Friday, November 30, 2012

Hidden Gifts

Today marks a year since I started my current prayer journal.  After chasing loose scraps of paper for awhile I decided I needed a more solid (and less easily lost) way of keeping track of what I need to be praying for.  And so over this last year I have written down my requests, I have prayed over them, and I have noted when God answered.  When you are keeping track that way it is astounding to see how God is working--how often He has answered with "YES!"  Truly those answers outnumber the "no" answers and the requests that yet remain unanswered.  It stills me and humbles me.  Those "yes" answers I write a little "PTL" in the margin (that's Christian-speak for PRAISE THE LORD you know). ;o)  But every time in my journal I get to the spot where I was praying about Josh's job interviews last spring, I feel a bit unsettled.  In the last year, that has been my only hard and solid "no."   I  find myself convicted that I did not bestow upon it a "PTL" . . . do I just praise God in the yes times?  Shouldn't I be PTL-ing those no answers as well?  And so today, I've determined to change that.  Praise the Lord when He says no.

I think back to where my heart was a year ago, still reeling from a move I didn't want.  God has grown a contentment in me that I didn't anticipate.  After the initial move, there were several months of trying a variety of churches . . . I was looking for exactly what we had left.  My heart hurt and there was a bitterness lurking deep down .  I knew it wrong to feel that way and yet I struggled.  Why take my kids from all their friends, from their Sunday School classes and Awana program and our homeschool group?  Why take away the Girls of Grace program from the girls and strip me of the areas I had been serving?  Why take away such good things? It was an ache that didn't lessen.  I felt so lonely and left out.

God hasn't replaced those things in the way I had hoped--frankly, that side of our life doesn't look anything like I would like it to, but what He did do is open up space to breathe--big empty canvases of space. It is strange how I've already forgotten how crazy those years of Josh being back in school were--I was rushed and frazzled and often tucking myself into bed around 9:30 each night.  But out here I'm gifted with space, and time, and margin.  I have so much more free time.  He took away places to go and so for five, sometimes six days a week, I am simply home. And Josh is around too! Evenings, weekends, summers . . . we have time to just be a family. With wrestling season upon us and a change in our schedule I get a small taste again of how things used to be . . . I honestly don't know how we survived his crazy back-in-school schedule! 

In a year's time I've learned that five kids can sit through a sermon--even the two year old!  I've learned to grocery shop an hour away from home and how to efficiently pack coolers.  I've learned to be patient--if I have an idea that needs supplies it will either have to wait for the next trip to Kearney or for free two-day Amazon shipping.  The kids have learned to handle lots of driving.  All of these things were so hard to deal with in the beginning.  They overwhelmed me.  But now, it's all okay--we've learned and have grown and are better for it all.
"This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you."
I found that quote a few weeks ago and and my eyes filled with tears.  So many times, I have found myself in a situation I did not want and did not choose. Not only that, if given the choice I would never EVER choose it. But God . . .
He circled this on a map for me.  I went. (Even though inwardly I had to drag myself along).  I have found my heart blessed.  There are gifts here, a narrowed focus, a removal of busyness, a lack of stress.  I think of my Lincoln life, the things there I love, the things that I still miss.  It was good.  I think of my Arapahoe life and how it is different, how it lacks those things I love and yet find that it too is good.  I find myself blessed to find contentment in a place that isn't my first choice, and I think, isn't that just like God?   

My sweet friend Brooke sent me a devotional a few weeks back, and a few days ago I was wildly encouraged by this:

"When we pray, we must be wary that our misunderstanding of providence does not make us faint.  God cannot answer our prayers if they cross his revealed will or secret providence.  Since God makes all things work for good to those called according to his purpose, that which cannot be for our good shall never be given.  The physician knows better than the patient what is good for him, and so in like manner, many things are denied us that would hurt us.  We see fathers keep knives, burning sticks, and such sharp and dangerous things away from their children because they love them and want to keep them from things that would hurt them.  God answers our prayers in his way though we might desire it in our way, 'O', said Naaman, 'Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.' But the Lord will not be tied to means.  Paul's prayer for the ship was answered; they all came safe to land, but some on broken pieces of the ship, and some swimming.  Let God appoint the means, and your deliverance shall be more speedy and comfortable.  God sometimes gives exactly as we ask, but at other times answers in value, though not in kind.  He did not take away Paul's thorn, but he gave sufficient grace instead.  Paul was answered in value.  So many times our prayers are heard when we least think and perceive it, and the good is done to us, as it were, against our will.  Men cry out to the surgeon to take off the plaster that hurts, but holding it there cures us.  God answers far better things that we desired.  When we labour in prayer and do not receive what we asked for, God makes it up better in another way.  Your prayers are not lost, but paid double." (Richard Sibbes from Voices from the Past)

God IS good, all the time, and I'm so thankful I'm walking through this life with Him.  Deep down I think we all have something be it big or small we are wrestling with, and that thing--whatever it may be--is for our good.  The why's of it aren't always easily apparent, and sometimes it is later on, gifted with the seasoned perspective of the passage of time that the puzzle pieces fit together so much better.  I am starting to think of this time out here as my "quiet season."  The gift that followed a crazy season . . . a good and precious gift.


sarah j. said...

love to hear how our Lord is growing you. :)

Anna said...

Ah--this is refreshment to my soul, Janna--and music to my ears! Thanks for the encouragement...I just LOVE hearing what the Lord is doing in someone's life. I've been convicted the last few years of busyness, and the urge to simplify in order to focus on eternally important the end of my life, how few things will really matter. Sending a hug your way! May your Christmas season be quietly perfect. :)

Brooke said...

Girl, you are a writer! So wonderful to see how the Lord grows all of us, it's like a never ending echo. Convicted by your PTL thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell you how much I needed to hear this. I'm a homeschooling mom of 3 in AR and have enjoyed reading about your family for about a year. Precious family! My husband is currently laid off. Second layoff in two years and just last night I lost it. You know the ugly cry and everything that goes with it. Thank you for reminding me that God is on His throne and that He has my family in the palm of His hand. God bless you and your sweet family.

Kathryn said...

And *this*, DEAR friend is why I just keeping lovin' ya all the more!! :) I *LOVE* your heart for the Lord and for His work and for your honesty in going through the ups and downs of life. You bless my soul continually.

and I second Brooke's sentiment---the Lord has given you a way with words!!