Sunday, February 21, 2010

A new beginning

To start off I am going to post my note that I wrote on facebook. Last year was a roller coaster ride for me and a very hard one at that. This note pretty much sums up the whole year and the lessons that I had to learn the hard way.

Well another year is almost over, and boy am I glad. As I take a look back at how this year began and how it is ending I am amazed. I never thought I would ever be in the place that I stand today. A lot of things have happened this year that I never thought would happen to me. For starters I am back in Arkansas and it looks like God is going to make this a permanent home for me, at least for a long while. The next is actually really exciting, school is about to end… forever… I hope. I also experienced a heartbreak that I never saw myself experiencing, and lastly, my relationship with my Father took a turn for the worse but I wouldn’t go back and fix it, ever, because the love for Him I have now wouldn’t be here if I hadn't first walked away from it. I am so thankful that the God I serve is faithful even when I am unfaithful. His consistent love, grace, and mercy are so unworthy for someone as wretched as I am, thankfully He does not think so.

I don’t understand why we humans fail to learn lessons the easy way. I know that God desires to teach us in a manner that causes us no pain but because we often choose to ignore Him when life is fine and dandy He must throw in some chaos so that we will focus our attention back on Him. One if the obvious difficult changes in my life has been my relationship status. When this year began I was in a relationship that I was sure was going to end up with that fairy tale story ending of happily ever after. Now here I am just a few weeks away from starting a new year single. I have learned a whole lot in these last 12 months and I hope to remember these lessons throughout the next 12.

1. Limbo is a crappy place to be but if your willing God will use it to teach you valuable lessons. I learned more about being in a relationship during the three week limbo period that the man I was dating took to break up with me then I did during the nine months that we dated. I knew the day he said we needed a break that God was trying to get my attention. When I finally let Him in and began to listen to His voice life just got easier. I didn’t say happier. Trust me those three weeks and the few weeks after were extremely painful but it was easy. I just had to let go and let God. There was nothing that I could do to change my situation, if I had tried I would of ended up with more hurt. Trusting God is far more simple then we make it out to be.
He doesn’t promise a road without pain and sorrow He just gives you a hand to hold on to and if your willing He’ll even pick you up and carry you. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 is true if you trust Him with everything (that is not holding even the littlest part of you back) He will direct your every step. That is a lesson that Robbie taught me. During the time that we dated he would often look at me and say, “Kat, trusting God is far more simple then you make it out to be.” Boy, was he right. It is soooo true. Its a hard lesson to have to learn and one that I have to tell myself daily. Thankfully God never gave up trying to teach me this lesson. I just wish that the lesson could of been taught differently… but then again He probably tried and I didn’t listen.

2. “God does His best work in you when you are at the end of yourself.” That is a quote from a Karen Kingsbury novel that I have seen come true not only in my own life but in the lives of some close friends. When you finally hit that spot in your life where you literally cannot go one more day by yourself that is when God steps in and does something amazing. The way He reveals Himself when you finally get tired of fighting and just throw yourself at the throne of grace unable to move till the King of Kings reaches down and picks you up will leave you breathless. The things I am capable of doing when He is my all in all is amazing. Words can’t describe the feeling. It is something you can only understand if you have been there. The road to finding the end of yourself is a painful one and while I was on it I desperately tried to turn around but now that I am here I never want to go back. The pain was worth it. Every tear, every agonizing moment was worth it. The relationship I now have with my Savior is worth any pain the world can throw at me.

3. One of the things that I learned while being a relationship with another person was that I really didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did. I did, felt, and said things that I wasn’t aware that I could or would ever do. I always thought that I was emotionally stable, able to control how I felt. Let me tell you that I am not. I struggle with emotional feelings that my head tells me are crazy. Emotions do not always follow your thoughts. Just when I think that I am over my breakup and able to completely move on I see him, or something that reminds me of something we did and emotionally I am a wreck. Now inside my head I am telling myself that this is crazy… didn’t just last week I decide that this breakup thing was good? He is not the one God has for you and this morning you were quite joyful about why am I crying?? Its a very frustrating feeling that I really hate. I hate not being in control and before Jan I thought that my emotions was one of the things I had control of… boy was a I wrong. It all comes back to the issue of trust. I pray everyday that my emotions will line up with the will of God and not with my flesh. If my current emotions or the way I feel about something is different then His will I trust that it is because there is still a lesson there to learn and that in time… when He is finished teaching me not when I am done, He will line them both up. If for some reason my emotions are lined up with His will I will trust Him and know that His plans are far better then mine. When He is ready then I will understand and see why I felt that way. Its a daily battle and one that I am constantly talking to God about. Thats the only way to handle it. When I feel like my emotions are running away with me taking the time to talk to God about it allows me to clear my head and gives me a peace. God is not far from us. I can talk to Him whenever, wherever and about whatever. Thats the beauty of being His daughter. I can always cry out to Him and He will always hear me. He never leaves me and cares deeply about me even when I’m an emotional wreck. Nothing is too big or small for Him to handle. He desires to have a relationship with me. He wants me to talk to Him and to spend time with Him.

4. “Grace comes free of charge, on the house and with no strings attached.”- Philip Yancy from his book What’s so Amazing About Grace.Grace is a beautiful thing… when we are receiving it. When it is required of us to give it doesn’t appear to be so beautiful. Grace isn’t about fairness, life isn’t fair and we should be glad that it isn’t. If life was fair we would end up in hell. God would of removed himself from our lives and let us go precisely where we deserved to go. Thankfully life isn’t fair and the God we serve is just as merciful as He is just. He loves us. He loves us so much but that doesn’t mean He can overlook our sin. The sacrifice that Christ made on the cross wasn’t fair. Why should a perfect Lamb have to die such a terrible and painful death just for some lowly sinners who will for the most part spend their life running away from Him? Its all about love and grace. He loves us. His love for us is what causes Him to offer us grace and redemption. It makes me want to sing the old hymn… “Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin.” So if we are saved because of the grace that God showed us shouldn’t we be more willing to extend grace? There is nothing that anyone could do to me that would be worse then the crimes I have committed against Christ and He forgave me… it came free of charge, on the house, and with no strings attached. Shouldn’t I be able to offer that kind of grace to anyone? It’s an easy concept to grasp… not so easy to live out.
“The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.”

5. How do you handle a breakup in a way that glorifies God? That is the question of the year! I have had so much advice given to me in the last two months and a whole bunch of it contradicts each other. I wanted, really wanted, to be mad and angry at him. I wanted to think hateful things and never see him again. I was hurt, confused, and sad. The world and my flesh screamed for me to be angry and at times I gave into them. But of course I was at the time reading a book about grace. God sure has a sense of humor at times. There was no way I could stay angry with him. Even now two months later I wrestle with this. I still want to at times to be angry at the whole situation. I wish I could run away and avoid him. I don’t like seeing him… it reminds why I cared so deeply about him. The problem is I can’t find anything in Scripture that tells me to run away from trials and suffering. In fact I’m pretty sure after re-reading James for the hundredth time (its my fav book) I get the opposite message. I’m supposed to find joy in my sufferings. I began to listen to an online Bible Study that was on the book of James and I love this quote by the speaker,
”When you face hard times know for sure that God is doing something. He is shoring you up, (creating in you characteristics that enable you to hold up). He is shoring you up and showing you through. He is bending down off His throne, descending into your world, very personally, and grabbing your hand. Saying, ‘Walk this way,’ ‘Step this way,’ ‘Let me walk you through the fire.’ ” 
James 1:4 says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The trial that I am in right now is God’s way of developing in me perseverance. He is shoring me up. He is preparing me for something that I can’t yet see. Again I have to trust that He knows the bigger picture. All I can see right now is my current state. I don’t see where I will be or who I will be with five years down the road, but He can.

6. Another quote from the Bible study,
“He shores us up and shows us through by giving us wisdom. Wisdom does not mean that Jesus is going to tell you why. He does promise to tell us the what now. It’s okay to ask why… just don’t get stuck there.” 
I love this quote and say it out-loud to myself quite often. I like the fact that she says that we can ask God why. There are times when I feel like asking God the question why means that I don’t trust Him, but its ok to ask. I just can’t get stuck there. I get stuck pretty much everyday. In fact before I heard this it probably happened multiple times throughout the day. I love it when God places in our head a quote like this or a piece of Scripture that allows us to finally conquer a weakness in our life. I am allowed to ask the why question as long as I am willing to hear the answer, which sometimes is no answer.

7. He only commands what He also empowers! I think out of all the things I have learned this year, this one is the most comforting. There have been many times as of late that I have needed these words. Every time I get worried about a situation all I have to do is remind myself that God is with me. I been put into some very awkward situations that I wish I could avoid but I know that God is putting me there for a reason. I’m not sure why but thats not the point. God will not put me in a situation that is impossible. In every situation God is there with me giving me the power to get through it. Its hard to imagine that the God of the universe actually cares enough about me to give me the power to get through hard times, but He does. Nothing happens outside of Him. Anything that I go through is apart of His greater plan. I am incapable of seeing my future, but God knows all things. I am learning that trusting God means to be able and willing to follow Him where ever He leads even if the path ahead looks dark. Sometimes we have to go through the woods to get to the clearing. Even though the woods are dark and I am unable to see what is ahead my Savior, the one who cares more about then anyone else, is right there holding my hand and leading the way. It is by His strength that I can get up every morning and be joyful. It is Him who gives me the power to walk into a room with my head held high because I am His. He loves me and that is all that matters.

8.“Things don’t simply work for the good. They work for the good of those who have been called according to His purpose. In other words, things work to the good for those who don’t fight life’s up and downs, but roll with them, allowing God’s purpose to be bigger than all their hope’s and expectations combined. When God’s purpose is the main thing in your life, all things will work to the good.”
This quote from a Karen Kingsbury novel comes from Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. I think that verses like this one are easily taken out of context and cause a lot of problems in Christianity today. We get sucked into believing this feel good message that being a Christian means that because God is on our side that life will be blissfully happy and that things will always work for the good. The problem is that our version of good and God’s version of good are as different as night and day. God doesn’t spend His time trying to make us humans happy. He wants to bring us closer to Him and He will do whatever it takes, including making us miserable, to get us there. It is us that must be willing to take whatever He throws our way. After all He only commands what He also enables. If what we are going through is what it takes to become closer, more like our perfect Savior shouldn’t we jump at the opportunity. Maybe that is why James tells us to consider it pure joy when we are faced with trails. I find it interesting that the word for joy here is the same word for joy that is found in the Luke 2 when the angels are talking to the shepherds. The news they have for the shepherds is joyful, they are announcing the birth of the Messiah. That same type of joy that the shepherds are told to have towards the newborn Christ is the same joy James tells us to have when facing hard times. I always thought of the joy that is talked about here would be more of an inward joy. As if I could be mostly sad but as a Christian I should at least have a smidgen of joy. I don’t think that is what James is telling us. The verse right after says that it is through such trials that God develops patience or perseverance as I talked about earlier. The number one thing in my life should be my walk with Christ. As a Christian it is my goal to strive for perfection. I know that I can never reach that but it is still my goal. I am called to be Christ-like, after all that is what the word Christian means, and Christ was perfect. I am striving to be more like Him every day so when He brings hard times my way I should rejoice with a joy much like I would if I were the shepherds hearing the news about the baby Christ being born. After all I know that when I am faced with trials that Jesus promises to be there with me, to personal see me through. I get to walk hand in hand with the Creator God. He obviously thinks that I am capable of handling the situation and knows that when I get through it I will be that much closer to Him. One of the books that I have recently read said that when we sin, or go through hard times, that it cuts the string that attaches us to God. But because of His faithfulness He reaches down, picks it up, and ties a knot. Every time we make the choice to cut ourselves away from Him He uses that to actually bring us closer to Him. With each and every knot we get closer and closer to Him. I love that! It is a great visual of our sin. We think that it tears us away from Him but what we do for evil God mends it and through that mending process we actually come out closer to Him then we were before. I only wish we could grasp just how undeserving we are of this type of love that we receive from Him.

9. Psalm 31:14-17a-
But I trust in You, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to You. 
For someone like me this verse is not always a comforting one. The fact that my times are in His hands is good. After all it is far better for the one who sees my future to be in control of my future. If I was in control life would be a mess. But that means that I have to admit that I have no control. I have to be willing to be submissive to His plans. I am willing to be submissive to His timing, as long as it coincides with mine. Unfortunately that is not how God works. In fact I’m pretty sure He throws some chaos in just to remind me that He is the boss and not me. The beauty in God’s timing is that He knows my desires, in fact He put them there. Sometimes I think that He is surprised my the desires of my heart, or that He doesn’t understand them. But if the desires of my heart are there because I have delighted in Him, therefore allowing His desires to be mine, then they aren’t just my hearts desires they are His. The issue is that my sight is limited to the present and His is not. The desire of my heart should always be to seek Him and glorify Him in all that I do. I don’t always wake up desiring to do that but when I stay in His Word and walk with Him daily I find that I wake up desiring Him more often then the things of this world. It is when I stray from Him, thinking that I need to speed up His plans that my desires stray from His. In the short life that I have lead I have found that walking hand in hand with God is the best place to be. Sometimes it is quite painful but I would rather be constantly in the midst of pain and sorrow with my God then in a world of happiness without Him. That is the hardest lesson that I have learned this year and I believe it is the one that I had to learn in order to continue on in my faith.

10. Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. This verse is hanging above my kitchen sink. It is a verse that caught my eye when I lived in Virginia and I had written on a sticky note and stuck it to my headboard. When everything happened between Robbie and I that was the first verse that God gave to me. I can’t tell you just how many times over the past few months that I desperately needed this verse. I have had days that I feel so weary that I don’t even know how to get out of bed. The lessons that God has been teaching me are very intense and I intend to remember them for a long time. It is not a coincidence that my lessons in grace came along with my breakup. God was and is trying to teach me a very hard yet important lesson here. This lesson sucks at times. Sitting here at Passion I want to hid and run far away for the group I am with (he is here with us) but I keep getting told to hold up my head and talk to him, be kind to him, love him as I love him. I must remember that God only commands me to do what He is also willing to empower me to do. If I continue to do what He says then according to this verse I will reap a harvest.

11. If life were stable I’d never need God’s help. Since it’s not I reach out to Him regularly. I am thankful for the unknowns and that I don’t have control because it makes me run to God. -Francis Chan from his book “Crazy Love”
So when I first read this quote in the book I highlighted it and thought that it was a great quote, I wrote it on a sticky stuck it on my headboard and didn’t think about it again for a few months. As spring came and choices concerning where I would live had to be made I saw the quote again. My first reaction to this was, “thats great whenever I am hurting God will be there.” Yes, God will be there, always, but that is not what I think Chan thought when he wrote this. We must learn to be thankful for the times when we have no clue what is happening. If we never had to deal with any unknowns then we wouldn’t need God. What a shame it would be to never need God. I must learn to be thankful for the fact that I am not in control, it is what makes me need God. Needing God is not a sign of weakness, its a sign of strength. He made us to need Him, there is strength is admitting that.

12. “My mistakes are running through my mind and I'll relive my days, in the middle of the night and I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride. Sometimes I feel alone, and I cry. In this life I know what I've been, but here in your arms I know what I am. I'm forgiven, I'm forgiven and I don’t have to carry the weight of who I've been cause I'm forgiven.” Sanctus Real
I LOVE this song. Love, love, love this song. It has been a wonderful reminder these past few months that my Father still loves me and no matter what life throws I am still forgiven and a child of a King who loves me. Anytime I feel like life is beating me up, I can run into His arms and be reminded of who I am. My life isn’t about who I was. This doesn’t just refer to my life before Christ it applies to my current situation. It doesn’t matter where I failed yesterday or even this morning. Tonight as a sit here writing this I am forgiven. All my sin has been wiped clean. The person I was yesterday is gone. God doesn’t keep record of my wrongs, He casts them as far as the east is from the west. When I beat myself up over something that is in my past that is my own doing. God doesn’t shove things in our face and take us on guilt trips… we do that to ourselves. Yes, God wants us to learn from our past mistakes but He wants us to think of them just as that… things in the past. I can’t change my past, but I can change my future. I can make the choice to learn from the wrong things that I have done and choose not to do that again.
The one question that I keep asking myself as I begin this new year is how what am I going to do differently. Just the other day my friend Tracy gave me a mug for Christmas that had the word TRUST on it. I laughed and told her thanks. She just smiled at me and reminded me that I own that word now. My response to that was to roll my eyes and give her a whatever look. She is right. I began 2009 not even knowing what trusting God looked like but I ended the year owning the word. I do know what it looks like to trust Him, and I know how to do it. I can wake up most days now and confidently proclaim that I trust God and that whatever that day brings I know that with His help I can get through it. I want to end this note with another quote from Karen Kingsbury. I have loved reading her series on the Baxter family and recommend it to anyone.
“God’s will is a little like taking a Sunday drive with God behind the wheel. God’s driving. He might take a turn where you don’t expect a turn or go through a valley that feels too dark, but you don’t have to worry about a thing, because your just the passenger. Whatever happens, God will get you home in the end as long as you let Him drive. That’s God’s will.” 
My prayer for this year is that not only will I let God drive but that I will learn to be a content and joyful passenger even when He takes an unexpected turn.

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