the days...

When my daughters bring me "flowers" that resemble weeds, but are presented with great joy and love.

When my son is still shorter than me and will allow me to hug him in front of his friends.

When my husband kisses me on the cheek gently before he leaves for his job, even earlier than the birds are willing to awaken.

These are the days...

Today, I get to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Speak words of affirmation and encouragement. Show my family how lucky they make me feel. Thank God for His many blessings.

Now, my kids are stirring and my quiet house is filled with the sounds of them getting dressed and packing their lunches for school. I rejoice for our day together has begun. And I remember to embrace this moment.

For these are the days...

Of my daughter singing to Jesus while she ties her shoes.

Of my son assisting his sister with a glass of milk, while I get a glimpse of the man he will one day become.

Of kisses good-bye and big, bright smiles as my girls ride off to school on their scooters.

Of stolen moments with my teenage man-child, as he shares his thoughts and it is just him and me.

Of phone calls from my busy husband, who calls just to hear my voice.

These are the days. So wake up slowly if you must. Grab some coffee and take a moment to listen to the birds. But then rejoice, for you will never get today back again. And even when you are walking in darkness, there are reasons to embrace the beautiful gift of today.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for today. For all that today will bring. Opportunities to serve you and know you more. Moments of sweetness and joy, even in the midst of the unexpected. Sometimes, we squander our days with worry, bitterness, or dread. Let it not be so. Help us to embrace the promise of today with a heart of praise and gratitude.

Reflection: What are the gifts you have in your life today?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Butterfly Effect

Last week, I was so blessed to hear many wonderful speakers at a Children's Ministry conference in San Diego. One in particular, Andy Andrews, I'd heard years before at another function, and had been so completely blessed by his message and ministry.

As he spoke to the crowd last week, he reminded us of so many of God's truths. Several things that he said.. I've not been able to get out of my brain since. He spoke at length about the notion of the "butterfly effect". First introduced by Edward Lorenz, a scientist at MIT in the 1960's, the theory proposes that a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. The popular notion is that "a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can affect the weather in Central Park."

Andy Andrews was reminding us that our actions have consequences. Consequences more far-reaching than most of us ever think about. "There are generations yet to be born whose lives will be shaped and shifted by what you are going to do tomorrow," he told us. So true, that the smallest of actions.. the choices we make.. can have such far-reaching implications.

Though that is certainly true, I feel that God is also speaking to my heart, that He wants me to learn a deeper lesson involving the butterfly.

In my quiet time this morning, I think I finally realized what He was telling me.

Most of us learned, way back in grade school, the life cycle of the butterfly. The gorgeous creations we see flitting through the air, never started out that way in life. They were once caterpillars, until they underwent that glorious transformation. Many times, I have heard the analogy of the butterfly applied to our spiritual lives, as the transformation from the old, sinful ways to a new life in Christ happens.

The message God was speaking to my heart this morning, though, was more of a message about patience.. about waiting. The time God was speaking to me about is that "time in the cocoon". In the dark. When we can't see Him. When we can't feel Him there. When we aren't sure what is next in our lives. The mysterious "in the meantime".

One of my devotionals said it best, "The things He teaches us in the dark, we would never know about otherwise." There is a reason why we must wait on God's timing in our lives. Sometimes many reasons, with many far-reaching implications.

God is using that time to prepare us for what is to come. Only He knows what we are going to face down the road in our lives. Only He knows the people that we are going to come in contact with, and exactly what they will need to hear or learn from us. Usually lessons and truths that we ourselves have learned, while waiting. In the dark.

But to learn those lessons, we must listen. We must listen for all we are worth, for His still, small voice. Sometimes, I am sorry to admit, my prayer time consists of a lot of talking and not much listening on my part. Another of my devotionals hit that point home, when I read "Ever met someone for lunch and the other person talked for an hour and never let you get a word in?" They were referring to the one-sided conversations we sometimes have with God. Either we don't know how to hear His voice, or we don't realize that He still does speak today...

I read further, "Think about how you pray. Do you spend time listening to God? Are you throwing a hurried wish list heavenward, or are you being quiet to listen to God's Spirit?".

I was led to Hebrews 13:5 and these words caught my eye, "...because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Not just the verse, but I had written a sermon note in the margin that there are actually FIVE "nevers" in the original Greek. "Never, never, never, never, never will I leave you; never, never, never, never, never will I forsake you." I think He really wanted to reassure us.. what do you think?!

God doesn't promise us a pain-free life. He does promise us that He will always be with us. Even when it feels like you are alone. In the dark. In your own little world.. your own little cocoon. This is not all there is. There is a reason God has placed you where you are.

If the walls of your cocoon were to split open too soon, you would never be strong enough to handle what is to come... you would never be strong enough to fly...

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Who among us likes to wait? Whether it's a newly engaged couple longing for their wedding day, a mother longing for her baby to be born, a father waiting for his son to return from war, or a student waiting for the last bell to ring before summer vacation, we as a people generally do not like to wait. We want it now--or yesterday would be even better!

Waiting is not something most of us do well. Yet there are times (dare I say many times?) that this is what God has for us. His timing is not like ours, and so we find ourselves waiting for what seems like an eternity (but may only be a week).

Sometimes we learn later why the wait was a good thing or we see something different (better) that came out of that time, but sometimes we are left wondering what in the world God was doing. Sure, we might say we trust His timing, but I think we could all admit to occasionally secretly wondering WHY. Why is this taking so long? Why aren't You doing what I want? Why, Lord?!

I, for one, do not like to wait. I like to feel like I'm in control, and I like things to happen on the timeline I had planned. (Some people would even tell you that I always said I'd get married when I was 23. Wanna take a guess at when I got married? 23--Evidently, God had the same idea for me with that one--and I am grateful.) All that to say, God has been working on me for awhile now on surrendering control and trusting Him. And I thought I was doing a much better job of it...but evidently, I still have some learning to do....

We are in the process of adopting internationally. We started our application on August 16, 2010 and were on the wait list by January 4, 2011. Things were moving at a great pace, and it looked like we'd get a referral and possibly one or both travel dates this year. And then things stopped. Completely. Since we have been on the wait list, not one referral has been given through our agency for our particular country (and we are 100+ on the list based on our best guess). In recent weeks, there has also been some information regarding our particular country which has led us to wonder even more how many years we might actually be looking at when we thought it would be this year.

To be honest, this wait that had suddenly seemed "doable" suddenly became more than I could bear. I was heartbroken, confused, and just at a loss. I cried before the Lord, asking Him to help me understand. And this is what He said, "The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it." (I Thessalonians 5:24) "The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still." (Exodus 14:14)

Every part of me wanted to believe Him at His Word, but I still felt overwhelmed. Lord, this wait is too hard. It's too long. When will we get our daughter? How many years will we have to wait? But, in the midst of the hard, I kept praying...and I kept asking others to pray. And God has started working on my heart.

The wait is still before us. It still has no end in sight. But, the God of the Universe has told me that He will do this, so I am choosing to trust Him. Yesterday, He spoke to me again, and He said, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13)

I feel hopeful again--not because my circumstances have changed but because my God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and He has promised to fight for me. He will do it--maybe not in the timing I had planned, but He will. And in the meantime, I pray that I might overflow with hope....

I don't know what you might be going through right now, or what you might be waiting on, but I know that the Lord is with you. He takes great delight in you. He rejoices over you with singing. He is faithful and just, and He works all things together for good for those who love Him. He is big enough, strong enough, GOD enough to handle whatever you're feeling. Lay it before Him. Trust Him. He is worthy of all our praise. And whatever He has for you, it's worth the wait.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Psalm 119

1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
   who walk according to the law of the LORD.
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes
   and seek him with all their heart.
3 They do nothing wrong;
   they walk in his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
   that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
   in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
   when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
   as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
   do not utterly forsake me.
 9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
   By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
   do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
   that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, O LORD;
   teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
   all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
   as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
   and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
   I will not neglect your word.
 17 Do good to your servant, and I will live;
   I will obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
   wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
   do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
   for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed
   and who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me scorn and contempt,
   for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
   your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
   they are my counselors.
 25 I am laid low in the dust;
   preserve my life according to your word.
26 I recounted my ways and you answered me;
   teach me your decrees.
27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
   then I will meditate on your wonders.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
   strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
   be gracious to me through your law.
30 I have chosen the way of truth;
   I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
   do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
   for you have set my heart free.
 33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;
   then I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
   and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
   for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
   and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
   preserve my life according to your word.
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
   so that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
   for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
   Preserve my life in your righteousness.
 41 May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD,
   your salvation according to your promise;
42 then I will answer the one who taunts me,
   for I trust in your word.
43 Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth,
   for I have put my hope in your laws.
44 I will always obey your law,
   for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
   for I have sought out your precepts.
46 I will speak of your statutes before kings
   and will not be put to shame,
47 for I delight in your commands
   because I love them.
48 I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love,
   and I meditate on your decrees.
 49 Remember your word to your servant,
   for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
   Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me without restraint,
   but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember your ancient laws, O LORD,
   and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
   wherever I lodge.
55 In the night I remember your name, O LORD,
   and I will keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
   I obey your precepts.
 57 You are my portion, O LORD;
   I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
   be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
   and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
   to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
   for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
   to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, O LORD;
   teach me your decrees.
 65 Do good to your servant
   according to your word, O LORD.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
   for I believe in your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
   but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
   teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
   I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
   but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
   so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
   than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
 73 Your hands made me and formed me;
   give me understanding to learn your commands.
74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
   for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
   and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
   according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
   for your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
   but I will meditate on your precepts.
79 May those who fear you turn to me,
   those who understand your statutes.
80 May my heart be blameless toward your decrees,
   that I may not be put to shame.
 81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
   but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
   I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
   I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
   When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pitfalls for me,
   contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
   help me, for men persecute me without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
   but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 Preserve my life according to your love,
   and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.
 89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
   it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
   you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
   for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
   I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
   for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
   I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
   but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit;
   but your commands are boundless.
 97 Oh, how I love your law!
   I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
   for they are ever with me.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
   for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
   for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
   so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
   for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
   sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
   therefore I hate every wrong path.
 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light for my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
   that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
   preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
   and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
   I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
   but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
   they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
   to the very end.
 113 I hate double-minded men,
   but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield;
   I have put my hope in your word.
115 Away from me, you evildoers,
   that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live;
   do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
   I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees,
   for their deceitfulness is in vain.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
   therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
   I stand in awe of your laws.
 121 I have done what is righteous and just;
   do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Ensure your servant’s well-being;
   let not the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
   looking for your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your love
   and teach me your decrees.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment
   that I may understand your statutes.
126 It is time for you to act, O LORD;
   your law is being broken.
127 Because I love your commands
   more than gold, more than pure gold,
128 and because I consider all your precepts right,
   I hate every wrong path.
 129 Your statutes are wonderful;
   therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
   it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
   longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
   as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
   let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from the oppression of men,
   that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant
   and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
   for your law is not obeyed.
 137 Righteous are you, O LORD,
   and your laws are right.
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
   they are fully trustworthy.
139 My zeal wears me out,
   for my enemies ignore your words.
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
   and your servant loves them.
141 Though I am lowly and despised,
   I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is everlasting
   and your law is true.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,
   but your commands are my delight.
144 Your statutes are forever right;
   give me understanding that I may live.
 145 I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD,
   and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me
   and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
   I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
   that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
   preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
   but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, O LORD,
   and all your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes
   that you established them to last forever.
 153 Look upon my suffering and deliver me,
   for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
   preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
   for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion is great, O LORD;
   preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
   but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
   for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
   preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.
160 All your words are true;
   all your righteous laws are eternal.
 161 Rulers persecute me without cause,
   but my heart trembles at your word.
162 I rejoice in your promise
   like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood
   but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
   for your righteous laws.
165 Great peace have they who love your law,
   and nothing can make them stumble.
166 I wait for your salvation, O LORD,
   and I follow your commands.
167 I obey your statutes,
   for I love them greatly.
168 I obey your precepts and your statutes,
   for all my ways are known to you.
 169 May my cry come before you, O LORD;
   give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you;
   deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise,
   for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word,
   for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me,
   for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O LORD,
   and your law is my delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
   and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep.
   Seek your servant,
   for I have not forgotten your commands.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Life Interrupted

Being a busy mother of three rambunctious gifts from Heaven, I know a little bit about interruptions. In fact, like many in this season of life, interruptions are more the norm than the exception. I have to rise pretty early in order to capture some quiet moments and protect them from interruptions. Some days, I feel like that old Army commercial..."Heather Arbuckle. She does more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day!"

This morning, as I started to rush through my list of errands, a catchy tune caught my ear. It's called "This Is The Stuff" by Francesca Battestelli. Long story short, the song paints a picture of those pesky annoyances that plague us in our frenzy. Lost keys. A forgotten lunch. A lost cell phone. As the lyrics to the song so eloquently state..."In the middle of my little mess, I forget how BIG I'm blessed."

As I listened closer and even started singing along, my heart began to feel lighter. Then, I remembered...this is my life, the only one I get, interruptions and all. And I decided, to adjust my attitude and lighten up. For in everything, God is working. Sometimes these interruptions are meant to teach me patience. Others mercy. Still others remind me to laugh at myself. So,today, I embrace life interrupted.

For most of us, life is full of interruptions. Not just the petty small moments of quiet time that get disturbed by sibling rivalry or soccer practice, but major detours that set our feet on a completely unexpected and uncharted path. To be honest, it is that type of interruption that most sets me into an anxiety ridden tailspin. The type A planner in me does not take kindly to a change in plans and I do not often embrace life's interruptions.

But God is in all things, both great and small. And I am called to trust Him. For He promises that "In all things He works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) Did you hear that? In ALL things...even the life interrrupted. So breath deep and sing along. For the Sovereign King sings over you.