When Yes to God Means No

“Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  And do everything in love.”  I Corinthians 16:13-14

Kicking and screaming in 2007.  Like a disobedient and overwhelmed toddler drama queen, that’s how my heart responded to the circumstances I found myself in.  And no choice.  No way out.  Really God?  I mean, hadn’t He given me enough in the past year?  A husband deployed to Iraq for a year, a senior in high school applying to colleges, a daughter getting married in the summer, a junior higher with a bad case of mono and a cancerous lesion on her shoulder needing surgery?  And now I was supposed to move to Germany?  Leave two daughters and aging parents an ocean away?  We were to ship our car and household goods, saunter back and forth across the entire country for the wedding, drop our daughter off at the college dorm curb and move to Europe.  All within 2 weeks.  I felt abandoned.  I didn’t know how to physically do it, much less emotionally readjust to a husband who had spent the last year in a war zone and say goodbye to two daughters at once.  I wrung my heart out to God, “Why have you abandoned me?”

The next Sunday, I took my angry heart to our military chapel with our two youngest daughters.  Another well-meaning military wife had just encouraged me, “Oh, you’ll love Germany!”  I didn’t want to hear it again.  Not one more time. How could they understand?  And why was I attending a place of worship?  I sat during the singing, arms folded tightly.  Don’t. talk. to. me.  The  chaplain took his place in front of the congregation.  What he said next I’ll never forget.

“I had a sermon all prepared, and last night, God told me to change it.  There’s someone or maybe several people in here who feel like God has abandoned them.  And so, today, my message for you is: God has not abandoned you.”

I’d like to say that after that glimpse- into- eternity encounter, my heart changed completely.  It didn’t.  Yet this God of grace took the screaming toddler inside of me and held me close.  He did not condemn. He held my hand across the country and back, at the wedding, and on the dorm curb.  He took it again as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  I learned that saying yes to God means saying no to me.

I have met many women who live out extraordinary circumstances in what may appear to some as mundane existence.   Some reside in small towns where they were born and will probably live out the rest of their lives.  Some don’t know where to call home because the military has moved them so much. Others press on in ministry, whether it be in rural churches or urban soup kitchens. Women who have turned their palms up and said, “Yes, God!” with bowed hearts to the Creator, even though they may not understand His ways.  Women who may never be well-known by the world’s definition of fame, but by exemplifying strong faith inspire others to follow Christ with abandon.

The beautiful, energetic Army wife whose second son was born with Downs Syndrome.  She and her husband named him William for William the Conqueror.  And he conquers milestones.  His optimistic, hilarious mother handles her life with grace, humor and thanksgiving.  She said “no” to self-pity. Yes, God.

The mother of 2 young children and a husband who is gone literally half the year who stays home to give her family stability.  She and her husband have an intentionality about their marriage than I don’t see in relationships where both people are home 24/7.  She said “no” to the pressure of needing more. Yes, God.

A woman who works as a children’s speech pathologist, mostly with at risk families in poverty.  She considers her position a calling, regularly praying over her patients and asking for intercession- that God would intervene in their lives and that she can be the hands and feet of Jesus.  She said “no” to doubt.   Yes, God.

The church planter’s wife with a passion for Jesus and His Word who wonders every day, “Who will you put in my path to introduce Jesus to? When will You establish this church?”  She homeschools 3 kids, clings to God’s promises with her husband, stands firm and shows courage.  She said “no” to things seen, believing in the things hoped for. Yes, God.

A young teenage girl over 2000 years ago who met an angel and was told she would bear Emmanuel, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Literally, breath.  God chose her because she was an ordinary girl-woman whom He knew would say yes.  She said “no” to needing all the immediate answers.  Yes, God.

Ordinary women.  Extraordinary faith.  What can we learn from those that God has called to say no to say YES to Him?








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The 23rd Melt Down – A Rewrite of the 23rd Psalm

I am my own shepherd
I always want
I get myself into a frenzy thinking everyone else has it better than I do
My emotions spill like turbulent waters onto innocent bystanders
I deplete my own soul
And guide myself in too many paths for my name’s sake
I walk in the valley of the shadow and look like death warmed over
I fear tomorrow because I depend only on myself
God doesn’t comfort me because He is no where to be found in my life
I go spiritually hungry in front of my enemies
I don’t look at a glass as being half full or even half empty, because my glass is bone dry
Surely stress and impatience will follow me all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the house of my own making

But hopefully not forever.

 

BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS:

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Amen.

 

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Just Another Running Toilet

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” Genesis 16:13 (NLT)

“Have a great time on your date!  Michael and I will have fun this morning,”  I reassured my middle daughter and her husband as they snuck out the back door.  My 2 year-old grandson Michael played with his car garage in the front room, talking happily to himself and his zoom-zooms.  As soon as Emily and Clark left, college sophomore daughter, Molly, set herself to doing dishes in the kitchen.

Then I noticed it. AGAIN.  The sound of running water coming from the bathroom.  I walked into the bathroom, determined to find the source.  Ah, coming from the toilet.  So, like any normal person, I hoisted the lid from the back of the commode to jiggle the little chain thing.  (Excuse my lack of toilet terminology knowledge.)  Except there was no little chain thing.  Only a small white tube to run water  into the return pipe.

That white tube was decidedly out of place.  It whipped up, rising above the toilet like an uncoiling snake, knowing no shame.  This was not a trickle of water.  This was a torrent.  Out of control, the little monster spun around and soaked my face, my hair, my clothes.  In a mili-second, I was standing in at least an inch of water on the floor of the bathroom.  I tried to shut off the water at the base of the toilet.  The valve. Would. Not. Budge.  I confess, I prayed not.  I screamed.
     ”MOLLY!!  CALL EMILY AND CLARK NOW!!!”
Unbeknownst to me, my nineteen-year-old was happily plugged in to her iPhone.  She didn’t hear a thing.
     ”MOLLY!! HELP!!”  No response.
Okay, I said to myself, put the tube in the return pipe and replace the lid on the back of the toilet.  Right. Water squirted out from under the lid, continuing to pour onto the floor.  That’s when I saw the clip.  The tube had a microscopic white clip on its side.  Clip attached.  Annoying sound stopped.   Situation under control.  A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.  It took all the towels they owned to mop up the bathroom.

Just another running toilet.

“You need to go in the prayer room!”  My bright-eyed roommate’s passion spilled into her voice.  Even though she carried her sweetly round belly, pregnant for the fourth time, mother of 3 boys, her energy caught me.

“Prayer room?  Where is it?”

Two days before visiting my daughter, I had arrived at the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, ready for a surprise encounter from God, wanting direction for where I was to journey next in my semi empty-nest life.  I felt too unsure and too under-equipped, in mourning from life changes over the past 2 years. But I prayed.  Others were praying with me.  ”God, speak.”

Fending off the sleepiness from getting up at 3 am that morning to catch a plane from Iowa to North Carolina, I took the elevator down to the first floor of the hotel where the prayer room was located.  The door stood ajar, and the room was empty.  God’s presence beckoned as I walked in.  The Presence.

“Our names have all been prayed over.  Your name is next to a Name of God that the staff felt we needed to know.  You should look for it,” my roommate had encouraged me.

Arranged on tables around the room were sheets of paper with the names of God and over 750 women’s names placed next to them.  My name.  There.  Written on God’s heart next to El Roi, the God Who Sees.  El Roi, a God so watchful that He cares even when the smallest sparrow falls to the ground. A Fatherly God who is always near in the desolate places, helping us find a path through troubles, working out His plans for our future.  

El Roi, the Name of God that had been placed before me over and over the past 2 years.  I cried.  Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears because this God touches each one of us personally.  No, He doesn’t just touch.  He lifts, He provides, He restores, He heals.  He knows.

He knows every sleepless night you cradle your baby, every tear shed for an aging parent who can’t remember your name, every fear from the doctor’s diagnosis, every scar from feeling ignored in this life.  He sees the seemingly mundane, too.

Not just another running toilet.  Not just another tired toddler or challenging teenager.  Nor just another misunderstanding with your man or oatmeal that overcooked and stuck so hard to the pan that it took two days to clean.  He sees.  Like Haggai questioned, have you truly seen the One who sees you?  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  Ask Him to speak.   He promises that He will find you.





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Obedience Rather Than Sacrifice

The last two weeks of my life have been spent with my new grandson, Michael. My daughter and son-in-law live in Brevard, North Carolina, nestled in a valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have lived in western Carolina for almost 5 years now, and these mountains have become a sabbatical for me. Every time I visit, I discover a new place to experience the very presence of God. This time, it was in a waterfall glen about a mile hike from the road. Transylvania County (great name, isn’t it?) has more waterfalls than any other county in the United States, and each one is unique, one rushing, another hundreds of feet high, most tumbling. But nothing prepared me for this quiet place of a slight steady stream of water cascading gently overtop a high, shallow cave indentation back in the Appalachian woods. For a few minutes, as I stood and looked at the waterfall, true silence surrounded me. No footsteps, no cars, no overhead airplanes, only the sound of God spilling gently into a wadable rock pool. I wanted to stay there all day and listen.

That water has no choice but to do what it is meant to do…run downstream somewhere. It obeys gravity. In that quiet place, God spoke to my heart about obedience. We do certain things, or at least I hope we do, every day, without thinking, that are a mark of obedience. We exercise restraint because of laws: stop at stop lights, follow the speed limit, especially though school zones when we see a police car. What if we saw God looking at us when we choose to disobey Him? Have you ever seen a toddler who is told to not do something and then he looks directly at his parents and does it anyway? Are we not like that at times with God? We know He is looking at us and prompting our souls not to do something and we do it anyway?

A wise woman I respect once sent a prayer request for the children of an ill mother who was in a coma, and in the request she included this: “pray that they will be obedient to God’s Word, because I am sure their mother would be praying the same thing for them.”

As I hold my 3-week-old grandson and have held my 4-month-old granddaughter Maile in Colorado, I pray many things for them. I pray that they will have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, I pray that they will know that they are set apart for something special, I even pray for their future spouse. But I have also been praying that they will be obedient to Him and His Word. The troubles that we bring to our own life really can be traced back to this one and most difficult daily thing: obedience. It is true of my own life, and I see how my disobedience has affected others. And although I have studied about it, talked the good talk about it, and prayed for a heart for it, I don’t think I have truly practiced it.

“Now then if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all earth is Mine.” Exodus 19:5


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