Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Storm

I come by my love of storms quite honestly. Whenever we felt the winds growing stronger and the sky was getting darker, my mom and sisters and I would gather on the front porch and watch as the sky lit up with lightening and the trees swayed in the yard.  When the thunder boomed we would cover our ears and hide our faces but we stayed there on that porch as long as we could, enjoying the thrill of our own bravery.
And, still, even today as I was cooking dinner and I looked out the window to see the sky darkening and the wind whipping the jungle of weeds in our yard, I had to stop and run onto the porch so I could watch the storm roll in. Standing there with the wind and the rain and the thunder was where I needed to be in that moment.
Tonight I’m thinking about that and wondering what it is about a storm that draws me in so strongly that I have to stop and watch. Not just watch but be right in it. It’s so many things really…
it’s the display of power and me feeling so small
it’s the wind blowing in my face and me feeling so free
it’s the thunder crashing and me feeling so brave
it’s the rain letting loose and me feeling refreshed
it’s the shelter of my porch and me feeling safe.
One storm, coming in so quick and then gone, and it leaves me feeling changed, better, stronger.

I’ve seen my share of real storms but it’s the storms of life that have left the biggest mark in my life. I can’t say that when I see those kind of storms coming I run out to meet them with such eagerness. No, these are the storms that make me want to hide under the covers until it passes. But life isn’t like that. Try as we might, there are some storms that we have to face head-on and I’ve seen my share of these also.
And while I may never look forward to them, I can face them and I find that with each one I feel a little stronger. I’m learning to look at them for what they are…life. Life is full of storms and we can run from them, be angry about them, or learn from them. Here are some of the things I am learning.

A storm helps me to grow. I have been studying and memorizing the words of James 1:2-4 in the last several weeks, Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. It’s hard to look at my storms and see them as a gift. At least the kind of gift I don’t want to return unopened.  But they are really. When I look back at the storms I’ve come through I know that I’m a different and better person because I weathered them.  And, you know, I want to be mature in my faith. I don’t want to be found deficient in any way.  I want people to be able to look at me in the midst of my storms and see my faith and its true colors and not find me lacking. So I’m learning to let the storms work in me.  And it’s hard. But worth it.

Storms force me to run for cover.  When it storms we all look for shelter, don’t we?  We look for a safe place to land and wait it out. And that’s what happens when the storms come in my life.  I find myself running for protection and I always find it in the same place; He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armor and protection (Psalm 91:4). I run to the shelter of His wings and there I find my safe place. I remind myself of His promises and His faithfulness and protection in the past. And as I hide myself in Him I find comfort and rest in the midst of the raging storms.

Storms show the glory of the creator.  When we watch a storm we can’t help but be in awe of the sheer strength, the beauty, the power. When we look at the storms of life we see the same. We see the way He works in us and through us and beyond us and we are in awe of His power to calm us in the midst of the worst of the storm.  And, in the end, His glory will be on display. Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place.  I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.‘”(John 12:27-28)   All around me is the evidence of His work in my life, Him using the storms to bring out His beauty in me. If we let Him do His work in us, we become the rainbows, symbols of His glory and faithfulness to those looking for hope in their storms.

There is no way to escape the storms and there is no way to soften the blows. Storms are hard. Storms are scary. Storms are powerful. But, in the midst of the storm, we can praise the One who is more powerful. We can thank Him for what He is doing in us and for us and through us as we walk through the storm. You are strong and He is stronger.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Feeding Lambs... the answer to life's questions?

My heart has been battling some things lately. Things I can't even put to words because they are evasive and all muddled together.  I try to sort them out so that I can figure them out but there they stay.  Tucked away in my heart because I don't know what to do with them.

But in the midst of this I have heard my Saviour speaking.  Through His own words as found in scripture, which is how I believe He almost always chooses to speak to us.  Words He spoke so long ago to another struggler named Peter. 

When I am wrestling I hear Him...

Stacey, do you love Me more than these?

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!  I mean, haven't I left people I love to follow you?  Haven't I sacrificed time and money, and sometimes my family, to serve you?  Didn't I trust you even when my own little girl was suffering and when I held her lifeless body in my arms?  How can you question my love for you, Lord? Haven't I proved it over and over?

Then feed my lambs.

   But Lord, don't you see how I've denied you?  How I've let fear and anxiety keep me from doing things I know you've called me to do?  How I've denied the power I have in you and focused on my own weakness?  Lord, I'm not worthy to feed your sheep.  I'm so prone to wandering and losing my way.  How can I lead your sheep when I can get so lost?

Stacey, do you love me?

  Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!  Haven't I endured misunderstandings and conflict for your name?  Don't you see how I teach my children to love you?  Didn't I keep silent and turn the other cheek like you asked of me?  Why in the world would you ask me if I love you?

Then take care of my sheep.

     Jesus, I think you have the wrong person for that job.  I deny you all the time in the way I live my life. I can be such a mess. I struggle with pride and insecurity all at the same time.  You don't want someone like me to be in charge of caring for your sheep!  Most of the time, I can't even take care of myself!

Stacey, Do you love me?

    Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love you.  Even when it hurts, I still love you.  Even when I don't understand, I still love you.  Even when it really makes me angry, I STILL love you!  You know that I love you.  Don't you?

Feed my sheep.

   Really, Lord?  Really??  Is it that simple?  All of these things I struggle with and the questions that I have... are the answers really found in serving others?  Or is it that the questions suddenly don't matter when you are reaching out in love?  I don't know, God.  I don't know what you are teaching me.  Except maybe that all of the time spent in trying to figure things out should be spent loving your sheep.  And from an eternal perspective, feeding your sheep is the only thing that matters. 

Lord, I've still got issues.  I probably always will.  But, for today, I lay them at your feet.  I will show you that I love you, not by figuring everything out, but by loving your lambs.  Today, Lord, I will feed your sheep.  And trust the rest to you.  Because I know that you love me too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Facing Change and Letting Go

This new year has snuck up on me and I've been living in a bit of denial that it's here.  Not that 2012 was so awesome that I want to stay there or anything, but because 2013 brings with it big changes in our family.  They aren't bad changes.  Just changes.  And who really likes change? 

As I sit here in a coffee shop with my daughter, Allison, I look across the table and see the evidence of the biggest and hardest and most exciting change to come.  She will soon be leaving our little nest to fly with her own wings on the path that God has been preparing for her.  I am excited for her, really I am, but it it hard to imagine our day to day life without her in it.  With her, she will take a joy and light that makes our home so bright.  She will take her strength and resolve that inspires me.  She will take her compassion and servant's heart that makes those around her see the world differently.  So many things she will take with her and make her own way in this world. 

I am learning through this process of letting go that it is futile to dwell on the things she will take.  Instead, I am trying to appreciate the things she will leave behind.  So many memories and lessons she has taught us in these eighteen years.  As I have watched her walk through the hard times she has had to face in her short life I have leaned on her strength and faith and I have been changed by it.  With her bubbly spirit, she drew the goofy and silly parts out of her serious mama and taught me to laugh more, sometimes out loud even.  Her passion to do the right thing and her sadness when she messed up reminded me that Godly sorrow is necessary to live a holy life.  Her grace and forgiveness gave me permission and freedom to grow and learn and fail as a Christian mother.  Watching her openness to new experiences is guiding me through this season of change.  She is leaving our home a better place and she will always be a part of us.

There are things that I hope she takes with her and holds in her heart through the years to come.  I hope she takes with her the assurance that she is loved unconditionally and that wherever we are will always be her home.  I hope she takes the confidence of knowing that we are so proud of her and the person she is now and that pride will only grow as we watch her in the years to come.  I hope she takes the lessons she has learned from watching her flawed and imperfect parents fall down and get up again... and again... and again.  I hope she takes the faith and hope we have tried to plant in her that you can make the world a better place when you serve and love those God places in your path.  Most of all, I hope she takes the promise that she has watched me try so hard to live that no matter what this world and the people around us try to tell us- we are daughters of the King, dearly loved and beautiful, and created to bring Him glory with our lives.

 So, 2013, bring it on!  Bring the change.  Bring the good times and the hard times.  Bring me through it all a different and better person because I have loved and been loved by those around me and I have lived each moment in the very best way I know how.  And with God's help and strength, I will keep letting go and facing the changes with grace.