“When They Began”

I woke up this morning and felt doubt trying to steal my hope, so I began to pray before my feet ever touched the floor.

     Dear Abba… You’ve promised that if your people delight in You, then You will give us what our hearts long for.*  I am at rest knowing that You are good and You cannot lie.  I believe You!  In my weariness, please help my areas of unbelief.

Morning Praise 2

Am I the only one who struggles with doubt?  Oh, my faith is strong for others and my vision for you is great, so why do I wrestle with belief for my own heart’s desires to be fulfilled?  Could it be because I know my faults and the areas of struggle that I’ve yet to surrender?  Is it that I’m bracing myself for another “No” from God, because of the heartache I’ve known in my past?  I don’t see others as having to be perfect to receive their request from God.  If perfection was a requirement we would all be buried under the weight of despair.

I believe a huge part of my struggle is that I often fail to recognize that God is leading my every step.  Society has conditioned us to only acknowledge the giant leaps.  Rarely is anything seen as valuable unless it has a parade of accolades trailing behind it, so in the mindset of this world it doesn’t look like I’m stepping at all, but if I am pressing into God I am in motion.  Paul and Silas, even while in chains, trusted God and sang praises to Him.  With every breath of praise, they were stepping in faith.*  

What seems desolate today may lead to greater victories tomorrow.  It was after Paul and Silas began to sing praises to God that their chains fell off, along with the chains of all the other prisoners.  Our praise is not only for our own gain.  Paul and Silas not only celebrated a personal miracle but they got to rejoice with many others as they too were freed from both physical and spiritual chains.

God?  That’s really crazy!

God told Jehoshaphat to send the worshipers ahead of the troops into battle.  God gave a promise that He would fight the battle for them.  “You will not need to fight in this battle.  Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!  Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you…  Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets and you shall prosper.” (2 Chor. 20:17 & 20b).

Sing Praise

“When they began to sing and to praise”

Jehoshaphat was obedient to God’s crazy request, so God caused his enemies to fight against each other.  God’s love is true and pure.  His love is unchanging.  His love is the same for all of us, so if you believe that God will restore the lives of those you pray for, then you must believe for yourself also.  If I believe for you but fail to trust when I pray for my own needs, then I have become prideful.  Ultimately, my lack of faith is stating that Jesus is enough for you but He is not enough for me.  Ouch!  To think I can be so arrogant, that’s a really painful thought.

Jesus paid a debt He did not owe and I owe a debt I could never pay.  I can’t, but Jesus did!  When I gave my life to Christ, He covered me with His perfection, and I too can take my request to God and ask believing – even when I’m still struggling with my faith.  Wrestling with faith shows the presence of faith.

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

Having emotions is not wrong, it’s what we do with them that matters.  This morning as I felt hope draining from my heart, I called to the One where hope begins.  In faith I called to God as I surrendered my unbelief.

“ALL the promises of God are “YES”!*  So take a deep breath, rest in Him, believe for yourself like you believe for others, and say “AMEN!” – 2 Cor. 1:20

In the words of a wise friend of mine, “It’s an honest request that God delights to honor; and when we see our faith increase, we know to give the glory back to God.”, (Kimberly Wyse).  The more I recall what God has done, the more I find rest in knowing that He will continue to amaze me.  God is good!

What chains have you bound?  Are you physically shackled?  What emotional weights keep you hidden in fear rather than functioning in faith?  Are you burdened by people’s false accusations?  Or, are you struggling with forgiving yourself for wrongs you’ve committed?  Whatever it may be that taunts your mind today, take the thoughts captive and give God praise.  He’s still writing your story.

~Shannan

2013, Growing Forward In Love!

* Scripture references, Psalm 33:18, Psalm 37:4, Acts 16:25-34, 2 Cor. 1:20

When The Clouds Would Dance

Light Breaks Through

My eyes slowly opened from a night’s rest.  As usual I was the first to wake.  My dad, mom, and brother all would remain asleep for a few more hours yet.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, then slowly rolled out of my twisted mis-matched sheet.

My nights were almost always filled with much motion.  Once, while on a family vacation to Niagara Falls, I was the one chosen to sleep with mom and dad.  My brother got to sleep soundly on a hideaway bed next to the heater in our tiny little motel room.  If memory serves me correct, that was the last time mom was so willing to share a bed with me.  That night I managed to literally kick her to the miniature couch that was across the room against the window.  I woke up the next morning with my feet in my dad’s face.

As my feet hit the floor, they began to follow their usual pathway that led them through the kitchen and out the main door.  Just a few feet outside the door, my two-year old bottom plopped down on what mom called the front “stoop”.  It was sometime between 6:00-6:30 am when the show began.

For years I had forgotten about these special moments watching the sun break through the cumulus clouds.  Those quiet moments before the world got loud.  This was the time when God caused the clouds to dance.  I know that sounds crazy, but I promise you they danced.

As the morning dew dripped off of the sweet purple morning glories, the sun’s rays pierced through the giant cotton-like billows and lit them up.

I don’t quite know how to describe the unravelling scenes I witnessed on these mornings.  Sometimes it was like the clouds were on fire with bright glowing shades of orange, and other times it was more like the sun’s rays were about to wrap me in a warm hug.  Watching the bright beams stretched down from heaven to the earth, it looked like God poked holes in heaven’s walls and let some of His light escape.  I didn’t know what to call it back then, but now I identify it has God showering me with His mercy.

I remember hearing thunder one morning.  For a moment I was disappointed that my alone time would not happen.  The clouds rolled open as roars of clapping sounded in the distance, but it wasn’t a storm that was exposed as the sky unfolded.  That morning my eyes watched the sun’s beams bounce from cloud to cloud.  The clouds continued to spin and roll, seeming to grow larger as they did.  All kinds of different colors filled the morning sky behind the expanding puffs.  Just moments after this glimpse into heaven, a rainbow appeared!  It never touched the earth but each end found a resting place on neighboring clouds.  “Wow!”

Rainbow In The Sky

During these mornings I would breathe in clean crisp air and whisper questions for God.  I was convinced these were private moments just between the two of us.  I knew at a very early age that I could tell God anything, even my most secret thoughts.  Most of the day that followed our morning visits I would remain quiet.  I would ask questions like, “God, is this what heaven is like?”   “When do I get to come?”  I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to go live where this peace lived.  I never saw angels but I knew they were there.  I knew they were protecting me at that moment and would continue to do so when the rest of the world woke up.

Fast forward now to the present.  It was just a few months ago while I was out for a morning run that God reminded me of my early childhood mornings with Him.  I’ve been struggling more now than ever with feeling so alone.  With my husband now in heaven, my family nine hours away, and many of my friends finding their next step in life, life has grown quiet.  To be completely honest, I’m finding it really hard to breathe.  Right now, at this very moment, I am sitting at a Starbucks across town just to get out of my familiar.  I knew if I went home all I would do is wash my face, put on my comfy pants, and crawl into bed with my laptop to stare into a false sense of belonging in cyberspace.  It’s the Christmas season and I’m just not strong enough anymore.  I’m not strong enough to put on a happy face and drag myself to the Christmas concert that my church puts on every year.  It’s about to start any minute now.  I just cannot pay $10 to sit in a crowd alone.  I have so many friends that would be there to wrap their sweet arms around me, but it’s not the same as sharing life with your partner, your best friend.  I still force myself to do a lot, but I really do not like going out anymore because the pain of coming home alone is too heavy now.  Life’s just not fun.

STOP!

Let me ease your mind.  This is usually the place where people try to offer words to encourage (and I am extremely grateful!), give a Bible verse or a talk filled with Christianese, try to fix me, or they simply disappear because they don’t know what to say.  There’s nothing you can say.  There’s nothing I can say.  After all, it’s been almost seven years since my world was turned inside out, since the death of my husband as well as my career.  What can be said?  It is what it is until God decides to change it.  I’ve said and done everything I know to do.  Over the years I have listened, read, sought God, walked when He said walk.  I’ve tried all I know to do.  I’ve tried to do what others have wanted me to do.  I’m just too exhausted to keep running down rabbit trails just to appease time and people.  I am at the end of myself mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Completely depleted.  Maybe this is exactly where God wants me?  Even with feeling like my heart is being cut out with a knife of fire, I am still at peace.  No.  I’m not crazy.  It’s just a season where my feeler and my knower are not lining up.  I feel hopeless, but I know Who my trust is in, and He has never left me.  Even if my mind and emotions are spiraling downward, my heart is at rest.  This is the time I myself must take the advice I gave a young girl last year when she asked for just one word of direction.  My words to her were, “Follow God’s peace above anything else.  Even when that peace leads you against all man’s logic.  Do not step until you have God’s peace.”  Yep, it’s time to swallow my own pill of advice – against all man’s logic.

This all brings me back to my dancing clouds.  During that morning run where God reminded me of the twirling beauties, I asked Him why I had not seen them again for so long?  When did I lose my eyes for those colorful cotton candy like puffs?  I don’t have the full answer to these questions yet, but I’m gaining some understanding.  I think the age when one becomes blind to the masterpiece of God’s creation is different for everyone.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

We all have had, or will have, trials, pains, letdowns, and people who abuse our heart, and we all will choose how we process what this life throws our way.  Some of us will run head first into it, and some will run away from it.  Some will hide under the covers paralyzed by it, and others will plunge themselves into work to keep their mind from thinking about it and their heart from feeling it.  All can be beneficial and all can be destructive.  But no doubt that the pain sears the heart and leaves scar tissue.  We lose sensation in those scarred areas until we make a conscious decision to let God heal the hurt.  Sometimes it’s a matter of us choosing to take back what others have stolen from us by living and letting God bless us.  But even when we’ve come to the place where we’re ready to move forward, it’s still all subject to God’s timing, or it should be anyway.

I long for a best friend that will love me despite my faults, and that I can specially love in return, even when their beans have found their way under the covers at night.  Oh come on now!  That way funny!  See, I want realistic, but I want only God’s plan for me – so I wait.  I don’t know how long this season will last, but I’m taking this opportunity to get real, face my pain, and allow myself to hope even when hope hurts.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lam. 3:25

Maybe this season is for nothing more than me to stop and sit on the “stoop” and allow God to make the clouds dance like only He can.  You see?  He never stopped.  Creation still claps in worship and the clouds still twirl in delight of His presence.  Just because pain caused my vision to dim and fear of further heartache screams loudly in my ears, does not mean that God quit wooing me.  The fact that I allowed my focus to shift from faith to fear does not mean that God is not fully aware of me.  He knows every joy and pain I’ve felt.  He knows every right and wrong done to me.  He was with me at the age of two sitting on the front steps, and He has been with me every moment of every day, in every breath, since then.

I feel like a little girl anxiously waiting for her daddy to remover His hands from her eyes to reveal what He’s been preparing.  With this thought I smile.

I don’t have to chase after the dancing clouds, they’re already here.  I just have to trust enough to look up to see them.

~Shannan

Uncompromisingly Walking With Him In 2012!

The presence of pain is not the absence of peace.

You can help me during this time of waiting.  You can pray for God’s very best for me.  You can ask Him to keep my heart protected in His care.  Pray that my eyes will see all that He has for me, and that I will have the wisdom, strength, and courage to walk when it’s time.

Angels Unaware