Wednesday, September 26, 2012

life-giving lessons

The idea of a life verse makes my heart warm as I hear people around me announce their chosen verse and the reasons behind it. Life, really, should be guided by His words and what better way to move toward that way of life then by a chosen life verse. In different seasons of life I have read the same verses and found new meaning many times. When I chose what I consider my main life verse, I didn't know near the depth to it that I have found in the years following my adopting the words from Jeremiah 29:11...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 I was 17 and barely ready to enter the big world and my aunt and uncle wrote this verse down for me. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with life, but this verse had me sitting on a promise and I trusted it. I entered college, started new jobs, met my husband, and began a family. All along the way I fell into valleys and climbed beautiful mountains. And all along the way I read these words of hopes and good futures and looked up, reminded that He is a Father full of grace and love and good things for His glory. This verse was one of the first ever high-lighted in my Bible and to this day is the best known words I know by heart.

In my twenties filled with new wedded bliss and babies and the beginning of what is today, my heart yearned to be a life-giver. Even when I went away to college and wasn't sure about my profession, I knew very much so that someday I wanted to be a mother with a home full of little people. So once baby number one arrived, I was on the road to filling my dreams and looked forward to adding to that number. When number two didn't come and didn't come and even after losing a little one prematurely, I found myself clinging not only to my life verse for hope but also paying very close attention to the words from Proverbs 18:21..."Words kill and words give LIFE. They are either poison or choose".  I longed to carry life within me and I kept praying for God to breathe life into me. But as months and years went by, I found so often that God was asking me to be a life-giver of my own. I was so focused on carrying life that I was missing so many opportunities to give life in the circumstances God had me in. As my heart began to turn outward towards others and my home more I found grace in the idea of being a life-giver. I said this verse from Proverbs over and over to myself and as I accepted that this stage was to be filled with life, a form only God can use through me, I found peace from His words once again.

Walking through my 20's with my life verse strapped to my back gave me a starting point to walk into adulthood with a promise for what was to come. It made those first years feel like the beginning of an adventure. A hopeful adventure. One that would be filled with beauty and hard times, but amongst all of His words continue to be life-giving to me. As I borrowed those words from Proverbs for so many years to guide my hopeful heart, His words set me free to be a life-giver while He breathed life into me through the only words that can...His truth and tellings. Today I get hungry for His words, for the longer I follow God's heart the more drawn I am to His words. He has come to give life and give it to the fullest...The One true life-giver.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

in the beginning

There has been a lot of talk about life verses at our home church these last few weeks and I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing what our teachers have had to share about this topic in their own lives.  To be honest, I have rarely sat in a pew and heard a sermon in months... mostly due to my infant who has had everything from ear infections, colds, nap issues, nursing marathons, and just my short season of life of choosing a "backyard blessing" session over attempting church with a room full of people whom I would have to get dressed for and brush my teeth. Luckily, church can be done in the comfort of your home when needed and I have really enjoyed my quiet mornings spent with my Lord and a still heart to worship solo. None the less, I miss my community of church family members and am hoping to transition back to showers, teeth brushing, and worship with a room full of other followers.  These last few months I have been using my minutes to really tune in at home and tune into my heart following God's. I have been drawn to His word in a way I never have and have found so much life in the old pages of my Bible. So when I returned to church a few weeks ago, I instantly connected with the "life verse" theme. And here we go...the beginning of mine.

I grew up with a father who read out of his old worn Bible to us four kids every night before bed. He sat in the hallway between our bedroom doors and read the word. Sometimes I paid attention and sometimes I secretly wished he'd be done so I could pull out my flash-light and hide under my covers to read the next book I was burying my nose in. Bibles sat open on my grandparents coffee tables and bed side tables and on the dining room table. His word was in many places as I grew up and even though I never really fully SAW His word as my way the way I do now...I strongly sensed it was a compass for this life.

When I think of the phrase "life verse", I have a few that come to mind at different times in my growth and growing up years. Today I will share from the beginning. As a young teen I kept myself busy with various sports activities and so like any young believer I took a lot of things literally. It's no surprise to me that as I went through sports seasons that my verse that hung in my bedroom had to do with winning.

Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 

While I'm not sure I let these words lead my days as I went through my daily routine as a high-schooler, I did let these words cling to my heart in a way that encouraged me to try my hardest and not be too upset when I failed. I was reminded that my real race was the one that ended with Jesus. The self-discipline related well to me as I juggled a very busy schedule filled with sports, school activities, and a handful of other commitments. Being so involved had me worn thin when I didn't practice self-discipline to finish well. I had no real vision of what "the race" in life really was. I was ignorant to what this race from this verse spoke about and used it to apply my hard-work efforts and self discipline to finishing well in my eyes and my peers eyes. My "crown" here in this time of my life was to participate in my activities with a kind and friendly heart, as to please God in the way I acted while "racing"...yet I still wanted an earthly prize.  As I used this verse to guide me a bit, I suppose God was using it to plant a seed for His daily bread and how in the future it would continue to feed me. When I graduated from high-school, my mama had this verse put on a wood plaque for me and there those words sat collecting dust for awhile during my years of transitioning into college and young adult life. Even though this sign collected dust on my wall, my heart was left with a finger print from God  In the beginning these words helped me recognize something bigger then myself, yet I still was searching for that personal relationship with the One who was leading me through the efforts of others.

The day I graduated my uncle and aunt gave me a book by James Dobson. Inside they had written the verse...Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.  Here begins my next life verse that has stayed with me even through today... and another example that God continualy uses others in my life to lead me towards Him and His ways.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gardener's harvest

Have you ever wondered if God created your children a certain way to simply teach us as adults? Now I know they are created for much more then that, but the idea that they are a very purposeful tool in the arena of working on my heart is so amazing. A glorious plan if you ask me. The very first hours I became a mother I knew life would never feel the same again. Within days of taking that baby boy home, I knew I was already being tested to grow into something better. And because a little person entered my world and forced me to see things through a whole new lens, I started to also see God a bit better. With each child that enters my life I just keep getting a more clear view of who God is on my journey. It will always amaze me that God can use the smallest to lead me, but it is what I am using as a compass these days as I reach for God's heart.

Having three boys is anything but dull and usually not even that quiet, but every so often a very quiet thing will happen that will scream loud into my heart. Through these little years with these little people I hear and see little things happening that add up to big things when I really pay attention and let the small lead me.  I live my daily minutes cleaning up after three (okay, four really), scheduling naps and feedings, washing clothes, making food, playing cars and trucks, watching football games in my back-yard, and following around my little people while they experience the world at face value. Sometimes, in the right season, we dig into God's earth and plant seeds and wait for something miraculous to grow. Sometimes that little seed sprouts and grows great fruits and sometimes it shrivels up never producing a single thing.

I have spent my last few months wondering if I have misheard God speaking to me about where His path should go. Like my little ones plant their little seeds, I have dropped a few of my own hoping for a great crop. Watching the boys choose the right seed and the right soil and the right location has shown me just how much nurturing needs to go into such a decision. For it only takes rotten seeds or bad soil or bad sun to spoil a full harvest. This summer my middle son insisted we plant pumpkins. I assured him we could try, but it was really late in the season and the soil was not that great. I had already planted a rasberry bush in the very same spot and it was doing poorly. But his persistance got the best of me and away he went to scatter his seeds. Days went by and I quickly forgot about the pumpkin seeds planted amongst the thorny raspberry sticks until early one morning. The sun was shining and the heat already setting in as my middle son and I headed to the back-yard. I followed him around as he reviewed all his plants and when he arrived to the raspberry bush I was too surprised to not react. While I stood in amazement at that long green vine with big yellow flowers blooming, Austin simply grabbed the watering can and simply said "I told you this soil was perfect for pumpkins." Pumpkins, not raspberries, I thought to myself. He was right, of course. The evidence was clearly growing all up the raspberry stems and stretching under the deck. Where we had planted raspberry bushes hoping for a full berry crop this fall, was nothing more then a huge bushy pumpkin plant growing in all its glory. While I found disappointment in my raspberry plants, I didn't think to pay attention to something else that might be growing.

In that moment I understood God's leading through the simplicity of my little one. While I spend my days trying hard to plant a group of seeds hoping for one thing, I have forgotten to see the land for all its potential and recognize that maybe, just maybe, God had a different and better vision for harvest time all along. Some days I am working hard to plant raspberries when I suppose God intended for me to grow pumpkins all along.

During that time when my seeds seem to not be producing what I wanted, I now can see a little better that something bigger and better might be growing all on its own. Even with poor soil, God can nurture the smallest seeds for a bountiful crop. While I spend these little years following my little ones, I am thankful for the planting season that is preparing me for harvest time. And when my little ones find rich soil or a good seed or the perfect location, I am going to be a little more open to seeing what can grow. For in this life I can only fully harvest what God is planting in me, and if he so chooses a different crop then I would have...well, I'd like to think that through the little lesson in my very own back-yard and at the hands of my 4 year old, I will be able to recognize not only a good seed, but not under-estimate the Gardener.