Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hind's Feet on High Places

 

"He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;

he causes me to stand on the heights."

 --Psalm 18:33


I love these rock formations in central Wisconsin.  They seem to rise up out of nowhere, oddly placed amidst the rolling farmland that surrounds the main highway through Wisconsin.  They've become a sort of landmark for me, traveling this road so often through the years.  The first time I saw them I was a young Bride with my Husband going home to visit our parents. Now we are the parents driving these same roads to visit our adult children.  After I was first given my copy of the book, "Hind's Feet on High Places," by Hannah Hurnard, these towers of rocky cliffs came to represent for me a picture of what the main character may have faced in her journey to the High Places. 



Perhaps you know the story?  Written decades ago, it remains a most popular allegory of the journey of "Much Afraid," the young girl in the service of the Great Shepherd. She has a disfigured face and a lame, painful gait, but longs to escape the fearful life she has led, and travel to the beautiful High Places of her Great Shepherd.  When she expresses her longing to Him, He tells her that He's been waiting to hear her say that, and laughs at the sheer joy of the beautiful transformation that He has planned for her.



However, before she can reach the High Places, she will encounter many trials along the way. And in this Current Season of life, with days that include my own painful gait, I have sensed that it was time for a revisit to the Land of Much Afraid.  Don't you love those kind of books, the ones that speak something new each time you read them?



The tears have been ready at the surface, as I've walked with Much Afraid this week.  Each new chapter sparks a new comparison with my own journey.  But it was in the heat of the desert that my heart found a song today.  For in a "lonely corner behind a wall, she came upon a little golden-yellow flower growing all alone."  Much Afraid discovers that a water pipe with one tiny hole had allowed just enough water drops to fall onto a seed that had fallen there, and caused it to grow. When she asked the flower her name, this was the answer she heard:

"Behold me! My name is Acceptance-with-Joy."

 

I have read this story so many times, and I have studied and journaled along with it even.  So I was not surprised when this little flower spoke to Much Afraid.  But our hearts do not have to be surprised to be awakened.  Sometimes the whisper has been echoing in our hearts while our eyes remain closed.  Only a flutter in response will stir our Great Shepherd to bring the daylight and the water to those seeds he planted so long ago.  



I began this blog almost 5 months ago, with the first post speaking to what my heart needed:  Acceptance, of where my journey was taking me. And still today, my Shepherd is watering that seed, and causing it to grow.  He is the one who planted the seed, the seed of HIS own likeness. I may have inherited the genetic code to develop some of those same illnesses that my Mom or my Dad also bore.  But in the same way that they are now beautifully transformed into HIS perfect likeness as they take JOY with Him in Heaven, I too am being transformed into the image that my Shepherd has planned for me.  


The trials and the desert heat may seem at first glance to be consuming all hope of life away from me.  But just as that little flower proved to Much Afraid, the Shepherd's Life cannot be stopped.  For those of us following the Shepherd to His High Places there will be an awakening and a transformation.  We are being transformed!  And because of HIS great Love, we can say,


"Behold us!  We are Acceptance with Joy!"

 

 

Linking this week with some beautiful bloggers over at #TellHisStory



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Look at the Lilies


"Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. . ."  Matthew 6:28,29


I must not be doing enough of something.  Or I must be doing too much of something else.  Surely this new addition to my list of complications can't be right.  The Rheumatoid Disease has been responding to this latest medication; the therapy for Fibromyalgia has been helping me to learn to walk through the days of low energy or high pain; even the Dry-Eye-Syndrome that comes with RA is treatable.  Surely, I thought, this Bone Density Scan would be a piece-of-cake.  Breeze through this, and I would be home-free, nothing else added to the mix for a while.

But the results did not agree with my own assessment.  The Rheumatologist called right back with the results and began a new medication for my weakened bones: Osteoporosis, the nurse said.

How could I have felt God's Presence reassuring me so sweetly before the test, but then have another label added to my day?

-------

My Mom had Osteoporosis.  Quite debilitating for her in fact.  She had required a high dose of steroids for a one-time rare condition, and was left with a "dowager's hump" as an unpleasant reminder.  She refused treatment for bone-strengthening, and I vowed to myself that I would never be like that.  I would not become the one who required help, but would not help herself.  And so I hardened my heart in the process.  Work hard. Take care of others.  Do all the right things.

Ahh, God is so merciful.  He doesn't leave us alone in our hardness of heart.  No, He looks deeper to the places where our true desires lay.  And He saw in my heart the longing to draw closer to Him, to find new intimacy with Jesus. But intimacy and hardness of heart cannot co-exist.  So a chisel is sometimes required to break open those hard places. 

This stony heart is being shattered once again. When I thought it had been uncovered and opened more than was possible, God has found another layer, ready for His touch. 

Time to cease striving once again. Time to be still in the Master's Hand. No laboring or spinning is required there.  He will array me in the garment of His choosing, where my bones are under His care, and the beauty comes to a heart softened for Him.


               "Under Thy wings, my God, I rest,
                        Under Thy shadow safely lie;
                 By Thy own strength in peace possessed,
                         While dreaded evils pass me by."
                                                   --A. L. Waring

 




Linking up at #TellHisStory with Jennifer Dukes Lee today.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We Are God's Garden

 

Another corner of my garden--God's Garden--where

He asks me to sit awhile

And listen



I've been pondering the pictures that my Counselor painted for me last week.  It was a word picture to help explain why my stamina has gone into hiding: What if I could picture my energy and stamina as being contained in one of those beverage coolers with a spigot on the bottom and a cap on top, and every time I use my energy for anything, it would flow out through the spigot in the bottom.  But while the outflow is moving steadily along, the inflow at the top of the container is only a slow drip.  The inflow is much slower than the outflow now. 

So where does that leave me when I choose to take on an extra activity, or go for an extra outing? Depleted for days.  The inflow takes longer to replenish than the actual time of the outflow--I cannot depend on my rejuvenation to happen in the same way that it used to, pre-RA/Fibro days.  Depletion is a negative in the bank-book nowadays. And my body screams at me on those negative days. 

But I have come to recognize another voice, quieter, and still, behind the clamoring voice of pain.  It is the voice of my Lord, asking me to ponder another picture.

"Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs."  Isaiah 61:7

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about this topic of shame Here, but the learning still continues.  As I listened and pondered that verse, questions began swirling to the surface.  I had prayed that verse many times over some very specific situations.  Those situations did not turn out the way I had thought they would.  But even more unthinkable was the possibility that I should consider SHOUTING for joy over my own portion?  HERE?  . . .


"Yes, my daughter.  I am your portion.  And I have given you a double portion of  MY PRESENCE as you have climbed into the soul-deep-places of your heart where I dwell with you, IN THE MIDST OF YOUR PAIN."


There is no fear in love, and there is no shame in weakness, when Christ is pouring His Mercy over us.  His Presence teaches us how to walk and measure our steps to steward the time He has given us on this earth.  Never a step is taken with Him, unless His Heart has a reason.




The Poet Prays
By Grace Noll Crowell

The crushing of a thousand petals, Lord,
Distills one drop of essence from a flower.
Crush me, Oh God, if thereby my song makes
Some tired heart walk with beauty for an hour.

If under bruising pestle I give voice
To the high white rapture of a faint perfume,
And catching it, one weary of paved ways
Turns back a lost path where wood violets bloom.

If I can bring the quick relief of tears
To dry eyes dulled with bitterness for long,
Gather the fragrant petals of my life
And crush them, Lord, then help me sing the song.

I am linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee, and her #Tell His Story crew.


 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

HOME

Relocating

Changing Position


That's what's been happening at my daughter and son-in-law's this week.  They are selling their first home, the one they moved into as newlyweds, the only home their little toddler has ever known, to move into a newer home that they've been blessed to purchase.   So of course my mind has set to reminiscing ....

My husband and I moved 10 times during the first 10 years of our marriage.  We didn't purchase a house until we had been married 25 years. But in every one of our moves, God helped us make a home wherever he planted us.  Even if that meant we were living and sharing a house with gracious friends for several years.  Starting over after a cross-country-move meant that belongings deemed important enough to save were shipped by UPS to our parents' home to be stored just a little longer.  And when we moved into our own place again?  None of us felt comfortable spreading out in that large rented house, so we found ourselves often huddled together on one couch in one room. 

So all of that moving planted in me a restlessness for change.  If we stayed in a place longer than a few years, I found myself changing up the furniture arrangements every few months.  When our children's friends came over, they would say, "I never know where your couch is going to be when I walk in!"  Sounds fun, but when the room is not very big to start with, or the budget is too limited, there were some "creative" arrangements over the years!  (Yeah, the fabric covered cardboard box for an end table didn't last too long.)

Still, I wouldn't trade any of those living spaces for something more spacious, or modern, or dreamy. When I look back I can gladly say that each place became exactly what it needed to be: OUR HOME.

So today, when I am in a place of INNER change, and I feel like my heart is being relocated to somewhere strange and unfamiliar, why do I find myself looking back and wanting to stay the same? Perhaps all of this upheaval that I grow anxious over, is actually the way that Jesus is rearranging the furniture of my soul. 

He moves us closer to Himself, and knocks down walls that were blocking the view.  He opens windows and changes the lighting.  And all along the way He brings us closer to the neighborhood of Heaven, giving us glimpses of the MORE that He has planned for us.

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."  John 14:23

WELCOME HOME is what He whispers to the deep places of my heart.



I have been blessed by Natalie Grant's song "Home" during this season:




I'm linking this week with some great Bloggers over at #TellHisStory and  #TestimonyTuesday Won't you go check them out too?





Holly Barrett