Posts tagged seek God
Listen: What God is Teaching Me {Encouragement}
Today I am linking up through (in)courage's "the power of encouragement" and had already written this post about all God is teaching me and so wondered if they could be two in one?

I looked up the word 
it means
to give hope, confidence, or support to someone

if that doesn't describe what God has been doing in my life, then I don't know what does. He has given me much hope, rebuilt my confidence in Him and therefore in myself, and supported me 
{drug me, carried me, whatever you want to call it} 
through every valley and desert.

Today I was reminded that my word for the year is "Listen", sometimes I forget that and have to refocus on what it is I am meant to be focusing on. I feel like I have been busier in my life, I have no idea why either, and its pretty uncharacteristic for my life, but so it is. 

I have not been writing at all, and if you happen to be reading this, you will know that. But, then I tend to go with my feeling on it, which maybe not the best thing to do, and rather need to practice more in my writing. Yet, knowing that my word is Listen, I know that listening is about being still and quiet much more than rambling away, so maybe that is part of it.

I feel that since my birthday things have lightened up. 
I feel that the Lord sort of spoke to me that this was a new season, so I certainly hope in that. I have more of a peace than in a long time, and I am enjoying that. 

If I haven't written about it before, which I may have, one of the biggest impressions I have felt from the Lord is this transference of thought in who exactly this life is all about. We tend to want God to bless our plans that we have for ourselves, in the time we deem fit. I feel He has reminded me that this is not how it works, I am blessed to be a part of His kingdom but it is in fact, His. That He has created me for a specific purpose and given me specific gifts, but these aren't things I strive, fight and stress over. No, He will make a way, in fact nothing can stop Him, but in truth, I have little if anything to do with it. Really, all by Him, for Him, through Him. It's not my job to wonder if others confirm my calling, gifting, or whatever, actually it's my job to serve people and not worry if I get noticed at all. We get so swept up in getting validated in our culture, you really have to be conscious to not gauge yourself against others.
 Just do me, and be me, and be free. 

It's this new awareness of His God-ness, His Other-ness, His Holyness. That He is to be feared, in that, He is to be respected, obeyed, honored. He is so big, so sovereign, not to be taken lightly. That we should be on our faces more often than wagging our finger with our hand on our hips when we don't get our way. This idea of remembering WHO it is I am actually talking to. 

It reminds me of this idea in Job where God addresses Job in chapter 40...

The Lord said to Job:
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”
Then Job answered the Lord:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer
    twice, but I will say no more.”
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
“Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
“Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

He goes on with all the questions He has for Job, basically in my summary 

"Sit down son, and remember to whom you speak"

I think this is something that I have forgotten too easily. 
As the Nichole Nordeman song says 

How does one approach a Deity
with informality
And still protect the Sacred?

Face down on the ground do I dare 
To take the liberty to stare at you
Oh, let me 
Oh, let me not forget to tremble

"the cradle and the grave could not contain your divinity, neither can I over simplify this love"

So, this idea of His grandness, which I still don't totally get, which I still don't honor the way I should. And I think this is the thing, that I have had such sweet times of intimacy with the Lord as well, where He loves me in the details. Marrying these two ideas seems impossible. How can I have intamacy with this amazingly Holy God where the angels are covering their eyes and feet and yelling "Holy, Holy, Holy" to each other about Him. The One in whose presence Isaiah said "Woe to me and my people, I am man of unclean lips"?

But I did feel like the Lord brought me some clarity in that this past weekend. That because Jesus became a man, this is how we can have intimacy with Him.  Actually anything beautiful and good that involves interaction between us and God is because and through Jesus. 

I want to delight in Him, I want His joy to be my strength. And with the Holy Spirit, I want Him to open my eyes and ears, I want to know Him more, see more of Him, just get it more. And as I write this I am realizing that I am sort of learning the relationship that I have with each person of the God head. With God, I revere in His Holiness, in Jesus, He walks with me, He is my way to God, how God see's me as Holy, comes near me in my pain, laughs with me in my joy. The Holy Spirit, He guides me, teaches me, counsels me, changes me, reveals to me, and so much more. 

God is so real, just walk with Him a while and it becomes beyond evident.
I met with my counselor last Tuesday, just telling her all I have learned about myself recently. It has been life altering, and for the better. There is no way I could have come to these conclusions on my own, I have this Holy Counselor, you see? She was so excited, told me I was one of her favorite clients, and that she thought it was so cool in how far I had come. Never have I had such peace, and peace is so valuable when you have lived without it for so long. Realizing I am a fighter, and that can be a really powerful thing.

Speaking of fighting for something, I have started training for another marathon. I am not sure that my head is entirely around this idea yet, but I have paid for it. My knee has been giving me some pretty throbbing pain, but I am training by faith, one run at a time. This is another thing God is teaching me, I can only live one day at a time, but that these little days aren't as meaningless as they may seem sometime. That when training for a marathon it's the many 3 mile, 5 mile, smaller runs in the middle of the week for many weeks in a row, that get you to that 26.2 in the end that day. That every day matters, because it's the only one I have. I may not know what He wants me to do in the future, what I am "called" to, what job Daniel will get, but I do know that today I have two little boys to take care of and so that is what I will do. 

So I will keep you posted on how that training goes.

Lastly, or maybe the one last thing that is at the forefront of my mind in what God is teaching me, is that my place of freedom is on the other side of my obedience, or disobedience as the case may be. 

For so long I have heard the concept of the promise land, like the Isrealites after they left Egypt. Instead of going straight there in the week or two it should have taken they literally wondered around in the wildness for something like 400 years. What a waist. I don't want to waist time or my life. I want to be engaged, be intentional about LISTENING to what God is teaching me, convicting me of, wanting to prune, refine, whatever, and DOING that thing. 

Where I want to be, where we want to be, walking in the wide open spaces of freedom, peace, and more of God is often just on the other side of our own rebellion. Yes, I want God, but I don't want to give up....fill in the blank. For me, God is pointing out my selfishness in my marriage and my use of food to soothe me.

These are two things I want to be better, not that they are completely bad in and of themselves, but the places I want growth and change I tend to want to blame shift. If I learned anything huge in the past 8 months is that I can only change me, so I need to stop looking around at whose fault it might be, and do what I need to do.

Here is the thing, this sucks and is really hard. You start noticing how much you think things should be your way at home, you think "no, he needs to know that I am NOT ok with this laundry left like this" or "it is HIS turn to take the kids, I need a break". Man, you just realize when you are trying to make the first move in dying to yourself, that it's really eye opening. That I'm really stubborn, and right fighter, and "but if I don't stand up for myself....." but I heard a good thing not long ago, I think from Steven Furtick, that if you give away your rights it doesn't bother you when people don't give them to you. So, I'm trying in this.

The food thing, always a struggle. But I have to give God control there too, if I want to be really free and that not to be an issue,'s just on the other side of that disobedience, i.e. too much ice cream, too many nights out, too much not caring like it's a part of my life God doesn't really care about.

The Holy Spirit is sure good at His job, and He wants all of me, all of us, and won't let up until that is happening, to the day we die. 

I just want to cooperate, I want the MORE, I want as much of Him as I can possibly get as soon as I can get it. I want to live a life set apart, because of Him, for Him and by Him. 

Because, it really is All about Him.

Thoughts in the Valley {Part II}: God, Pain, Thanks

 I am by nature a rule follower and so I am always super concerned with making sure I am doing things the way God wants me to. As I read through 1000 Gifts I was stopped in my tracks about Jesus giving thanks for His pain, {or that is how I read it anyway} or for pain in general.
 How, really?
 It all just felt a little forced a little fake like, slap on your happy face regardless of what you are going through. Was that what Jesus was doing? How did Jesus handle the painful things in life.

I have struggled with my attitude with the Lord about "why" He allows things to happen, when He could easily intervene. I don't blame Him for them, but just think, I could have been spared some pain or humiliation, being the pain avoider that I am. The thought that somehow God wanted me to be some kind of masochist thanking Him for pain, because I am supposed to. So I looked up all these instances where Jesus gave thanks, wondering "OK Lord, show me how you did this, I really need to know".So I did a little research myself.

 In regards to the story of Lazarus. I love the way the verses depicted Jesus in His emotions in regards to His friends death. It says twice in the version I was reading He got angry {others that He was troubled in Spirit} and it doesn't say why really, it just rises up in Him as He sees the grief of the sisters.
 And then He weeps. He feels the emotions of grief even though He knows that He is about to bring relief to the situation. He hurts for His friends, He is moved to feelings about it and them. He knows He didn't come in time to show a greater miracle and so the times when I think He hasn't come in time that He hurts with me, He hurts with my misunderstanding of Him, of His purposes.

 Then He thanks the Father for hearing Him, not that He didn't always know the Father was listening, but for the observers around Him. To give His Father the glory for the miracle, for responding to His cries.

In Matt 11 in regards to Him giving thanks as shes says "In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes. Jesus gives thanks?"  He was bringing "woes" to these towns for being unrepentant after talking about John the Baptist's legacy {as He knows that He will again not go and rescue His own cousin, the one who was chosen to make the way in the desert, that He was about to, in fact, be beheaded} and then thanks the Lord for blinding those who consider themselves wise and learned and instead show them to the childlike. If you have struggled with the why's in regards to God, as well, another book I recommend is called The Prisoner in the Third Cell by Gene Edwards. This goes into a fictional account of John the Baptist and what it must have been like for him and his whole life being about proclaiming Jesus' coming only to be imprisoned and killed. That wait, knowing what God could do, but doesn't do. This choice that comes at the end of it all, that even if He doesn't that we love Him for who He is, not because we can control Him or because He is some sort of Santa Clause we can take things out on when He doesn't come through like we want Him to. That Jesus actually said "Blessed are you if you do not fall away on account of me." I would suggest He may mean, that sometimes He will do things that we can not grasp in our humanity. It doesn't make sense to our rational minds, to what we know love to look like, it just doesn't seem to add up.

So this is what I am realizing in all this time. In this time where I feel like life is beating me up one side and down the other. That in fact I have become a spiritual spoiled brat. That I think that if I just control my behavior in some certain way, if I just say the right things, do the right things, serve in the right ministries, and do what I am supposed to, that God somehow owes me. He owes me an easy life, a pain free life, a life that I define. When He doesn't do that, when He does allow pain and humiliation, I throw a tantrum. "I can't trust you!" and my favorite "It's not fair!!!". I stomp my feet and turn around and cry a lot in hopes that, as silly as it may seem, that I can convince the God of all creation, that He has in fact got it wrong. We just don't understand a love that can bring something beautiful from such pain. But in Is 61 He says that his whole mission is to bring the captives in freedom, those sitting in darkness into the light and to exchange beauty for our ashes. That is wasn't fair, easy, or beautiful for His son either.

It seems a bit trivial now, but I remember when I was living in Northern Ireland, going through some sort of feelings of loneliness and depression. I don't remember the exact circumstances, just that I was struggling through something. I was in a church service, in worship, and I was just imagining the Lord as I sang whichever song we were singing. All of the sudden I had this picture in my mind of Him hugging me and when I looked up, in my minds eye, he had on his thorns and blood dripping on His face and He looked at me and just said "It was hard for me too." I just cried, because not only did I feel silly that there would be any comparison with what I was going through to what He went through for me and secondly, that He wasn't downplaying my pain, it is something that hurt me, and that mattered to Him. He is our Savior that is not unfamiliar with how hard being a human being can be some times.

In regards to His crucifixion or the last supper, is when He thanks God for the bread and wine, body and blood. I was struggling like somehow we are to be thankful for the pain. I don't believe Jesus was being thankful for his upcoming death in the way of its pain, but for the way it was going to fulfill the covenant. That "it was for the joy set before Him" didn't mean the cross itself, but He knew it was only by the cross that He could make a way for us to be with Him forever.

 Reading through the garden of Gethsemane again looking at Jesus emotions, the stress He must have felt. He asked His friends to stay awake with Him, they couldn't. He pleaded if there were any other way, that God would make that way available. He didn't. The sweat of blood.
 And then on the cross asking "Why have you forsaken me?". 
And I feel like I have said that in my own way, but in my unholy confusion about it all.

That God showed me, its not denying my feelings, its not denying my emotions of fear, pain or not understanding. Pretending like I don't feel like I do, but rather being thankful for the work, the whole work, but more than that...being thankful for who God is.
 That it truly is a sacrifice of praise many times, it costs us something. It costs us to choose and believe God is good even when our circumstances are not. That He is faithful, just, Good. That God had to say no to His own sons prayers shows God's great love for us when I am sure He would have much rather said..."forget it I can't watch my son go through this", and Jesus laying down His feelings for His love for us as well. 
That yes, it was through the pain that the greater miracle came, but I don't have to thank Him for the pain, I thank Him that He is who He says He is, that He will be faithful, and that one day I might be able to look at the pain and see God's purpose and what Satan may mean for evil, God will turn for good. 

One good example of this is when my parents lost my twin brothers. They were born prematurely, my mom didn't know she was having twins, my dad had just lost his dad months before. It was my mom's first pregnancy, so I never knew them, just about them. She didn't know how dangerous it was to have a baby that prematurely. They named them Damon and Nathan and the first passed the day he was born, and the other 10 days later. Only now, having my own children do I begin to grasp what this may have been like for them.

Ever since I was little my parents have called me their "blessed child", because three months after they passed, I was conceived. And all my life they have told me that had they not have passed, I wouldn't have been born most likely. They wouldn't have tried so soon again, not with twins! Perhaps another Ruddell kid, but probably not me. And my whole life I have had this feeling of purpose, because of this story. But it goes for all my siblings as well, none of us would have been born when we were. And the two youngest probably never would have been. That there was a purpose in it for this simple reason, but for the fact that my mom said she learned at that time, that her children were not her own. They were hers for a time only. Maybe that's us trying to make sense of a senseless situation, but do we appreciate the light and beauty as much if we have not stood in the dark and ugly?

 As someone who has suffered from depression for the past 3 years I know all too well what its like to be consumed with the negative. The term "ruminate" is very familiar and strong for people who struggle with depression, that is where you think negative things over and over and over, like you can't escape them.

 Being on a medication and going to counseling have really been helpful to me to return again to who I really am. Who I always wanted to be but seemed so stuck in this dark place. Growing up when we would go on mission trips we would look for God Sightings and I loved that, thanking God and looking for Him. I even went through a time when I was serving in Northern Ireland when I would ask God to surprise me, and He would. 

 I want joy to spring from my heart in response to a God that is constantly loving on me, if I would just take the time to realize it. In the past we {God and I} have had songs, and phrases and words {and thunderstorms;)}that I considered "ours", something that only He would know that would just stop me in my tracks as His reminder, "I see you, I love you."

 I am so thankful that He is faithful to us and our journey and our sanctification and that even when we may give up on ourselves, the process, whatever, that He never does.
 In fact I think He thinks "Finally, you gave up."
 Because that is the place where He can finally be strong in an through us, I think this is the time when God begins to work in us in spite of our best efforts and our trying. Sometimes I have found myself striving to attain something, something more of God, or wanting so much for Him to be proud of me. It is sometimes hard to believe that He loves me so much more than I love my kids or husband, so so much more. That His love is truly unconditional and I can do nothing to earn His love and favor and that its all just His grace. 

Grace is a gift, something we received when choosing to follow Christ, we didn't give it to ourselves, and we didn't and can't earn it. 

I have seen this concept in my life the past two weeks through my parents. They have come to my house to help me take care of my kids, clean, take me out, buy me groceries and get me endless cups of coffee. It makes me cry...because I can not do it for myself.
 I am a strong person, I like to take care of things, I like to be "in control". 
God has me in this desperate and weak state where I can do so little and my parents just keep showing up and they don't make me feel guilty for being broken, or not doing more for myself. I can't repay them, and they don't expect me to. This is probably one of the most tangible experiences of grace I have ever experienced. But that is just living Jesus, what He is and what He has done for us in a practical way.

 We are the drowning, paralyzed, broken to a million pieces. He doesn't expect us to try harder, just surrender to Him. And that is a scary place, a vulnerable place, it means giving up a sense of pride that I can somehow it is all Him.
 Every single thing, and we will never ever ever be able to repay that. Ever.

God's sovereignty is something we talk about, but its not something we much care for, especially in regards to ourselves. When I was looking up verses about thanks this week in what we are really supposed to be thankful for, I came across over and over, "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever" and this idea is repeated.
 I want to be thankful for the things I have looked over as meaningless and drink in the magnificence that can be life that we so easily take for granted and yes even in these harder times, but I think the real place of thanks is for God only. 

That we would know Him so deeply that when we don't get our way, things don't pan out, and as we stand with our broken hearts in our hands, that there is something deep inside us that still says...
"but I know my God, and He is good".

Project 31
She Breathes Deeply

With all that I have been feeling recently I do not think it was "coincidence" that I found this Project 31 floating around the blogging world and I am excited to be a part of this. It was started by Mandy at shebreathsdeeply and I am very appreciative. So here is to discovering more about beauty. Head over to her site and join in on the journey!

Here is what she wrote about it:

What is "Project 31"?  It is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and women who potray beauty in a inspired way.  "Project 31" is you celebrating your God given beauty, and celebrating the beautiful women around you. The meaning behind the project is taken from this:

Proverbs 31

    10 Who can find a virtuous wife? 
      For her worth is far above rubies. 
       11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; 
      So he will have no lack of gain. 
       12 She does him good and not evil 
      All the days of her life. 
       13 She seeks wool and flax, 
      And willingly works with her hands. 
       14 She is like the merchant ships, 
      She brings her food from afar. 
       15 She also rises while it is yet night, 
      And provides food for her household, 
      And a portion for her maidservants. 
       16 She considers a field and buys it; 
      From her profits she plants a vineyard. 
       17 She girds herself with strength, 
      And strengthens her arms. 
       18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, 
      And her lamp does not go out by night. 
       19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, 
      And her hand holds the spindle. 
       20 She extends her hand to the poor, 
      Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. 
       21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, 
      For all her household is clothed with scarlet. 
       22 She makes tapestry for herself; 
      Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 
       23 Her husband is known in the gates, 
      When he sits among the elders of the land. 
       24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
      And supplies sashes for the merchants. 
       25 Strength and honor are her clothing; 
      She shall rejoice in time to come. 
       26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, 
      And on her tongue is the law of kindness. 
       27 She watches over the ways of her household, 
      And does not eat the bread of idleness. 
       28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; 
      Her husband also, and he praises her: 
       29 “ Many daughters have done well, 
      But you excel them all.” 
       30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, 
      But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 
       31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, 
      And let her own works praise her in the gates.

Pretty good stuff, huh?  Wanna join in?  Here is the challenge...  For 31 days, blog each day about things that celebrate your God given beauty, and the beauty of the women around you.  I attatched a list below you can follow, or you can make up your own (please link back here, though).  


Day 1.  What does beauty mean to you?
Day 2.  What makes you uniquely you?
Day 3.  Who is someone you know who inspires beauty?
Day 4.  Style 31.  Post a pic of you in your favorite outfit.
Day 5.  Write a blog thanking someone who has made your heart come alive.
Day 6.  Jaded beauty.  Has the world's definition of beauty ever jaded you?
Day 7.  Write a blog to encourage another beautiful woman.
Day 8.  Have a beauty secret (e.g. hair tip, make up tip)?  Share, please!
Day 9.  What virtues do you value in yourself?
Day 10.  What is Jesus teaching you as a wife, mom, or friend? (Or just woman in general?)
Day 11.  Post a recipe.  Or if you don't cook, try a new recipe and write about how it turned out (pictures please!).
Day 12.  Write about what wears you out as a woman.
Day 13.  Write about something you would like to change about yourself for the better.
Day 14.  Style 31.  Post an outfit pic!
Day 15.  Write to encourage a friend.  Inspire her beauty.
Day 16.  Write a letter to your daughter, or a young girl in your life.  Tell her what beauty means.
Day 17.  Write about 3 things that make you happy.
Day 18.  Describe your personality.
Day 19.  Write about your favorite comfort food (we are women- we ALL have comfort food!)
Day 20.  Write about your job and why you love it or hate it.  
Day 21.  Write a letter to your husband to encourage him (or if you are single- your future husband.)
Day 22.  What are some needs that need to be met in your community?  Blog about how to extend your hand to those who need you.
Day 23.  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?
Day 24.  What is Jesus teaching you presently?
Day 25.  Style 31.  Post a pic of your favorite comfy clothes.
Day 26.  What do you hope your grandchildren will say about you someday when you are gone?
Day 27.  Write a blog to encourage someone and build their confidence!
Day 28.  Write about your insecurities as a woman.
Day 29.  Write about "a day in the life of me."  (Pics are great!)
Day 30.  Who is your role model as a woman?
Day 31.  Write about your dreams and goals as a beautiful woman!