Monday, March 25, 2013

Quiet Little Snowflakes

April is only a week away, but you wouldn't know that from the tiny snowflakes that keep floating past my bedroom window.

Yet snowflakes are such a reminder of stillness to me.

The do their own thing, gracefully fluttering down from the sky even when the weather should be in the seventies and I would be wearing shorts.

They don't mind that they're interrupting my regularly scheduled programming, my expectations for what the day should look like.

They just keep on their steady path towards the ground.

Yesterday at church the lesson was on following Jesus. Admittedly, I was tempted check out -supposing that I've heard the sermon eight million times before, and there's nothing new to learn. However, as we looked at Jesus' call to some about the cost of following Him I was struck by the end of Luke 9.

Today the snowflakes remind me, once again, of the passage from Luke:
"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)
There is so much significance placed on looking forward and maintaining focus on what is coming.

The little snowflakes outside my window appear to have mastered what I struggle to understand: they follow a steady, carefree journey towards the ground. They don't get the opportunity to glance back at the sky and question what was left behind.

Today, I want to learn from the the snowflakes: my destination clearly in front of me and the path it must take being filled with a graceful move toward what lies ahead.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: Mended by Angie Smith

This book was a delightful surprise in every sense.

First off, it was a birthday present from my dear, dear friend K. I love the story of how she came upon it: she stood in the Lifeway store and prayed for what book to get me. As I will go on to explain, it is blatantly evident that the Lord was in on her getting this book for me.

When I first got Mended, I was in the middle of a nightmare semester for me academically, emotionally, and spiritually. My life was an utter mess and I felt like I was grasping at air in my attempts to hold onto any semblance of normal. This book could not have fallen in my lap at a better time.

Her story of the loss of a child might not at first appear similar to the disastrous semester I was having, but the words on ever page transcended specific situations and spoke to me in powerful ways.

I cried. I laughed. I struggled.

The words were a comfort in reminding me of the love of my Savior even when it was painful. I was challenged to deepen my faith in the midst of not hearing from God in the ways I wanted. The timing of me reading the chapters and how it related to my own life made me bust out in fits of giggles multiple times.

I even went back and bought K her own copy.

I started to write a review, and ended up writing about moving forward in life.

Needless to say, this book taught me to look beyond my tired state of life and place my life into the waiting hands of Jesus to be mended.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are entirely my own, I'm not being paid in any way to review this book.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Memories and Moving Forward

Memories have this haunting tendency to come back to me through rose-colored lens.

When this happens, I have a deep desire to curl up and stay put forever in a time that has already passed. I've even caught myself praying to God to let me be, "the girl before {insert a difficult struggle here}."

God doesn't want me to go back. For one thing, He created all of us to live in a linear time frame, perpetually going forward. I have zero ability to stop and rewind time, and if I were able I'm fairly confident certain memories would be continually looped - reliving over and over days I wished would never end.

In my desire for the past, the Lord whispers to me the words of Paul in Philippians,
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (3:13-14).
Sometimes, these words make me want to throw a temper-tantrum that would make any three year old proud because its difficult to let go of good things. The past contains a certainty that the future with its multitude of frightening possibilities can't offer me because I can't be sure that today and tomorrow will be as good as the one's I've already experienced.

However, even those good moments I want to live again were once only possibilities. If I spend today wishing for the past good times, I am surely robbing today of its potential to be even better than those experiences.

If you struggle to see today's possibilities as good, I pray today that you will experience the freedom in trusting God with your future. May the Lord use this day to awaken your soul to the good moments that today will hold if you'll only release your iron grip on the past in order to grasp today's gifts.

Some days the gifts are easier to recognize than others, but ever day is filled with moments sent from God if we only take the time to look around for them. If you have nothing else, admire the beauty of God's creation.

Don't let yesterday's moments steal away today's potential for joy.

Forget what lies behind. Strain forward to what lies ahead. Press on, beloved, press on.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Believing In God's Fulfillment

Perhaps, I'm a crazy woman. Yet, at the same time the Biblical woman I'm talking about today probably seemed a little crazy at first.

Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, must have came across as a bit crazy too.

Lets review:

She wasn't married yet.
She was having a baby.
She claimed to still be a virgin.

If I heard that on the street today, I would think she was either lying, or I would try to come up with some medical answer for what she was experiencing. Let's be honest, anyone would recognize that in her story, two plus two wasn't exactly adding up to four.

However, the glimpse of Mary's pregnancy presented in Luke 1 demonstrates for us how God's narrative is so much bigger than our human understanding of a situation.

First off, the reader finds out about Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, who in this middle of this story is going through her own awesome example of how God was moving and working because she is finally having a baby - a son who the world will come to know as John the Baptist.

Elizabeth is rejoicing at how the Lord is also working through Mary, a beautiful example of how sisters in Christ encourage one another. What struck me as I read the passage in Luke was the last verse,
"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." -Luke 1:45
Ever had God tell you something you were not sure would work out?

Sometimes God's plans leave me utterly confused. When I can't easily see the path that A will lead me to C through B, I begin to waiver about the Lord's plan. I start seeing all the obstacles, and forget that my God is so much bigger than any of the hurdles or detours I might have to go on to get where I'm going.

Honestly, I struggle with control because sometimes the path I'm on does not appear to be the most obvious path that my human thoughts went to.

Sometimes I even question if God has forgotten His words to me, and I begin to wrestle with whether they will be fulfilled.

Granted, when I think about fulfillment, I so often view it through the lens of whether His plan looks the way I envisioned it happening in my head. More times than not, His plan turns out differently than my imagination. However, if I took a moment to look back on my own life, when I fully surrendered to God's path, His direction lead me on better adventures with more exciting stories than I could ever come up with.

So even when your story doesn't add up neatly, when God has given you a task that can only be accomplish by divine intervention, I pray that you will hear the words blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment...from the Lord.

Its easy to want to rely on our own understanding, and looking beyond it and believing that God will fulfill His words to you regardless of how far-fetched they seem doesn't always come naturally. Ask Him to show you how mighty He is to act beyond your understanding.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Front Porch Ramblings

I love giving things names.

Maybe it has been inherent in human nature ever since God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals in Genesis 2:19-20.

Today though I get a special privilege of revealing my new domain name and blog title:

Front Porch Ramblings

The process to getting to this name wasn't an easy one. I'm easily an over-analyzer and I thought I needed a perfect domain name. I guess I should have re-read my own post, but I was rather determined that the right name was out there if only I could grasp it.

I wanted something small and brief, but that spoke volumes at the same time. Easy to do - right?!!?

Then I thought about front porches.

I grew up in the South, and front porches are special places. They're places where community gathers. They can become a refuge for solitude. They're also front row seats for watching a summer thunderstorm roll in.

Some of the best moments and conversations of my life have occurred on front porches. I spent so much time listening to my dad's stories and talks about life and meaning on a front porch. Which of course, as an awesome friend pointed out, is reflective of my spiritual walk too.

So welcome - grab a cup of coffee, a glass of sweet tea, and settle in for front porch ramblings.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons from the Sand and the Sea, Part 2

Well my long-anticipated Spring Break is finally over. I traded in my couple hours every morning of  listening to waves crash on the sand in favor of the passing cars on the busy street outside my window.

Like so many other times, I built up expectations in my head of what the week would look like, and its funny how those rarely line up with real life. The best part? Real life is much better.

If I don't let go of my plans and my ideas, I miss out on the even bigger and better plans God has waiting for me if I only choose to step outside my little bubble I've created.

Is it terrifying to let go? A hundred times yes. Will it be worth it at the end? My experience says yes.

Sometimes it feels like we throw around these verses, but my prayer is that you'll look at them with new eyes,
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
Oh how precious it is that we have a God who hears us and tells us to come find Him with all our heart! The idea of all of who we are - every single little piece of ourselves - whether we think its significant or not, He asks us to bring to Him. Its to experience true freedom.

As you go throughout your day, join me in looking beyond what we've imagined life to be so we can find the story God is writing upon our hearts and live it out.

The best is truly yet to come.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lessons From the Sand and Sea, Part 1

Photo Credit: K. Hall

Okay, so I know I really am looking out at the Gulf of Mexico, which is in fact, not a sea

Yet there's just something calming about walking into your condo for the week and being greeted by sights like the one above.

Yesterday morning, I giggled when I started my quiet time and it happened to be about Jesus walking on the water. I mean, what better timing than my first full day at the beach?

Here are some of my thoughts as I read the account from Matthew 14:22-33:

Often, I tend to forget that Jesus was walking on water. I mean I know it, but I don't think about how big of a miracle that was, that He just was walking along on the water, like this was a totally normal incident.

When the disciples saw Jesus, they thought he was a ghost. How often do I mistake the presence of Christ in my life as a "coincidence" or forget to attribute the supernatural to the Lord?

To calm their fears, Jesus tells them, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." Oh how I daily need reminders that the Lord's work is not scary.

Peter's response is to question if its Jesus, and the only way to prove what he said was to take a step of faith. Do I take steps of faith in order to find Jesus, or do I want the finding Jesus to come first before I step out in faith?

We so often focus on Peter's doubt that caused him to sink, but lets give him credit, as long as he set his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water too. How can I display the glory of the Lord as long as I look to Him to give me everything I need?

While your spring break may not lead you to the beach, or you may not have one at all, I pray that you would take the questions to heart and learn to take faith steps with the Lord.

Grace and Peace,