In the Hand of God
We were awakened from our restful sleep by the violent shaking of an earthquake. Without warning tragedy had struck while most of us lay sleeping completely unaware that our lives would soon change forever. Stephen ran to the door of our hotel room to open it and see what was going on. When he opened the door he realized that part of the hotel had broken away and was laying in waste at the foot of the hotel. The rooms right across the hall no longer existed and were now part of the rubble seven stories below on the ground. The sounds of sirens came from everywhere. By now the kids were up and were scared. Stephen instructed us all to get on our shoes, grab what we could, and prepare to escape down what was left of the hallway. A portion of the hallway was missing that would grant access to the part of the building still standing. Stephen saw a ladder leaned up against the wall that a painter had been using the night before. He decided that it would make a bridge to access the other part of the building. He went out first to make sure that it was secure enough for the rest of us to walk on. He motioned for Kristen to come behind him. She was afraid, but I encouraged her to follow her daddy. When she had safely reached the other part of the building, Chris followed behind her. Finally it was my turn. I was nervous, but I wanted to be with my family. As I reached the ladder, an aftershock caused it to fall to the ground. Stephen reached his hand out to me, but it was no use. I couldn’t reach him. I begged him to take our kids out of the building and to safety. He could send help for me later.
They were all in tears as they left me to escape the building. I eased my way back to the doorway of our room. All I can do at this point was to wait in our room and hope that it was secure. Minutes later I heard a voice call my name from outside the door. I grabbed my bag and rushed to the door and threw it open. There wasn’t anyone there. I closed the door in disappointment and I went back to sit on the bed praying for help to come soon. Only a few seconds passed before I heard my name again. This time I opened the door and looked more carefully. I still couldn’t see anybody. As I turned to re-enter my room, I heard the voice again. It was familiar. It was the way it spoke my name
I put the bag down and gripped the sides of the doorway with my hands. I cautiously leaned forward seeing only the rubble below me. No one was there. But then He spoke again and I realized who it was. It was God. In a trembling voice, I told him that I was afraid. He reassured me that he had heard me calling Him and that He had come to get me. I told him that I wanted to be with Stephen and my kids. He told me that was why He was here. As I started to pick up my bag expecting Him to take me in His hand, He told me that all I had to do was to jump. Jump? Surely He wasn’t serious. Jump from a door of a seventh story room to chaos and rubble below? That was suicide. Before I could ask any more questions, He spoke again. In a firm but gentle tone, He told me that the only way that I would survive the chaos would be to jump. Tears ran down my face. Freefall? Surely he knew I was terrified of freefall. Me, the girl who couldn’t ride anything that involves freefall at a theme park? Surely He knew that I could not possibly think of jumping. I mean who would jump from a seventh story? He calmly asked me to lean forward and look below so that I could see a single mattress directly below me on the ground. According to Him, that mattress is what would catch me. With a flood of tears streaming down my face, I begged Him for another way. He gently reassured me that He knew I was afraid, but this was the only way and I had to make a choice. As I stood there in the doorway, knuckles white from clenching the frame, my soul could feel Him pulling me towards Him. It wanted to jump. My heart ached to be with my family. Once again He spoke gently telling me that there was no other way except for me to choose to jump. White knuckled clenched fists holding the frame of a doorway showed that I did not want to jump. Pictures of times when He had shown up before flashed in front of me. Had I not always found Him to be faithful? And so in a trembling voice, I whispered the words that I was ready to jump. A gentle quiet voice whispered back that He would catch me. After falling for what seemed like an eternity, I did not land on a mattress, but in the palm of the hand of the Almighty God. And then I woke up. It was only a dream, but my life would never be the same again.
I went to bed the night of March 17, 2013 just like any other night. I hadn’t watched anything on TV or read anything that would cause me to dream. But that night I would have a dream that would change the rest of my life. I don’t remember the girl who went to bed that night. I do remember that she thought that she had a deep personal relationship with Jesus. I remember that she thought she had grown close to God in her 41 years. But that night, that dream was her invitation to enter into a free-fall relying on him who is faithful to catch her. A week later she would find herself writing her grandfather’s eulogy, preparing to speak in front of a crowd which terrified her, waiting on results to see if her daughter had bone cancer, and more than anything facing an uncertain future. It was only the beginning. The next seven years would be a continuous training session of being asked to jump when she was afraid, to swim in deep dark waters, and to climb blindly out of the blackest of pits. She would learn that His hand always found her before she hit the ground, that He too swims in the deep never leaving her alone, and that after climbing her way up part of the pit wall she would always find His hand reaching to pull her to safety.
So on this day seven years later, may I say that I have never found myself alone. He has been faithful in the darkest of waters. He has been unshakable when I find myself shaking. There has never been a pit so deep that His love was not deeper still. So in a time when our world seems in chaos, may I reassure you that the one who made the stars, formed the universe, and made our very beings, He isn’t taken by surprise. He is still in control. Empty grocery shelves are nothing for the One who feeds the sparrow.The Bible is filled with verses telling us not to be afraid. If you belong to God, your heart should rest in peace that passes all understanding. Nothing can touch us unless he allows it to pass through His fingers to get to us. And if you don’t know Him, please allow me to introduce you to the One who is waiting for you. He who can still the ocean waves can calm your worried soul. This girl has learned that it’s okay to jump because the hand that will catch you holds it all.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7 NKJV
A few days ago a friend sent me this verse in a text. As I read those words, I find myself longing to be that person they describe. Someone who is never shaken, not afraid of evil tidings, with a steadfast heart, trusting in the Lord. But I am not her, but I am growing.
Today marks one year since I started this blog. I looked back today at some of my earlier posts, beginning with my grandfather's eulogy. I look back at that girl who started this endeavor last September, and honestly I barely recognize her. I look at her with a mixture of envy and pity. In some ways I envy where she was last September, the naivety of what was transpiring around her. Still filled with an element of trust and joy that she would learn to lose as time went on. In many ways I pity her, knowing what lay ahead of her.
As I read through my posts, I relived so many milestones of the past year. When I started last September 1, I was officially without a church. It was the Sunday between leaving White Oak and starting Pleasant Ridge. As I read on, I traveled the road of letting go of one church home, and becoming part of a new one. I relived the pain of giving up the drive through nativity, and the beginning of the journey to a new job. I also saw glimpses of another struggle that is beyond words.
This year has taught me many things, but there are two that stand above the rest. The first is that you really do not know anyone as well as you think you do. So many of our relationships are superficial, even when we don't think that they are. I have always found such comfort in knowing that I have some of the greatest friends and family members that anyone could ask to have. I never feared dealing with anything alone, yet this year has taught me that there is a place where no one else can join you. I understand the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I understand the need Jesus experienced to bring the small group of disciples with him farther into the garden to pray. He needed them to be close and to support Him in His final hours before facing the cross. Yet there came a point where He had to withdraw alone to be with God. I have found this year that there are places that you must go alone. There isn't anyone who can go with you. You find yourself alone with God. The other thing that I learned this year stems from the first. When you reach the point that you realize there is no one else to cling to, you find that God really is enough...more than enough. Even when you find yourself so very angry with Him for leaving nothing in your life untouched. Even then, in the pain you find He is all you need. And at some point, you realize that He is all you have.
I look in the mirror now, and I don't look the same. I am not the same. I think God had me begin this blog so that I could go back and read between the lines, and remember where I was, where I went, and where I am today. That girl from last September had a rough year. She was broken more than once in more than one way. She stands stronger, but she bears scars. Some of the broken places are healing, and have grown back stronger and more secure. Some of the broken places bear deep scars, but they tell a story of faith in an amazing God. And some of the broken places are raw and open, and truthfully may never really heal.
So on this one year anniversary of tiptoeing into accepting a much bigger calling, I can smile. I can count it al joy, because in the darkest places I found a Light. Sometimes it was hidden and dim, but it was always there. I am glad He did not show me where this year would take me, because I couldn't have made the journey. There is something to be said for not knowing where the road will go. I am at a new place with God. A place I have never been before. I am in my early forties, and I have found that God has more plans for me than I would have ever began to dream for myself. A God-sized dream for a broken girl. There's a years worth of blog posts here that outline the story...His story for me.
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 1 Corinthians 3:13 KJV
We place value in many things such as sports, money, nice homes and cars, and careers. We spend our days trying to make a name for ourselves. We strive to climb the ladder of success, We push our children to be the best in sports or school. We want to live a successful and comfortable life.
But what makes a successful life? Is it money, cars, and houses? Is it climbing the corporate ladder? Is it raising your kids to be the best in everything? The Bible says that our works will be tried by fire in order to determine what sort of work it was. What works withstand fire? What works are deemed important by God?
With our crazy and hectic lives, we tend to focus on the urgent. The urgent things are the ones that press upon us every day and hang over our heads needing to be done. The urgent carries with it deadlines and to do lists, but just because it's urgent is it important? Too many times we sacrifice the important for the urgent. The problem with what is urgent is that it is often unimportant in the scheme of things. How many things do we make time for in our lives that are forgotten or meaningless in two weeks? God isn't as concerned with what we deem urgent. He is more concerned with what is important.
God wants us to care about people. He wants us to be like Jesus and spend our days looking for ways to show His love to others. When we die, things like titles at work, grades and evaluation scores, or how much money or stuff we had won't stand being tried by fire. God isn't interested in how much money you made or how many trophies you won. God is interested in what you did for others, and by default for Him.
My proudest moments as a mom are not of my kids winning awards or winning a tennis match. My proudest moments are watching my son stop to hold the door for an elderly stranger, him stopping to play with a lonely younger child, or him wanting to help someone with something. My proudest moments are watching the smile on the face of my daughter as she rolls the last of the pennies that she's collected for children in Guatemala, or hearing her pray for a friend who is hurting. You see, they might not make the volleyball team or make the highest grades, but they make their Heavenly Father smile for they are learning the things that withstand fire. They are making a difference in the lives of others.
Look at the things you make time for each day. Are you carving out time for them because they are urgent or because they are important? What would happen if you focused less on the day to day and focused more on eternity. You only have one chance to live your life. Make it count.
Tomorrow is the first day of March. The majority of events that have proved themselves to be life-changing for me have occurred in the month of March. When I was fifteen, my uncle passed away in March at the age of 33. My life was never the same. Years later my aunt, his sister, passed away as well. Last March was no different. Last March my life changed forever. On March 27, 2013, I lost my grandfather. He loved me unlike anyone else. I wasn't prepared for the hole that his absence would leave in my heart.
But perhaps the biggest change in my life occurred on March 18. 2013. I have heard God speak to me in many different ways, but never really audibly in a dream. I dreamed I was with Stephen and the kids in a tall building and there had been an earthquake. Most of the building had fallen away and we were on an upper floor with only a small section of a hallway to walk on or you would fall to your death. All the doors were locked, but there was a hallway a few feet away that led to safety. We found a ladder to stretch across a missing section of hallway and put a board on it, and Stephen got across and then I sent the kids. They ran ahead to get help and I told them I would follow. As they went out of sight, the ladder fell. I was left standing in a locked doorway clinging to the door facing and was praying. In my dream, God told me to let go of the door facing. I was crying and told Him I would fall. He answered, "Yes, for a few minutes, but then I will catch you." I reminded Him that I can ride any roller coaster, but that I hate free fall. He simply stated, " I know that. That's why I need you to trust Me enough to let go." I let go of the door facing and could feel myself falling and then I stopped in midair landing on a mattress. I woke up and my heart was beating out of my chest.
At the time I thought the dream was to tell me not to worry about some issues we were having with some real estate. Little did I know, but that wasn't it at all. God was getting me ready to learn how to let go and trust Him completely. The year that has followed that dream has been more life-changing for me that any other time of my life. God set me on a path to learning that loving Him wasn't safe and following Him wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. In the last twelve months, I have faced many things. I'm not talking about normal everyday issues like family squabbles and finances. I faced mountains and heart breaking moments that made me forget how to breathe. In the last year, I went from clinging in desperation to door facings, like my positions and my personal strengths to holding absolutely nothing and falling helplessly and fearfully into the hand of God.
As March returns tomorrow, I find myself a new creation. I no longer bother to reach for the door facing or any other person or thing. I have learned not only to let go, but to willingly jump when God calls me to do so. The experiences of the last year brought me pain, sorrow, and extraordinary loss. But let me assure you that the experiences of the last year also brought me unspeakable joy and a stronger desire to truly surrender my life to God. There is no joy that compares to when you find yourself in the deepest darkest of pits surrounded by your worst fears having become your reality, and quietly you hear His voice whispering in the darkness that He hasn't left you, and to lift your head for your Father is waiting to hold your heart and dry your tears.
And so I prepare to march boldly into this month of March, knowing that the God who created everything knows my heart and wishes to heal the broken places. I believe that the experiences that left me broken in the last twelve months, will be the very experiences that prepare me for something beautiful in the next twelve months. God had a lesson for me. He wanted to teach me to free fall. Now that I have learned to trust His hand, I truly believe my next lesson will not be how to fall, but how to soar.
Eventually it has to stop doesn't it? He has to know how tired I am doesn't He? And yet the burdens pile higher and not just imcreasing in steps anymore, but coming in multiple in the same day. It isn't like this is new really. The burdens have become my normal, but just not this overwhelming.
Yet I don't dare ask why, because I know the answer. I was warned. I even wrote it down in October. "The day you step out in faith, put yourself out there, state your opinions, declare yourself for Christ...that day the enemy sets his sights on you with fervor." That's what I had done. I made a decision in August to step out in faith toward something I felt God calling me. Since that time the calling has become stronger and the attack has increased.
The temptation to throw up my hands is always present. I am completely aware of my own insecurities and weaknesses. I am perfectly aware of how impossible the call seems. I am aware of how difficult the journey will be for my family. I realize that the best thing to do seems to be to just try to forget about it....but I can't. The voice is getting louder. The beckoning within my soul is sometimes deafening. As much as I try to fight it, the more I find myself wanting it. Every time I find myself almost letting go, He sends confirmation and usually in a very big and undeniable way.
So I find myself standing on the edge of God's will and what seems realistic. I find myself torn between the dream of a call and the realism of the struggle. I know that choosing to deny the call is to deny a blessing....possibly my true God-given appointment. I hear the thunder, feel the rain, and see the lightning. I feel the doubt and fear start to creep inside. In the noise of the storm I can barely hear His voice saying, "If you want to follow and choose this path, don't be afraid of the battle . I will fight the battle for you. You must simply position yourself, stand still, and see what I will do." (2 Chronicles 20:17) And so I continue with renewed determination knowing that the God who calls me will make the way. . My only hope, my only peace, is that He is working in it all...I am broken and in the hands of the Potter. Even in the pain there is no better place to be.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" Luke 15:17 NIV
I wake up to the blessing of a snow day, and reach to check for messages on my phone. I run across an article, and after reading just a couple of paragraphs I am struck by a truth. I cannot finish reading the article because I lay there almost paralyzed by its words. How does a person become so out of touch with everything and everyone around you that you forget the things or people who are most important? I know how that happens. You settle for the pigsty.
As a firstborn, I have never cared much for the story of the Prodigal Son because I understand how the brother felt. However, today I find myself identifying with the Prodigal himself. In Luke 15, the prodigal finds himself in a place where he is not happy, but must stay in order to survive...or so he thinks. Every morning he awakens only to realize that it is simply another day when he must go and work among the pigs.
Being forced to a level where he had to work with pigs was humiliating for this young man. Not only are pigs filthy animals who find pleasure in wallowing in their own feces mixed with mud, but he was a Jew and pigs to them were unclean in a religious sense as well. This young man who once experienced the luxury of living in his father's house, now found himself so hungry that he would have welcomed the chance to eat the slop alongside the pigs in an attempt to satisfy his hunger. The Bible doesn't say how long he remained in this state, but it is clear to say that one day he came to himself. One day he came to his senses and realized that there was a better life outside the pigsty.
This morning I came to myself. I realized that not unlike the Prodigal, I too am experiencing life in the pigsty. I have at some point accepted that existing in the pigsty is the only way I can survive. I have grown accustomed to life among pigs. Rather than avoid the muck and the smell, I find myself climbing daily into the pen with the pigs, mired up in feces and mud, and breathing in the scent of their filth. Day in and day out, I continue to live in this existence.
And then just as the ProdiIgal, I remember my Father. I remember what my life used to look like when I lived in His house. I remember what it was like to hear laughter and see a table filled with nutritious food. I remember what it was to be happy...I remember joy. I see myself deep in this mire, surrounded by pigs covered in layers and layers of dried feces and mud, and I remember that if I could just see my Father then life could be better.
And so I start the struggle of climbing out of the pigsty, gently raising my feet one step at a time from the mire in order to make my way to the fence. I had failed to notice just how far into the muck I had allowed myself to venture. The distance to the fence can seem so far that you almost decide it might be easier to stay with the pigs. But I cannot continue to stay here in the pigsty because I am hungry. I have grown so hungry that I was almost willing to eat the slop alongside the pigs. But this hunger cannot be satisfied with slop, this hunger can only be filled at the table of my Father.
And so I make my way out of the pigsty. I am on my way to feast at my Father's table. I know that the blessings awaiting me are more than I could imagine and that He is waiting. He has so much more planned for me than to toil among the pigs. I have waited much too long to partake of the blessings from His table, but I am on my way.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8NJKV
If there is one thing that I have come to know all too well in my Christian walk, it is this: Satan is real, and he wants to destroy you. I know some people question whether or not Satan is real. Trust me, not only is he real, but he knows you and he makes it his business to know what makes you tick.
The fastest way to get Satan's attention is to make a commitment to God. It has been my experience that Satan is content with leaving me alone as long as I am indifferent and not in the will of God. The minute I choose to engage in a new ministry or to commit myself to a Bible study, he appears. Just yesterday I posted a prayer to God. With an open heart, I expressed my desire to serve Him more. I even made the statement that I wanted to feel Jesus under my fingernails and to get my hands dirty in His service. Well, guess who that woke up?
The day that you step out in faith and declare yourself committed to the will of God is the day that you become a target. The enemy, who is constantly walking as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, sets his sights on you, sometimes with great fervor and intensity. Making a stand for Christ is an open invitation for Satan to attack.
So why set yourself up for that? Why would anyone want to consciously invite Satan to attack? Wouldn't it be easier to just read your Bible, say your prayers, and go to church on Sunday and stay out of his way?
God calls Christians to make a stand. God calls us to reach a lost and dying world. God calls us to live a bold and courageous life. He wants us to be His hands and feet. He calls us to take a risk and show His love in tremendous and outrageous ways. But how can we do that when the father of lies is lying in wait for us, to devour us? How can we withstand the wounding and destructive snares that he sets in our path?
There is another side to making a commitment to God. If you step out in faith for Him, rest assured that He will never leave you or forsake you. The Bible promises us this. In 2 Chronicles 20: 15, 17 NKJV, we find a promise. "Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours,
but God’s. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
So as I find myself in a period of attack, I draw strength in this promise. Even though there is a roaring lion seeking to devour me. Even though he knows exactly what will hurt the most. I press on in my journey to follow Christ. I step out in faith knowing that the God of all comfort, the God who promises that He will repay, the God who promises that I will see the salvation of the Lord, is there. And even though the winds may blow, and the rains may fall, I hold on to the truth that my God is bigger and that He will fight the battle if it comes because I am following Him.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8 KJV
This year has been a year of dramatic change in my life. I don't pretend to know what it is You are trying to teach me or where it is that You are leading me. I had no idea where 2013 would take me or what it would have in store for me, but You did. I think you tried to prepare me. I know that there were messages, little whispers from You, but I didn't fully understand. I think back to that dream in early March when You told me to let go and not be afraid to fall. So many changes since then....God, I'm trying, but the truth is, I am still struggling with being able to let go.
I look in the mirror and I don't recognize the girl I see. I am not who I was in January. I am not even who I was in March. I am different. I have been broken and in the Hands of the Potter, I am being renewed and transformed. What is it that You are making me to be? I am just a cracked pot. I am not a perfectly smooth vessel, but a jar of clay that contains breaks and cracks. At face value I appear to be nothing, but when Your light shines through the cracks, I feel beautiful.
God, I am not a 'sit in the pew" kind of Christian. I know that my family and I are in a period of transition. Perhaps it is a time for us to learn. Perhaps it is a time of rest like my husband seems to hope. But God, I don't think I can rest. I don't think I know how. I am not even sure that that is what You have in mind for me, the way I feel must be from You.
I have these two beautiful children that You allowed me to carry and watch grow in You. They both want to serve You. They are both mission bound. My husband feels a calling of his own. I thought maybe that my job was to support them. I thought maybe You were calling me to be their partners, but God, I'm starting to think that maybe just maybe, You have something for me too.
God, this life is too short to waste. I want to be brave. I want to be dedicated. I want to be Your hands and feet. I want to feel You under my fingernails. Maybe I did birth a Daniel and an Esther, but maybe I am part of that too. God, I want to be part of the Esther generation. I don't want to be content with sitting on a pew and just blending in with my surroundings. I want to be a woman who says yes to God and I want to do it now.
God, please tell me that You aren't finished with me yet. I know in my heart that You are up to something. I have no idea what it is, but I must admit that I am getting excited. Take me out of my comfort zone. Teach me to free fall and enjoy it, knowing that I will always land in Your hand. Make me get my hands dirty and feel what it feels like to live a life of service for You.
God, here I am....send me.
"For everyone to whom much is given, from him
much will be required; " (Luke 12:48 NKJV)
If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times...."to whom much is given, much is expected." I never looked that verse up until he passed away. I didn't have a need to read it for myself because I knew that he knew it was there and he reminded me of the verse often enough.
I have been given much. I am blessed beyond measure. I have done nothing to deserve the blessings that have come to my life from the hand of God. I am merely the recipient of His undeserved grace and mercy. But for some reason they come....the blessings. They are there, too numerous to count. I find them behind storm clouds. I find them under rocks that I struggled to overturn. Sometimes they are hidden in sleepless nights or tears that fall way too easy. But there are blessings everyday.
Years ago I heard His voice calling me to write. I had asked Him how it was that I was supposed to share the many wonderful things I had witnessed Him orchestrate in my life to my kids . I had asked Him how I was supposed to begin to communicate to them how very real God was and how absolutely essential He had been in my life. He told me to write it down. My answer? I am not a writer.
And yet, here I am. I am ready to write. I had a dream in March in which He asked me to jump from a ledge, trusting that He would catch me, but not promising that He wouldn't allow me to fall for awhile. Since that dream I lost my precious grandfather, awaited news to see if my daughter had cancer, went on the trip of a lifetime, and have lost most of the titles that I would have used to define who I am. What changed my mind? Within five days in the month of August, I went from being a Sunday School teacher, choir member, Christmas program director, effective teacher, and Colossians 3:23 employee to none of the above. When I ran to Him crying that I didn't understand why I had to give up what I thought was my ministry. When I ran to Him and asked why I was defined by test scores or why the truth had made me a prisoner rather than free. When I ran to tell Him that I was overwhelmed and tired. What was His response?
First I found myself once again In the Hand of God, surrounded by the peace that passes all understanding. And then I heard that all familiar answer....write it down, Michelle. Yes, I give you my comfort, but I don't mean for you to keep it to yourself. And so according to 2 Corinthians 1:4, "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." , here is my blog. Maybe years spent being found in, and being led by, the hand of God, can help comfort someone else.