The Fight of Faith

A blog post that really hit home for me. Beautifully descriptive and well written.

The Fight of Faith

Fight of Faith LogoThe sky has turned dark.  It has not always been this way, but now it is frightening.  Not long ago it was bright and sunny as was the disposition of my heart, but now the thunder crashes are similar to the war drums of an enemy telling me that I will never survive. When the skies were clear I always imagined that I had the strength to handle whatever would come my way, but now as I stand here I realize how weak I am compared to the power of this storm.

Somehow the darkness that has surrounded me has begun to make its way into my soul.  The doubts, confusions, and fears continue to whisper to me, and they seem to be penetrating deep within my heart. It even has a way of making the easiest tasks of the day seem burdensome. Deep inside me it has revealed the truth that I am no match…

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Prayer

At our Pray First breakfast at church I received a welcome message from our well traveled pastor on prayer. He spoke of the differences in the way people pray around the world. Some pray with abandon, some are reserved, some very solemnly, some structured, some eloquent, and yet others who break into songs of worship and in unison return to prayer as if on some unspoken schedule. As prayer is not something that has come easily to me, I am encouraged to know that so many, pray so very differently.

You see, learning to pray in my thirties was intimidating and supremely uncomfortable. This may sound strange to those of you raised in the church, or in a family of believers. I assure you though, that a person can make it well into adulthood without having ever opened a Bible, or spoken purposely and thoughtfully to the One who made them.

Although I’d had my first glimpse  of faith in my great grandmother as a preteen, and I truly believe she was a woman of great faith, she was not particularly evangelical. Though at the time I knew there was a special peace about her and I saw her faith poured out into her life, I never heard her pray. No help there. So, with no experience to draw from, I was left to try to figure this thing out on my own.

I had been attending our church regularly and I was so often blown away by the prayers of some of our elders and pastors. Literally moved to tears by the obvious praise, love, and worship they seemed to so effortlessly pour out of their hearts, into words dripping with sincerity, and soaring to the One who made them. Prayers that touched me so deeply I was positive they had to be pleasing to His ears as well. In hindsight, I realize this gave me some preconceived notions about what my prayers should/would look like. In reality, it went something like this.

Kneeling. Has our bed always been this high? Maybe I can just sit on the bed. Or is posture important? Better just stay put.

Fold Hands. Okay, but now they’re above my head. That feels weird. Maybe if I kneel on a pillow? A little better. Am I stalling?

Pray. How do I start? Like a letter, with a greeting and a body, closing and maybe a postscript? That doesn’t seem right.

Throat Clearing.

Squeaking. Ahhh!!! This isn’t going well! Okay, hang in there. We will just pray silently.

Pray. Praise! I think I start with praise! Then thanksgiving? Then what I want? That just seems greedy. Gee, thanks for…EVERYTHING, now can I have more? Maybe I need to do some more research. Yes. I will get a book. Okay. I tried, right?

I realize now I may have set the bar a little high. I truly did want to pray but I’m pretty sure I thought it would come naturally. It didn’t. And, discouraged, I didn’t try again for awhile. That was exhausting! But, like so many things (i.e. Fifth grade math), I was pressed to learn so that I could teach my children. After all, if they didn’t see me do it, or if I didn’t teach them, chances are they may have that same awkward encounter.

So, like fifth grade math, I did a little reading so they wouldn’t catch on to the fact I didn’t know what I was doing. I came up with a plan. I memorized the Lord’s Prayer. images (2)Then, I taught it to them. After awhile, I started asking them if there was anything or anyone they wanted to ask God to help or if there was anything they wanted to thank Him for. Oh, the things they came up with! I was so touched by their thoughtfulness, but mostly by their genuineness. Wait, what?! No, my children were not eloquent. Their prayers were not well organized or brilliant. But they were beautiful for their heartfelt honesty.

Okay, God, I get it.

So, I tried again. And again. And again. And what I discovered is that when I step out in obedience, He takes me the rest of the way. Like a toddler learning to walk, there were first awkward steps (accompanied by a small sense of triumph), a few cushioned falls (habits are hard to learn too), and a couple of bumps along the way. But He has held my hand and led me through. There were several bumps when I’d get caught up in those preconceived notions. Really, I was kind of hoping I’d be a little more organized in my prayers than my children are.

But, I have realized that when the valley I’m in is hard, when my prayers are tangled and chaotic, or worse, when I just don’t even know what to pray for, He already knows. Thank you Jesus! He knows my Valley, He made my mind and He already knows what I need. The most important part is that I bring my heart.

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WANTED:Storytellers

Fellow Believers and Storytellers,

I am in need of some assistance. I have found myself with a serious case of what I can only describe as spiritual ADD. Okay, admittedly, this extends further than than just my ability to read, interpret, and apply His word. Ever since our daughter’s latest test results came back I find myself having difficulty with focus again. Any brainpower I seem to possess is used up on things like showering and trying to keep track of the day and time, which keep getting away from me. Add to that the mountains of research and questions I’m trying to process in moments of clarity I find myself staring at my Bible but not fully comprehending what I’m reading.

But, because God is so good, and aware of the inner workings of the mind He created in me, I found myself indescribably relieved that when I attended a Dwelling Place gathering at our church, during which some beautiful women gave their testimonies I not only was able to process what they were spelling out for me, but was greatly encouraged by their stories!

So, I am praying that you would be so kind as to give me some of your time. To provide me with that with which I’m not able to do for myself right now. If you would be willing to read through a few of my blog posts and prayerfully consider any blogs you are following that might encourage me during this part of my journey, or, comment with some scripture that has proved useful to you during your own journey I would greatly appreciate it!

Blessings,

Bobbi

 


Psalm 66:16  

New International Version (NIV)

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God;
    let me tell you what he has done for me.

Hope

I have spent the last three days in a place too closely resembling the dark. I’m sure the details of which will come pouring out in a later blog, but for now, I thought I’d take advantage of the insomnia and a brief moment of clarity while treading water to share a small, yet significant, light bulb moment.

I have discovered, unfortunately, that there is something about pain and loss that makes me incredibly near sighted. Not the kind of near sighted I had fixed by a gifted ophthalmologist a few years ago, but the kind of near sighted that makes it virtually impossible for me to see past my own haze of pain and loss, to the world around me and the kingdom above me. Let me see if I can string enough words together to explain.

There is the kind of pain that explodes into your life with such force that you can’t believe that people within a two mile radius didn’t feel the reverberations. That makes you surprised that everywhere you look, people are just continuing on about life as if the world hasn’t actually slowed to a near stand still. They are going to work, buying groceries, and watching TV as if the searing hot white blast that is still causing your ears to ring and the breath to leave your lungs never happened.

There is the kind of loss that creates such a Huge void in your life that it sucks down with it things like laughter, days of the week, people’s names, prior commitments, and the ability to multi task. You stand at the edge of this vortex desperately trying to keep hold of your sanity with a white knuckled grip on HOPE. And sometimes that pain, it’s sucked down with the loss for awhile too. I believe it’s called “shock”.

But that HOPE I’m gripping? It’s not truly in my hands. It’s in the hands of my Savior. Or rather, at the foot of His cross.

This past Sunday, our message was titled, “Christ Centered Hope”. And I was blessed with the reminder of this message today. I’d like to say that my brain was functioning well enough that I remembered it myself. But alas, this information was in the fuzzy area obscured by pain and lost somewhere in the void. No, when I frantically searched for a piece of paper to write down our latest diagnosis and testing appointments, this conversation guide was closest at hand. Thank you God!

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Colossians 3:1-2New International Version (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.


So, where is my HOPE? Is it centered on the transient things of this world like finances, relationships, and health? Or is it focused on the HOPE in Christ?

Today, I am struggling to remind myself where I need to place my hope. I am struggling to see further than the pain and loss. Today, I am incredibly near sighted. But I’m also incredibly grateful that He is meeting me where I am and occasionally breaking through that haze to remind me that this is not my home, and my hope is not in my hands, but seated at the right hand of God. And He is with me.

For anyone reading who is struggling through the near sightedness of pain and loss, to see further than the grief:


Psalm 119:114  New International Version (NIV)

114 You are my refuge and my shield;
    I have put my hope in your word.

Isaiah 40:31  New International Version (NIV)

31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.



Pray First

I just got an invitation to our church’s second annual “Pray First” breakfast. This time last year I took a look at my prayer life. Yes, I had made significant progress, but, was I praying first?? I wanted to! So often I found myself in the evening, worn down from all of the NEEDS and distractions, and messes. Thankful for the exhausted quiet that permeated the house. And lamenting every poor word choice, missed opportunity with the kids, and things I didn’t accomplish. When I stumbled, exhausted, into our bedroom, listening to Hubby’s rhythmic snores and the static of the baby monitor… I’d finally pray. And because this was the first time today, it took awhile! And because it was the first time today, half of my prayer was confession of every thing I did wrong that day. And begging for help for the next! So, was there room for improvement? Boy Howdy!!

But what does that look like? Realistically? Let me paint you a word picture.

I was blessed with two boys, who since crossing the threshold as squalling, wrinkled infants subscribed to the whole “early bird catches the worm” nonsense. I place the blame for this affliction squarely on Hubby’s broad shoulders. His mother confessed (after we were safely married) that until puberty Hubby also had the bizarre notion to rise with the sun. Now, our amazing daughter and I would happily stumble into our day at a much more reasonable hour, like lunch time.

So,even though I’m routinely woken up by a demanding toddler at the indecent hour of 5 a.m., this does not mean my brain is actually functioning. It goes something like this.

5 – Retrieve toddler, three “favorite” blankies and try to convince him to watch cartoons in my bed and stay quiet. Retrieve waffle. Retrieve milk. Change soggy diaper.

6 – Oldest boy wakes up. Send him to try matching again (also Hubby’s affliction). Sign folder. REMIND. Wash face, with soap. Brush teeth. Try again. Put deodorant on. Help him find socks, that match. Violin. Kindle. Coat. Eat your breakfast!! Out the door! 

7 – Wake up sleepy daughter.Repeat basic procedure minus the matching difficulties and add in time for the four feet of hair. Dress uncooperative toddler. Retrieve a dozen toys he needs to bring with.

8 – Out the door!

8:10 – Send daughter back in for her backpack.

8:15 – Everyone is strapped into their seats!

This is it! I close the passenger door, brain is functioning, I breathe that sigh of relief. If you’re a parent, you know the one. When they’re all buckled in and no one can escape and it’s QUIET!

Before I get in I realize, this is my moment! I stand shivering in the cold, watching my breathe come out in little white wisps of winter air and look at the sun He has given me today. I close my eyes and thank Him for car restraints, for helping me through a morning of chaos in which I’ve done nothing they’ll later pour out on a therapist’s couch, for the opportunity to care for this crazy family He’s given me. And ask for His guidance for the rest of the day, etc. At this point the natives are restless and a squabble is starting. Renewed, I get in the van, explain that Mommy needed a minute with Jesus, and tell them to turn on the Veggie Tales!

A funny thing happens when I “start” my day this way. During the ride to school I’m singing, out loud  (much to their dismay), songs of worship instead of mentally going over my list for the day. I get home and take advantage of Sesame Street and take a shower. But instead of rushing through my routine, to get to my chores, I take the time to put on the armor of God.

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This small amount of scripture, given to me at a Dwelling Place meeting at church, has helped ground me in His Word more mornings than not.

Sporadically throughout the day, when I’m counting backwards from ten for the tenth time, when I open that enormous unexpected medical bill, when I get that phone call, that threatens to send me into waves of anxiety and fear I am slowly remembering to stop and pray first. Do I do this perfectly? Not even close. But when I do, I’m rewarded with the reminder that I am not alone. That this place is not my home. That He will use all of this and make it good! And my thoughts are centered not on myself, but on the One who made me. Thank you Jesus!!

Someday. Someday when these whirlwind mornings become a thing of the past, I will miss it. Someday when I no longer need sheets of paper in my bathroom with life sustaining scripture just to catch a few minutes of His Word, or a broken piece of Alibaster jar in my purse to remind me who I’ve surrendered my whole mess to, or a blue bracelet on to remind me to believe Him, and I pass into that next phase I can’t wait to see how my prayer life grows!

Until then, I will continue to hunger and thirst for every drop of Truth and Love and Light He gives me, in whichever form I need to do it. Standing outside my van, at my bathroom sink, digging through my purse, at my kitchen counter, and be so very thankful that He continues to meet me where I am, as I am.

Do you pray first? And what does that look like for you?