Trusting God

Letting Go

It was an earnest moment of decision for my preschool-aged daughter.  You could see the deliberation on her sweet little face as she tightly gripped the Andes Mints, one in each hand.

If you will give ONE of your chocolates to Pa, I will give you another one.

I knew this might be a struggle for her and was watching with anticipation to see what decision she would make.

She loves chocolate candy so much, and this particular kind was only available to her once per week when we would meet my dad (her grandad) for lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.

I could see she was internally wrestling with the process of physically letting go of what was in her hand.  Did she believe me?  Would she trust me?

I repeated it again:  If you will give one to Pa, I will give you another one to replace the one that you give to him.

It was a promise.  But it required her action to activate it.  You see, she had to let go of the piece of chocolate in one of her hands, before I could give her another one.

This was a practical request.  There was no way her little hands could hold 3 pieces of candy, navigate a pass off, open the wrappers and avoid dropping one onto the floor.  With the crowd of people in front of the cashier’s desk, the candy could easily be stepped on and smashed.

After a few more seconds of consideration, she handed a piece to my dad, saying, “Here, Pa, this is for you.” I smiled, knowing that this had been an important step for her.

Before the smile faded from my face, I felt the Holy Spirit impress a feeling of even greater significance upon my heart.  I knew I needed to remember this exchange, and I wrote it down in my journal, trusting the Lord would eventually show me.

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A few weeks passed, and I had just learned of yet another major change coming my way.  The grief, anxiety and sorrow welled up in me anew.

Over the last 18 months, almost all the things in which I had found purpose, comfort and stability (with the exception of my husband and children) had been ended, altered, or shifted in some way.  A career.  A ministry role.  A few friendships.  Educational plans for my youngest daughter.  And on and on.

Honestly, I was so sick of change and felt like I really couldn’t take any more.  I was just done.  Over it.  Finished.  Seriously kaput.

Lord, seriously?  I was just getting into the groove.  I thought we had a plan.  Lord, what ARE you doing in this situation?   What does this mean for me?  I hate this.  Really, I hate this.  Can’t you just keep things the way they are, at least for a little while?

The next morning I was struggling through my quiet time trying to read through a chapter in one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, Hosea.  I was finding it a bit dry, which was also how my soul felt in that moment.  This is what I wrote in my journal that morning:

“Father God, help me have a God-attitude about the news I received yesterday.  I’m struggling and so sad, but most of all, I feel thrown out into The Wilderness, again.  God help me, help me to find joy and hope overflowing in this.  Release your blessings on my life… Make a way for me in the desert.  Bring me to a land of flowing streams, lush landscapes, soft hills, and babbling brooks.”

Later that day, I was still wrestling through what all of this meant and feeling gloomy.  While driving in my car, I heard these lyrics from a song in the general playlist of music on my phone.

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Letting go and trusting when I cannot see
I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Surely every season you are good to me.[i]

These words that I’d heard so many times before struck me with such significance.  Letting go.  To let go, you have to open your hand.  It was like the Spirit was saying this:

Jennifer, if you’ll open your hand again, you’ll see that I’m good to you in every season.  Let go of what you cannot keep.  Give it freely, so that I can give you the next blessing. 

Oh wow.  The wisdom in this.

It was a promise.  And just like with the Andes Mint moment, it required my action to activate it.  You see, I would have to emotionally release what was in my hand.  I would need to give it to my Abba Daddy, and with faith and trust, believe He would fill my hand again with something good.  I had to believe that He would fill it with something that was valuable and cherished, with something I would relish and enjoy.

Jim Elliot penned this now famous phrase, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Maybe, like me, you are facing another period of transition.  Do you feel the stirrings of change?  Is the Lord asking you to relinquish something?  Is He asking you to hand over something that’s of high value in your life?  An opportunity that may not come again?  A ministry position or job you really love? The future you thought you would have?  The way you spend your free time?

Even when we try to keep that tight grip of control on the things we value, we can’t hold on to them forever.  Change will happen, and wouldn’t it be much better if we relinquish our valued things to the Lord before they get dropped or smashed into the floor?

Beloved reader, open that hand and give the Lord its contents.  He knows what He’s asking.  Trust Him.  He wants to fill it again with something just as sweet.

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: …  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.[ii]

May His streams of Living Water flow freely through you, bringing refreshment and lush beauty to the barren places in your life.

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[i] “Counting Every Blessing” by Rend Collective, 2018 Capitol Christian Records

[ii] Isaiah 43:14a, 19 (NLT)

Finding True Purpose

Living Vibrantly

It’s that time of year when many of us go on diets, begin exercise plans, and set new health goals.  For some of us this new mindset will be the beautiful beginning of a lasting lifestyle, but for others it is rather short-lived.  Or maybe you’re like me, and you haven’t even started that dieting process yet.  Tomorrow is another day, right!?!  I know, I know, there’s no time like the present.  Arghhh.

Anyway, this is my VERY FIRST blog post (insert all the feels here: equal portions of excitement, terror, vulnerability, joy, and anticipation).  My blog title was chosen because I’m passionate about living not just well or healthfully, but VIBRANTLY.  Thank you for stopping by to read it, and I hope you visit again.

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Recently my husband was completing an annual health survey for his medical sharing plan when he encountered this surprising question: “I apply some of my talents and time in the voluntary service of others.”  The survey required him to mark 1 of the 3 multiple choice answers that indicated the extent to which the above statement described him.

You might be asking yourself why a medical sharing plan (which meets the same objectives as health insurance) would be concerned with whether its participants volunteer their time to serve others.  How could serving (or not serving) possibly impact one’s health and wellness?

For that answer let’s turn our attention to two geographical bodies of water in the Middle East:  The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.   Found in the nation of Israel, both the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee are really lakes, and surprisingly, they are both fed by the same freshwater source, the Jordan River.  They both are very similar in elevation and have existed for many thousands of years.  They are also both referred to multiple times in the Bible, but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

The Dead Sea is known as a “hyper” saline body of water with percentages of sodium chloride and other salty minerals that far exceed those found in the ocean.  This salinity makes it completely uninhabitable for fish and other animals.  Even the banks of the Dead Sea are completely barren and resemble that of a desert.  There are no trees, grasses, or flowers that grow on the banks or naturally in the immediate areas surrounding it.  It is quite literally dead.

On the other hand, the Sea of Galilee is a freshwater body that absolutely teems with life.  Its various flora and fauna have supported a significant commercial fishery for over two thousand years now.  When you view pictures of the banks of the Galilee, you see an abundance of healthy trees, green grasses, brightly-colored flowers and other various types of plant life.  It’s absolutely gorgeous with splashes of green on its perimeter in stark contrast to the deep blue color of the water.

So, how is it possible that two lakes which are both fed by the same fresh water from the Jordan River could have such a vastly opposite ecology?  This is the difference.  The Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee from the north and then flows out the Sea of Galilee southward, continuing on as a river.  This Sea has an outlet of equal measure.  It receives and gives, and it lives.

The Dead Sea, however, has no outlet streams.  Every single drop that flows in from the Jordan River stays put.  Water flows in but not out.  It receives and keeps, and it is dead.

So back to the question on my husband’s health survey.  How can serving (or not serving) impact one’s health and well-being?  The answer is that we, as believers, are very similar to the two seas.  God himself is our source, and he has given us a generous measure of unique gifts, talents, abilities and passions.  When we use what He has given us in the service of others, we find joy, purpose, energy, and excitement, an abundant life.

But when we greedily hoard our God-given gifts, talents, and abilities, telling ourselves that we will wait to use them until we have the perfect set of conditions in our lives and schedules, our days will lack luster, and we will find ourselves consumed with trivial interests that don’t bring true fulfillment.

I remember a season of my life, 9 years ago, in which I was not serving anywhere.  I was in the throes of new motherhood, staying at home for the first time in my adult life with a very demanding infant.  My gifts and abilities had no other outlet, and I was desperately searching for significance.  When my firstborn was a little over a year old, I settled on a new fitness goal, thinking this would bring me the meaning and recognition I craved.  I worked hard, using self-control and gritty determination to reach it.

I keenly remember the short-lived feeling of satisfaction that came when I achieved that goal: running and finishing my very first half marathon.  It was a good goal.  Fitness is important for physical health.  But I also remember the vague and inexplicable feeling of disappointment that came so quickly on the heels of this achievement.  “What next?”, I thought.  The “high” of accomplishment only last a few days, and then I needed something else, bigger and better, to bring me that feeling again.

It would be a few more years before I began to realize that pouring into others is what would bring authentic and lasting fulfillment into my life. Proverbs 11:25 tells us, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

Have you found true fulfillment in God’s purposes for your life?  Will you allow Him to stretch you to serve beyond your own capacity so that you can be refreshed in a lasting and significant way?  What can you do today to become more like the Sea of Galilee, with Christ’s gifts and blessings flowing in and out, in equal measure?

Pray:  Father God, I want to let you flow through me to serve others.  Please open my eyes to the opportunities around me.  Allow me to be stretched, so that I can be empowered by you to do things beyond my own capacity.

Note:  This post is an expanded version of my daily read, originally published here.