Monday, May 24, 2010

Sculpted by a Child

"It takes a whole village to raise a child". How true this is. As adults, we most definitely have a God-given, not-to-be-taken-lightly responsibility to mold and shape future generations.

Sometimes, however, if you are lucky, your own heart is sculpted by the heart of a child.

Today I had the privilege of attending an end-of-the-year awards ceremony at a local elementary school. As I saw the children go forward to receive their awards and the proud look on the faces of the parents standing high above the crowd, camera in hand, it reminded me of another ceremony I attended a year ago last May.

This celebration was a preschool graduation; a momentous occasion to be sure! Every one was dressed in their finest attire and spirits were high. Each class had a special part in the program, from the very young two year olds to the growing-up-quick five year olds who made up the graduating class of 2009. As I watched from my seat, parents watched through their camcorders, trying to capture this never-to come-again moment in time.

The program was entitled, "Our God is SO Big!" What a delight to celebrate this truth with ones who were still so little. The children sang and danced. When they finished, there was no denying we serve a HUGE God. There was also undeniable evidence that we can learn some valuable, life changing lessons from children.

Lesson # 1:
Bring Special Attention to the Important People in Your Life by Sharing the Spotlight

Inevitably, once a child arrived up on the big stage, he or she would begin searching the sea of faces in the audience. When at last the prized person was spotted, be it their Mom, Dad, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle,a friend next door, or even the mailman, the proud child would wave exuberantly and in a voice loud enough for even the people on the back row to hear, say "HI!" Sometimes, the proud performer would even call out the person's name or declare with uninhibited enthusiasm, "LOOK! That's my Mommy! That's my Daddy! That's my Nana! That's my Papa!" As the audience turned their heads in the direction of the child's gaze...these two people, for one brief moment, shared the spotlight together. A room apart, but heart to heart.

Lesson # 2:
Be Proud of Who God Made You to Be!

As the three year olds took the stage, one girl in particular, took the cake! She had on a beautiful, pink, polka dot dress. As she was swinging to the beat of the song they were singing, she discovered a wonderful secret about her dress. If she swung to the left and then back again to the right with enough pizazz, the ends would flare out. It wasn't long before she had mastered this movement and went for the grand finale...a full circle! It was obvious she was thrilled with this new found skill and before long, she was spinning all across the stage. Bursting with pride and joy, she yelled out..."Look at me! Look at me! I'm boootiful!" And she was, but her dress had nothing to do with it. It was the freedom she felt, the freedom to be her and to enjoy being her, that was beautiful.

As I sat there that evening, trying to take it all in, I found myself wanting to be just like these precious little ones.

Oh to be so in love and so proud of the people in my life that, when the spotlight is on me, I direct the attention of others to them instead. Lord, help me to be ever mindful of the people you have placed in my life. Let me never forget that they are a huge reason behind why I am where I am today. Let me always give credit where credit is due and may I never be too proud, too embarrassed or too self-absorbed to share the moments of my life with the people I love. In humility and with uninhibited enthusiasm, may my life always exclaim "LOOK! That's my God!"

Oh to be so in love with who you made me to be that I showcase the beauty of your workmanship with sheer delight and reckless abandon. Your word declares I am fearfully and wonderfully made. As I swing to the beat of my life, may I daily discover the beauty you have placed in me. May I always dance and revel in your creative touch, daily embracing the uniqueness of me. As I live my life with pizazz, boldly pronouncing, "I'm beautiful!", may the beauty others see, be the freedom I have found in you.

Yes,... sometimes,... if you are lucky,...your own heart is sculpted by the heart of a child.

Friday, May 21, 2010

You Are In HIS Hands

I am so thankful for the gift of music; words put to a melody that truly speak to your heart. Over the last two weeks, one song in particular has been speaking to my heart. It is "Your Hands" by JJ Heller.

A few days ago, while I was getting ready to greet the day, I was listening to my favorite Christian radio station. As the Lord would have it, this particular morning, they just happened to have JJ Heller live in their studio and they were giving away some of her CD's. Yes!!!!! You can already see God's hand at work here, can't you?! When they opened the phone lines and stated "Caller number 10 will win her CD", my fingers started dialing, my heart starting praying, and God did the rest. When a voice came on the other end of the line, it announced I was the winner!!!!! What a beautiful way to start my day. Then, to top it off, JJ Heller sang her song, right there in the studio, with simply her guitar.

Today, God has placed in on my heart to share this beautiful song with you. I don't know where you may be in your life at the moment. I don't know what you are facing. I don't know if you are in a season of plenty or a season of want. I don't know if you are smiling right now, or holding back tears. I don't know, but God knows...and He is there. He is EVER mindful of your situation and where you are. Today, as you listen to this song, let God speak to your heart, reminding are always in His hands.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Misplaced "I"

The other day I was busily typing away; my fingers flying across my keyboard in a meager attempt to keep up with my runaway thoughts. As new words and sentences appeared on my screen, I suddenly realized I had made a typo. A HUGE TYPO! A typo that would have gone unnoticed by spellcheck, but not by anyone reading the finished product! This typo changed everything! Isn't it amazing how one simple letter, when placed in the wrong position, can change the entire meaning of a word?

As I sat there looking at this new word I had typed by mistake, God began to speak to my heart. I soon discovered myself shaking my head and smiling. God is so amazing. I never cease to be amazed at the way He goes to any length to mold me and shape me and make me more like Him. I have a feeling He was smiling right along with me.

Untied. This is the word I found myself looking at.

Untied: to loose or unfasten (anything tied); let or set loose by undoing a knot.

I certainly had not intended to type THIS word and to convey THIS meaning. Quite the opposite, in fact.

United. This is the word I had meant to type.

United: to become joined together or combined so as to form a single whole

When I looked closely, I realized the meanings of these two words change dramatically depending on where one letter is positioned in the word. Upon further examination, I discovered the letter capable of loosening something that had previously been joined together was none other than the letter "i". Isn't that the way it always is?!?!

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Romans 12:3 (NLT)

At Graceful Sisters, we are studying Romans 12 this week, and specifically verses 1 and 2. Today's post, found HERE, is titled, "Losing Me to Discover We" and ties in perfectly with what God was trying to teach me at my keyboard.

If I want my life to be united with Christ, I have to allow the Holy Spirit to keep me in my proper place, UNDER God's Kingship and surrendered to His authority in my life. Like John in John 3:30, He must increase, but I must decrease. Otherwise, everything is going to come unraveled and untied. When Christ is not at the center of my life, everything else is off balance and becomes topsy turvy.

Are you looking for stability in your life? Are you wondering why life just seems to keep coming undone even though YOU are doing your best to keep in all together? Look closely. Maybe like me, you have your "I" in the wrong place.

(Note: If you would like to read more devotional thoughts on the stability found in a life surrendered to Christ, click here! Rachel Olsen is hosting a blog carnival today and her topic is stability!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Hope is STILL in Thee!

Today's post is for me. I needed this reminder. I originally wrote this post last May, but my heart needed to hear it again now, in the days following yet another Mother's Day. I hope you don't mind me sharing it one more time. Sometimes it just does a heart good to be reminded.

As I hung up the phone, I could hardly breathe. The news was simply too wonderful to contain. I felt as though my heart would burst with joy and excitement. My husband and I were going to have a baby...a dream come true.

This wasn't the first time I had heard these words from the doctor or experienced this overwhelming flood of emotion. Twice before, I had been able to surprise my husband with this same, wonderful news and watch as his face lit up, and his eyes sparkled. We both have a deep love for children and having one of our own was a dream we both shared and talked about often. Twice before, however, I had also known the deep sorrow and silent grief that rips your heart apart when you lose that little life before you have ever had a chance to meet your son or daughter face to face, or embrace and tenderly kiss them.

This time was going to be different, though. I just knew it. I could feel hope running all through out my body, from my head to my toes! I had lost my father eight months earlier, and I felt as though this was God's way of bringing new life back into mine and joy back into my heart. I could hardly wait to tell my husband and the rest of the world.

Even though my faith was strong, and my hope sure, I have to admit, there were moments when I would start to worry about losing this precious little one, too. When those moments came, however, God was always faithful to send a reminder to keep me hoping.

Like the time I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting to have some routine blood work done. I started to feel anxious, but before I had a chance to dwell on these feelings, a beautiful little girl, about three years old, came and sat down right next to me. We talked and laughed and had the best time. After a few minutes, I asked her what her name was.

"Esperanza" she replied.

"What a beautiful name. Your name means HOPE in English, doesn't it?" I asked. She just smiled, but her mother nodded and said, "Yes, it does."

Instantly, my fear vanished and hope ruled my heart. God was with me and everything was going to be just fine. Weeks flew by and soon, at my six weeks Dr. visit, I was able to not only see my baby, but to hear the beating of it's heart.

"Your baby has a very strong heartbeat. Everything looks and sounds terrific!" the doctor declared.

Still, as days went on, fear tried desperately to steal my joy. With each moment of fear, however, God was faithful to send me a hope-filled moment to hold on to.

Like the time I was driving home from work and caught myself once again fearful of facing yet another miscarriage, and another heartbreak. Turning a corner, a sign at a church beckoned for my attention. There, for all the world to see, were God's words of hope.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 15:13

I pulled over to the side of the road, found a pen and paper, and copied down this powerful word from God. I decided, right then and there, to commit this particular scripture to memory. The next time Satan tried to bring doubt or fear to my heart or mind, I would hold up my shield of faith and quench his fiery dart by boldly proclaiming the hope in my heart.

Weeks turned into months...three to be exact. Then, my hope died, right along with the death of the tiny life I had carried inside me. I was devastated. This time was suppose to be different. How could this be happening again, especially after God had been so deliberate in His attempts to encourage me to keep hoping, to keep believing? I felt totally and completely numb. To be totally honest, I felt as though God had been teasing me. He knows the end from the beginning. He knew this pregnancy was going to end just like the two before it, and yet he kept dangling hope out there in front of me. My numbness soon turned to anger and bitterness.

Time went by and I struggled to keep my relationship with the Lord vibrant and strong. I had walked with the Lord long enough to know his true character: all love, all mercy, all wisdom, all the time. I knew God loved me and wanted only the best for me. I knew He was always working all things for my good and His glory. I knew what Satan meant for harm, He could and would use for my good. My head knew all of this, but my heart, oh my heart. It felt betrayed. It had dared to hope.

Then one night, as I was reading in the Psalms, God, in his tenderness, revealed to me the true substance of the hope He kept placing in my heart during those three months. I suddenly realized that my hope had been completely misplaced. All that time, I had been placing my hope in the life I carried, not in the ONE who was carrying me. God did know how this pregnancy would end. He knew my heart would once again be broken into a million pieces. He knew all of this and because He did, He was preparing me for this loss by placing seeds of hope into my heart. Not hope in my baby, but hope in HIM! Tears filled my eyes, once again, as I found myself on my knees thanking God for being all loving, all merciful, all wise, all the time.
Over and over again in the Bible, we find verse after verse leading us to the only one we can truly place our hope in.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Psalm 39:7

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Psalm 146:5

Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. Jeremiah 17:7

Now, almost four years later, I would love to be able to tell you that my heart no longer feels the pain of these losses, but that wouldn't be true. Not a day goes by that I don't feel the hurt. Yet, through the hurt, I have chosen to keep placing my hope in my God. As I allow the God of hope to fill me with joy and peace in believing, I abound with hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been disappointed by God? Have you ever felt as though he dangled hope in front of you only to lead you to heartache? If so...I encourage you to take a closer look. Could it be, like me, your hope was misplaced? The world and all that is in it will let us down, abandon us, and leave us broken hearted, but our God....who is all love, all mercy, all wise, all the time, never will. Put your hope in Him and I guarantee, you won't be disappointed.