Monday, October 2, 2017

Breaking up is hard to do. When a friend says, "it's not's me"

Okay, so here I sit, heart pounding.  I don't know if I should share this.  I don't know if I can.  Here goes...

Ecclesiastes says there is a season for everything.  Even though the trials of this life grow our character, I would dare say not many of us sign up for the times of pain and mourning.  We much prefer when the sun is shining and the cool, fall breeze is awakening our souls to the beauty around us.  Scripture also tells us that beauty comes from ashes.  Ashes.  To get to ashes, there must be burning. loss. pain.  Relationships affect our seasons and walls burn down.  And if we let God have the ashes of broken relationships, He can make something beautiful. 

Friendships are beautiful and altogether created by our Creator for us.  Then why are they so difficult and painful at times?  The short answer is that we live in a fallen world and we are all sinful people.  But that answer doesn't comfort me or stop my tears when brokenness steals a friend.  I am not all smiles when life takes unexpected turns, leaving me reeling and wondering if I am lovable.

I have been known to be a nomad of sorts, my family moving a lot as a child and several times as an adult.  I don't have anyone that I've known since 1st grade as my friend.   I have walked away from people, knowing not all relationships "make it".  Ah, but some do...  There really are adult, Christian friendships that live outside of time and location.  Thankfully, I have known the joy of such friendships.  I still do.  I also know the sting of goodbye, of being someone's memory. 

When, in an indescribably difficult time in my life, a remarkable and dear friend shattered my heart in an indescribable way, I wasn't sure what to think about friendship anymore.  There wasn't outright betrayal.  There wasn't a fight.  She just walked away.  Removed me.  Her explanation was vague, at best, despite my effort to get to the core of whatever was wrong.   It wasn't me, it was her.  I had been dumped.  There wasn't just a drifting apart...I have experienced the waxing and waning of friendships through seasons and moving.  No, this was quite different than drifting.  This was purposeful.  She told me she loved me and always would and was glad I had been a part of her life.  Had.  Had.

Suddenly someone that had both rejoiced and mourned alongside me purposely referred to me in the past tense.  I was crushed, confused, angry, lonely.  Seeds of insecurity began to grow, watered by the false sense that everyone would leave me.  That the friendship was never real (It SO was).  That I wasn't a good friend.  That none of my friendships were real.  That, at any moment I could be crushed again and I should distance myself before I got hurt again.  That I must have done something very wrong and hurt her even when she said I definitely did not.

I don't know what happened.  At times, I still long for a satisfactory explanation.  At times, I envision us reuniting with hugs and tears.  And, while the confusion does still sting when I am reminded that I am the only one she chose to walk away from, this painful journey has brought me nearer to my Jesus.  She pointed me to Jesus as friends and the wounding of my soul when she walked away caused me to seek Him more.  The friend I lost was certainly His hands and feet to me.  I don't understand why but I do know God was present in both our friendship and our breakup.  That's beauty from ashes.

Relationships are hard.  Period.  Cry your heart out hard.  Are they worth it?  Yes!  Do I still wonder which one of my friends will dump me next?  Occasionally.  I certainly didn't expect the loss I had.  Are some friendships better ended than pursued?  Occasionally.  There are also the friendships worth fighting for.  The friend that you call even when she hasn't called you in forever.  The friend that you pray for because you know they are hurting but they can't or won't share.  The friend that loves you when you are unlovable.  The friend that sticks closer than a brother.  The friend that points you to Jesus.  And, oh, sweet reader...if you have been wounded by a follower of Jesus, maybe even one who used to point you to Him, know that there is a Friend in Jesus.  He knows your pain.  He will bind your broken heart.  He is near!  He will never leave you.  He will never forsake you. Ultimately He can and will use every part of our journey to bring us closer to Himself.  To refine us.  To show us that He is all we need.  Yes, he put us here on this earth and created relationships for His glory but our relationship with Him is the conduit through which He blesses others. 

Be a blessing.  Be a friend.  It is going to be messy.  We are going to be hurt and we are going to hurt others.  Risk it.  Humble yourself.  Serve others.  Love the unlovable.  Seek the lost and hurting.  Walk with them.  Be the hands and feet of Jesus when a friend needs you. 

I don't always like His ways or the seasons I find myself in but, you see, I have seen beauty turn into ashes more than once. 

So, when I have ashes before me, I give them to the Healer and Lover of my soul.  For out of is glorified  

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom fro the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of he LORD for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:1-3

Now, travel with me to Luke, chapter 4 and to Nazareth a couple thousand years ago and imagine the sound the scroll makes as the Word made flesh Himself unrolls it to read from the passage in you have chills yet?  He tells the hearers that He was there to fulfill all of this.  Oh, friend, let us not become weary in doing good.  Let us not believe the lies the enemy hurls into our minds.  Let us not allow broken relationships or anything else to keep us from living filled with the Spirit that has conquered the grave and offered us freedom

Monday, May 29, 2017

God is our just pays the bills

In January of 2016 I was still reeling over some personal issues and preparing to birth a baby wondering if we would ever sell our house and be able to start building the new one.  We lived in 550 square feet and were planning to build our own house.  We had been saving and were ready to start construction knowing we could continue once our previous house sold.  Our budget took an unexpected blow and we were unable to do that and we were unsure of what we were supposed to be doing and if we were doing the wrong thing. I wasn't sure I could handle much more emotional strain.  I had a come to Jesus meeting in a big way and let go and truly began trusting His timing and His plan.

In February, after almost 2 years on the market, our house sold and sold quickly.  We were shocked at how everything fell into place.  Gone.  No more mortgage.  Did you hear me?  NO MORE mortgage.  We were completely debt free.  Woohoo!!  Now it was time to start spending and building.  :)

On March 4th, we broke ground on our house.  Then my husband who I adore worked so hard on laying the foundation blocks, doing a 3-man job alone, that he literally worked his fingerprints off!  On April 7th we welcomed our Rebekah Claire into the world.  Bruce continued construction and I adjusted to a new baby, tiny-house style.  Because Bruce was working 14-16 hours a day the kids and myself did all we could to make sure the chores were done so that Bruce's focus could stay on the house.

It was an exhausting and thrilling year.  A weary road that brought us to a place where we can now have visitors and fellowship without the use of clown car magic or being a fire hazard.  Doing over 95% of the construction ourselves gave us some serious sweat equity!  Mentioning I am proud of my husband and thankful for help from friends and family is a must.  :)

Our goal was always to build this house with as little debt as possible...maybe none.  After waiting almost 2 years to start construction our timetable was different than we had hoped.  The reality of living in a small space was not our only motivation to move forward rather than wait on funds.  We also had financial and other reasons to borrow money to finish building the house.  Our utility bills in the tin can we lived in were crazy high.  The floors and walls would sweat in the winter.  We had moisture and mold issues to battle.  It was time to move forward.  I didn't take borrowing lightly and God had to humble my heart because I had pride in being debt-free.

So, here we are.  Debt.  Other than a mortgage we haven't had debt in over 10 years.  That hasn't always been easy but worth it.  The blessings, gifts, and provision God has orchestrated amaze me. We made the decision to move forward building our house without the cash on hand.  Because of the Lord's grace through unexpected means, we have a 5 year plan to be completely debt free.  At first I felt defeated to borrow to finish the house but I am definitely at peace now (most days).  I have had many full-circle moments in this season of life.  The Lord has shown me more than once that debt-free living can become an idol itself.  Debt-free is never bad and I certainly recommend living that way for many reasons but anything, even good things, can come before God in our lives.   Doing everything I can to be debt-free is not the same as wholeheartedly seeking after God and His kingdom.  Now, if I am seeking God first it's likely that good decisions such as not living beyond my means will come as a result but there is a HUGE difference between doing good things and putting Jesus ahead of everything...the good things happen naturally because of my relationship with Him. Read Matthew chapters 6 and 10 (and anything else in Scripture while you're at it.  Be careful, it can come alive!)

He is more important than debt and more important than being debt-free

He is worthy.  Worthy of our worship and praise.  His namesake is worthy of all our good deeds but if our good deeds do not bring Him glory, they are filthy rags...He enables us.  He enables us to do the good deeds and make the good decisions FOR His glory, not ours.

My debt or lack of it is not to boast or brag and if what I do or say doesn't point back to my Savior, then my actions and words are in vain.  Jesus.  He is everything.   I've been in some deep places, but Jesus has met me where I am.  And He has helped me do the next thing.  How I love Him. Mess that I am, He loved me first!

With Bruce's workload being quite light this year so far, I am re-learning some lessons about stewardship.  I am realizing I still take so many things for granted.  I know that my heart is selfish and that I don't really like to adjust the budget when the income is less.  I have moments I feel entitled and I have an ungrateful spirit.  Chief of sinners, I am.  Ultimately I am accountable for my actions, attitudes, and stewardship and I fail all too often.  May God do a mighty work in this heart of flesh that wars within my very soul.

Our income may be variable but the deep, deep love of Christ is unchanging.

**Amendment:  This post was sort of a confession and snapshot into some of our struggles.  I do not intend to justify debt or even say that our decision to have some for our house is "right".  I still hate debt.  I don't believe a lifestyle of debt is God-honoring. Jesus died to set us free and to have life abundantly, sharing His love and freedom with others.  He doesn't want us to serve money or be a slave to the lender... I don't have all the answers to living debt-free as everyone has different situations but I know that typical American culture doesn't need to be our blueprint...God's word does.