Thursday, May 15, 2014

when joy doesn't come in the morning...


As of late this is where Satan has found a stronghold on me.  Some mornings you just wake up feeling empty.

It has gotten to the point that I fear the morning as I fall asleep.  I fear that Satan is going to win the day before it has even begun.  That he will be able to keep me in that state of emptiness.  This fear has caused me to fall asleep praying for the morning.

It has taken me a little while to be able to define what the emptiness is and what is causing it.  For me, right now I feel empty because I am speaking to the Lord but do not feel him there. Do not hear him speaking.

Its as if there is a barrier between us.  The best way I can think to describe it is a blocked water spout.  I know that when I turn on the faucet water is supposed to come out but I never see the water.

This past week the Bible study class I am in started a series on David.  I went into class feeling spiritually weak with absolutely no desire to go.  I know that this discouragement to go was from Satan because I left that class feeling so uplifted and encouraged by the life of David.

One of the challenges that the teacher impressed upon us was to read 1 & 2 Samuel.  Simply start reading a chapter each day.  Prior to this week I had been reading 1 Timothy which I was enjoying but not being consistent with.  Monday morning I woke up with what has become a newly familiar feeling of emptiness and opened up 1 Samuel.

I was immediately engulfed in the story of Hannah.  She who was barren and living alongside her husbands other wife who had children and made sure Hannah knew it.  Hannah despaired over her situation feeling worthless as bearing children in those days carried so much more weight than it does now.  She was empty.

How did Hannah respond you might ask?  I couldn't help but read on to chapter 2.

She went to the temple and prayed.

What I find to be most extraordinary about her prayer is that she exulted God.  This was not a prayer of whining and begging for what she wanted.  Her focus was not on herself but on her all-powerful God.

This leaves me speechless.

(Gotta love how when you start really thinking through things-minus a foggy morning brain-and write them down things suddenly make so much more sense...bear with me as things are revealed as I type.)

How many of my prayers are about me and my desires? I fully believe in having communication with God in a natural, conversational way but this can often leave me forgetting to recognize his power.  I need to spend more time in reverent prayer.

Each morning this week I have woken up to that feeling of emptiness.  Each morning I have opened 1 Samuel and prayed before ever getting out of bed.  (yes, there have been times when I have dozed back off but praise the Lord, that is what the snooze button is for.)

While the emptiness has not necessarily left me immediately upon request he is still faithful.  I may not hear the Lord speak or sense the presence of the Holy Spirit but I know he is listening and ever present.

I honestly don't know the full purpose of this emptiness but I do know that my faith has grown, my weakness has revealed more of his strength and I have spent more consistent times with the Lord than I can remember.

So while being on the mountaintop can be grand I somehow feel closer to my God in the valley.

You know that portion of Psalm 30:5, "Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning?"  (written by David, how ironic.)  I am not trying to say that this is not true, simply that it has not been the case for me right now.

I know that there is purpose in this season of struggle and that if the joy was there the moment I woke up I would not seek him for it. So I am grateful that he is taking me on this journey of reliance.

For the past few months I have been reminded of this verse in the mornings.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
~Psalm 5:3 (NLT)

The Lord has been calling me to spend time with him and bring my requests and my day to him in the mornings waiting with expectation for his answer.  

So I wait for his joy and when it comes I appreciate it so much more than if he had simply handed it over to me.

It is so easy to lose sight of who (Satan or Christ) actually wins the battle.  But know this, Christ has already won the battle for your life.  When he died on the cross for your sins.  You (and I) must live in that truth.  Believe it! That is when the joy comes.

The beauty of Psalm 30 is that David is giving thanks for his deliverance from death.  That is where the joy comes from, thanksgiving.  I know it can be easy to begin the day grumbling (trust me) but what if we started it by giving thanks for life? 

You might say, "Dana, I've tried that."  I know, I have too.  

So how about we store away Psalm 30 for those moments when simply giving thanks isn't cutting it?  Pray his Word to him.


Another method I use to keep me focused throughout the day is listening to music and podcasts.

This playlist has been on a loop on the regular for a couple of months now.

Also, if you were not already aware of IF:GATHERING which was held in Austin, TX this past February it was a conference designed to "gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose."  I was not able to attend it but they sell the podcasts online for $25 (total for the whole weekend of speakers).  It has been my favorite thing I have bought for $25.  If it were a CD it would be worn out. 

While it is geared towards women I would recommend it to anyone.  Some of the most powerful teachings on Scripture that I have heard this year have come from those podcasts.

I even splurged and bought this Tumbler for $10.  It has become my favorite tumbler and such a simple reminder each day to live with purpose.

Wait expectantly with a heart of thanksgiving for him to answer you.  Fill your mind with thoughts of him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

when you need to know its ok to be yourself

Lots of thoughts and ideas are flowing through my brain to write about but have not yet come together enough to post so here is what I do have to say.

Its ok to be yourself.

In fact, its more than ok.  

For so many years I was so deeply concerned about being accepted by others that I never allowed myself to show through.  I thought I needed to emulate those I wanted to be accepted by.  I tried to match the look, the personality, the way of thinking...guess what?  I was never happy.  My mom can affirm this as she received the fall out in the form of many conversations over the phone (sometimes involving tears).

You know how long it took me to finally realize for myself AND take action on the realization that I'd be much happier if I was just me?  Age 23.  While I am slightly ashamed to share that number, I would be more ashamed if I didn't.  Because you know what?  It doesn't matter when you are finally happy with being yourself - you know the unique creation God made you to be - it matters that you choose to be you.

Let's be clear, this is not a one time choice.  This can prove to be a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, second-by...I think you get the picture...

Anyways, in those moments I feel the pressure to conform and need some clarity I tend to gravitate towards the Bible and Pinterest. 

(Guys, if you don't have a Pinterest account and are a lover of quotes this right here is all the reason you need to get one.)

Here are some of the quotes that came up just from typing 'be yourself'.

While quotes can be inspirational remember the root of the problem must be defined.  When we go seeking to find our identity in others we have lost sight of the fact that our identity is in Christ.  

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." 2 Corinthians 5:20

“And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”1 Thessalonians 5:5

“Now is we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” Romans 8:17

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14

"In Christ you have been brought to fullness." Colossians 2:10

I hope you walk out the rest of this day confident in the person who you were created to be.  Yes, your a work in progress (Phil. 1:6). We all are.  That is part of the beauty of who you are.  Embrace the fact that you will forever be changing and building upon versions of yourself.  Its a lot more enjoyable than building upon versions of someone else...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

when you are blinded by your own desires...

Father, at this moment I long for things like marriage, and babies, and my own home, and ministry, and things birthed out of creativity, and memories, and wisdom that comes with the passing of time...

My aching heart sees only that which I do not have and you say to me, those very things you desire take time. That wisdom you desire takes development.  So seek me and gain more wisdom.  Do not be drawn into your longings to the point of distraction and worry. This will only bring upon you the desire to control your own life. 

Recognize your desires and give them back to me.  Trust me with everything.

Precious daughter of mine, My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are my ways your ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Is. 55:8, 9)

Have patience my daughter for I am working all things for your good.

Do not underestimate my love for you. I offered my Son as a sacrifice to cover the payment for your sins so that you might live.  I desire fellowship with you, to be close to you."

Father, as your words wash over me it becomes so clear that the patience you desire from me is the very same patience you exhibit towards me.  When my thoughts and desires do not match yours and uncontrollably rush over me you sit beside me patiently waiting for me to call on you. You long to cast all of your strength over my weakness.

Soon the guilt of my weakness and faithlessness comes over me, but this guilt is not of you.  It is in my weakness that you shower your love on me that much more.

I am realizing that the importance is not solely about trying to prevent my thoughts but rather my response to the thoughts. It can become overwhelming when I think of how often my thoughts and desires betray you but you care most about my choosing you over them.

So a midst the choice struggle, Father continue to make me stronger so that I choose you. I trust your ways. They have never failed me.  Your love never fails.