Category Archives: sanctification

a look back

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thanks for your patience with me as i’ve been noticeably absent the last month or so.  i hate that my blog has taken a back seat so drastically, because if for no other reason, it is always encouraging for me to go back and look over what God has done in my life.  I was especially encouraged a few weeks ago to look back and see an overview of what God did in the past few years.

So, keeping up with the tradition, here is a brief overview of 2009…

The year started off on a very low note – with me working through some very difficult issues from my past and having to face some personal heartache that I would have much rather left buried.  Thanks to the help of Matt and Julie and many others from my church, I continued to learn what forgiveness looked like, but not without many tears.

That struggle began several months of discouragement and at times hopelessness.  Looking back now, I am so grateful for my friends who stuck with me, upheld me, and encouraged me each step of the way… and at times, did everything necessary to turn my gaze off myself and back to the hope found in the cross.

I learned through that time, that my safety and comfort must be found in Jesus alone.  That though others disappoint, and at times cause severe hurt and pain, that Jesus never fails.  I learned that like Eustace, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that at times God strips away ourselves, but it is always done with a hand of love and mercy.

2009 also was a year in which I started to see my health improve.  This year brought for the first time in years the first consistent season of sleeping normally and the first period of weeks with no migraines.  I’m grateful to God for the help of the doctors and others, but ultimately, for His hand guiding my health and my life.

then began a season of questions… should i remain at my job? where should I live? should I pursue moving to another state?  if so, where?  i began pursuing a long-standing desire… to move to the Washington DC area… for months, I investigated, prayed and talked with people.  By late spring, I felt a peace about pursuing it and by mid summer I was convinced I was moving… as soon as God provided a job.  I spent 10 days in the DC area on a fact finding mission, found a place to live, spent hours driving in traffic and was excited about the pending change.  Then God closed the door.  It was clear to me that the door was closed tight and that I was not to pursue any further.  Yet it was also abundantly clear that this change was for my good and was given to me by a God who knows what is best for me.  So, my roots are in Greenville.  But my hope in God grew through that time, and though the “move” was unsuccessful, the lessons learned were well worth the months of questioning.

This fall brought changes once again to my life.  September 13th was my first date with Ted Riley, a man whom I have since grown to love.  We met in August via e-harmony and i am grateful for how God (not merely 29 dimensions of compatibility) brought the two of us together.  I could not imagine a better fit for me and look forward to seeing what God does with our relationship.

The past 4 months have been times of continuing improved health (despite the doctors telling me in August that they thought I could have pancreatic cancer) and new areas of learning to trust God.  Contentment looks different in this season (not “is there even possibly a good guy out there who would like me?” but “when will I get married / when will I have kids / when does the next “season” start?”) but the struggle remains the same… so I keep learning that no matter the circumstance, that my confidence and hope must be in the only One who remains unchanging.

In October, I began writing weekly online devotionals for Devotional Christian.  It has been an encouraging and challenging step for me… in learning to be more thoughful about what I write and growing in being more theologically informed.

I’ve seen reconciliation in relationships this year.  I’ve seen improvement in health.  I’ve seen new changes.  But through it all, I’ve learned more of the faithfulness of our God.  Through every change, He has remained true to me.  And through every time I haven’t remained true to Him, He lovingly corrects and draws me back.

What a God we serve.  I look forward to the challenges and blessings of 2010, confident that through every step, He will be by my side.

thy way not mine, o Lord

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Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not, if I might;
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So I shall walk aright.

Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me
My poverty or wealth.

The kingdom that I seek
Is Thine: so let the way
That leads to it be Thine,
Else I must surely stray.

Not mine, not mine the choice
In things or great or small;
Be Thou my Guide, my Strength
My Wisdom, and my All.

Horatius Bonar

sanctification and blessing

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i’ve been thinking lately about sanctification.  since becoming a Christian, i seem to have grown the fastest and learned the most about God through trials i’ve faced.  i think i started to equate sanctification with suffering in many ways.  but the past few months, there has been a shift.

since the start of my relationship with Ted, I have been blessed beyond measure.  through his love, I have come to understand more clearly the love of my God.  through his patience with me, I see the mercy and faithfulness of my Savior.  through Ted’s forgiveness and desire for reconciliation (the few times we have disagreed), I better understand our God, who is eager for reconciliation and a growing relationship with his Bride.

its true that God brings sanctification through trials.  i’ve experienced that countless times.  but its also true that He doesn’t use trials alone to bring this purpose about.

i’m learning what that means…

she is ugly

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Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! that this most glorious Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, whom angels worship, and before whom the seraphim bow–should from all eternity engage to come and seek His Bride from this poor world, and claim her for His own!

Yet so it is!

But she is filthy and polluted! (Ezek. 16:6; Job 15:14-16; Isa. 64:6) Then His own precious veins shall pour forth the rich crimson flood to cleanse her, (Rev. 1:5) and His Spirit shall open the fountain to wash her from her sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1)

But she is naked and bare! (Ezek. 16:22) Then He will cast His skirt over her, (Ezek. 16:8) and will for her, weave in the loom of the Law (Rom. 5:19) fine linen–clean and white–a robe in which she shall be fit to appear at His court!  Moreover the Spirit shall bring near the righteousness of Jesus, (Isa. 46:13) clothing her with “the garments of salvation,” and covering her with the “robe of righteousness,” “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

But she is diseased! (Isa. 1:5, 6) She is a leper! (Ps. 51:5)  Yet will He bring her health and cure, for He says, “I am the Lord who heals you;” and He is actually made to be sin for her, (2 Cor. 5:21) that she might be made “the righteousness of God in Him.”  

But she has no personal charms—she is ugly!  Then He will put His loveliness upon her, and through it her beauty shall be perfect.

But she is poor! So He bestows Himself and His fullness upon her–and thus endows her with unsearchable riches!

But she is unwilling, and has no heart to the match, for she obeys a hostile prince! (Eph. 2:2,3) Her delights, too, are in the world and the flesh. A new heart will He give her, and a right spirit will He put within her. The Holy Spirit shall make her willing in the day of His power. “I will cause you to forget your images of Baal; even their names will no longer be spoken.” (Hosea 2:17) So that, prostrate at His feet, she shall say, “Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone!”

And now that the Spirit has touched her heart, she feels she is diseased, and discovers her filthiness and nakedness, knows she is ugly and poor, and cannot think the Bridegroom’s heart is towards her, or that she can find favor in His eyes. And therefore she cries out, “I am black!” “Behold, I am vile! My loveliness has turned into corruption!” But He overwhelms her by responding, “You are all beautiful, my love, there is no spot in you!”

Then she exclaims, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death!” He replies, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”

Now she ventures, with a captivated heart, to declare, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His! He is the chief among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!”

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:19

(“The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan” October 31, 1849)

when your sin stares you in the face

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“Where sin abounded—grace did much more abound!” Romans 5:20

Heavenly Father,
Deepen in us this day, contrition for our vileness, as miserable sinners in Your sight. How often without resistance, have we floated down the stream of evil! We do not cloak our wretchedness. Our lips are ready to confess—but our hearts are slow to feel, and our feet are reluctant to amend our ways. We bring our hard hearts unto You. Break them by Your Spirit—and then bind them up by Your grace. Wound them to the core—and then pour in the Gospel-balm!

Such is the blindness of our fallen nature, that we cannot see sin’s deformity—except as You are pleased to unmask it. Such is our deadness, that we cannot hate sin—except as You shall graciously implant abhorrence. Such is our infirmity, that we cannot flee sin—except as Your strength enables. Conscious of our total inability—we come to You for light, for help, for strength, for blessing.

Our sins without number stare us in the face! They are piled as mountain upon mountain. Their height reaches unto the heavens! But their full extent is open only to Your omniscient eye. The burden of our known transgressions weighs us to the dust. But the burden is light, compared to the mass which the scales of Your justice hold. We see but little, because our light is partial and our sight is dim. How must we appear, as seen by You, before whom the very heavens are not clean! You charge Your holy angels with folly. What must be Your estimate of our polluted souls! Humbled for what we see and feel; fearful for what is known only unto You—we meekly cry, “Pardon all our sins—for Jesus’ sake!”

We smite upon our breasts, as utterly unworthy of the least of Your gracious and unfathomable mercies. Hear now our cry, and work in us by the omnipotence of Your Holy Spirit, more profound and abiding repentance. Give us more and more of that godly grief, which ever fears and trembles, and yet ever trusts and loves—which is ever watchful and prayerful, and yet is ever confident and hopeful. May the remembrance of the sad past—quicken us to walk in entire newness of life. Grant that through the tears of penitence, we may see more clearly—the brightness and the glories of the saving Cross!

Oh! blessed Jesus – we flee to You!  We cling to You. Our countless iniquities condemn us—but You will wash them all away!  Our tears of penitence cannot remove one blot—but Your blood has all cleansing merit. Our prayers can earn no pardon—but Your mercy says, “Your sins which are many—are all forgiven!” The more we loathe ourselves—the more we love You! Our vile demerits—commend Your glorious worth!

Henry Law

learning to walk with a limp

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There is something strangely beautiful and wondrous about scars. If you’ve ever studied the body’s healing process, you can’t help but marvel at the mystery of it all. Scars are reminders of a hurt that took place, but scars are also reminders of healing that followed. God could have easily designed it so that wounds would heal leaving absolutely no trace of the pain, but the more you read the Bible, the more you realize that God doesn’t work that way. God is pretty big on creating “mile markers” along the pathways of life…

It’s a shame, really, that our modern society doesn’t have any similar practice of leaving visible markers along our paths to serve as reminders of an encounter with God. But we do have scars — spiritual scars that each has a story to tell of a time when God touched us and left His mark on us. And the truth is, no one in history has ever had a genuine encounter with the God of heaven and walked away unchanged… unmarked… un-scarred.

Sometimes the scars God leaves on us come from a wound in our heart that He healed with a gentle touch. Other times the scars are more severe, and cause us to walk with a limp for the rest of our lives, because God — as our loving Shepherd — had to break our leg in order to keep us from wandering away from the flock. I have both…

No one encounters God and walks away unchanged… and Jacob was certainly no exception. During that strange wrestling match, God put His mark on Jacob — scarred him, if you will. God touched Jacob’s hip and caused him to walk with a limp. At the conclusion of that story, the Bible says that Jacob had seen God face to face and lived, and then it says, “The sun rose above Jacob, and he was limping because of his hip.”

Wow, what an amazing scene! Jacob, the deceiver, goes into an encounter with God — arrogant, cocky, walking just fine on his own two feet… and he comes out with a new name, a new purpose, and a limp that will serve as a reminder to him every day for the rest of his life. I imagine there were many mornings from then on that Jacob got out of bed and started to walk across the room, and when he took that first step and felt his hip give way… his mind went back to that life-changing meeting with God… and he remembered!

Don’t underestimate the power of scars. Don’t underestimate the importance of learning to walk with a limp. They are blessings in disguise. The fact is that no one — not a single one of us — will ever truly understand what it means to walk with God and see our lives make an impact for Him until we have learned to walk with a limp. It’s proof, you see — proof that we’ve been with God, that we’ve wrestled with Him, and that we have not walked away unchanged. Every time you see one of your scars… every time you are reminded of your limp… take a moment to remember. Number yourself among the blessed ones who carry the marks of God, and rejoice in knowing that those scars are proof that He knows you by name, and that He has come close enough to touch you.

read the entire post at Phil Pike’s blog: The Journey.

thoughts on “the room”

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I remember the first time I read this story by Josh Harris called “the Room” (see post below).  It was shortly after I had become a Christian and I was reminded in such a powerful way of the amazing grace shown to me.  What a cause for rejoicing.  What peace this story brought to my soul.

How I need this reminder though every day… not just 5 years ago.  This past week, I was having a conversation and the other person accused me of something falsely.  I tried to point out that what they were saying was not the truth and the response I heard was “well, you are a liar.  you have shown a consistent pattern in your life over many years of lying.  things like that don’t change.”

How happy I am to know that those words are simply NOT true.  It is an accusation that Satan tries to use quite often in my life to cause me to despair.  But I know without a doubt that I am not that same lying punk kid I was 5+ years ago… the gospel has the power to change lives… even mine.

How do I know this?  I mean, if you look at my life, you still see lots of sin.  I hurt friends, I fail God, I don’t live with the righteous obedience that He requires of me.  So  how can I say so confidently that I am not the same person anymore?

Its because I’m no longer bound to my former sins any more than Jesus Christ is still bound to the cross on which He died.  The resurrection proves that His death was sufficent.  Those precious words “it is finished” applies for every CURRENT struggle… not merely the pre-salvation ones.

I pray my friend understands this truth one day… that the gospel does indeed have the power to change a wretch like me.

I’m not at all excusing my sin or saying that its not serious. My sins were so serious that Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for them.  But I have the confidence and hope that in His suffering and death, my condemnation, guilt and shame were absolved.

what a glorious truth!

grace… and your deepest darkest secret…

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so last night at care group i was freshly reminded of grace… God’s grace to me, an undeserving sinner.

During worship, it seemed each song was a reminder of how faithful God is in the midst of our failures.  I had talked with my care group leader, Matt, a while ago about sharing a specific area of my life where God had been at work.  But its an area that has been well hidden.  its an area that is combined with much shame and fear on my part.  Yet, somehow, its an area of my life that God is working to redeem.  And though my own sinful desires would rather not share it, I knew last night that God was calling me to.  He was calling me to open up and share things I didn’t know how it would be received.  And He was calling me to do this and trust in Him to deliver me of fear and shame.

I’m honestly not sure what all I said.  What I remember is that after I shared, one of my friends asked if they could pray for me.  So, everyone gathered around and prayed that God would work as a result.  I was so encouraged, I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I am so grateful for the gift that God has given me through my friends at my church.  I pray that God would be at work in our group, in allowing us to grow together on a deep level, so that we know no matter what, that God is our hope.

After care group, I can’t tell you the number of people that came and thanked me.  So, God is already at work.  Somehow through my sin and lack of trust and failure over and over again, HE is receiving much glory.  And comforting my heart too.

I was reminded of an amazing passage yesterday… Psalm 78.  It talks about the Children of Israel, and just how many times they turned away.  But the focus isn’t just there…According to verses 1-7, the story is meant to be told so that people would set their hope in God, not forget His works and so that they would keep His commandments.  Its not a story of the Israelite’s failure as much as its a story of God’s faithfulness.

“They forgot His works and the wonders that he has shown them… He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.  He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.  Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their hearts by demanding food they craved.  They spoke against God saying “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?  He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed.  Can He also give bread or provide meat for His people?”  Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath… because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.  Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven… he sent them food in abundance…and they ate and were well filled… but while the food was still in their mouths…despite the wonders, they did not believe…

their heart was not steadfast toward him, they were not faithful to his covenant.  YET HE, being compassionate atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.  He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert.  They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.  They did not remember his power or the day when He redeemed them from the foe…but He led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.  He led them in safety so that they were not afraid…Yet they tested and rebelled against the most High God and did not keep his testimonies…but He chose the tribe of Judah… which He loves.  He chose David his servant and took Him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people… With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with His skillful hand.”

I’m so glad my God is faithful.  I’m so glad my growth to become more like Him is not dependent on my effort alone. I fail every day. But I’m so glad that my God leads and guides me gently, provides for me in my need and comforts me in my weakness and despair.

the last 18 months… and a very faithful God

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I just want to take a second and look back to remember what God has done, specifically over the last 15 months of my life. All too often, I get discouraged by an apparent lack of growth or what I perceive as changing too slowly. But God in His faithfulness is training me and keeping me at this marathon pace, though my heart would rather be zooming along at a sprinters pace.

February ‘08 – on Sunday, February 24th, during worship rehearsal, Katie Britt came up to me with a little piece of paper. On the paper were these words… “His strength is made perfect in weakness.” Little did I know how those words would define the next season of my life. I woke up the next day with a splitting pain in my head. Imagine a migraine. Then make it exponentially worse. That day was the start of many long and painful months ahead… months of confusion, months of crying out to God, and months of things just seeming to only get worse. This month also was when I began writing poems.

March ’08 – On March 7th, I had my first MRI of my brain. I was terrified and in so much pain that I didn’t know how I would stay still throughout the procedure. And since the doctors were running ahead of schedule there was no time for sedation. God brought to mind the passage of 1st Peter 1 that I had just memorized. He reminded me that He was working… that He had a plan for me (an inheritance that is sure) and that even in my current trial, that His goal is that my faith and hope would rest in God… my loving Father. It was a sweet time, yet I was overwhelmed and confused as to what God was doing.

April ’08 – I had to stop teaching German. The migraines continued. I lost count of the doctors I visited and the tests that were run. There seemed to be no answers.  And though my body was exhausted, sleep wouldn’t come.  Matt preached a sermon that when God brings us into the waves, He is always behind us, holding us secure. He won’t let us drown. He is doing this because He cares for us and wants us to know the freedom found in trusting Him.

May ’08 – May was a month of answered prayers.     I got a new position at work, which was an answer to several years of praying.  I was diagnosed with and treated for a bacterial infection in my brain (similar to meningitis), which had been one cause of the migraines.  I think God was just reminding me here of His faithfulness… and that He hadn’t forgotten me.  However, May was also a month of new trials.  I became very sick with what I thought was the stomach flu.  New Attitude (singles conference) was a struggle.  I had gone expecting great things from God.  I left disappointed that there was no “thunder and lightning” simply a “I’m faithful… trust Me.”

June ’08 – I found out in June, shortly after my 27th birthday that I am allergic to dairy, wheat, oats, food dye and several other things.  Unfortunately I found this out the hard way, after weeks of not being able to keep food down.  On June 26th, my good friends Dave and Melissa lost their baby.  Melissa was 6 ½ months pregnant and went into labor.  I will never forget singing “blessed be your name” while standing in front of a casket not more than 1’x2’.  Their steadfast faith through that unthinkable trial encouraged me to keep looking to our loving Father, no matter what.

July ’08 – on Sunday July 13th, I was baptized.  July was a month of trying to figure out what I could eat and what makes me sick.  My grandparents celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary.  Doctors visits continued.  Migraines started coming back as I was testing food options.  July was a month of learning that blessing and suffering go hand in hand.

August ’08 – August was the month of diagnoses.  The doctors found out that what I thought was a stomach flu back in May, was actually salmonella food poisoning from a puffed wheat cereal.  This was a mixed blessing because though it threw my body into overload, the doctors were able to also diagnose that I have Celiacs disease, something that has gone undiagnosed for about 10 years.  This month was another month of physical weakness.  I had no energy and constant migraines.  The Worship God conference was encouraging and this month began my study of the Psalms.  The Psalms CD quickly became one of my favorites.  At the worship conference, I was able to see God miraculously heal my friend Dave Johnson, after suffering for many years with kidney stones.  Still to this day, he has not had one!

September ’08 – Migraines began getting worse.  Due to the fact that you can’t take migraine medicine every day, the doctor put me on an anti-seizure med that is effective for treating migraines.  After a few increases in the doseage, the migraines began subsiding.  This was a month of ups and downs, along with very little sleep.  September was also the month I decided to move from living with a family in the church to getting an apartment with two friends.  Emotionally, there were many struggles, as I was working through where God was leading me to.

October ’08 – I started having some severe reactions to the medicine and the doctors had to quickly take me off, depsite the risk of seizures.  This was one of the scariest times I have ever faced, not sure what was happening, if I was dying or what to do.  Thankfully, my pastors were extremely helpful in reminding me of my hope in God, the God who knows all, is in control of all and who loves me.  The doctors changed my medicine and I only got worse.  I met with my pastors one afternoon and they prayed that God would heal me.  Sleep was unknown at this point now.  Oh, and on top of that there was the physical and emotional stress of moving, yet again…for the 7th time in 5 years.

November ’08 – November was a hard month with relationships.  And with dealing through issues from my past.  I found a new doctor who diagnosed me with sleep apnea, and a severe vitamin B deficiency.  We were able to take me off all the migraine meds, except to treat the occasional migraine.  I am grateful to have found this new doctor.  I am grateful because slowly, it seems that God began healing my weak and dying body.  I didn’t know He was just beginning to work on the heart and emotions.

December ’08 – if i had to summarize December it would be “face your fears.”  December was a difficult month as I continued working through some pains from my past, thanks to the help of Matt and Julie.  My body continued to improve.  I started having more energy, but still wasn’t sleeping.  In December, the doctor did a second sleep test. Oh, and during my Christmas break from work, I almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning and an allergic reaction to wheat.  Both in the same week.  It was a draining week.

January ’09 – As the new year began, I was continually reminded of the word “peace.”  I was reminded that God is the One who brings peace and that this was His goal for me in the coming months… to learn peace, not because there are no storms, but because I am held by the God who controls those storms.  “the flame shall not hurt you I only design your dross to consume and your gold to refine.”  God seemed to be saying that the coming months would be a clear picture of God’s care and a refining of my dross.

February ’09 – in February I took a trip to Charlotte NC to visit a friend.  I was encouraged to realize that some of my sin struggles are the same things she struggles with.  I felt God say that this weekend would be pivotal in freeing me from certain sins and strongholds in my life.  I returned home, only to fail.  As I saw those waves of condemnation crashing down, I again became very discouraged with my lack of trust and faith in God.  And the emotional scars continued and in some ways only seemed to increase.

March ’09 – God continued to remind me that He brings beauty from pain.  And that my life, which has involved a good deal of pain, is meant to bring Him glory.  Each step I’ve taken and each tear I’ve cried was not lost to His care and love.  As my hours kept getting cut at work due to the economy, I found trusting in that love a struggle.  But I remembered where I was a year ago, in the tube for the MRI, and was refreshed to remember that my God is providing for me.  Since I still wasn’t sleeping, the doctor put me on a sleep med, for the next 3 months to try to train my body to sleep again.

April ’09 – Migraines are more an occasional occurance now instead of a daily trial.  Physically the changes in my body have been phenomenal since last October when my pastors prayed for God’s merciful healing hand to touch me.  I’m even training for a half marathon at the end of this summer!  Lord willing, I’ll have the physical strength to make that goal a reality.  The struggles to trust God to provide financially became greater as I saw to greater depths the mess I’ve created.  I was confronted about a relationship issue that I had left unresolved.  God used that to show me grace in a new and special way.  I was surprised to see such grace to me… a clearly undeserving sinner.  God overwhelmed me with that grace.

May ’09 – Again, God has overwhelmed me with His grace.  I’ve had many nights of restful sleep.  He has provided for me financially in some spectacular ways and has again and again proven Himself to be my faithful Provider.  I’m also amazed at what a gift my friends are and how God has used them to show me His care.  They have sacrificed so much just to simply show me God’s love.  I’m grateful… and overwhelmed.

So, that’s the last 18 months.  I don’t know what the next ones will contain.  But I know that the faithful God who has carried me through many physical, emotional and financial pains time after time, will continue to carry me through every storm He has ordained for me.  I continue to struggle with fear… fear of the unknown, fear of future pain.  But God is faithful in comforting me with the truth that no matter what trials come, He is with me.

God’s grace in failure

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The past few weeks have been crushing for me. God has strategically been destroying me… who I am… what I value, etc. I’ve hated every moment of it. The trial started with a description of my sin revealed to me in a disgusting way and has left me shocked in a sense. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by my sin, but I was. I thought we had moved past it… I thought I had grown. I was shown a few weeks ago that the only thing that had grown was my self-dependence and pride.

Then came another shock… mercy. God used a friend of mine to show me what the Father’s mercy is like… in spite of my failure, in spite of my direct sin against that person, they showed me undeserved and lavish. And since that day, there has been not an ounce of resentment or guilt pressed upon me by this friend… rather they have accepted me 100% and have time and time again gone out of their way to remind me of their care and affection. Not because I deserve it, but rather, because it is true. Forgiveness because they love me, not because they have to forgive.

God has used that powerfully in my life. To see such mercy in repayment for my sin simply blows my mind. I don’t know what to do with such kindness other than in joy resolve to live in a way so as to not hurt them again. And so it is with God… as He has revealed and shocked me with my sin and complete inability to change, I am being met with mercy… mercy that overwhelms… mercy that knows me completely and loves me unfailingly. Mercy that picks me up out of my self-made messes and rescues me.

That truth was never so clear as it is right now…

On my vacation, I received a speeding ticket. When I was pulled over, I knew I was speeding yet was begging God to “let me off the hook” or show me “mercy.” He had something else in mind. The officer came back to my car with a ticket for reckless driving… apparently anything over 80 is considered reckless in the state of Virginia and I was clocked going 82 in a 70.

I was crushed. I am barely “making it” as a result of all my stupid financial decisions in the past (and sadly, present). God’s been working on my heart for a while now that I need His help to overcome this sin area in my life. But how can I ask God to help when I’m so aware that I’m in a mess of my own making? How can I cry out to Him for mercy when if I were only wiser or more cautious, I wouldn’t be in this boat?

And yet my God has been saying to me “I am a God of mercy… come. Come broken and ashamed and humbled and I will heal your wounds. Come not in your typical “I can fix this” arrogance, but rather come needy. Come desperate and watch Me work. Come trusting. Come expecting to receive mercy and grace in your time of need, for that is what I promise to you. Come in faith that My promises are true and that My love will never let you go! Come with empty hands and watch me fill them.”

So, I have come. Come and asked God to do the impossible… to fix what I have messed up. To heal what I have broken. To restore what I have crushed.

Last week my hours were cut at work… again. Is this God’s way of answering prayer? By making things worse?? Really?!?!?!?!? Yet in my frustration and questioning, I still heard simply “Come. Trust. Look. Believe. Know.” So, I have been praying and asking God to provide… not because I deserve it, not because I have earned it and not at all as a result of my works, but simply as my friend did… out of love and because of His faithful compassion.

Because I often have bad dreams, I leave music playing throughout the night… I find it helps me refocus my thoughts if I wake up scared (which I often do). I woke up several times last night… not from bad dreams, simply because… Every time I woke up there was a song playing on the radio that spoke specifically of God’s relentless faithfulness to the unfaithful or His love to the undeserving.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was “it’s Monday… a new day and a new week… that means that God is promising new mercies and new help today too.” Now believe me when I say that this is NEVER my first thought in the morning. Its typically “is it morning already?” “why does my body hurt so bad?” or “geez, I overslept again!”

From there, God just began to overwhelm me with His kindness. The first way was through a conversation on facebook which served as a reminder of what He has saved me from, granted me freedom from and the hope He has given me through it all.

Not 10 minutes later, God again reminded me of His care. This time it was through a dear friend, who stopped by my apartment at 7am with a card. In the card was a check… blank. The card stated that God had impressed on them to pay for my ticket… to pay off the debt that I earned and owe. To pay it willingly, aware that it was my own fault which caused this debt.

I am overwhelmed. Speechless. There are no words to adequately describe this. It is humbling. But I am rejoicing. I am low. Yet elated. Gratefully forgiven. Yet humbly aware of my weakness. I’m beginning to understand what Paul meant when He described himself as sorrowful yet always rejoicing. What a dichotomy this life is.

How great and humbling it is to know this God, who is not limited or hindered by my sin. Who loves me with all my weakness and who simply says “Come. I love you just the way you are.”