What the Chaos Teaches Us About the Creator

A few weeks ago we had one of those rains where it seems like the whole sky opens up. Trees bent under the weight of it. Birds scurried to find shelter.

Every living creature seemed to realize the need to stay dry except my dog, who I inadvertently left out while running errands. She just laid there sopping wet, hanging her face when I remembered to let her inside.

She had a huge covered porch where she could stay covered, but she chose to take a cold shower.

Afternoon came and the rain stopped but the storm clouds stayed. I drove to the bus stop and was struck by the scene around me.

Trees and flowers and glowed against a backdrop of stormy sky, their leaves all sparkling and wet. It was beautiful.

The dark clouds provided a canvas that illuminated creation. Living, thriving. Not in spite of the storm, but because of it.

It reminded me of situations I’m facing now and the lives of dear friends. Storms are everywhere, and yet life goes on.

I ache for those who fill my conversations and enter my prayers. I curse the devil and wish he’d go away, never to threaten those I hold close.

And then I see my dog laying there in the rain. I see the God’s creation flickering in the storm.

I know his greatness is not limited by these clouds, these distortions to my vision.

Sometimes instead of evading the storm, we have to let it drench us.

We have to let it hit us with all the life lessons, the cold, and even the pain. We can grieve for what’s stripped away from us in the hard rain and we can yell when we don’t understand it, but we have to let it do its work.

And when we do, our roots grow deep. They aren’t ripped up by the tide rushing around us, but are held tightly by promises that surpass all the temporary things of this world.

Christ’s hope doesn’t equal the absence of chaos. It’s found right there in the thick of it. In the tears, the sleepless nights and the questions.

It’s then that we hear him whispering, “Come to me.”

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out and your life is perfect. Come to me in your mess. Come to when when you’re weary and burdened.

And when we do, we find he brings beauty right there in the middle of our storm. He doesn’t wait until the clouds pass and the sun breaks through. His Light shines in the darkness.

His glory isn’t hidden in the chaos. As we draw near, it’s illuminated because of it.

 

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A Love That Pursues

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 NIV

It was easier for me to say nothing. I kept reasoning to myself that I didn’t want to create a rift in our relationship or cause unnecessary awkwardness. But the more I tried to make small talk, the more impossible it became.

Years of past hurt swelled in my heart. So with gentleness and restraint, I told my loved one how his choices affected me. To my surprise, he received it without bitterness or resentment.

What did surprise me was this: He didn’t know. He didn’t see how the ripple effect of his choices extended further than those he was in contact with on a daily basis. It affected his entire family, friends and loved ones.

As I look back on our conversation, I wonder how long he would have continued in oblivion if I’d said nothing. Years? A lifetime?

When I see a brother or sister veering off the narrow path God has for them, I often assume they know. I think they are aware of the consequences of their decisions and see the long-term effects, but often this isn’t true.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m honored to be sharing what these verses from James taught me over at Deeper Waters today. Click here to join us.

A Promise for When God Seems Far Away

When I was five, my best friend locked the two of us in the trunk of his dad’s car. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why the heck would he do that, right?

Good question. I still wonder about it, myself. If memory serves me correctly, we were pretending as kids often do. Our story involved being kidnapped by an awful person who threw us into the trunk of his car.

Of course, we had to climb into a trunk for effect. My friend didn’t intend to for it to latch, but it did.

Oh, crap.

Wonder why I’m still claustrophobic? Yeah, that’s the reason.

My friend and I were not big kids but that trunk was cramped. It was dark. The air was musty.

But do you know what I still remember? The little streak of light that shined through the crack in the door. It was bright. It illuminated the small space and we could see outside.

We could see neighbors riding by on their bikes. We could see the driveway and the trees.

This little pencil beam of light gave hope we would be found. It made me believe I wouldn’t take my last breath cursing my friend who decided this was a good idea.

We weren’t sure if anyone could hear us, but we called out for help. When someone didn’t come the first time, we continued yelling.

The past few months, I’ve felt like that little girl all over again.

I see the little streak of light and I’m calling. And even when the answer doesn’t come I keep lifting my voice.

Last Sunday I was putting on make-up, getting ready for church and I told my husband how I felt: overwhelmed. Like I’m wading through quicksand and I can’t seem to get a good foundation underneath me. Everyday tasks like getting the kids to the bus stop are more difficult than usual, not to mention the big projects that seem larger than life.

But the most frustrating part of it all is spiritual. When I come to God, my prayers feel sluggish. Like I’m fumbling through the dark, trying to find my way.

When I’m going through these times I love to read the Psalms because David didn’t hold anything back. He put it all out there, crying out to God with his soul deep needs.

One of my all-time favorites is Psalm 40. It starts with David doing something we followers of Christ loathe. Waiting. Waiting patiently for the Lord.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1

We aren’t patient people, are we? We want God to sweep us out of the pit right now and give us the answer to the prayer, desire or need.

But God is refining us. We are being pressed from every side but we don’t despair.

The crushed vessel still shines because of what’s inside of it: Christ.

It shines because the Spirit inside keeps calling out. Abba, Father.

That little streak of light I see? It’s the things I know about God. The aspects of his character I hold onto. His faithfulness, his perfect, unchanging love, and the many times he’s delivered me in the past.

We are not orphans, friends. God hasn’t abandoned you or forgotten you. You are his daughter, and he stands in the fire with you.

There is nothing you are walking through that he hasn’t already delivered you from.

My friend and I? Someone heard us. After a few minutes his dad came out looking and saved us from the imaginary kidnapper.

Just like David, our persistent cries brought an answer. They brought relief and comfort.

No matter how distant God seems today, keep crying out. No matter how grim your situation seems, keep coming to him.

If you can’t see the pencil streak of light, grab a hold of another believer’s hand and simply say his name. The answer will come.

I can guarantee it.

When You’re Afraid You’ll Never Reach Your Goals

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I listened to the interview with the popular Christian writer, my mind reeling with questions. But the one that kept repeating itself over and over was, “How?”

This woman had a slew of kids running around, and she homeschooled all of them. Her writing was not shoddy. Each syllable sang with an effortless harmony as you read.

So how? How were there enough hours in the day? Did she have on a superwoman cape I couldn’t see as I listened to the podcast?

At the time I had two kids. Now I have three, the last one two months young. There are days I barely get the laundry done and the food made, much less worry about doing anything creative.

I see women on social media who, in all the bright lights and glow of the computer screen, are pursuing their goals and dreams. They are achieving milestones I dare to think about as I’m nursing my sweet babe at night.

Before daybreak, the fear takes over and says, “You’ll never get there.”

Comparison is such a lonely place to live.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com. God met me in my place of discouragement, and I’d love to share what he showed me. You can read the rest of my post here.

The Worst Christmas Ever {Anchored Souls Series}

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As we continue our Anchored Souls series, I am glad to be welcoming my friend Christy Mobley back to the blog. Christy’s heart for hospitality and encouragement have blessed me more times than I can count, and her loving spirit shines through in her writing. What I love about her style is her ability to cut through any pretense and fluff and get straight to the heart of the matter. I hope you’ll give her a warm welcome as she shares a very personal story with us today.

The Worst Christmas Ever

Christmas 2002 promised to be the best Christmas ever.

Two months prior we had moved into to a new home and on December 3rd, I was busily planning my husband’s office party to be held there while waiting for him to come out of his colonoscopy. Believing my husband was strong and healthy I wasn’t a bit worried about the procedure (which is actually unusual for me), instead I turned my attention to the upcoming event. Today, the last thing on my mind was cancer. But It’s amazing how our focus can do a 180 in a heartbeat.

And just like that, with a few hard words the party was over and our world took a drastic turn.

David was a young 44 when diagnosed with colon cancer. We were told he was lucky he had the colonoscopy when he did, another couple of weeks and the tumor would have perforated his colon. Surgery was scheduled for December 13th, and if all went well, he would be home for Christmas with me and our two boys. Our church, family and friends bathed us in prayer and David and I held a strong faith that God would see us through this.

After surgery, he was in the hospital for eight grueling days during which time biopsy results came back and the choice to do chemo was decided.

David made it home on the 22nd and I thought surely the worst was behind us but my once strong man was now markedly weak, frail, and frightened. Like coming home for the first time with a newborn and not knowing quite how to handle things, his condition disarmed me.

Feeling out of control we gave our control to Jesus.

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I knelt beside the bed and held David’s hand and both of us knowing where our hope was hidden, we surrendered this awful thing, this cancer, the healing, to the Lord.

In the middle of the night David woke up with a searing pain in his back, gripping him with every breath. By the next afternoon he was back in the hospital with not one but two pulmonary embolisms. Blood clots meant a mandatory three day hospital stay (which included Christmas) with heavy doses of blood thinners.

Most people don’t make it through one PE but two is most definitely lethal. I made several attempts to get a hold of the on-call doctor that night but he never returned the page. Perhaps if he did we might of given the doctor credit but David’s survival was clearly nothing short of miraculous.

But we weren’t done.

Christmas morning came and around six or so the phone rang. When I picked it up I heard David’s voice.

“I’m in so much pain. I don’t know what’s wrong and I can’t get the nurse.”

By the time I got to the hospital the nurse was in the room. She told me, “Honey you need to call some family for support. You don’t need to be alone.”

I’d never seen him like this. David and I both feared he was hemorrhaging. I called my in-laws and our closest friends to pray.

After a CAT scan his surgeons decided to open him up again.

Before the doctors took him into surgery he whispered to me, “Heaven will be a better place.”

He thought he was dying.

I did too.

Now completely exhausted, my eyes depleted of tears I thought about my sister. Would I be a widow too?

In a silent prayer I surrendered, “Thy will be done.”

As I was escorted through the double doors separating all things antiseptic with the outside world I felt the anxiety lift off me and replaced with a peace. And God said, I’ve got this. I will take care of you.

It’s been 14 years and God has done just that. You see our story together was far from over.

Yes, David missed Christmas with us but if he had been at home perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to get him to the hospital in time to drain the fluid that had gathered in his abdomen threatening infection. In a strange way the pulmonary embolisms were a blessing.

Looking in the rear view mirror here’s what I gleaned from the worst Christmas ever.

God has a purpose and plan for our lives.
God wants us to trust Him completely with it.
God is in control and sovereign over all creation.

And

Jarring realities hit hard sometimes putting the value of each precious day into proper perspective.

And with the proper perspective in hindsight, maybe 2002 was indeed the best Christmas ever after all.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day that Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

 


for linkedinChristy is a wife, mother, mother-in-law, mentor, writer and speaker. She’s also a girly girl who chases teens balls for recreation and at the end of the day she does her best thinking in the tub.
Her greatest passion lies in encouraging women to move forward, and press on while seeking God’s presence in every bump and twist in the road.

You can find Christy at her blog, Joying in the Journey, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

When We Run Ahead of God {Anchored Souls Series}

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Today my dear friend Tiffany Parry joins us on the blog as we continue our Anchored Souls series. Tiffany’s heart for real conversations drew me into her writing instantly. She leaves pretense at the door, and isn’t afraid to talk about the messy, often confusing parts of our walk with Christ. Her writing challenges me to dig deep and ask hard questions, and I am continually grateful God chose to align our paths in the writing world. I hope you will give her a warm welcome today as she talks about those seasons when God gives us a tough direction to follow.

When We Run Ahead of God

Just be a girl. God wrote the words over my heart.

After a season of struggle and difficulty, heartbreak and confusion, those words should have sounded like an invitation to freedom and rest. But for a “girl” who was used to doing, and going, and being so much more than “just” it felt like I was being placed on a shelf to collect dust.

God had called me out of ministry, out of labor and the business of caring for others. When my natural inclination might have been to search for a need to fill or a job to sink myself into, God said, just be.

It’s a humbling moment when the Creator of the universe gives you direction to simply stop.

I’ll be the first to admit that change isn’t easy. When, like me, you crave routine and detailed order, change feels a whole lot like the deep and wide unknown. But only to us.

“Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.’”
John 13:7 NLT

God sees, and He knows exactly when to cast light into the deep unknown and bring certainty out of the shadows.

So I waited…watched…listened…worshipped…communed…healed…stood still.

And then I was done. Yup. I decided my season of “just being” was over and it was time I leap right back into what I left behind. Notice all the “I’s” in that sentence?

Let’s pause for a minute. It bears mentioning that my season of wait encompassed over a year of my life. A year of change and adjustment, of new beginnings in new places. It was a necessary season of rest and refreshment in the Lord, and it wasn’t mind to end.

The changing of the seasons are never in our hands.

On a crisp fall evening, I donned brave and strong and marched [or more like crept into the corner] of a Women’s Ministry meeting at my new church. Certain that it was time to reignite my passions and reengage my gifts, I [there “I” am again] decided signing up for the smallest of small jobs would be harmless.

My pastor’s wife shared her vision for the women of the church—kindness, love, authenticity. She filled my heart in places I had no idea craved care and attention. At the end of the meeting I approached, lifted my hand to shake hers, and nearly slipped on my own puddle of tears as I poured out as much of my story as would fit around hiccups and sobs. Messy, but quite real.

Do you know what she said to me? “Just be a girl.”

Her words echoed God’s and assured me that it was simply too soon.

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He was in the room that night. Even when we run ahead of God, He still stands by our side.

So I waited…watched…listened…worshipped…communed…healed some more and kept standing still.

And it was hard. But it was good. It still is. Rather than run ahead, I’ve taken baby steps and God has met each one. He has shined a great light into that deep unknown and has revealed certain truth, unwavering promise, abounding grace, and the most tender provision.

There have been moments I’ve wondered if perhaps God would forever leave me in a holding pattern. But just when I think I’m forgotten, God proves that He has been working all along—transforming, refining, equipping, molding me into the person He needs me to become.

We are His—dearly loved, held close, deeply treasured—and we are NEVER forgotten.

There are places we will soon walk that God has not yet revealed because He hasn’t fully prepared us for them. The stillness, the quiet, the seeming unknown are not indications of His absence, but simply the promise that His best is yet to come.

Let’s “just be” a people who willingly wait, who stand expectant, of God’s very best.

 


tiffany-headshot2Tiffany is marveled by the endless grace and relentless love of her Savior in this life that can be so messy, too busy, and entirely imperfect. Her heart is to share God’s precious promises of grace and love with others and invite them into honest and authentic conversations about faith and life. Tiffany welcomes you to join the journey at her blog, Simply for One, or on Facebook and Instagram.

You Brought Me Here Why? {Anchored Souls Series}

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Today we welcome my sweet friend Bethany McIlrath to the blog. Bethany’s heart to seek the Lord in the midst of life’s struggles shines through her writing. She encourages me to look for his hand at work even when his plans are different from mine, and to keep trusting in the middle of chaos and heartache. Please give her a warm welcome today as she shares a story I know will inspire your heart.

You Brought Me Here Why?

I remember the excitement when the phone call came. “We just have to finalize it, but you can schedule that moving truck,” the Midwestern man’s voice exclaimed. Expectantly, we did.

We waited.

But the paperwork never arrived. Weeks later, the same voice apologized on the phone. Unforeseen circumstances arose. The position was cancelled. We’re weren’t moving to Iowa. We were moving though… we had to.

We waited.

Living out of suitcases at my in-laws’ house, we sought work.

We waited.

My husband showed me a job listing. It wasn’t what was expected. We knew one person in the whole region. But the Lord said yes with perfect clarity and abundant confirmation. One Skype interview and a phone offer later, we were scheduling another moving truck. This one was bound for the unknown of Minnesota.

With just two weeks to prepare and little in the bank, we signed a lease online with high hopes.

We’d waited.

The Lord had made the way. We believed it.

Then we pulled up to the apartment complex.

Singing paperwork, we discovered they changed the lease from what we original signed. Shrugging, the woman said “well, yes, it’s more expensive than you agreed to. But you just moved across the country. What can you do?” The deceit stung.

Our lease was cancelled. Tired of waiting, my prayer was “Lord, you brought us here. Why??”

In a new state, 24 hours distant from home, we drove to a storage unit. My in-laws helped us move all our stuff into a 6 foot cement hole. On that October day, the first snowfall drifted down. We stayed with a friend for a whole homeless week, searching frantically.

We waited.

The Lord provided a place to live within a chaotic week. But not a good job for me. We waited through church challenges, friendlessness, and open opposition at my part time job.

My prayer?

“Lord you brought us here. Why?”

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I wasn’t ungrateful. I’ve lived much worse.

But never had the Lord so clearly made a way where there was no way, only to bring me to something I couldn’t make sense of.

Exodus became more personal to me. We’d just left a harder chapter of life. We’d just faced promise after promise of newness, waiting until the Lord said “go.” He parted some unbelievable waters for us and led us through on dry land.

When we arrived, the land stayed metaphorically dry and literally frozen. Life felt parched and biting.

I spent much of my time grumbling like the Israelites in the desert: “now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death” (Exodus 16:3.)

God, in fact, had different purposes.

Since our Minnesota wilderness waiting season, the Lord has reminded me of the “whys” I was too discontent to notice then.

It was in our waiting we learned firsthand about how God gives peace when our circumstances are intimidating. We’ll never forget how He parted the way and the assurance we had, even as I grumbled, that He was with us and leading us.

We learned an awful lot about prayer. Our marriage grew immensely while knowing no one but each other. We met amazing people.

While in Minnesota, we were blessed by the Lord’s provision through miraculous financing, too-coincidental of timing, unexpected gifts, and even the car we are driving today. My husband and I had time with his best friend we never would have if we didn’t live close.

I also learned about the blessing of loneliness. I learned what it is to wake up to mundane circumstances and immediately turn to the Lord. It was in Minnesota God taught me to write my first manuscript and challenged me to read His whole Word for the first time.

It was there I began to make memories with the Lord. It was there I learned the sound of His voice.

I still pray that prayer though- just a little revised.

“Lord, you brought us here. You know why.”

I pray it even when our circumstances seem settled.

Because I know while we’re waiting on God, He’s always both bringing us out and drawing us in.


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A grateful recipient of salvation and hope in Christ, Bethany McIlrath can’t keep from writing His praise. She loves joining with others ii testifying about the Lord. Her reflections on God’s Word and character can be found at First and Second Blog and on Twitter or Facebook.