my times are in Your hands

It doesn’t get easier. Weeks have turned into months and I still worry. These monthly OB appointments sneak up on me and yet I’m always wishing one would come sooner so I can get the professional A-Ok. I worry about preterm labor, gaining too much weight, getting my blood drawn for that dang gestational diabetes test, and James’ overall health.

I often wish I could skip ahead 16 weeks, skip ahead to the part where the dreaded labor and delivery are behind us, where James is home, and Tim and I are jumping into life with a newborn.  But then I begin worrying about colic and breast feeding and the mountain of things I don’t know about babies. It doesn’t get easier. I’m beginning to realize that parenting is one of those roles where causes for anxiety never stop. I look long term at James’ life and see endless opportunities for me to worry about his wellbeing, inside and out. All this worry and it doesn’t produce anything but more worry and unrest.

As a follower of Christ, I am familiar with biblical truths about worry. I know that tomorrow will worry about itself (Matthew 6:34), that if God cares about the little things like lilies and sparrows, we should not worry about food or clothes because He will take care of us (Luke 12:22), that prayer and thanksgiving should replace worry (Philippians 4:6).

But when I’m in the midst of worrying, I need something to pull me out of, not warn me against, anxiety. After studying Psalm 31 on a recent retreat, I have found that something. David utters a simple truth that has become and almost daily mantra in the face of my worry – “my times are in your hands.”

Psalm 3114-15aMy times, James’ times, my family’s times are all in God’s almighty hands. I can release my firm grip on every circumstance that causes me anxiety, even if it’s one finger at a time, because I trust in the Lord. He IS my God.

You better bet I will be repeating this to myself at my OB appointment today…

 

Praying For Protection

Praying For ProtectionEvery time I leave for a work trip, I am reminded of a powerful passage in Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love {which is a phenomenal read} about what and why we pray for certain things – like safety.

I was convicted when I read it years ago and am convicted by the echo of his words today.

Haven’t we all prayed the following prayer? “Lord, we pray for safety as we travel. We ask that no one gets hurt on this trip. Please keep everyone safe until we return, and bring us back safely. In Jesus name we pray, amen.” The exact wording may vary a bit, but that is the standard prayer we recite before leaving on mission trips, retreats, vacations, and business trips.

We are consumed by safety. Obsessed with it, actually. Now, I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for God’s protection, but I am questioning how we’ve made safety our highest priority. We’ve elevated safety to the neglect of whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world.

Francis Chan | Crazy Love | 133

This makes my mind reel with questions. What’s my motivation for praying for protection? Isn’t God bigger than my safety? Is safety what we are on Earth for? Don’t I trust God with His plans for my life, even if it includes harm? {or an untimely death, which is the underlying factor in my safety anxiety.} I wrestle with those questions every time I perceive my circumstances to be dangerous.

One hint of turbulence and I’m praying for God’s hands to surround that hunk of metal zooming through the clouds at 30,000 feet. When I take a wrong turn and wind up where lone females {especially ones that look confused and lost} shouldn’t be, I pray for a shield around my car.

Praying for protection isn’t inherently wrong. God asks that we bring everything to Him as a  prayerful sacrifice, but we are also asked to trust and not try to manipulate God through our prayers. (<— tweet this)

Right after I breathe frightened entreaties, I am hit with Francis’ words that never seem to leave the back of my mind.

People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.

Francis Chan | Crazy Love | 133

God’s plan is sovereign. Prayer is a way we partner with God, which leads to opened eyes and hearts to the wonderful ways He works in our lives and in the world around us. We pray so we can acknowledge God’s work not so we can take control of our circumstances. (<— tweet this)

God loves when we bring our troubles, joys, successes, and failures to His feet, but He wants us to offer them as pieces of our hearts and accept whatever may come.

When I am scared for my life, whether the threat is real or imagined, I’m often praying to rid myself of the undesirable circumstances, not for peace and courage to meet the circumstances with God as my strength. My fear is born from a lack of trust and confidence in God’s provision and perfect plan.

Francis Chan

I was in Orlando last week and had convinced myself one night that I was sure to be murdered in my hotel room {in my defense, someone had mistakenly tried to open my door rather forcefully around 11 pm which is what started this train of thought}.

Following the unsettling event, my sweet husband suggested {via Facetime} that I read Psalm 27. The Psalms are my safe zone, my spiritual third place, and I was reminded again why I find such comfort in the Psalms as I read over David’s words. David is an emotive and volatile personality who cries out to God in every sort of emotional state. I can relate…

Unlike me, David generally has a god grasp of God’s place in his life’s purpose and plan. David knows that God is eternal and He views His children with an eternal perspective. God answers prayers and gives protection with the eternal in mind, while I am often stuck in the present. (<— tweet this)

I’m familiar with Psalm 27, especially the beginning and the end. {The Lord is my light and my salvation: Whom shall I fear?…Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall stregthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!} What I found in the middle, however, showed David’s grasp of God’s sovereignty in the midst of his fear.

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:5

David trusts that God will protect him in times of trouble, but He doesn’t limit that protection to his earthly home. I love that David doesn’t specify where the protection takes place. Whether he is hidden in God’s physical tabernacle on earth or in His heavenly dwelling, David knows that he will be taken care of.

Safety comes in all shapes and sizes – in God’s world, it doesn’t always look like the safety we expect the police to provide. The next time I’m boarding an airplane or sending my husband off on a ministry trip, I want my prayers to be more “Your will be done” and less “safety first”.

Four Monthiversary

Today, Tim and I celebrate four months of marriage.  Seems like a small feat, but I am thankful for every day, every week, every month I get to share with my love.

Leaving our family and friends last week provided a great opportunity to create a wedding slideshow for our loved ones to watch at a little Labor Day gathering.   Moving preparations were all encompassing, so we finally sat down and went through the one-thousand plus pictures our photographer had given us months ago.

A wellspring of emotions rose up with each photo as I remembered the joy of that day – May 11th, 2012.  There is much to be said for letting those memories wash over you – reliving the thrill of the first look, the nerves of waiting to walk down the aisle, the excitement of being pronounced “Mr. and Mrs.”  Those memories are wonderful medicine for the stress of moving and the anxiety associated with a new job and a new season in life.

As I watched snapshot after snapshot come across the screen, I was thankful – thankful for the gentle, caring, strong man that I married, thankful for the friends and family standing and sitting around us, and most importantly, thankful for God’s evident hand in bringing Tim and I together.

Four months later, I still see God so evidently involved in the path our lives have taken.  On May 11th, neither of us would have guessed we would celebrate 123 days of marriage in Idaho; but, now, I can’t imagine anything else being what God had planned.

My prayer for the next four months (and the next four months…) is that Tim and I would embody Psalm 34:3 – exalting the Lord for the good things He has done and magnifying His name in all that we do and say.

Lord, let our union be a reflection of Your love for us, Your children.

Oh Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.

Just in case you’re wondering who took these lovely wedding photos… Check out Bobby Schneider – he’s super talented and a blast to work with!

ON LETTING GOD DO HIS THING

Based on my perfectionist and overly studious tendencies, it’s not a major shocker that I was an obsessive note taker in school.  During lectures, in my textbooks, from a power point, I would be making notes.  Even though I’ve been out of school for four years and, thus, not pouring over textbooks and the like, I generally read for pleasure with a pencil in hand, making notes or underling quotes I like or find interesting.

Note taking has leaked into my devotional time as well.  My Bible is underlined and scribbled in – there’s even a smiley face and doodle or two.  Not only does this help me engage with what I’m reading, it also helps me recall what I learned when I run into it again.  And let me be honest, parts of the Bible can get a bit dry.  Sometimes I just need an external occupation to keep me interested and interacting with the words that I’m reading.

Regardless of my motivation for reading the Bible with pen in hand, I’ve always been blown away by how God has used those notes to meet me where I am.

He works in such timely and unexpected ways.  During the three hour solo time at high school summer camp (July. Lake Shasta. Houseboats!), I ran into some of my Bible scribblings.

A year ago when NewSong was at houseboats, I was at Hume Lake as a jr. high counselor with my old church.  It was a really difficult week for me.  My parents had just left for a month.  My boyfriend of a month was unreachable because Verizon cell reception is nil at Hume.  My worth as a leader was being rocked because of the abundance of peppy Hume staff.  I was feeling lonely, uncertain and way out of my comfort zone.

Already feeling discouraged, I sought refuge in the Psalms.  David’s honesty and ability to praise God amidst his struggles has always been encouraging – and I was feeling in need of some encouraging.  I decided to read a Psalm a day, beginning at Psalm 35.

Wednesday’s Psalm, in particular, gave me a sense of peace.  In Psalm 37, David says, “find rest in the Lord.  Do not fret.  It only causes harm.”  Not only was I being a major fret face, but I was fretting over misplaced priorities.  Pining after Tim and feeling inadequate as a leader were keeping me from serving selflessly.  After some initial resistance, I was able to start surrendering my desires for the future and move past some of my insecurities – at least put them aside while I was supposed to be pouring into students.

Psalm 37

Fast-forward 12 months and I’m at the park during solo time, following along with the devotion for Friday.  I flip open to Psalm 37 as directed.  A date was printed above it.  7.13.11.  Exactly one year after finding solace in those words at Hume Lake, God directed me to the same Psalm.

Though I was not dealing with the same type of fretfulness, God knew I needed to read David’s words again. That boyfriend from a year before was now my husband and we had spent many months in the ups and downs of a ministry job search.  I went in to the houseboats trip needing direction, confirmation, and peace about the most recent developments in Tim’s job hunt.

God spoke a specific exhortation and encouragement to my heart from Psalm 37.

Exhortation:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. (v.5)

In my efforts to be in the know and manipulate circumstances to fit how I envision things should go, I don’t always abide by this simple formula:

Commit. Trust. Let God do His thing.

Encouragement:

The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. (vv. 23-24)

Even though I don’t always follow the aforementioned formula, God takes great pleasure in orchestrating every detail of my life.  I can certainly trip myself up, but He won’t let me fall.  My hand is held fast and firm in His own grip.

I am holding you by your right hand — I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I am here to help you. Isaiah 41:3