Hopeful Expectation

catharsis, noun:  the act or process of releasing a strong emotion especially by expressing it in an art form.” ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary

What does a writer do when they have not been prompted to write?  The desire to do that which one loves is overwhelming yet the muse they rely on for their words has not spoken.  I never really considered myself a writer.  I am not trained at all in the written word, at least not in a formal way.  But over the last few years I have developed such a passion for it.  When I sit at my computer I get lost in the beauty of the experience.  It is both cathartic and creative.  There is a secret place in me that has always wished I was more creative.  I have such an appreciation for the arts yet I have always felt as if I was on the outside looking in.  Not really talented in any medium of art…and that is not being modest, it’s brutal honesty…I have often felt like my appreciation of the arts has been a longing to be a part of something creative.  When God birthed in me this desire to write I was both elated and terrified.  I am not a writer.  A communicator, yes.  A writer, no.  But He was giving me this opportunity to dabble in something creative and that excited me.  When I began my blog in July I never could have imagined how much joy, how much release, and how much intimacy with God writing this blog would give me.  As a one who has written in prayer journals for years, you would think this revelation would not be a shocker but of course, it was.  I often think God must sit back in the throne room of heaven and get a great chuckle out of me.  I tend to be slow at catching on sometimes.  I imagine Him giving a dramatic, “DUH!” with a shake of the head…cause in my mind God is Italian so His gestures must be off the charts.  He probably talks with His hands too.

What makes my writing so unique is that I never just write to write.  In fact, I can’t.  Don’t believe me?  Well I tried it tonight.  I sat at my computer with the full intention of writing about a Group I am currently teaching on Wilfredo De Jesus’ book In The Gap.  I got through the first paragraph and I paused.  What I had written felt empty.  I had the best of intentions but as I reread my words I knew God had stopped me.  Why?  Because He never prompted me to write on this topic.  In that moment He reminded me that my writing has always been about what He lays on my heart.  To share snapshots of my life and my journey, through the events and episodes that He uses to shape me.  The circumstances and struggles of life that He desires for me to share.  Whether funny or serious, my writing at its very core is never about me but always about God.  He is the One who gives me the passion to write and therefore when I try to step ahead or around Him to write…it simply does not work, the words do not come.

Tonight I had such an overwhelming desire to write.  Since going back to work a month ago I have had little time to think about my writing.  The adjustment of schedules and the transition into a new role took precedent over pretty much everything.  Yesterday, I was sitting in my office and I was gripped by fear.  Not an “I’m afraid” fear but rather it was a dread fear.  In a moment this horrific thought crossed my mind…”What if I never write again?”  It was a fleeting thought at a random moment, and it left my mind as fast as it entered it. But my heart sunk at the very suggestion that I may never write again.  Truth be told, tonight I sat at my computer so that I could prove to myself that my fear was unwarranted…I would indeed write again.  Yet, as I sat here, completely unprompted by God, my words were flat.  They didn’t flow forth the way they usually do.  They lacked everything that made them even worth sharing…they lacked God.  Hitting delete never felt so good!!!  Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?  We have all made decisions that we know full well we never consulted God on.  We impose our will on Him and then expect Him to bless it as if it was all His idea in the first place.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we were just a delete button away from a “do over”  when we put our desires before God’s will.  Alas, we do not have that luxury.  However, we do have the beautiful gift of knowing that our God goes before us.  He has prepared in advance all that He has for us.  Where we are going…He’s already there.  Instead of trying to beat God to the destination maybe we should just treasure the gift of knowing He is paving the way.  When we are on the road paved by God delete buttons are not necessary.  When we trust God, He even uses our mess ups for His purpose and His glory…this blog post is proof of that.

This morning during our staff prayer time God laid two words on my heart…”hopeful expectation”  I didn’t know what they meant and I honestly did not have the time to ponder it either.  Those two words, jotted down in my prayer journal, were followed by the line “I have hopeful expectation.  Father, I don’t just hope you will move…I know you will!”  It’s amazing how something you write down at 9:30 in the morning comes back to speak to you at 10:30 at night.  Hopeful expectation..I am full of hope because of who God proves Himself to be over and over gain in my life and in the lives of those around me.  His hand print is everywhere.  Sometimes my vision gets a little blurry and I need to get refocused, but that’s my issue.  God never changes and my hope is firmly rooted in my Creator, Almighty God, the One who reigns over heaven and earth, He who is the same today as He was yesterday as He will be tomorrow.  My hope rests securely in all that God is and one thing I know for sure…God is a mover.  He never slumbers and He never sleeps.  His watchful eye is always upon us…His presence is always among us…His Spirit is longing to ignite a bold movement, a movement of His children; bringing the truth and the grace and the love of Jesus Christ to those who so desperately need His touch and His redemption.  I bask in hopeful expectation not so that I can write again, no this hopeful expectation is my “I’m ready” stance.  Ready for a great movement of God. Ready to be used when God calls upon me.  Hopeful expectation…the anticipation stirs in my heart as I am engulfed with the excitement of being in the middle of something so much bigger than I can even imagine.  Is there any greater place to be than in the center of God’s plan…in the middle of His movement?  I can tell you this, there is no place I would rather be.

As I get ready to hit publish I recognize that this may be one of those blog posts that is simply my journal entry in an open forum.  If the lesson is only for me, I am okay with that.  Sometimes this is exactly what I need for God to walk me through certain thoughts, emotions, or attitudes.  There is so much freedom when we take off all the baggage and just walk in honesty with our Savior.

Timing is Everything

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/104/70897755/files/2015/01/img_7617.jpg

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” ~ Dolly Parton

I am a writer, it is what I do.  No, I’m not an author…simply a writer.  My thoughts are best communicated when words flow from my mind to my hand, from the pen to the page.  Maybe this is the reason I have kept prayer journals for years.  I struggle to quiet my mind when I pray, yet when I write my prayers they effervesce out of me.  I wonder if this is how composers, song writers, authors, and other truly gifted artists feel as they come alive in their craft.  I am no Mozart, I don’t belong with the likes of Lennon and McCartney, and Shakespeare, Austen, and Hemingway would cringe if they thought I was even suggesting to be in their league.  LOL…I am amateur at best with my feeble attempt to write yet when I sit down to journal my heart to God or to answer His prompt to blog…that is when I find words…words He has crafted in me to share and words I return to Him is praise, worship, acknowledgment, anguish, despair, confession, and intercession.

Seven years ago…

There were no words, they died with my broken heart.  All that remained were the muted cries of anguish that screamed from the depths of my soul but the pain was too great for them to manifest into an audible sound.  I didn’t worry about whether I would ever find the words to journal again, I was more focused on trying to make sense out of the heartache that weighed down on my chest like a freight train.  As I sat in my living room the night my daughter died, rocking my body back and forth in a futile attempt to soothe the unsoothable ache, the thought that nothing would ever be okay again consumed me.  I cried out God to fix what seemed broken beyond repair…our hearts.

“Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything” ~ Unknown

One week after my daughter passed away my dear friend and grief counselor gave me a prayer journal.  The words of my heart flowed to the pages of that book like the haunting and aching melody of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  There is such beauty in the rawness of the human experience…crying out to the only One who can heal a heart that broken.  Of course at the time I didn’t see beauty, I felt the pain.  But in those moments the gift of communicating my deepest hurts, desires, fears, and hopes to God through the written word returned to me and the healing process had begun.  As I scour those journal entries now I am transported back to a time when God’s presence in my life was so strong…He was everywhere…I felt Him with me, physically.  His people showered love down upon us so lavishly that as I reflect I am awed by how much God took care of us.  His hand print was everywhere.  In my desperate prayers I begged Him to help us survive.  He did more than help us survive…He transformed our family through His love so that we could thrive.

“I AM ABLE to do far beyond all that you ask or imagine…Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered.  Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark.  The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see My power and glory at work in the situation…Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.” ~ Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Tomorrow will be seven years since losing our precious Francesca.  As I sit here tonight I am in awe of just how far God has taken our family since that fateful afternoon in 2008.  I asked for survival and He gave me beauty like I’ve never experienced amidst the ashes.  I asked for healing and He gave me peace and purpose.  I asked for my daughter to be a miracle and every day I live, every breath I take I do so knowing that I walk in the miracle of my precious girl’s life.  It is through Francesca that God was able to mold me into all that He created me to be.  She was a miracle…my miracle…she helped me fall hopelessly in love with my God, to fully surrender my life to Him…every part of my life.

Timing is everything.  Seven years ago I sat in the middle of the destruction of my imploded life.  Tonight I sit here in awe of my God and how His plan and His purpose far exceeds anything we could ever imagine.  Seven years ago I wondered day-to-day how I would get out of bed…This morning I got out of bed to start a new chapter in God’s plan for my life.  In the rhapsody of this paradox I could feel the words coming alive inside me waiting for the right moment of release.  The awe I felt reflecting on the road I had traveled…the road that God has carried me down.  Three years after Francesca died I felt God place a call on my life.  He guided me back to school because He desired to use me in ministry.  I had no idea what it would all look like and I really didn’t care…I had learned to just trust that still, soft voice.  It was the voice that had brought me comfort, healing, hope and peace.  I trusted Him to guide every aspect of my future so on to school I went.  I graduated over a year ago and have been in a holding pattern since the day I put my last period on a research paper.  God had told me to wait…the time wasn’t right…so I waited.  Believe me, waiting for a Type A, Doer is not an easy thing to do.  But I trusted God’s purpose AND His timing (even if I thought He was kinda slow at times).  Today of all days the wait came to end and I began my journey into full-time ministry.  Some will say the timing of this is pure coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidence…I don’t believe in chance.  I believe that my God is always at work in the details.  Beautifully crafting the timing of certain events for His purpose…even if it’s merely to remind us that His hand print is everywhere.  To illustrate that He does make all things new.  To demonstrate how He turns the pain, that evil would like to use to destroy us, into the catalyst for His plan and purpose for our lives.

Tonight I go to sleep with words of celebration as vibrant as any heavenly scene Michelangelo could have ever created in my head.  In a  dream I am one of the great artists creating a masterpiece of praise.  Praising the love and grace our Creator God showers upon us, a love that is faithful and limitless.  And I  Celebrate the beautiful life of my precious Francesca, the one who pointed my life straight into the will of God.  Seven years ago I would have said this blog entry was impossible…tonight I say “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

 

IMG_7042.JPG

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” ~ Edmund Lee

Childhood memories…they rush into my mind and wash over me like the warmth of the sun on an early summer’s day.  They bring me back to a simpler time when life wasn’t so demanding, so complicated, so hard.  Was there anything better than crawling into bed and finding freshly washed sheets that were dried outside on the clothes line?  They smelled…well…cleaner.  They felt…well…crisper, cooler.  It was a sensory experience overload of the best kind.  How I used to love the first sunny spring day of the year.  That always meant windows open, fresh air, and spring cleaning.  Nobody could spring clean like my mom.  To this day a whiff of Pine Sol can take me right back to that little house I grew up in on cleaning day.

Memories…they can transport you right back to another place and time even for the briefest of moments.  That very thing happened to me today and in the shower of all places.  Actually, I do some of my best thinking in the shower, probably because it’s the only place that I shut up long enough for God to really speak into me.  Today I was having a moment because I have been missing my blog.  It’s been almost a month since I have written and I was longing for the release I get when I share the thoughts God has laid upon my heart.  However, I never write a blog entry unless God’s prompts me to.  I’m not really a writer so it is His inspiration that I need to string words together in the form of a story or a life lesson.  It is His message and His words that I desire to convey never my own.  Today as I quieted my mind to think, to reflect, to be silent so that God could speak a memory flashed through my mind.  Instantly I was a little girl again awaiting the one time of year when a rainbow would come onto the TV screen and the musical score would begin.  It was one of my favorite days of the year…it was the yearly showing of The Wizard of Oz.

It may seem very odd to you that God would bring me back to The Wizard of Oz during this moment of reflection and prayer but to me it was as if He had revealed the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle that we had been working on together.  Weeks have gone by and I have felt everything in my life has surrounded around a journey…my journey, the journey of others…a journey to understand who we are and what we were created for.

Isn’t it funny that the beginning of The Wizard of Oz starts in black and white.  I feel like my life before I knew Jesus was in black and white.  It was drab and it was dreary, even moments of happiness seemed to be lacking something.  In the dull of the black and white I searched for the very longing of my soul…my identity.  Who was I?  There was this tug of war over who I would become.  Would I allow the world to define my identity or would I choose to recognize that the God of the universe created me with His own hands and in His very image?  Knitting me together in my mother’s womb He ordained every one of my days and prepared His plan for my life before I ever even entered this world.  The soul that is far from God aches deeply because it longs for the One who is the Creator of all things.  The soul that lives separated from God lives in black and white…even where there is happiness there is a longing for what is missing.

As a little girl I would sit glued to my television waiting for my favorite moment of the whole movie…the moment that Dorothy’s house lands in Munchkinland.  Black and white fades away and we open the door to glorious Technicolor.  The drab and dreary is replaced by the lush landscapes that are vibrant with life and color.  Our faith journey is very similar.  When we walk in this world we are colorless, black and white.  The very life we were created for is slowly sucked out of us by a world that is dying.  However, the minute our soul reconnects with God, the instant the Spirit is reunited with the soul it created, black and white diminishes and our eyes see in color for the very first time.  The colors of righteousness, grace, forgiveness, and love shimmer with the brilliance of the most perfect diamond.  The sight is overwhelmingly beautiful and if we are wise we will pause for a moment to take it all in.

Wouldn’t it be nice to put a “The End” and a period to complete the story right here?  Not so fast!  We, like Dorothy, still have a journey ahead of us.  That is the unique truth of living out our faith…it is a journey home.  A journey suggests that we must keep moving forward, we must keep our eyes open for the encounters we will have and the lessons we will learn along the way.   Many people begin their relationship with Christ and then decide to insert the period…they are done. Jesus has saved them from their sin, their soul is reunited with the Spirit and now they are done.  Oh no…that is not the case at all.  The moment you open the door to Jesus Christ and Technicolor floods in…that is the moment that your life truly begins.  The old has died and now you are a new creation in Jesus Christ.  It is the beginning of stepping into the life that God has planned for you and has been preparing you for.

No matter how beautiful the Technicolor is we all still struggle to let go of the black and white.  We want to…desperately…but the black and white has been so much a part of our lives that it becomes difficult to let go the false identity it gave us.  Many of us struggle to let the labels the world placed on us fall away as we step into who God says that we are.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and The Lion.  Each of these individuals lived in the luster of Technicolor but were held in bondage to black and white thoughts.

The Scarecrow had a huge inferiority complex. Why?  Because he lacked a brain and the world says that anyone who is uneducated, according to worldly standards, is lacking or less than.  How often do we let that very same thought hold us back? We let of lack of knowledge or education and past mistakes disqualify us from what God has prepared for us to do.  We allow hurtful words spoken into us keep us in the black and white…we believe the lie of the worldly standard.  We decide for God that we do not have the intelligence to be a viable member of His kingdom so like the Scarecrow we stand still and do nothing.  When Dorothy stumbles upon him he can’t even scare crows anymore.  How often does Satan leave us alone because we have let the lies of world paralyze us to the point that we are doing nothing?  The enemy need not fear the one doing nothing.  There is reason why they call this the battlefield of the mind.  The mind is where the enemy likes to whisper the lies that will hold us captive.  But Dorothy encounters the Scarecrow and she sees his value, his worth, and his potential.  She speaks life into him and helps to free him from the bondage that holds him idle.  Is that not exactly what God’s word does for us?  Paul writes in Romans 12: 2-3 ” And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  When we live in full Technicolor we live in full freedom.  Freedom from the former us…freedom to be who God created us to be…freedom to be who God says that we are.

The Tin Man represents any one of us who has ever suffered the pain of a broken heart.  Left alone and abandoned by the woodsman the Tin Man rusts away, the pain of lacking a heart is slowly killing the spirit inside of him.  He feels unworthy, unloved, and unlovable.  So many of us hunker down with the wounds of our past that we walk around as patches of black and white admist the vibrancy of Technicolor.  Like the Tin Man’s oil can was out of his reach to soothe the ache of his stiff body, often times we place God’s truth out of our reach.  The wall of hurt builds a fortress around our heart so that the oil can of God’s word cannot soothe our aching soul.  We allow the heartache to define us rather than rest in the promises of God.  Psalm 34: 17-19 states “The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  Ahhhh…do hear the freedom song?  God doesn’t want our identity to be “brokenhearted”, “abandoned”, “unlovable”, or “unwanted.”  Those are labels of the world.  God says we are His children (John 1:12-13), we are complete (Colossians 2:9-10), we are free from condemnation ( Romans 8:1-2), we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39), and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:11-13.)  Let the oil of God’s word heal your soul and anoint your life to do the things God has created you for.  When you do you walk in the fullness of your salvation…your freedom in Christ illuminates from the inside out and the world will see the beautiful color of God’s presence in your life.  The Tin Man just needed someone to remind him that he was worthy of love.  Dorothy and the Scarecrow spoke those life-giving words into him and off the trio went.

Finally, we meet the Cowardly Lion.  Ahhhhhh…fear!!!!!  The poor Lion was so fearful that he was scared of his own tail.  How many of us suffer from this affliction?  Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of bad things happening, and list of fears go on and on.  One of the enemy’s favorite tactics is fear.  Someone who is afraid will not only be idle but they will also cower, they will shrink back in order to ensure that nothing bad happens.  This is not how God created us nor is this living in the freedom of our salvation.  Isaiah 61 tells us that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted and to set the captives free…to release us from darkness.  He did not go through the agony of death by crucifixion so that we may remain bound up by fear.  NO…he did it to set us FREE!!!!!!!  Free to be who He created and called us to be.  All of us can relate to the Cowardly Lion on some level…fear of being vulnerable, fear of not being accepted, fear of not being liked or loved.  But God that is not who God created us to be.  2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  If God is for me whom or what than shall I fear?  NOTHING.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6  If left to own devices we will wither away in our fear.  What we need is a Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tin Man to walk along side of us to remind us the truths of who God created us to be so we can get on the road and be an active participant in the journey.

Often times I feel like I am on the yellow brick road.  The journey from opening the door to Technicolor to the beautifully majestic Emerald City is full of adventure, travel companions, interesting encounters, meaningful relationships, highs, lows, and an enemy who wants to make me miserable because I have something that he cannot have.  One might be thinking the finale of this God thought about The Wizard of Oz places God as the Great and Powerful Oz but the answer would be no.  I am actually the Great and Powerful Oz.  LOL…yes, you read that right.  Let me explain before you start getting the wrong idea.  You see Oz was nothing but an ordinary man.  He wasn’t a wizard, he had no power, and he had no real ability on his own to help the four people who stood before him…he didn’t even have a biscuit for Toto.  All he really did was point out what each of them already possessed.  By their actions the Scarecrow had shown his intelligence, the Tin Man had demonstrated how deeply he loved, and the Lion stood courageous (well sort of) before the wicked witch.  That which they had been longing for had been theirs all along.  Even Dorothy found out that within her was always the ability to get home.  Oz wasn’t a wizard, he was merely a messenger.  He spoke the truth of who they were when they could not see it in themselves.

Life is a journey that starts in the dullness of black and white.  It was always meant to be more than that but the brokeness of sin has shifted us into a colorless existence. We are born color blind.   However, the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He restores and heals us.  The most beautiful gift that God gives us is His lens in which to view the world around us.  When we put on God’s eyes we see the vibrancy of color, we see potential, we see opportunity.  God is love and when we wear His eyes we love all those that we see.  We have an overwhelming desire to reach out to the lost and to the hurting, to bring hope to those who have given up.  To touch the lives around us with the love of the Savior who rescued us from the black and white to bring us into a life of full color.  Not unlike our childhood friends from The Wizard of Oz, we too can walk in the beauty of God’s colorful majesty and still be  held captive to thoughts and feelings of the colorless world we left.  My job with this blog was simply to remind you that as a Christ follower the Spirit of the living God dwells inside of you.  God has created you for a purpose…to bring the brilliant colors of righteousness, grace, forgiveness, and love to the world around you.  God did not create you and Jesus did not die so that you would be held in bondage to worldly labels.  He created you because you are His beloved and He has a hope and a future for you.  Through you He desires to share His love with those who so desperately need it.  Who are you?  You are the child of the One True God!  What is your purpose?  To worship the Father, to make the name of Jesus known, and to reach out to a lost and hurting world with the same love that the Father lavishes on you.  God has created you to do great works in the name of His Son.  Sometimes we merely need a messenger in our day to point out what is already there inside of us.