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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The color purple

It never ceases to amaze me that when I get honest before the Lord, He always shows up! ;-) My last blog entry detailing some of the stresses of life and feeling a slight bit like Job opened up some real and painful dialogue with God.

Which at times has left me feeling like Job~ not all my questions answered, but with my hand over my mouth and my heart crying out “You alone are God!” and “You alone are in control!” Add to that a healthy dose of humility in the face of shaking my fist at heaven and questioning His love and goodness.

I’m so glad God doesn’t anger at my questions or shy away from them. He shows up. And in some ways, He does answer.

I’ve gotten a real kick telling my recent story of God showing up because as a writer, if I put this into a fiction novel people would shake their fingers about the implausibility of it all.

No matter. I was there. I saw God and He left an indelible reminder of His grace…in the grape shade of purple…

After my blog post a few Saturdays ago, God stepped in pretty fast to answer one of my immediate needs~ transportation to church. A neighbor of ours~ a little girl we’ve watched grow into an amazing young woman~ heard my husband talking to her mom about car stuff and she offered us her car so we could go to church. I was humbled as we climbed in and then enjoyed being with other believers knowing that God Himself had carried us there with a special wink and a whisper to trust Him.

Then He promptly closed every available or even slightly possible door for our getting another car. But my mother-in-law let us borrow her car on Monday so that my husband could run to his office and gather more work to do at home until God provided a vehicle. God also allowed me to borrow that car to go to a place that’s become a special invitation for refreshment and renewal. I went to the Healing Rooms and the prayer team that prayed with me and over me was so perfectly chosen by God that I cried and felt God release some deep “stuff” in my heart. One thing they challenged me to do after our time together was to ask my husband to pray with me through our house and seek His direction together.

Given that my husband and I have been struggling some with our communication, I wasn’t sure how this would go over. But God had already gone before me ~ why I’m still surprised at this I don’t know~ and my husband was excited about what the prayer team had suggested. That night we spent a very long time praying together and I have to say God opened my eyes even wider to the gift my husband is. He’s a fallible and imperfect human, just like me, who loves God too. He prayed with such power and confidence that I was in awe. God whispered to my heart, “I’ve got this covered too.” And God does. We’re still working at this tough and wonderful journey of marriage, but God showed up there once again and breathed new life, His life, over us.

Then Tuesday we received a call about a possible car. Not really wanting to get my hopes up, I listened to the specifics and agreed it was worth looking into. So my husband called the guy about his Saturn and agreed to meet him. The man with the Saturn also asked my husband to bring our van because his neighbor~ also a mechanic~ works specifically on Town and Country vans. Just like ours.

Much longer story a little shorter… the two mechanics were gifts from God. Both neat guys, they managed to fix our van for under $200 (when our regular mechanic had declared it dying) and tell us that we have 100,000 miles of good life left in my daughters’ favorite car.

Plus, the Saturn was one of the cutest cars we’ve ever considered and the guy sold it to us for exactly what we had to spend. Not only that but he took our very dying Corsica and slashed $200 off the cost of the Saturn. That ~ with a gift from a wonderful co-worker of my husband’s ~ and we were the proud owners of two “new” cars with absolutely no debt.

Can’t forget to mention our Saturn has a sunroof, a kicking stereo system, and leather seats. I feel like a teenager’s dream of summer every time I slide behind the wheel.

Add to that my mouth ulcers are finally gone~ praise God! And I’m loving my writing again. I’m 12 chapters shy of finishing this awesome story that God has given me new eyes for and a new appreciation of what it means to trust Him and leave the results in His hands.

Did I mention the adorable paint job on our “new” Saturn???

It’s the grace shade of purple.

What an awesome God we serve!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Life as I know it

Life has become a real-time study in the book of Job. I don’t say that lightly. Thankfully, the Lord saw fit to skip over the losing my children and my barns part. But the rest? Well, let’s just say it’s still crashing around me.

I don’t know how long Job had to deal with painful sores, unanswered heart cries, and more than painful accusations from friends. But I’m sitting in the dust and asking God some of the same questions. What’s the purpose in all this?

Why was I in the ER twice on my vacation? Why did I miss the one place where I go to rest because the pain was and is again almost unbearable? Why have both our cars died right before we were going to give our daughters a taste of their childhood dreams? Why is my husband’s job at risk because a mysterious injury is causing him so much pain? Why is my marriage still stretched to the breaking point? Why is writing a painful exercise in failure right now? With all the work my husband and I do, why can’t we even afford a basic used car? And why do I hurt so much?

Where are You, God?

Many of these questions have been dogging my heels most of my waking moments for the better part of three years. Some, like the intense physical pain and mysterious injuries, are newer. But the deep questions are the same. God, don’t You care that I hurt? What am I doing wrong that so much bad continues? Where is the healing?

I do know I have tons of blessings to count. I have my precious girls, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly. For that I’m richer than I deserve. I know that. But sometimes that doesn’t stop the deep spiritual pain of unanswered questions.

Why doesn’t my mom love me?
Why doesn’t my marriage heal?
Why do I feel like a failure ~ unimportant, unappreciated, unseen?

Last night, after a horrid writing day and an unrelenting deadline looming…with my mouth full of ulcers…life and pain got the best of me and I had a mommy tantrum in front of my family. My eldest and her father sat in as Job’s well-meaning friends with things like, “Maybe God is trying to teach you something.” Yeah, and I keep missing it? How does that help me? I probably would have screamed if they’d asked me about sin in my life and religious-sounding hypotheses about if I’d just pray more or believe more or confess more.

They didn’t have to though. I had already been doing all that to myself.

And I still had no answers. I’ve tried to pray. Asked others to pray. Confessed my complaining, unappreciative attitude and my plethora of other sins as well. Tried to write through it, pray through it, believe through it. And my favorite~ not “stress” through it. Like that’s a simple choice I make and all is better.

Then today God sent me an angel in the form of an email. Don’t laugh. If God can use a burning bush or a talking donkey, He can use email. ;-) This email was from a new friend asking about my writing and a fear we had in common. As I replied to her, I started to cry. Something I haven’t let myself do in a long time. Then I started to write my heart. Something I haven’t done much since I haven’t been blogging like I used to.

And God showed up.

Actually, He had never left. I’d just closed my eyes.

Here’s what I shared with my friend…

She’d asked if I had ever written as a form of therapy. Boxes of journals and pages upon pages of blog posts answer a resounding “yes.” But that’s when I realized I haven’t done the heart writing that used to sear my soul with truth. The writing where God talks back to me and I get it. I see. I miss that. Today, my hurting heart is showing up. And trusting God to speak.

As I started to write in the hopes of encouraging my friend in dealing with a fear of hers, that’s when my tears started to break free. Here’s what God illuminated to my heart…

“For me, I know the fear is about failure. If I do this (write a book or try to work with my husband on some painful issues) and it's awful, then I'm a failure and ultimately not worthy of being loved. Sounds silly when I type it out. But the emotions are the most basic we have and the most powerful desire I think all humans share. To be loved. To be known and respected. To be important, valued. What I'm realizing again as I type ~ for probably the hundredth time ~ is that for me to walk in the truth, I have to believe the truth. I am loved. Whether this book is a failure or not. Whether I flub a talk or not. Whether or not my marriage ever heals. That's the truth I know I've been running from and it took your email for me to listen. Thank you. What I just typed in this paragraph is the core of who I am and what I feel like God has called me to do~ teach the truth about rejecting lies and believing truth. And I was just reminded that my writing is what has given me the most opportunity to do that. To share with you and with others what God is always in the process of doing~ loving us. Teaching us truth. Healing us. Calling us to join Him in His work. To see we were created for a purpose and plan far greater than we could ever ask or imagine.

"This believing lies or truth is so hard to wrap my mind around and so easy it seems to forget. But I think that's one reason God created us to be part of a Body~ to remember. To encourage each other to hang on to the truth when the enemy blasts his fiery darts and they hurt.”

When life hurts. Which, right now, is life as I know it. Life as so many of us know it. Where are God’s healing miracles? Where is God when life hurts?

A lot of the time I feel like the paralytic in John 5 who sat for decades not getting into the pool to receive a healing. When Jesus asked him, "Do you want to get well?” He replied, "Sir, I have no one to help me.”

Or we can add our own version of the words, “But Lord, I hurt too much.” Or “But Lord, I don’t understand.” Or “But Lord, I’m not this, that or the other.” Or mine as of late, “But Lord, I’m terrified of failing.”

Today, I finally looked up as Jesus asked me the same question as the paralytic. “Do you want to get well?” Uhm, yes? At least I know I want to lose the pain and the heartache and make my circumstances feel better.

So Jesus asked again. “Do you want to get well?” And then He extended His hand in the form of an email. When I stopped to listen and look into His face, I felt His answer for me.

The Holy Spirit brought to mind two verses…

2 Timothy 1:8-9 “God has saved us and called us with a holy calling—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…”

John 6:29 “Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

I think because I’m so slow to let go of what I want to happen, God added this…His spoken words to my heart.

“Fear not, Amy. I have called you by name. You are Mine.”

God’s healing miracles are working themselves through my heart as I turn to Him and listen.

I still don’t have a car for church tomorrow.
I still have a mouth full of ulcers.
My marriage still has a lot of healing needed.
I still have a looming deadline.
I still live in a painful, fallen world.
Some of my questions remain unanswered.

But I have put my hand in the Hand of the One who made the universe. And I’m standing again. In truth.

I am loved.
He has a purpose and plan for me that’s beyond all I can imagine.
He promises He will complete His work.

And for now, that’s enough for me to walk again. With Him.
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