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?

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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 :).

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***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

A Reminder For Those Weary Days

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I look up to the mountains

Does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;

the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel

never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 

The sun will not harm you by day

nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm

and watches over your life.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,

both now and forever.

~Psalm 121 (NLT)

I read this yesterday and was instantly reminded of A.W. Tozer’s glorious words that always provide me perspective on even the weariest of days:  “We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends.  Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” (Tozer, p. 19-20, The Pursuit of God)

We are safe, friends.  Everything.  Everyone.  Commit it to the Lord and it will succeed (prov 16:3) and rest in the knowledge that he does not even sleep in his care for us.   Tozer says again “God is here.  Wherever we are, God is here.  There is no place, there can be no place, where He is not.” (p. 36)  Can I get a hallelujah?!

May we be reminded, even on the weariest of days, that he keeps watch over us as we come and go, both now and forever. (Psalm 121:8)

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Do Something Already

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Every time I had a run in with him, I called her.  My business hero, my career mentor, my friend.  She always gave me great advice.  She made recommendations that actually worked!  She listened to my sob stories.  She was my shoulder to lean on.  She gave me confidence that I could handle whatever he threw my way.

“He” was someone at work who couldn’t stand me.  He looked for me to make mistakes and seemed to love to let everyone know about them.  He watched for opportunities to let me fail and gave me a piece of his mind every chance he had.  He complained.  He argued. He justified.  He drained me.  And I was his manager.

I would call her, and she would make it better.  She would give me pointers for things to say and do to encourage a better working relationship and performance.  She coached me, she held me accountable, she made me better.  She listened so well.

The one day, she said it.  It was a long time coming but it was still hard to hear:

“I’m done with the (insert name) situation,” she said.  “You need to either do something permanent about this, or stop talking about it.  I’m so over you about him.  Do something already!

Because I trusted and respected her, I didn’t get offended.  I received her words with a knot in my stomach knowing she was right.  I had to stop talking about it.  I had to stop complaining about him.  I had to quit my bad habit.  It was time to do something about it.

I guess I got lucky, because the very next week he quit.  He walked into my office and said it would be his last day.  End of story.

I was reminded of this particularly awkward time in my work history when I was journaling last week.  I wrote “I’ve been talking to you about this for years, Lord.  When are you going to show up?!  When are you going to do what I know is within your will and is what I believe you are calling me to do?  Why won’t you act?!”  And suddenly as soon as the words had hit the paper I realized that this thing that I’ve prayed for what seems like forever was suddenly like that person that I used to stress out about at work.  And maybe God was just like her, telling me to stop whining and talking about it and to just DO something already.

Sometimes God sweeps in, rescues by fire or wind or the parting of the red sea– and sometimes He gives us the authority to swim across the river.  It’s as if He’s whispering, “Do something already!”

There are some things in life that are not a mystery.  It is not a mystery that God wants you to tell the truth, remain faithful in your marriage (aka don’t cheat!), be generous, love your neighbor, etc…  The list can go on and on.  These are not mysteries.  These are God’s will. We can compare our SWAT analyses and we will always come back to the same result: these are God’s will.

Do something already.

Sometimes I pray and pray and pray, ask and ask and ask and I am like that man in that fable that is asking to be rescued.  The man looks up to heaven, seeing the rain pouring down and asks the Lord to save him from this horrible flood.  A fireman comes to the door and says he’s there to help evacuate the neighborhood, and would the man please let him escort him out.  The man replies, “I am waiting for the Lord to rescue me.”  So the fireman leaves, the man crawls up the roof as the water rises higher and higher, and a boat comes along to save him, but he tells the captain of the ship “the Lord’s a comin’!  He’s going to rescue me!”  A little while later, a helicopter comes and drops a ladder!  Again, the man looks up to the pilot and says, “The Lord is coming to rescue me!  Go on!”  Finally, the man drowns and he meets God in heaven and asks him, “Why didn’t you rescue me?”  God just chuckles and says “what did you think the fireman, the boat and the helicopter were?!”

DO SOMETHING ALREADY!

Get on that boat, climb up the ladder and go with that fireman.  Do something!

I get it, Lord.

I know you want me to do something!

Now, please… In all honesty…  WHAT is it you want me to do?!

I am annoying myself just writing this post!  I’m impossible!  I pray God doesn’t give up on me and roll his eyes in frustration.  But I’m serious… I know He’s calling me to act but I’m not exactly sure where or how or what I should be doing.

I feel like that fourth grade girl playing softball at shortstop.  The ball flew my way and I knew I had to do something with it but I just didn’t know where to throw it.  If I threw it to home plate I could get a runner out possibly, but maybe I should just throw it to first base and get the hitter out.  Or maybe throw it to third?  So I did what any fourth grade girl who isn’t good at softball does.  I threw it at the fence and played it off like it slipped out of my hands in the wrong direction!

I knew I had to do something with that dang ball.  I heard people telling me to throw it to first, to home, to third!  I knew I had to do something already!  I just didn’t know exactly what was the best move so I threw the ball AT THE FENCE!

Lord God I do not want to keep throwing balls at the fence.  Oh please protect me from throwing my life at the proverbial fence!

Do something already, but please…  Not the fence.

When I am faced with the knowledge that I’ve got to get moving but I’m not sure what to do, I know I should do the thing in front of me so that at all costs I can avoid throwing my ball at the fence.  But it’s hard, I’m not gonna lie!

Do something already!

But what?! 🙂

Have you ever felt similar?  Have you ever felt called to act but not sure exactly what you should do?

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A Bath and a Phone

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Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you.~ 1 Peter 5:7

She screamed and tried to get out of the tub.  Terrified, she looked at me and pointed up at the shower head.

“Camera?”  She asked through fits of tears, as if she thought someone was looking in on her in the bathtub!

“No, no, baby girl, it’s not a camera!  It’s a shower head.” I took her sopping wet little body and wrapped her in a towel.  “It’s okay baby girl.  You don’t have to be scared.”

She hugged me and looked up at it again.  I tried to put her back into the tub, only for her to reciprocate screams of terror.  She again pointed up at the shower head, this time cried “shower head” and buried her face in my shoulder.

I leaned over, drained the tub and again wrapped her in the towel.  “It’s okay Maya,” I said, drying her off.  “It’s just the shower head.  It’s how mama takes her shower.  It’s not scary.”  I partially blame her baby monitor; ever since she realized a camera is watching her in her crib she asks me if a lot of things are cameras!

The next day, we were in the kitchen making dinner.  I was chopping vegetables and she was standing on the stool at the kitchen island playing with toys when suddenly the phone rang.

Maya shrieked and buried her head down, screaming “phone!”  She looked utterly frightened, even though the phone rings all the time and she knew exactly what it was.  I pulled her up, giving her a hug and rubbing her back, assuring her it was fine and it was just Daddy calling.  She quieted and began talking to her daddy, as I wondered what the HECK was going on!  Why my anxious baby?!

The bath was good for her, and normally she loved the water, but now she was scared to the point of jumping out of the tub!

The phone was a normal volume and a familiar sound, yet she was so caught off guard by the noise she was scared silly!

And then I wondered how many times has God looked at me and thought…  What the HECK Rachel!  I’ve got this!  It’s just a bath, it’s just the phone!  Don’t you trust me?!  Don’t you know I care for you, I provide for you, I LOVE you?!  These things are part of my design, part of your story– and I orchestrate all things to work for good.  Trust me, daughter. I’ve got this.

And yet I worry, worry, worry.

Sure, many of the things I worry about are legitimate concerns.  Bills, safety, health, schedules, travel, etc…  But legitimate concern and worry are completely two different things, right?  Worry, by Webster’s definition, is to “give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.”  Oh if I could only focus my worry on my GOD!

Parenting has taught me so much about God and how He loves.  To know that He loves my daughter even more than I do is a very comforting thought, because it’s insane how much I love her.  How could he possibly love her any more?!  To know He loves me in the same way completely blows my mind!  To know He disciplines those He loves just like I discipline my little girl– and to understand that He allows me to experience things like a bath and a phone (whatever they may be for us) because it’s really all His and is for Him anyway brings me peace.

So if you, like me, lean towards worrying and anxiety over trust and refuge in the Lord, let’s take a moment.  Let’s turn to His word and stand firm in His promise of provision, rescue and deliverance.  Let’s rest in it’s truth, letting it sink into our soul!  May we realize in the scheme of heaven, our worries are purely a bath and a phone.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” ~Isaiah 35:4 ESV

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” ~Psalm 91:1-5 ESV

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. ~Psalm 56:3 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

I am happy to report that at the time of this post, Maya no longer freaks out in the bath or when the phone rings.  Oh the life of a toddler, ever changing, ever growing!  May He continue to teach me life lessons through parenting my sweet little girl. 

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THAT Gap

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To you, weary soul.

You know THAT gap.

So deep, so wide, so long, so high. THAT gap.

The one that is so far it seems it is an ocean ready to swallow you up.

THAT gap, the one between the broken pieces and the time it will take to put it back together– a gap you just don’t have the hours and minutes to fill.

The distance between brokenness and reconciliation or forgiveness, THAT gap that’s just too far for you to make it.

THAT gap– the one facing you in the quietness of your morning shower that sends tears streaming down with the hot beads of water… THAT gap that you just can’t seem to get across.

THAT gap, the one that shames you and sends you spiraling downwards into a mess of self loathing and pity and depression, the one that’s just too hard to climb over.

THAT gap between what you want and where you are and everything in between, the one that’s insurmountable.

THAT gap among you and those you love, the one that gets filled and then cracks and then fills again only to crack all over again.

THAT gap, the annoying little wiggle that keeps you from reaching your goal or keeping your promise. THAT one. You know the one.

You know THAT gap.

We all have a gap. We know our gap. THAT gap that keeps us up at night and threatens to steal our joy.

Oh friends… May we learn to let HIM fill THAT gap.

When the Israelites were faced with THAT gap– the Red Sea– He filled the space. He made dry land for them to walk on and He marched right through THAT gap (Exodus 14).

When faced with five thousand hungry people, THAT gap between five loaves with two fish and enough to fill those hungry bellies– it was literally placed in His hands. He gave thanks, then filled THAT gap and then some (John 6).

When Joshua stood looking out at the battle ahead, the sunset in the near future threatening to halt the Lord’s victory, THAT gap seemed impossible. Time gaps always are. Yet God made the sun stand still until the battle could be won and He completely destroyed THAT gap (Joshua 10).

When Jesus walked on water He owned THAT gap between the land and the boat. He simply put himself in THAT gap. Done. Won. (John 6)

And the greatest gap- our own gaps- especially the ones that keep us from experiencing his glory- how marvelous it is that He fills the gap for us and takes our place. He replaces every mistake. He restores and refreshes our weary souls. He welcomes where rejection has preceded.

He fills THAT gap.

No matter how deep, how wide, how long, how high THAT gap is, His power and glory are greater still.

May we let him stand in THAT gap today and always.

Praying this today from sunny Florida where my family is soaking in the vitamin D. Tomorrow we are back to the snow! Thank you so much for reading! ~Rachel

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This Weary Heart Of Mine

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This Valentines Day, I watched while you indulged in gourmet chocolates from a tulle wrapped box, and how surprised you were when a beautiful bouquet was awaiting you on the counter… I saw the sweet valentines that are still covering your refrigerator, and the dishes you ordered from your favorite restaurant…

But that’s not what Valentines Day had in store for me this year…

My Valentines day left me blind-sighted and broken-hearted.

BUT before you decide not to read another word of my sob story, and before you come to your senses and realize your time could be better spent reading someone else’s (far more eloquent) words… I wanted to share with you something God brought to light about this weary heart of mine.

It started when I awoke to hear my daughter whimpering in her bed. When like any parent, I instinctively made my way to her side only to find that her sheets were sopping wet around her. Still groggy and disoriented, I can remember sweeping her up in my arms and making my way to the bathroom to get her cleaned up.

Moments later, after her cries had settled and her flailing limbs were wrapped in the warmth of a towel, I held her close and whispered the sincerest apology – knowing full well that both of us were opposed to baths before sunrise, and before the coffee had been brewed!

It was around that time that I fully expected my usually rambunctious toddler, to break from my arms – NAKED and running towards the living room squealing in delight at the thought of her triumphant escape!

… But she didn’t. Willingly she would stay, wrapped in my arms, the weight of her head resting deliberately on my chest.

Alarmed, I held my palm to her forehead checking for a temperature… she never flinch.

When it became apparent what she was doing the tears instantly welled in my eyes! My precious little girl was listening attentively to the sound of my heartbeat! Likely for the first time since she was born!

I studied her as she listened and saw the familiarity the sound of my heart brought, the comfort she found in its unending rhythm, how captivated she was by it’s strength...

… STRENGTH?! How could that be? My heart was weak and shaken – a far cry from the strength it possessed all those years ago!

But as I watched her listen intently to each beat I realized, not only was she the only person who truly knew the sound of my heart, but that to her, it was still as recognizably strong as ever! Even after all this time, and even amidst my current brokenness!

As I held her head close to that weary heart of mine, there was no resisting the tears that swept down my cheeks…

I was overwhelmed with gratitude knowing that My heart … MY GOD had never failed me!

Overwhelmed knowing that even when our hearts are crushed and our spirits are most feeble, that there will always be a part of us, up until our very last breath, that will remain strangely strong! That even when we feel we can’t endure any longer, that there will always be something alive and thriving deep within us, even still.

Like a soothing lullaby from our Creator, each beat makes sweet promises that if He was able to preserve our heart through the pain of the past, that He will indeed sustain it through the paralyzing uncertainty and fear of the future.

While the cruelest hand the world can deal may succeed in taking every material thing I have worked so hard for… while it may unapologetically and cold-heartedly tear the ones I love from my grasp, and crush every dream that I have fought so courageously for…

There is NO denying

the enduring power,

and undoubtable strength,

of this ever weary heart of mine!

“Come to Me with all your weaknesses: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Rest in the comfort of My Presence, remembering that nothing is impossible with Me.” Luke 1:37

“When anxiety attempts to wedge its way into your thoughts, remind yourself that I am your Shepherd. The bottom line is that I am taking care of you; therefore, you needn’t be afraid of anything. Rather than trying to maintain control over your life, abandon yourself to My will. Though this may feel frightening—even dangerous, the safest place to be is in My will” Ps 32:1-4

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