Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Blessing of the Child-Prayer

I don't even remember what it was that she did.... but, I looked at her and said, "Felicity, you know that was wrong. Come here..."

And she looked at me with that.... that look. The one that says, "hmm... not sure I want to obey you right now."

So our eyes are locked. My eyebrows lift in a "don't-even-think-about-it" challenge and I watch her battle it out inside that child-brain of hers....

Yeah, you guessed it. She chose her way.

And on this particular day, for this particular battle- I decided I was going to win. But I decided I wanted to win her heart. Not just the "uncle-cry". (<--it shames me to admit how often I give in upon claiming this)

As she turned to stalk off to her room and the familiar comfort of her blankie and paci(oh believe me, the decision to include that little bit of truth was so not an easy call for me. yes, she still has a pacifier. yes, she will be 3 in less that 2 months.), I called her back to sit on my lap. Until she could sit still and calmly accept my authority.

This is the part where I wanted to give in. I didn't know how long it was going to take. I had stuff to do. Seriously, child-of-mine, JUST OBEY ME!

But. We've  been praying. Asking Him to soften my heart and change the way I love to the way He loves.

So there we sat. Her, seething and squirming and wrestling. Me, praying that she would give in before I did.

And she did. All of the sudden.... she leaned into me. I felt the tension leave her little body... she still cried... only now, quiet and soft. She said, "okay mommy."

And I held her. And she wrapped her arms around me and told me she loved me and she was off to play.... the familiar comforts forgotten about.

Felicity. This is the girl that prays for me every night. Things like, "Mommy makes mistakes and please help her to use nice words" and "God, please help Mommy to really, really, really, really be patient" (she must know that's about how much patience it takes with her!!!)... and I joke and tease that these prayers are somehow manipulative to make me feel guilty but oh my goodness even if they are, it matters not because the Lord uses them to speak to me in profound ways.

And tonight He took me back to this day.... to this memory that wasn't so many days ago. And He spoke to me.

About how I stare into His Word and I feel those whispers of conviction across my soul and sometimes I still choose me.

And how many times do I turn and run to the familiar comforts??? Food, unhealthy relationships, fantasy worlds found in movies and tv shows and books and social media.... the list is endless but these are some of my top choices.

Oh, but when I stop and I listen even just enough to sit, though it be squirming, seething, wrestling.....

It's only a matter of time until He gets to me and I lean into Him..... and I can breathe in His Peace and His Presence. His Love is just that way.... it's too strong to not be moved by it. 

"Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared." Ps. 119:36-38

And may I continue to be gifted with these child-prayers that inspire me to turn back toward my Jesus and wrestle if need be until I encounter the Love that changes everything.

Monday, September 30, 2013

No such thing as a 'pintrest' Miracle.

I love all things crafty. I love looking at something that is lackluster or plain and seeing a vision of what it could be and working with my hands to make it transform. Yet, I've had an impulse to do this with my own life. Like my ideas of how God could or should redeem are the right ones. And shame on me for standing indignant when He doesn't use my 'brilliant' plan.

How can healing happen between 2,500 miles? How can communication blossom and mature over controlled fragments of time? How can a marriage start to find its way to health and Home? How can redemption sweep real and holy through a jail cell???


Yeah. I know. It doesn't make sense. Pretty sure that's the business He is in. He leaves no room for doubt that it's not my 'craft-project-plan' that makes whole out of shattered and broken but it's His relentless love. And His crazy, wild, out-of-control, amazing grace.

This messy grace that He bathes me in... I have to fight to receive it. Sometimes I think that the package it's coming in could use a little 'pintrest-creativity-help' because it might help my ego when I talk about it.... when I share the miraculous work that He is doing.

Since when does a miracle need a pretty wrap job???

When it's just Him and when it's all grace.... that's beauty enough. Lord, help me believe it and receive it.

Maybe the journey seems long and the days are hard not because He is slow, because He never is but only patient with me(2 Peter 3:9), but because I am....

Slow to learn, slow to surrender, slow to believe, slow to trust, slow to obey....

Slow to accept.

To accept that which comes from His Hand, knowing that it is only good for me and glory for Him. Accept His pattern of beauty that He is weaving in my life and believe that it is far more beautiful than what I had in mind.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Let a song rise.

Young, aching voices asking questions that have no easy answers....

Moments that have my eyes filling with tears and I fight to give controlled reassurance...

The gut-checks that come out of nowhere and I struggle to gasp for air....

And giggles and firsts and changes that come yet are bittersweet....

And the truth is that we all have hearts that are wounded. But may we come weary to the One who binds us up(Psalm 147:3).

Little bit of hope: the struggle will end and a song will rise....

Monday, September 2, 2013

This ain't easy...

I've thought about how to write this at least a thousand times. In fact, for the past 5 months, I've started, stopped, started again, stopped again.... yet no matter how I've tried... it doesn't come out easy or pretty. So here it comes...

One year and four months ago, I found out my husband had been unfaithful to me. About 3 hours later, it became public knowledge as it was aired on news stations throughout the state in which we were living. The following 48 hours were the hardest hours I have ever lived, as life as I had known it, fell apart before my very eyes in the most horrific way I could have dreamt. My husband disclosed to me his multiple acts of infidelity among which were an addiction to pornography and a criminal charge of a sexual-offense.

I remember saying, "it would hurt less if he were dead."

In one phone-call, my dreams of a fairy-tale life died. And I was engulfed in a tidal wave of shock, anger, and sorrow.

I type these words for 3 reasons:

1. God told me to. (this is really the only one that matters)

2. I have come to be grateful for the lack of "secrecy" that came with this knowledge because I was beyond blessed by the body of Christ who reached out and ministered to me. And I cannot imagine walking through the pain of a broken marriage alone... and I know that far too many women do. And I want those precious ones to know--- you. are. NOT. alone.

3. refer to #1.

As I sit here, writing these words that I sometimes still struggle to believe are my story, I am in my home in which I live with my 3 beautiful daughters and my husband is serving a 2 year sentence in another state for his sin.

And I don't know how.... but I thank my Sovereign Lord that my life didn't turn out the way I thought I wanted it to.... He ransomed me from the american dream. And He showed me who He was and is when He stripped away all that I held more dear than Him.

I don't know what tomorrow holds (as I never did, but now I'm aware of this truth). In fact, all I really know, is that God is good. And He is enough. And on the days that I struggle to believe this, He pours His Grace out on me.

Although most days I feel vastly inadequate to be His instrument, I cling to and choose to believe His truth about me and know that any follower of His that yields themselves to His Hands is valuable to His Work and His Kingdom.

And now that these words have been written, I trust that He will lead me from here....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Here am I. Send me!

"I need your messy story… and you need your messy story. So tell me your story, not your sermons, tell me your thrashing, and not just your theology. Tell me about your questions – and not just your quest. Because we read so that that we know that we aren’t the only ones."

I read this quote on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience. First of all, you should follow her blog. It is IN.CRED.IBLE. I've been re-reading this quote for 2 months... wondering what to do with it. 

And then, Pastor Matt's challenge to the church was to "share your story" this week.

Ever feel like you keep asking God to make it more clear to you just cuz you wanna drag your feet about obeying? 

Yeah... well, I have. And the thing is... He is answering my prayers. He's making it more clear.

But there is this voice that tells me I'm not ready. I'm not "out of the woods" or maybe still in danger of going off a cliff or something. Perhaps. And so I asked God if that was true... if I needed Him to do more in me before I was useful to Him.

And He brought to mind, Jonah. The man He used to save a great, evil city from destruction. It's pretty clear that Jonah had a LONG way to go when God used him to do that. The more I thought about it, the more amazed I was about the whole story. God chose to use a self-centered, proud, whiny, immature, want-the-comfortable-life guy(this description hits a little too close to home) to make HIS GLORY known. 

Yes, He has a LOT more to do in me. And I'm certain He will for a long time. That's what made me excited when I remembered this:

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.." Philippians 1:6

As I struggle(hopefully with my face turned upward to my Savior), to move these leaden feet forward in obedience.... I grab hold of these truths and cling for dear life.

And may I be honest? IT. SCARES. ME.

And I know why people don't talk about it. And I don't want to. But God is relentlessly laying it on my heart...and I have a lot of excuses and so many justifications but He says "obey Me". And this process of laying my life before Him and inviting Him to prune me- it. really. hurts.

If I've been asked to lay down anything, it has been and is pride.
And those people I run into, the ones I imagine talking about me and my messy life... God whispers,

"Forgive. Don't hold any grudge or resentment. My Spirit wants to FILL you and there is not room for a record of wrongs. And all that worldly logic of 'protecting' yourself- that's for the birds and when you are filled with Me and you love like Me- you. will. hurt. and it's messy and I will call you to lay down your pride time and again but this life I've given you isn't to make you look good --- it's about declaring MY goodness. I gave My Son over to people who were spitting and jeering and mocking, because I loved them."

And He places His loved ones in my life who share this with me:

"Oh give thanks to the LORD , call upon His name; Make known is deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders... Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised..." 1 Chronicles 16:8-9, 23b-25a

This life is so messy. Isn't it? And yet, it's in this ugly disaster that I've seen the LORD. And how does one remain silent after that???

"'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.'....Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" Isaiah 6:5,8

And it makes me wanna sing that song I used to giggle about... Yes Lord, Yes Lord. Yes, Yes Lord.
But really....
Lord, YES.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

"I cast all my cares upon You...
I lay all of my burdens, down at Your Feet...
And when I don't know, what I should do...
I cast all of my cares upon You..."

My precious, 4-year-old Payslie sang this all morning.

She blesses me.

Today I read an update on some answered prayers... "God is so good!!!" Indeed, He is. Yes, our God is so so good.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

In every moment, every circumstance, every unknown.... the Jehovah God does not change. He is always GOOD.

And as hard as it is for me to accept and believe this: He uses every circumstance in my life for my good and His glory.

Isn't that awesome???

Today I choose to believe and declare that my God is GOOD.
Today I choose to believe and trust that He uses all things for my good and for His glory.
Today I choose to cast all my cares upon my Lord.
Today, whatever is in front of me, I choose to sing hallelujah.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Martha, Martha...only one thing is needed."

A couple of mornings ago, I climbed into bed after Mercy's early morning feeding, anxious to get another hour or 2 of sleep before the older girls woke up.... and I felt a gentle tug in my soul.

"Come be with Me."

And I whined, "but I'm so tired"..... and I'm ashamed and my heart hurts that I didn't get out of bed.

Tonight I wept as the Lord brought this moment back to my mind. I had thought about it briefly that morning, as I stumbled, bleary-eyed and just as exhausted, out of bed about an hour and a half later to pour juice and turn on cartoons.

But you know what? I learned something tonight as I asked the Lord's forgiveness for not heeding His call.....

That morning... that gentle whisper against my soul.... it was an invitation to come into the Presence of the Most High God, not because He needs me, but because I need Him---- and He knows that. And somewhere in my pride and arrogance, I make spending time with my Lord about me and what I can offer Him or what I need to do in order to be pleasing to Him.

And I'm so wrong. Because it's not from my striving and trying and self-discipline and denying sleep and better time management that I somehow stumble upon becoming holy....

I think it's more like "you become like the One you spend time with"..... and His beckoning to me is an invitation to be loved on by Him and to be refreshed in Him and to be filled with Him.

And it's in the being with Him that the Spirt-fruit is produced in me..... that joy for the trials and that love for the unlovable and that peace for the unknown and that patience that is tested. and tested. and tested again.

And I weep... that I reject His love... and that I choose not to be the Mary at His feet and instead choose to be the complaining, "busy" Martha.

Yet... my Creator God and Savior King pursues the heart of this daughter of His who gets so distracted but who just desperately needs HIM. Even if the laundry piles up and the toys remain exploded and the bellies are filled with pb&j and crackers over and over.... these children will be much better off if this is the ONE thing that happens each day...

That the response to this wildly jealous invitation to be loved on and known by God would be answered with me getting out of bed and entering into that most Sacred Place... and finding the rest that I most need.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

{Mercy} Elisabeth

Mercy : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
Elisabeth "God's promise", "oath of God", or "I am God’s daughter"

My precious daughter....

As soon as I was surprised that you were a girl, God whispered your name against my heart. I wrestled with it for awhile because I just wasn't sure it's what I wanted to name you. But every time that I tried to settle on something else, I was pulled back... to your so very special-to-me-name..... Mercy.

How God has used you even before you entered this world and breathed to fill your lungs for the first time.... it astounds me. Many times in my life I have doubted God's ways that are so higher than mine and when your coming was made known was another of those times.

Your life.... the anticipation of it.... has taught me much about the grace and mercy of our God. As I walked through my own sort of valley of the shadow, when grief over loss was all I could feel some days, there was YOU. A new seed.... sprouting and growing and living and moving.

"Forget the former things: do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Is. 43:18, 19

Dear one, as strange as this may seem, I do not wish for an easy life for you, void of heartache or suffering. The reason is this: Never have I known the Heart of our Jesus like I have in my loneliest, most painful moments. And my precious girl...it is SO worth it. There is nothing on this earth that can compare to experiencing Him. And above anything else, THAT is what I will pray for you. That you would know Him. That you would know because you have experienced His Presence when you are in your wilderness and in your valley of the shadow. And then, in those desperate moments, His grace and His mercy would rain down on you like new life.

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.

When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way:                 Lamentations 3:19-33 the Message

This is the passage the Lord gave me for your name.... and so I will share it with you until you know it for yourself. His mercy is new every morning. He is ever so faithful. 

And I have sweet YOU as a reminder of this truth...... and every time I speak your name, may I remember the goodness of my Lord.

I love you from the depths of my heart, my {Mercy} child....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition

I love the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The stories grab my attention and my heart and I love watching the hope that families receive when they are given a gift so big and so beautiful.

And God has given me my own "Extreme Makeover". Only this one could be better defined as a "heart" edition and it doesn't come with a 7 day vacation to a Disney resort and I don't watch the demolition on a computer screen. I certainly didn't send in an application tape asking to be chosen for a major overhaul. I had no idea the desperate state my heart was really in. And it was the exposure of my husband's sin that God used to reveal to me my own.

Grievous sins... idolatry, self-rightousness, PRIDE.... oh that darn pride. Yet as the Lord started stripping away the things in my life that I held onto, things that in themselves were good, but that I had made into idols.... He became so very real to me.

My story goes a little more like this....

Jesus has lived in me for awhile, but there was a part of my heart that was shut off from Him. It was me who kept the door closed since no one else lives in the inner part of my being besides me and Him. His light seeps through the door on the sides and on the floor and it casts shadows around this room, but I really don't feel too comfortable looking around in here.

I don't know if I opened the door or if He knocked it down... I'm not sure it really matters. But suddenly He was there. And I was being held in His arms. Tenderly cradled as I wept over broken dreams and a shattered reality.

Then I looked around. The light had come in with His Presence and suddenly I felt naked and exposed. My first thought was to grab a bucket and a rag.... this place was filthy! I was so embarrassed and ashamed.

You know on the tv show how Ty will take the family around and ask about the house and their story and what's important to them? Sometimes I don't like watching that part. Most of time I just want to see the end. The pretty part, ya know? But I guess I don't know how they would get there if they don't start with what comes first. Or perhaps... that is part of what makes the end so beautiful. Is to see the "before" picture.

And that's what the Lord did with me. He walked with me inside my "home".... I told Him what was important to me. And we looked at some of the visible damage already done. I cried over the fact that I had no resources, ability, or talent to "fix" the place up on my own. He reminded me that He did. As He held me in His embrace, He invited me to trust Him to be the Architect, the Creative Designer, and the Builder.

The demolition process on the heart is brutal. At least for me, that has been and is the experience. I feel like even the things that I know don't look good, once God starts to tear it down, it gets so much worse! The wall with chipping paint.... as that was pulled back, God pointed out the black spots behind the sheet rock. I jumped up and said "I'll get the bleach spray" and He so gently said "Bryana.... that is toxic black mold. Bleach will not fix it. I need to replace this poisonous wall that is wreaking havoc on your health." The creaking floor? I learned that not all of my supporting beams were solid. There was dry-rot in my foundation and those beams needed to be replaced before the whole structure caved in. And that's what it's looked like and been like as God works in my heart and my life as I allow Him to.

So very painful. New, fresh air to breathe. More solid footing. Freeing, terrifying, surrendering, fighting, blessing.....

Oh, and how I look forward to the day when I get to shout, "MOVE THAT BUS!!" and my Glorious Creator reveals the beautiful tapestry He was weaving all along.....  I imagine I will fall on my face in wonder at His Goodness and His Love.

In the meantime, as I am somewhere on the "7-day makeover process" that is more like a "lifetime process" in the heart edition.... I wake up daily and get to choose if I'll allow construction to move ahead. It's the choice to trust my Savior or not. To surrender to the Most High God or not. We ALL make the choice. Lord Jesus, help me to give a resounding "YES!" every, single morning.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beautiful Obedience

A few days ago, God revealed something to me. He showed me that I've lived trying to obey God because I feared what would happen if I didn't... feared disappointing Him or somehow "letting Him down". What I've found is that obedience with this root of motivation---fails miserably! At least, that's been the pattern for me.

Trying, trying, trying.... fear, fear, fear.

And I'm not talking about the kind of fear that is healthy and stems from an awe of our Maker and a belief in His Greatness and Power.

The kind that on a "good" day, had my ego inflated thinking I had it under control and as long as I could keep it up, I'd be okay..... But far more often had me defeated and discouraged, always afraid that I just wasn't good enough and if I could just try harder, be better, figure it out, pray more, have more self-control...


I wanted it my way, on my own strength. I desperately fought for control and thought if I could just do things right, I'd get what I wanted.

Some days I can say that I'm grateful it hasn't turned out the way I'd always hoped. (other days.... well, I still have a ways to go)

The thing is, God loves me far more than I ever dared to dream. And WAY more than I ever grasped in Sunday school. There are just some things I never got... didn't understand. Or maybe didn't want to accept. But there is something about coming to the end of myself that has given me a dose of courage to dare to discover more.

And what if, I could obey God, the King of kings, my Creator...... simply because I trust Him?

God's goodness. His goodness to give me a glimpse of beauty amongst the ashes. Because this single truth is life-changing for me. It means freedom. Freedom to live in assurance of His promises despite my circumstances and freedom to claim the blessings of obedience that flow from a heart secure in the grip of the Almighty's Hand.

"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" Isaiah 30:19:21

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What do trust and dirty diapers have in common???

This blog post may be offensive and too graphic for some people, so if you have an issue with “potty talk”, I’m giving you fair warning right now. Or you can judge away J No matter.

I have entered into a stage with my 2nd child that no human being ever wants to experience…. She has, not once, not twice, but HANDFULS of times, taken a dirty diaper off herself and proceeded to try to “clean herself up”.  The last episode we experienced was when I found her doing her best to wipe herself up with Q-tips! Which were being lovingly handed to her by her older sister. Thankfully, (although I ask myself how I can use that word in this story) I caught her before it had been spread far and was able to disinfect the area in a relatively short amount of time.

The only reason I even dare share this story is because I think that God has used it (I’m becoming convinced He really can use ANYTHING), to reveal to me how I at times try to clean up my own crap in my life.(pun totally intended and I thought about using a more “mild” or ladylike term but nothing described it well enough so I called it what it is)

I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve hidden myself in the corner of a room, attempted at using something that would not only take forever, but even if it removed the visible stains, would leave behind an untold amount of bacteria to infect everything around it and I’d say its not out of the realm of imagination that a well-intentioned loved one has stood nearby and sweetly done their best to “help” me.

I’ve told my precious child to “ask Mommy for help” and to “wait for me” to clean her up. I can’t think of a single thing I’ve ever learned about my Savior that has led me to believe that it’s my job to clean my life up. Yet I’ve wrestled with this truth for a really long time.

While I hope that my daughter's habit to do this is just a passing phase, I think my issue stems from a lack of trusting God. It’s embarrassing, really. I find it pretty easy to say, “I’m just trusting the Lord with it all” or “God is in control and on His Throne” and lots of people I know talk like this too. I’ve witnessed His Divine power and faithfulness in people’s lives around me. And I don’t think He hasn’t done the same in my life…. I’m just beginning to wonder if I’ve ever really given Him the credit in my heart.

It pains me to say that if God asked me, “Bryana, do you trust Me with everything in your life, even the things your heart holds most dear?”, the only honest answer I would have right now is…. “Not really, Lord. I want to! Jesus, help my unbelief!” 

And I hope that is the first step of faith for me. 

To admit that I lack faith.

And with a grateful heart, praise my Jesus for loving me enough to show me that I do.

I don't know if anyone else wrestles with trusting God as much as I do, but if you do, I'll be praying for you as I fervently ask the Holy Spirit to continue to work this all out in my heart. And if you don't and you think about it, I would certainly appreciate any extra prayers on my behalf.