In the Deep Waters

Where I see God
Journal 17: In the Deep Waters

“When you go through deep waters, 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, you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43: 2-3a

I’m beginning my third week with a digestive issue. Not exactly sure what is up, but something is. Two weeks of solid food struggle. Two weeks of back and forth to the bathroom. Blood work and a stool sample study (Disgusting!) have yet to determine what is going on.

This week brought tiredness and frustration. In exhaustion, I cried out the whiniest, “God, please heal me.”

This is what He did.

He reminded me of the last time I was really, really, sick and couldn’t get off the sofa. While laying all miserable I stumbled across a blog post by Cranberry Tea Time on her struggle with chronic illness. In that particular post she had shared about how some days she could do nothing but pray.  That day began a prayer revolution in my life.

Wednesday and Thursday I got busy and spent a lot of time praying. I also spent a lot of time praising God for His goodness. He is an amazing God.

Isaiah 43:2 kept coming to mind. “When you go through deep waters, 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.”

I realized I had a choice to make. I could keep whining or I could start believing in His promise. God will be with me through this illness. Plus, I have more time to spend with Him.

I’m still waiting to hear on test results and my body feels like crap; however, my spirit is a lot lighter.

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Through Words of an Honest Friend

Where I see God
Journal 16: Through Words of an Honest Friend

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

Frantically, I climbed in the car. “I’m going to be late”, I thought to myself. No need to worry, it wasn’t a life or death moment. I was just tired, cranky, and feeling a little overloaded since I scheduled too much too close together.

The phone rang through the car speakers.

“Hello.” I responded as I pushed the answer button.

“Kysia, this is Allison. I’m not sure I expected to actually reach you. I wanted to call because I felt like God put you on my heart. How are things going?”

That question. “How are things going?”

People ask it all the time in casual conversation, but this friend was no casual conversation. She was real. She was safe. She genuinely wanted to know how I was doing.

“How are things going?”

“Allison,” I responded. “It’s April. The time of year where all the things I overcommitted to amp up. On top of that we are doing college tours with my baby and my son is preparing to get married. I’m extra emotional. I know I’ll be fine soon because May will come; but right now, I’m tired. That’s how I am.”

“Girl, I’ve got goose bumps,” she responded. “I don’t have college visits or a wedding yet, but I hear you on all the extra activity. I’m starting a devotional called “Find Rest” because I knew I needed some. Would you like me to pick you up a copy?”

“I really feel like God is telling me to slow down. It sounds like you are needing that too,” she continued.

She was right. She was honest. She was loving. At that moment, her voice was God’s Spirit whispering gently in my ear, “Make space for rest.” He said, “I’m waiting to restore you. In Me there is freedom from this chaos.”

Today (three weeks later), I sit feet propped up with my computer in my lap. A glass of water on the side table is waiting on me while I watch the dog bask in the sunshine on the back porch. It is a slower moment. I have lists made of summer dreams beside me. My April meetings are almost wrapped up; plus, I’ve declined three things that people have asked me to volunteer for. I still have work to keep me busy, but I’ve made space for this moment.

Rest. Freedom. Peace.

I am so thankful for that call from Allison who just wanted to ask, “How’s are things going?”

 

In a Wall Quote

Where I see God
Journal 15:  In a Wall Quote

This week I felt God challenge me from a quote on the wall to start looking at leadership differently. Especially within the church.

18 “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 NLT

When my husband and I helped lead confirmation at our church a few years back, one of my favorite lessons was called. “We are the Church.” For our lesson, we passed out index cards to each student asking them to write one area where they excelled and something they were passionate about along with their name. We received all kinds of answers to those questions. We then took the cards (previously numbered), put them in order to create a poster sized puzzle. Once taped we turned the puzzle over to reveal a line drawing of our church on the back. The idea: Alone we are a piece of the church; combined, we are the church.

I love that lesson.

Mid last year, I started working on another project with our church trying to connect people who took a spiritual gifts test on our church’s website with areas of service that matched their stronger spiritual gifts. What I discovered was the people who took the test produced a diverse combination of spiritual gifts. God reaffirmed how he created us all so very differently. Yet, God is wooing each person, gifting them in the various areas to help build his church, the body of Christ.

While thinking about the idea of diversity of spiritual gifts in our congregation and population around us, a question came to mind. How do I lead others into a deeper relationship with Christ? Since I often end up in leadership roles in my church, with people who are gifted differently than I am, how do I lead them?

I pondered this for a few days. In that time I took my daughter on a college tour.

While on the tour, I sat listening to dorm information at a parent informational meeting at one of our local Christian universities. It’s a really great school my son attends and my daughter is considering. The tour had us located in their Business College which had a leadership slogan on the wall. It read, “Equipping Leaders to go Further, Faster.”

I’m not sure why it fascinated me, but it did. Since I’ve been contemplating leadership in the church a lot, I sat and just stared at this quote. “Further, Faster” captivated my attention. In our world we are always expecting to go further, faster. Do more with less. Make decisions quickly.

Are we expecting this from the leaders of our church, as well?

Leadership poses an interesting dichotomy within the church. We desire strong leaders in a theology that teaches following as the primary directive. Following Christ grows us closer to Christ. However we live in a culture that defines leadership with terms like further and faster. Do we desire our church leadership to work further, faster? Do we desire them to be so far ahead that as followers we are racing to keep up? Do we desire a detachment in our relationships from the space left in between followers and leaders?

Our culture tends to teach us to all be leaders. Yet our faith comes with a mandate, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

Follow.

As I stared at that quote, I thought back to the “We are the Church” lesson and then to the variety of people we have in our congregation. The word “follow” kept reoccurring in my mind.

My question of struggling with “how to lead others to Christ?” suddenly changed to, “How do I follow in such a way that others are led to Christ?”

To follow in Christ’s steps and to invite others to follow with us requires a different kind of leadership. Leadership willing to walk alongside rather than paces in front. Someone leading in the front has to really be careful not to obstruct the view taking the follower’s eyes off Christ. But a leader walking alongside, is able to help, assist, encourage, and mentor while maintaining Christ as the focus. It isn’t a “faster, further,” kind of action. It is however, a constant motion of movement towards Christ. Plus, it is what Christ modeled. Christ ministered among his people. He encouraged relationship building and spoke with his followers while walking beside them.

Leading in the church requires being a good follower first. At least, that’s what I’m going to keep working on. What are your thoughts?

In a Band of Three

Where I see God
Journal 14: In a Band of Three

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

We meet every other week and have been for the last year. A band of three consisting of two friends I really respect and me. We change up where we meet depending on who has what going on, but still do our very best to meet.

This band of three has changed my life by holding me up and accountable for my actions nurturing spiritual growth.

In our hour together we take turns sharing where have failed to follow God, areas we could use some prayer and accountability, plus, give thanksgivings for joys and victories. Then after each person talks, we gather around that person and pray. Often we pray for help, healing, and wisdom. Other times we pray for peace surrounding difficult situations. Heads bowed, humbled hearts we lift each other up to the only one who can forgive, take away hurt, and help strengthen our hearts so that we will walk closer to Christ.

Some days, we enter very heavy and require more time than others. Each moment we meet though, is blessed beyond measure. In confession, our secrets are brought out of darkness into the light, in humility we are each restored, and in the fellowship of believers we experience the truth of knowing we are not walking alone.

Every time we meet, I experience God working within me.  When we say good-bye until the next time, my heart overflows with gratitude for all the work God continues to do in each of us.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

 

In a Thank You Note

Where I see God
Journal 13: In a Thank You Note

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2

In December I was thrilled when my son proposed to his girlfriend. They’ve been dating for four years; our family and friends all knew it had to be coming soon. And it did. A very special moment.

We celebrated.

And then an unexpected deep sense of mourning entered my heart.

My son is the first to leave our home, the first to go to college and now will be the first to get married (thank goodness!)   I am deeply overjoyed for him and his bride-to-be, but the mom in me mourned the loss of the ending of a life stage with him. It was a painful and messy moment.

I tried planting a beautiful smile on my face and often spoke about how excited I was for everything, but things were a bit dark for a period until I was able to process what I was experiencing. I talked with friends, went to a counselor, and finally submitted to God in continuous prayer for my heart to heal and my love to shine through. The last thing I wanted to do was damage a relationship with my son and future daughter-in-law. It was a struggle, but peace did come through. Eagerly, I got back to work building and encouraging.

The other day I received a text message from my son’s finance. It was a gift from God in the form of a simple thank you note. She thanked me for the work, I’d been doing on the wedding. A few words of gratitude hugged my heart while simultaneously bringing both a smile to my lips and a tear to my eye. I felt God gently say, “Keep at it, Kysia. You are building your future when you focus your love towards lifting others up.”

It was another great moment.

 

 

After a Bad Dream

Where I see God
Journal 12: After a Bad Dream

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I woke quickly with a covering of irrational emotion suffocating me. A bad dream in the early hours set an icky, sticky set of yuck of irritations on my morning. Thoughts that pierced my heart and set every fear I had hidden deep down rushing to the surface.

In a funk, I laid my body out face down in the carpet and tried to pray. Nothing. The grip of fear held tight.

Opening the Bible to Psalms, I read until peace calmed my soul.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-3; 10-11

Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath inhaling the goodness of God’s warmth and provision, exhaling the fear and frustration. Silently, moment by moment peace entered into the crevices of my heart.

I prayed, “Thank you, God that you are Almighty. That you are real. That you are peace. Take these fears from me and restore your peace to my heart and sound mind to my body. Amen”

Let the day begin. Renewed. Refreshed. Whole again.

Spring Break Missions

Where I see God
Journal 11: Spring Break Missions

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12

Yesterday morning we dropped our daughter off at a bus with 30 or so other teens and chaperones from our church. They were headed to Mexico to build houses for farm workers. Across town on Friday, a team from a different church was headed to another part of Mexico to work in an orphanage. Same town still a different church group was leaving to work with inner city children in Houston.

It happens every year. Young people serving as hands and feet in areas of great need. That’s where I saw God at work this week.

Spring Break and summer both, provide time and opportunity for vast amounts of work to be done in the name of Jesus Christ. Teams from a few in number to many hop on busses, board planes and travel great distances or even stay local to work hard on building projects that will benefit the people of the area, volunteer to work with children in highly deprived communities, feed people who are hungry, and many other jobs in an effort to show and share love. Each student, chaperone, and volunteer is a difference maker in God’s Kingdom.

There is another place I see God working through these trips. It isn’t just the recipients of the work who walk away experiencing God. The workers do too. God does amazing things in the lives of those who say yes to doing His work. Volunteer after volunteer come back from serving sharing stories of how God changed their lives, strengthened their faith, and helped them understand better His will for their lives.

God’s work on these short term Mission trips provides love for those in need and growth for those who serve.