A Smile for the Soul

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This post will be short yet full of deep, intellectual thoughts.

JUST KIDDING! :)

We have been living it up over here with my mom and dad.   A Yankee game, a trip to Coney Island, shopping in the city, lunch at a pizza icon, a fabulous date with my husband, the farmer’s market, walks every morning, wine around the dinner table, a late night movie, cookies, the most delicious homemade siu-mai, splashing in the kiddie pool with the cutest two year old, and starting some really fun projects.

The best part?

It was all with my mama and my dad.

For those of you who live near family and have the wonderful privilege of sharing life on a daily basis, don’t let the everyday mundane moments rob you of the beautiful joy it is to be a family in close proximity.

For those of you who are far away from loved ones, I feel you.  But oh what a smile for the soul when you are together!

Grimaldi's!!!  One of my favorite NY style pizza joints.

Grimaldi’s!!! One of my favorite NY style pizza joints.

Mom and Dad  in the city

Mom and Dad in the city

If you know my dad, you know he has this pose in every picture in every place he's ever visited :)

If you know my dad, you know he has this pose in every picture in every place he’s ever visited :)

Park time with her grandma!

Park time with her grandma!

Coney Island!  It lives up to every expectation you'd have of it!

Coney Island! It lives up to every expectation you’d have of it!

Ice cream, hot dogs, the ocean, her grandparents... Doesn't get much better than this!

Ice cream, hot dogs, the ocean, her grandparents… Doesn’t get much better than this!

The girls :)

The girls :)

Go Yanks!

Go Yanks!

My soul is smiling. :)  Until next week,

xoxoxo,

Rachel Signature2

 

When God Drags You Through The Wilderness

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“Get up right Now!!!! ”

Startled, my eyes opened in a fury, darting across the room with more questions than I had gone to sleep with …What time is it? …What day is it? … Please Lord, tell me it was all just a terrible nightmare…

Still disoriented, I strained to make out the figure still standing in the doorway, the lanky frame of my 3 year old slowly coming in to focus. I noted the stern look on her face was one I had never seen before…

No mo’ sleeeeepin’, Mama! Get up RIGHT NOW!!!” she demanded.

Out of duty I complied, positioning myself upright in bed as I continued my search for answers long after my daughter dashed down the hallway praising my awakening.

My eyes fixated on the nightstand by my side, a bottle boldly labeled ‘PAIN RELIEF’ brought the events of the last 36 hours flooding back…confessions made in the dark… phone calls to different timezones that began with, ”I don’t even know how to say this…” and sitting alone on a balcony feeling the paralyzing weight of decisions that would have to be made, and yet ZERO willpower to begin making them. 

As I recounted the events of that night, I picked up the bottle of pills, recalling each of the 33 hours I had been too tormented to sleep… 

The piercing screams….

The sobs that went on into the night while my husband looked on helplessly… 

The hours that felt like days, watching the stillness of the city transform with the rising of the sun into a bustling spectacle that offered no more than the cruelest reality; that the world never stops, even though mine so devastatingly had…

The two Tylenol PM’s that had been the only conceivable way to silence my racing thoughts…

I rolled the bottle around in the palm of my hand, pondering the irony of its promise to provide “Pain Relief” when in no way could the contents relieve me of the pain I had been confronted with. 

I put the weight of my head in my hands, tightly closed my eyes, and declared to the universe that if for the last 6 months I had been ‘breaking,’ than this final blow had left me shattered.

Game over.

I had only one question left for God, 

“… How did I get here?

His response was as infuriating as it was comforting,

“… I led you here.” 

In Exodus it says, “God did not lead them [the Israelites] along the main road even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land… God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” (13:17-18)

You see, God led his people tirelessly through the wilderness, to a place of complete hopelessness. Even more alarming, He planned it that way!

He goes on to address the people of Israel by saying, “…And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory.” (14:3)

It’s as if God is saying, “Listen, I know you thought you were in the clear (finally free from a lifetime of slavery and all that ish) but mark my words, its going to get BAD! Here’s whats on the agenda: I’m going to take you on an emotionally taxing, physically exhausting journey through the wilderness until you reach a place of complete and utter hopelessness and have no where left to turn… Oh, and if thats not bad enough, it’s going to get WORSE because I am going to have Pharaoh chase you!!!

P.S. I planned it that way!

XOXO,

God

… Sound familiar? 

 But it’s what He said next that struck me most, “…My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh, and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers…” (14:17)

In other words, God will reveal his mighty power through the very thing that has us on our knees and is threatening to take us down! 

He knows what we are up against – be it broken marriage vows, heartbreaking infertility, or a paralyzing journey through depression – whatever it is, it is in our most terrifying times that God will point us back to how strong and miraculous HE is in spite of those circumstances, and maybe even because of them!

Could He have led us down an easier route? Without a doubt.

But two things are certain: Had He not dragged the Israelites kicking and screaming through the wilderness, (1) they would have both avoided their problem altogether by bypassing the Red Sea completely AND (2) missed the chance to be front-and-center to one of the greatest miracles of all time when God made a way straight through their biggest problem by parting the Red Sea!

So when it feels like God has taken us on a roundabout journey… through the wilderness… to a place of complete hopelessness… recognize that just like the Israelites, we are also on the edge of something equally MIRACULOUS!

Because our God is greater than what we are up against, and more relentless than the enemy pursuing us! He is able to RESCUE your struggling marriage and your dwindling happiness, and like a mighty warrior, The Lord will FIGHT for you to overcome your most overwhelming addictions and illnesses!

What you have been led to, our God will see you through. So let us not cower in fear at the circumstances racing towards us, or crumble at the sight of the sea of hopelessness we are up against…

With God as our strength, we can stand our ground, face our greatest fears head-on, and watch for the miracle to unfold.

… Because that’s what God does when he drags you through the wilderness. 

Krista Signature

Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Sometimes my daughter gets scared to go down the slide.  She climbs all the way to the top, looks down and suddenly starts her descent down the stairs.  “Let’s go together,” she’ll say, and one of always obliges.

When we get back up to the top, she’ll look down and then up at my face.  “Let mama go with me.”  She’ll start climbing on my lap, and squeal with glee as we make our way down the slide.

What’s scary and seems unsafe suddenly doesn’t seem as bad when plopped on her mama’s lap.

And so it is with us sometimes and our Heavenly Father.

I love this quote from Perry Noble’s book, Overwhelmed:

Well-intentioned people all too often try to reduce Christianity to little sayings and formulas that are absoutely ridiculous.  Most of the “Christian” bumper stickers out there are pretty off base.  The one that bothers me most, however, is the one that says, “The safest place to be is in the will of God.”

Doesn’t that sound so beautiful?

So poetic?

So inspirational?

But SO WRONG!

If the safest place to be is in the will of God, then what do we do with Jesus?  No one on the planet has ever been more in the will of God than He was, and He wound up beaten, mocked and crucified.

God’s will is good, but it’s anything but safe.

~Perry Noble, Overhwhelmed (p. 214)

Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den– ultimately an extremely dangerous place to be!  But God.  BUT GOD!!!  But God closed those lion’s mouths and revealed His glory, His power, His purpose.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a blazing FIRE so hot it killed the men throwing them in!  I’d say that’s slightly unsafe. ;-) But God shows up again, literally in the fire with them, and His purpose prevails as always like He says it will.

Job lost everything.  EVERYTHING.  His house, his job, his family, his health.  But God again shows up and blesses him even more in the second half of his life than in the first.

Don’t even get me started with the Israelites and Moses…  Stuck between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s vast army?  NOT SAFE!  Death seemed imminent!   But God swoops in with his ever abounding love and performs an incredible miracle in their lives.

Pretty much we can expect to experience trials of many kinds.  James 1:2-4 says: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

On one side, we can be sure that the life God calls us to is anything but mediocre, boring, or even safe.  Yet on the other side of the coin, we know that the same God does not sleep in his watching over us (Psalm 121).  Ultimately, everything that has been committed to Him truly is safe because it is under His control and His perfect purpose.

What’s hard for me to grasp is that the God who did these amazing things in the bible is the same God working in my life, too.

He is the same God in that fiery furnace, in the lion’s den, at the red sea…  If He did it for them, He can surely do it for me, amen?!  Even so, I have to be in a place where– with reckless abandon– I trust and give and allow God to come in and do His miracle.

Had Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego caved and obeyed the king, God never would have had the same opportunity to walk with them in a blazing fire.  Had the Israelites not trusted God to lead them out of Egypt, they never would have seen the parting of the red sea!  Had Job followed his wife’s advice and just killed himself after all his “bad luck,” God never would have been able to bless him so much more in the second half of his life than the first.  We’ve got to get to a place where we give Him a chance to do His miracle.

Just as my little girl fears the slide at times, knowing she is with her parent gives her the courage to take that plunge and experience something so wonderful.

Yes, I’d agree with Perry Noble on this one.

We’re not safe, yet we’re so, so, sooooo safe.  You get me?

Rachel Signature

Much More

But a man of God came to him (Amaziah) and said, “Your Majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the Lord is not with Israel.  He will not help those people of Ephraim!  If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight.  God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.”

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

~2 Chronicles 25:7-9, NLT

Today, lets take a breath and a step back.

Deep in the throws of fighting, it’s easy to get caught up.  Whatever it is you’re fighting, I’m sure it is a good cause.  Amaziah’s was too.  It’s so easy to keep plodding full steam ahead with tunnel vision towards the goal in mind.  Let’s stop for a moment and consider…

Our ideas may be honorable, noble, bold even.

God can do much more.

Psalm 127:1 reads, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (ESV).  Oh how I do not want to labor in vain!

The goal may be very worthy.  The end result may even be what God’s calling and leading us towards!  But are we missing out on much more because we’re so set on our way of getting there?

Amaziah was worried about 7,500 pounds of silver he paid to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men from Israel.  I have no idea how much money that is, but I’m guessing that since he was king and he stopped long enough to consider it, it must have been a significant amount.  Even if it wasn’t, though, the amount really isn’t the issue.  The issue is that he’s going about his business as king, doing what he thinks is appropriate to conquer those pesky Edomites, and he’s halted in his tracks by a man of God who provides Godly wisdom, truth and reminds him…

God can do much more.

He’s worried about silver?  God can do much more.

We’re worried about what– money?  Marriage?  Jobs?  Babies?  Graduation? Health?  We may have great ideas!  We may be executing those ideas well!  Yet if we see God pulling us in a different direction, we must remember!

God can do much more.

I am learning this right now, trusting that God is working behind the scenes; learning that although my ideas may be good, God may have something else in mind– something much more.

It is crazy how a little paragraph in the huge bible about a man named Amaziah can suddenly stop me in my tracks, realign my thought process and cause me to take a big breath and a step back.  Oh Lord, may I give you room to do much more.

Rachel Signature2

 

Behind the Scenes

 

 

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Photos by Sweetlife Photography (www.lovethesweetlife.com)

I will never forget the wisdom passed on to us during a very difficult time, from very close friends.  Jake and Anna came to visit us in the hospital the day Maya was born (and would take her newborn pictures a week later!  If you’re in the Portland area and in need of photographers, they are truly the BEST in the biz and you won’t be sorry you hired them!).  It was the day before she began experiencing complications and had to be transferred to the NICU.  The next few days that followed were a blur of doctors, little sleep, tubes and tests for our little girl.  I don’t think I’ve cried so much in my life, yet I don’t think I’ve ever felt so supported and cared for in all my life.  People all over the country were praying for our sweet Maya, and our church community (which Jake and Anna were a big part of) was right there along side us the whole way.
0512_Liilard-Maya_37I remember talking to them afterwards, explaining how the doctors really couldn’t find anything and somehow Maya just kept improving enough to the point where they sent us home.

We were amazed at all the drama that ensued only to lead us to the doctor’s prognosis of “I guess she just decided to puke green stuff.  It’s odd, we don’t know why, but she’s okay.”  And she was.  Even though generally a newborn who is less than 24 hours old and has not swallowed meconium should not constantly projectile vomit bright green (we were told most likely she had an intestinal blockage and would possibly need immediate surgery), she suddenly began slowly holding down milk and spitting up much more normal colored spit up.  She no longer gagged all day long.  By day four, we were about ready to be discharged…  This time WITH a baby!0512_Liilard-Maya_56

“I guess it was a fluke thing,” I remember David and I telling Jake and Anna one afternoon.  “She just stopped vomiting green, and it became like normal baby spit up,” we continued.  “It must have just been a really weird fluke thing.”

Then Jake said something I will never forget.

“You don’t know that,” he said, looking at Maya.  “You had a loooot of people praying.  You never know what God was up to behind the scenes.”

It was as if a light bulb went off in my head.

Wisdom, straight up!

This has become one of my life’s mantras, no joke.  We seriously don’t know what God is up to behind the scenes.  We do know that He is good (Psalm 116:5), He loves us (Romans 5:8) and has plans to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  He is sovereign (just close your eyes and turn to any psalm, you will see “Oh Sovereign Lord” written on every other one!), His purpose prevails above all (Proverbs 19:21) and all things can be used for his glory (John 9:1-3).  He is at work even when we can’t see (Numbers 22:31)!

0512_Liilard-Maya_02Krista already shared about Elisha the prophet and his assistant when they were being chased by the King of Aram.  When surrounded by the king’s army, the young man trembled in fear.  Yet God opened his eyes and he saw far more of the Lord’s army ready to fight than the King of Aram’s.  God was working behind the scenes, and when He allowed the man’s eyes to open, suddenly everything changed.  The king’s army was the same, but the circumstances were substantially different.

The same kind of thing happened with Balaam in Numbers 22.  He was frustrated that his donkey would not do what he was commanding it so he began beating the poor animal!  Little did he know that the Lord was working behind the scenes…

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.

32 “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. 33 Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.”

34 Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.”

God can still do this today.  He may or may not open our eyes to physically see what He is up to– he may or may not invite us into the script to know exactly what it is He’s up to– but we can be assured He still works behind the scenes.

As Perry Noble would say in his book Overwhelmed, “It may be time to stop praying, ‘God, get me out of this’ and begin praying, ‘Jesus, let me see You.'” (p. 81).

It is a peaceful, all consuming, overwhelming, ABUNDANT feeling to truly know that God is working behind the scenes on our behalf.

It is also incredibly life giving, gracious, and precious beyond words to have friends who speak wisdom into our lives, even in the hardest of times.  We are so thankful for Jake and Anna’s friendship.  And they take pretty amazing photos too :).

Rachel Signature2

***This post is not sponsored by Sweetlife photography; all these opinions are purely my own.  Like I mentioned, if you live in the pacific northwest and need photography for any reason, these guys will beyond impress you.  Not only are they incredibly talented, but they are so. much. fun. You won’t be disappointed!  Check them out at www.lovethesweetlife.com

An Excerpt

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Often I will thumb back over my journal and read and re-read what God’s done in my life. I think it’s a cool way of remembering how He moves and writes the storyline of my life.  The following is a short excerpt from my journal…  While I wouldn’t normally post a personal entry from my journal, reading back on this from a few weeks ago I couldn’t help but think it could possibly be an encouragement to someone else.  I hope whatever it is you are facing, you will remember and see freshly how God works on our behalf!  Thank you all for coming along with me on this journey!

 

June 29, 2014

God,

Do you remember how you paved the way?!  You remember how you found a buyer for our house in 9 days?!  Remember how you closed the door on those other jobs and led David specifically here to the NY region?  Remember how you found us an amazing home to rent?  Remember how you then brought my best friend out here too?

I’ve seen your hand in this…  I see You, but still… Often I feel so lonely here.

Do you remember how you paved the way?!  Can you remind me that you will make it all worth it?!  I feel guilty even saying that, but it’s how I feel.  Lord there are so many good things about being here…  Krista, Jean, Chris, Debbie, David, Joe and Denae, the church, the library, my favorite Italian market…  But I miss having true community and I feel like it’s been a challenge for us to connect here than it ever has before.  But God– do you remember how you brought us here?!

And then I hear him saying…

Child,

Remember how I brought you here?!  Sold you home, found you a home, got everything lined up?  It’s because I purposed it that way.  I made it that way for a specific reason.  I am working in ways behind the scenes that are for My glory, My honor and your good.  I brought you here…  Trust and believe when I say I will provide.  Obey me still and I will show up abundantly.  Oh ye of little faith!

I’m sorry, Lord.  I’m sorry for doubting your goodness, your faithfulness, your perfect plan.  Help me to see You in all of this, to know You more.  Oh that I would know you more!  Oh that I would believe You!  I feel like an Israelite who has been led out of Egypt complaining.  And I feel like You’re frustrated with me; You’re like “HELLO, been there, done that, don’t you know the ending already?!  Canaan Rachel!”

Ok, God.  I get it.  Help me to trust You in all things.  Help me to seek your face FIRST.  Help me to let go of my dreams and embrace YOURS.  To RISK for the sake of the greatness of the Kingdom!  I’m ready.  Okay.  Thank you for reminding ME.

Sometimes when we start off reminding God, He just ends up reminding us.  He is faithful, true and good.  May Him who started a good work in us bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6)!

This is why I write down my Ebenezer stones.  I know that while I’d like to think I’m a super rock star like Moses, I’m really just more of an Israelite at heart.  I am quick to forget and slow to remember.  Keeping track of the stones– the many, many ways God pulls through and rescues or works or executes in my life– reminds me to stop and remember.  I cannot allow forgetfulness here.  He is, was, and always will be the beginning and the end and the middle of everything.  Now that, I must say, is an Urban Hallelujah! :)

 

Rachel Signature

For Your Friday: 3 Things

When you’ve experienced a bat in the house and the very next day a flood that totals your car, you begin to wonder if perhaps you are beginning to go through a modern day version of Moses and the 10 plagues.  Dramatic, you say?  Maybe.  But I seriously thought I was under attack.

My devotional yesterday read this:

Stop worrying long enough to hear My voice.  I speak softly to you, in the depth of your being.  Your mind shuttles back and forth, hither and yon, weaving webs of anxious confusion.  As My thoughts wrise up within you, they become entangled in those sticky webs of worry.  Thus, My voice is muffled, and you hear only “white noise”. ~Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

But then this week happened, and although it was a CRAZY week (and it’s still not over!) with VBS at church and a couple interesting phone calls and a disappointing one too– I felt alive.  When I came through the door, exhausted after chasing around 30+ kids for four hours and finally put Maya down for a nap, I sat down to get rid of the “white noise”.  Given everything that’s gone on over the last week, I was in desperate need of centering myself around His purpose, His truth, His timing– just HIM.  No TV, no music, no computer… Just me and Him.

And you know what is so crazy amazing about the God we serve?

Just when I really needed Him, He met me right there in His word.

But why am I even the least bit surprised?!

That’s just who He is.  Amen?! :)

As I sat in that comfy chair in the 90 degree heat of that July afternoon, I was refreshed in a way I can’t explain.  It was as if He gave me three things, one after the other, to remind me of who He is and how I am to pray.

1.  Ask for WISDOM.

James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

All we have to do is ask.  He is generous with his portions. ‘Nuf said! :)

2.  Make Your will plain to us, Lord!

Psalm 5:8 says “Make your way plain for me to follow.”  God does not complicate things to the point where we are putting together one of those million pieces jigsaw puzzles in order to figure out what to do.  On the contrary, rather, we serve a God who is clear and orderly.  Like David, I ask that God would make his will simple for me to understand, grasp, and follow.

3.  Be with us in all we do.

Jabez was just a guy in 1 Chronicles that was part of the descendant lineup of Judah (aka a reeeaaallly boring part of scripture to read) but then suddenly we get to Jabez and there’s a short little story on the guy.  Apparently he prayed, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain! And God granted him his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10).

I want the God of the universe with me in all that I do, don’t you?

So as I head into the weekend, I hope I will be faithful in asking for wisdom, for His will to be plain to me, and that He would be with me in all I do.  Three things for my Friday, and hopefully Lord willing, my every day.  I pray the Lord would give these to you too!

Happy Friday everyone!

Rachel Signature2