Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Not my plan...but His.

Disclaimer: This post is based solely on my life experience.  This is my perspective from what I knew and witnessed.  This will not be the experience of every individual living in the sales world but this was mine and God has used this experience to reveal Himself to me by choosing this particular avenue as a means to shift my perspective.  

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts”, says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.ft
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and
my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

I spent years in the sales world.  It is a business that I do not care much for and struggle to accept.  A few months ago, when my husband quit his job to start a sales job, I felt hopeless and angry.  It was a world I did not want to reenter.  After twenty years spent in that world, a world of numbers, dollars signs, crazy hours, dishonesty and manipulation all at the expense of family and integrity, I did not want to go back. 

This was not the plan I had in mind.  I did not understand why it felt like God, once again, had let me down and left me alone.  I was struggling.  Life was already hard, and it was as if He continued to pile on the difficult faster than I could even wrap my head around what was happening. But as usual, He knew what He was doing and as I sat back and patiently tried waiting to see where He was going to take me, I found myself filled with delight.

Life does not ever go as planned.  Ever.  And I am learning that my plans are truly less than spectacular compared to the faithfulness that arises out of the goodness that comes from trusting God’s plan.  His ways are much greater because He is so much wiser. If I trust Him to unwind the obstacles of life instead of trying to unravel the ball of yarn myself, what He will create is far beyond anything I could possibly put together on my own.

Over the last few weeks, I have seen God use my husband to change my perspective and show me the opportunities that are available to serve and act with integrity. As my husband has put his faith into action before the dollar sign and the numbers game,  I have watched him walk out his faith by sitting down with a young woman lost in addiction to share the gospel and buying her a bible instead of pushing a sale.  I have watched him choose to put his family, his marriage first by choosing not to work weekends and to be home every day when I get home from work at the expense of not getting that extra appointment.  By sitting with me in an emergency room and taking care of me all day on a day when his plans were to work.  To watch him make our marriage his priority and through that choice, seeing God bless his work while strengthening a marriage that was weak and imploding under the crushing weight of difficult circumstances has allowed for a complete perspective change.

Knowing that each day, my husband prays for someone to share the gospel with and looks for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus which means not always getting “the numbers” inspires me.  Striving to fulfill big worldly dreams isn't at the top of our priority list.  Because of our life experiences, our hearts are set toward people and sharing the hope that we have found in Jesus by offering encouragement and love to those God places in our path.  It is an incredible thing to witness my husband do that daily and through it, God blessing us by providing all we need while strengthening our home and our marriage. However, I will add, that it does not mean we are free of struggles but it does mean we are becoming stronger together to overcome those struggles. 

Little did I know how different this world, the sales world, could be.  By simply making God the first priority and our marriage a priority before a job, and realizing it is more important to share the gospel than to sell something, everything is falling into place.  Little by little, we are figuring this life out together. Learning the importance of trusting God’s goodness when we do not always understand His plan. There is definitely a learning curve, but He is gracious and kind and continues to draw us to Him as we seek Him above the distractions of this world.  Trusting God’s plan is not always easy but His plan never fails.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Out of the fiery furnace

One of the stories I loved as a kid,  back in the days of Sunday school,  was the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3). It was one of those stories that allowed me to visualize the amazingness of God as I imagined three men walking into a big fiery furnace and surviving. It was such an awesome and powerful story. But as a kid, it was all about the fiery furnace.

It wasn’t until the adventures of adulthood that I began to see a different part of the story. The part of the story where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego make a bold statement before the king.

You see within this story these three men refuse the command of King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down to another god and so the king then commands that they be tied up and thrown into a fiery furnace for not complying. And that is when the grand move is made and these three men take a stand and proclaim that God could deliver them from the furnace but even if He chose not to deliver them, He is still good. What a powerful statement in the face of death. This story brings such clarity and a perspective change.

Sometimes we find ourselves thinking our life circumstances are so horrific that there is no chance of survival. It appears that the darkness seems to consume everything around us. The pain seems too great to handle. And in those moments of desperation it is easy to lose sight of God.

I know for myself personally, I find myself questioning God. Asking Him why. Why is this happening? Questioning His purpose and His plan. Unable to look ahead to the bigger picture. But I believe that those moments are simply part of our humanity which leads to the development of greater faith. Because it is in those weak moments where He reveals himself in the strongest ways. Where He reaches out His hand and reminds us of exactly who He is and what He is capable of doing. Just like He did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they walked out of that fiery furnace. And just like those three men, God is with us, standing beside us and waiting to walk out of the fiery furnace with us (Deuteronomy 31:6). It simply requires trust and surrender.

Now as simple as that all sounds, it doesn’t mean we won’t have those moments of weakness where we doubt His goodness. Where we doubt His plan. But thankfully, even in our doubt, He doesn’t desert us. Instead, He is always there waiting. Patiently waiting for us to take His hand as He too leads us out of that fiery furnace.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Expose the dark places

Last week I shared a story. I shared a part of our story. I woke up Monday morning feeling weary and defeated. The nudging of the Holy Spirit prompting me to write, to be open and to share. His voice was so strong and not something I could ignore. He was asking me to expose the dark places that have become a part of our life. To be real. Because it is only when we are willing to expose the dark places that God’s light can begin to heal and restore.

Being real is never an easy thing to do. However, when darkness is beginning to consume all those things around you, sometimes the only thing left is to reach out to those who will listen and to ask for prayer.

It’s an amazing thing that happens when we respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and choose to listen to His voice and trust His prompting, even when it’s scary and difficult. When we obey, He begins to work in ways that can change the entire direction of our life.

Little did I know when I shared our story on Monday that by Thursday my world would be yet rocked once again. That at 6:45 in the morning, I would awaken to discover a secret that would totally change my world. But God knew.

You see the day I shared our story a friend recommended a book which I immediately ordered and began to read. The words found within the first few pages began to calm my spirit and minister to my heart. The more I read the more I could feel God’s presence and the Holy Spirit speaking to me. The encouragement that came through the realization of not only sharing our stories but being authentic was timely.

We all are going through something and we each have the ability to help others when we’re real with people. But not only that when we share we give room for the Holy Spirit to begin to work miraculously in our own life.

You see, Thursday morning when I discovered this secret, my initial reaction would have been to run. It would have been to give up and go the other way completely. But God knew what my Thursday was going to look like and He provided a way (through a friend and a book) to prepare me for what was about to happen. Through the tears and the darkness, His still small voice screamed into my heart, “I am here! Trust Me!” He knew and had already prepared the way for me. His peace consumed my heart which allowed me to trust and move ahead.

You see it’s easy to get caught up in the cries of darkness found in this world. To surround ourselves with people who would rather tell us that we should give up or stay silent. It’s easy to hide in shame or to pretend like hard things don’t happen. And often times we don’t want to share with others because of our own shame or the guilt we feel for our own sins, but when we stay silent we leave little room for God to move.

Last week was just another reminder of how amazing and good God is. How He provides for us in ways that, in the moment, we may not understand. But oh how undeniable His awesomeness when we are able to look back and see His hand and know that everything is going to be okay because He is always there!

We live in a world that attempts to silence God. Where people discourage us from sharing our stories and attempt to shame us from being authentic. But use your voice and don’t be afraid to share! We serve a great God who is able to do far more than what we can comprehend and this world needs to hear it!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Before the ending...He is good

Just when you think things can't getmuch worse, a phone call or a text brings to life a whole new secret you weren't expecting. Just when you think you can't take another blow, you get the wind knocked out of you which leaves you doubting and asking "why" once again.

Someone mentioned the other day, the idea of us "airing dirty laundry."  It kind of made me laugh.  At this point,  we are far from airing dirty laundry. We have yet to reveal the details of the depths of hurt that we both have experienced.

Instead,  we choose to share our life and the struggles that we're dealing with because they take a real God to help overcome. And that's where we are right now. We are choosing to take one day at a time. No,  one step at a time. Choosing to believe that God has a purpose and a plan for the storm that we are enduring. But it is also making the choice to believe in God and choosing to believe in His goodness that allows us to move forward together and to share with others. We are able to have faith that God is with us and working in us to grow our marriage in a way that we've never known and will use this growth to encourage others around us.

He's allowing the difficulties and He is allowing this pain all as a way to draw us closer to Him so that we know Him in a way we didn't before this storm. But it all stems from not being afraid to say yes to Him and His will for our lives. Our prayer is: "God take us where you want us to go."  We aren't afraid to say "God do with us what you will."  But in asking these things we understand that there will be pain, there will be struggles, there will be storms. There will be a refining that takes place. It is in each of those things that our faith grows the greatest and we learn to be less self-reliant on our own plans and instead,  surrender to His will.

Not everyone understands our personal faith or our perspective and faith in God. And that's okay.  Not everyone has the same type of story. Not everyone is comfortable sharing their stories. Not everyone has experienced God in a certain way.

But for us,  we want people to know God the way that we know Him. We want people to have the hope that is only found in Jesus. The One who loves us enough that he offered up His life for us.

And so, even when life is messy and doesn't make sense, and we have yet to reach the end of the story,  we choose to share the struggles, the storms and the heartache but we do so with the anticipation that it will bring comfort to someone else who is hurting.

As the body of Christ, we are called to share our struggles so that others can be encouraged and directed towards God who is our source of hope. He is full of love and kindness and the only true source so of our comfort and peace.

And this morning, we are able to look at one another and confirm that God truly brings comfort and peace when we seek after Him with our whole hearts. His goodness knows no bounds!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

God IS good...no matter the ending.

I remember the day I first heard this song. My mom came to visit and told me she wanted to play a song for me. As we sat on my bed, I listened as the tears streamed down my face. The words speaking so deeply to my broken heart.

Never in a million years would I have thought that 8 years later I would be sitting on that same bed, tears streaming down my face, as I listened to the same song yet again, walking through another dark trial. But as I listen to the words again this morning, I am reminded of the experience He carried me through those many years ago. How in the deepest moments of pain and the great disappointment I was experiencing, He lavishly loved me and never left my side.

I know the goodness of God. I've tasted and seen His faithfulness and love when the choice to surrender our circumstances into His hands is made. I want to know that again. Even if it means that this trial we are walking through right now never ends. I want a faith that declares to this world that my God is good no matter how this story ends.

My heart's desire is for everyone to know His goodness and love. And so today, as I listened to the words of this song again, I realized that if going through this trial means that someone else sees God through my experience and learns of His goodness then all of this will be truly worth it. I may not always get it right and still have moments of asking God why but I will choose to trust Him in all things because He is faithful!

"What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise"

Blessings - Laura Story