Are you in a desert?

Sometimes we pray, pray, and pray some more for God to remove suffering in our life and yet that prayer goes unanswered.  I know this has happened in my life as well as those that I know.  I want to share something the Lord showed me this past week through the book we are reading in our Bible Fellowship Group called “A Praying Life” (I shared about this in an earlier post).  It was pretty eye opening for me in relation to suffering and walking with the Lord.

When we start encountering suffering in our life, whether it be finances, a loved one struggling with cancer, a child with disabilities, we hope and pray that the Lord will change things.  But as much as we hope, the reality is that things aren’t changing and our prayers aren’t being answered in the way we think they should be.  Every part of our being wants to close the gap between hope and reality.  We will do anything not to live in the desert.

Some people deal with suffering by the denial approach.  It is filled with hope but doesn’t face reality.  For instance, some Christians try to sidestep suffering by insisting God has healed them, then they die of cancer.  Another approach to dealing with suffering is determination.  You have faced enormous obstacles in the past and overcome them, so the same is true with this.  You will make this happen.  It’s a short trip from determination to despair, when you realize you aren’t going to change the situation, no matter what you do.  You try to stop hurting by giving up on hope.

In contrast, people of faith live in the desert.  Like Abraham, they are aware of the reality of their circumstances but are fixed on hope.  In the face of Sarah’s barrenness and old age, Abraham still had hope (Romans 4:18).  He did have his moments though of trying not to live in the desert.  He suggested to God that his steward Eliezer become his son.  Sarah tries the determination approach by suggesting that Abraham sleep with her servant Hagar.  But ultimately, he stakes his life on the hope line.

The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is no way out.  You don’t know when it will end.  There is no relief in sight.  Although I am not in the desert right now, I know lots of my friends who are.  Both spouses are unemployed and have no hope that a job is coming.  Friends who have been trying to have children for years but are barren.  Friends who have endured months of crazy things happening that have pushed them to the brink financially, physically, and mentally.  My heart cries out for those in the desert because I, too, have been there.

But here is the neat thing about it all.  The desert is a common theme in Scripture.  Joseph’s desert is being betrayed and forgotten in an Egyptian jail.  Moses lives in the Midian desert as an outcast for forty years.  The Israelites live in the desert for forty years.  David runs from Saul in the desert.  All of them hold on to the hope of God’s Word yet face the reality of their situations.  The theme of the desert is so strong in Scripture that Jesus reenacts the desert journey at the beginning of his ministry by fasting for forty days in the desert while facing Satan’s temptations.   His desert is living with the hope of the resurrection yet facing the reality of his Father’s face turned against him at the cross.

God takes everyone he loves through a desert.  It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden.  The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight.  Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances.  The things that brought us life gradually die.  Our idols die for lack of food.  You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth.  Life is crushing you.

Next, desert life sanctifies you.  Things that used to be important no longer matter.  You have no idea you are changing but you are.  After a while, you notice your real thirsts. (Psalm 63:1)  You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God.  When driving, you turn off the radio to be with God.  Without knowing it, you have learned to pray continuously.

The best gift of the desert is God’s presence.  The protective love of the Shepherd gives me the courage to face the interior journey.  When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf.  Rather, he’s weaving his story in our lives.

This encourages me to no end.  I look back at deserts I have gone through in my life and know that the Lord was weaving his story.  He used a boyfriend’s death in my life to bring me closer to Him, to cause me to surrender all of my idols, and to change me into the person He wants me to be.  I pray for those that are in the desert right now that you will not turn to denial, determination, or despair, but chose to live in the desert, knowing that God is sanctifying you and is closer than ever before.

Life flashing before my eyes…

So, today I literally had one of those “life flashing before my eyes” moments.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t that serious but it was close.

I was leaving the gym and headed for home, Kinsley was in the backseat, it was drizzling outside and had been most of the morning, and I pulled up a red light.  I was looking down in my lap doing something, which obviously wasn’t important considering what happened next, because I don’t even remember what I was doing.  There was only one car in front of me and I was sitting in the inside lane of traffic.  There was a turn lane to my left, a median, and then two more lanes of traffic going the opposite direction.

I hear the sound of screeching tires on wet pavement and I look up and to my left just in time to see a Chevy truck (not a small truck, mind you) spinning uncontrollably toward me and rocks spinning toward the van.  He spun around once, his back tires went up on the median, and I just knew he was going to hit me.  But he didn’t!!  When he hit the median, the truck toppled a little and then landed flat, facing the wrong way in the street.  If I had been in the turn lane, he would have hit me.  Believe me, there is nothing scarier than seeing a truck spinning out of control toward you and having nowhere to go.  The truck was not damaged, did not hit anyone, and just turned around and took off.  I literally started shaking and crying in the car, thanking God for sparing us.  Then it hit me that I had prayed not even 20 minutes earlier while exercising in the gym that the Lord would place his angels around our cars and keep us safe as we travel.  God is good and faithful and our prayers do make a difference!

We are reading a book in our Bible Fellowship Group at church called “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller.  I think through reading this book, I have been challenged to pray more than I ever have before and just to be real with God as I pray.  I also have been more aware than ever of how God is answering those prayers.  This is seriously one of the best books on prayer I have ever read.  Let me give you a few quotes that have impacted me:

“I am starting to see there is a difference between ‘saying prayers’ and honest praying.  Both can sound the same on the outside, but the former it too often motivated by a sense of obligation and guilt; whereas the latter is motivated by a conviction that I am completely helpless to ‘do life’ on my own.”

“Learning to pray doesn’t offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart.”

Needless to say, its great and has challenged me in so many ways.  Here are a few more updates about things going on in our lives:

-We found out that our appraisal here in Kentucky was wrong on some things.  Rather than go through the appeal process and push back the closing date, we negotiated a lower price and called it a done deal.

-We have a BIG outreach coming up at University of the Cumberlands.  We are bringing in the Maze, an illusionist who questions what is true and how students may be being deceived, and shares the Gospel through this.  They have not had anything like this before, so please pray that the room is filled and overflowing, and that it leads to many great spiritual conversations that ultimately end in people coming to know the Lord personally.

-We have been packing, packing, and packing some more.  Thanks to our neighbors and those FREE boxes the Lord led us to on the side of the road, we have not had to buy any boxes yet!!

Thanks for praying and know that we are praying for you too!

Offer Accepted!! Bring on the move….

Remember how I said I was excited to see how the Lord provided for this part of our journey (finding a house or apartment in NC)?  Well, can I take that back?  The Lord has provided but, as I am in the process of learning, not in the ways we would always like.  Let me explain….

We traveled to NC early Monday morning (so Kinsley could sleep most of the way in the car) and when we arrived, we hit the ground running on the house hunting search.  While we were looking at houses, we got a call for a friend here in town that Sharon Mehaffie, who were supposed to be staying with during our trip, had been in a major car accident.  She was at the hospital in critical condition, had just gotten out of emergency surgery, and would probably be in the hospital for 5-7 days because of major injuries.  We were very obviously heartbroken and saddened, both for Sharon and her husband Mike.  We led project with Mike in Santa Cruz and we absolutely love both Mike and Sharon.  They are both so incredibly generous and kind and love the Lord with everything in them.  They are also tons of fun!  We were assured that they still wanted us to stay in their house (which I think has turned out to be a blessing to have someone here to take care of things).  After house hunting on Monday, we returned to Mike and Sharon’s house and got an update from Mike about Sharon, what had happened in the accident, and we even got the privilege of praying with him.

Us, with Mike, Sharon, and Misty Cook in Yosemite in 2009

Also, on Monday, we found out that our house in KY appraised for way less than we expected, which will affect the price we negotiated with the buyer.  We are appealing the appraisal, but basically means we will not be able to get what we settled on for the house.

We did find a house we liked Monday but after research, learned that NC 540 (4-6 lane bypass around Raleigh) was going to be coming through only 400 feet away from the property.  Yea, too close for comfort.  So Tuesday, we continued our hunt.  We looked at a gazillion houses and found 3 that we really liked, and they were all in the same neighborhood with similar layouts, but with different square footage.  We decided to put an offer in on the one with the most square footage (although it didn’t feel bigger than the others).  That same night, someone else put an offer in on that same house and the buyers went with the other people.  So, after many tears and not understanding why the Lord made this process so crazy (we also lost another house about 2 weeks ago that was a foreclosure, amazing deal, and had 7 offers in on the house), we decided to put an offer in on one of the other houses.

Honestly, we liked this one more than the one we put an offer in on first but it was higher in price and for less square footage (but had a fenced backyard and other extras).  We were able to negotiate last night and basically after all has been said and done, we are getting it for cheaper than we would have gotten the first one.

So here are the lessons I have learned (or relearned since this isn’t the first time the Lord has taught us these things):

1.  The Lord is in control and ultimately gave us the best hoause for the best price.  2.  I have a problem trusting the Lord when times get tough.  3.  I don’t always like the journey the Lord takes us on, especially if it isn’t easy.

Pray for Sharon, as she is recovering, and for wisdom for the doctors that they can discover what else may be wrong.  Pray that everything continues to go smoothly with the buying process.  Also, pray that we are able to get a higher appraisal for our house in KY and find out why it was so low (bad comparables, wrong information, etc.).

Pleasantly Overwhelmed

Sound like a contradiction?  Well, it’s not.

Let me set the scene.  We were in staff meeting this morning and for the first 20 minutes or so, we normally share about what is happening or has happened, either on campus that week or in our lives.  I shared about some encouraging things happening at University of Cumberlands and Georgetown College, and was in the process of sharing about some personal stuff when it happened.  I became pleasantly overwhelmed.

This is what I was in the process of sharing when it happened:  this week, Ed was sharing with some people about our ministry and how they could join us by partnering with us monthly, but he was also sharing about the big changes coming up for us in regards to moving to NC.  Although they didn’t say no to partnering with us monthly, they did think they may be able to rally some people around helping provide financially for our move.  Basically, this person told Ed, “Give me a number of what it would cost you to move, and no promises, but we will try to make that happen.”  While I am fully aware this isn’t a guarantee and it may fall through, this is a BIG deal.  I have thought many times this week about how we would have to dip into our emergency savings to provide for the move, so this was an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even been bold enough to pray and ask the Lord for.

While I was sharing this, God basically ran through my mind all the ways that he has provided for this move, assuring me once again that when He calls us to do something, He will ALWAYS provide ALL that we need to make it happen.  Here are the things He has provided so far:

  • as we decluttered in preparation for selling our house, we had friends offer to let us use their basement to store things so we wouldn’t have to get a storage unit
  • our house sold in two and a half weeks
  • the inspection for the house went really well and my dad happened to be in town as it was being done so he could help Ed fix the things they listed
  • right after we sold the house and just when I was starting to think I was going to need to find boxes to start packing things, we drove past a house in a neighborhood nearby us that had a ton of boxes sitting on the curb
  • we have a great realtor in NC who we really like and knows the area well
  • we have a place to stay for the 10 days we are here in KY before we move
  • the news about the money for the move that I shared above

How awesome is this?  I got convicted at the same time because it was like God was saying, “I have been faithful to provide every thing you have needed thus far in regards to making this move for me, how dare you not ask that I provide money for moving costs too?”  So thankful that we serve a faithful and merciful God!

Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”                                                                                      –Psalm 89:8

Please pray as we travel to NC this week to look for either a house or an apartment to live in, that the Lord will give us wisdom and direct our steps.  We are excited to see how he provides for this part of our journey!

Family Visiting

For Labor Day weekend, we decided to head up to Columbus, Ohio to visit Ed’s family.  Once we move to NC, we know it will be WAY harder to get to OH so we thought this would be a great chance to see everyone before we move light years away.  Ed’s grandfather isn’t doing so well, so it also gave us a chance to visit with him for what could be the last time.

We started by heading to Radnor, OH (is it even on a map??!??) where Ed’s aunt and uncle live.  We went to visit Ed’s grandfather (who is in an assisted living), Ed’s grandmother (who lives with Ed’s aunt and uncle), and Ed’s aunt and uncle.  We also went to eat at a wood-fired pizza restaurant where Kinsley had her very first experience drinking out of a straw.

Then, we spent the rest of the weekend with Ed’s cousin and her family, eating amazing food, seeing other family in town, and watching Ohio State football.  Ed loves going to Ohio and being in Buckeye country.  He almost stroked out when he discovered that his cousin Chad’s wife was offered 3 tickets to watch Ohio State play that weekend and turned them down without telling anyone.  It is his dream to watch Ohio State play in the shoe (their stadium) since he has only seen them play in bowl games in Florida.  He survived though, thankfully. Here is a picture of Kinsley in her Ohio State cheerleading outfit.

On the way back to Kentucky, we stopped in Cincinnati to see one of our graduated students who I used to disciple and who used to lead Cru on her campus.  She graduated last May, got married this summer, and is just starting a job this week.  So fun to see and hear how our students are serving the Lord after graduation and making a difference everywhere they go.

One lesson learned from this trip, I need to get way better about taking pictures.  Such a great lesson to learn!  Here’s to trying….

Parenting 101

“Don’t touch that.”  “Stop.” “No touch.”  Get away from that.” “Get down.”  “Sit down.”

Some days I sound like a broken record.  Let’s be honest, most days I sound like a broken record.  I had just settled into the fact that this is what life was like for a mom of a 17 month old.  Most days leave me feeling hopeless, as though I know I am not raising my child to obey the Lord, much less mom and dad.  How am I, a sinner who desires to do the right thing but disobeys the Lord time and again, going to teach my child, a sinner as well, to obey the Lord?  But, tonight, God tapped me on the shoulder and gave me one of those AH-HA moments.

We had an event with some ladies at our church entitled “Mothering with a Map.”  It is a group that, beginning tonight, will meet once a month to give moms an opportunity to receive support, encouragement, and Biblical mentoring from some moms who have been there.  It was absolutely wonderful.  We got to hear of some great parenting resources, like those listed below, but we also got to hear about authority and training.  We talked about authority and how we are all under authority, from God but also to real people here on Earth, and we have to teach our children to submit to our authority so they can submit to God and other authorities in their lives.  While this was a good refresher, I have heard this before.

But then, we talked about training, and how we put expectations on our kids that we don’t define to them.  For instance, we tell our kids to be good in the store, but never define what it looks like to be good and exactly what we do and do not want them to do in the store.  We tell them to clean their room but we never tell them what exactly to do in the room so that we can define it as clean.  We set our kids up to fail rather than setting them up for success. God never gives us a command that he doesn’t tell us how to fulfill.

We don’t train our kids at home in private but try to train them out in public in the heat of the moment, which never works.  My church friend threw out suggestions, like having the child learn “Come to Me” by creating a scenario in your home where they will learn what it means when you say come to me.  The whole idea is that she will to come to me when I tell her to so I am not running after her in the store but she will stop and come to me.  Another idea is training them to play with their toys versus playing with mom and dad’s things.  If they try to play with your things during this training time, you take them to their toys and tell them that those are theirs and to play with them.  You keep repeating until they obey.  This concept is completely foreign to me but makes so much sense when the Lord tells us not to “exasperate our children, instead bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  I just needed some practical steps to go with God’s command.

My friend that was teaching us this has never had cabinet locks, baby gates, and keeps pretty decoration all over her house (including a glass chess set on her fireplace) and has a toddler!!  Maybe there is hope that we can visit people and not have to worry about the house not being baby proofed and that I can have pictures on the end table again.  Oh, the joys that await us!

So, can you guess what will be on my agenda next week?  Training Kinsley not to stand up when she isn’t supposed to (like the bathtub, on the couch, in the shopping cart, on her rocker) and to sit down when I tell her to.  Another is training her to play with her toys vs. playing with mom and dad’s things. I know this will take more than a week but Ed and I are excited to start!  Our hope is by training Kinsley this way, she will learn to “obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart.”