Tag Archives: trust

It is well with my soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Do you know that old hymn “It is well with my soul”? It’s one of my favorites. I love everything about it…the responsiveness and harmonies in the chorus, the building melody, and of course the hope and promise in the lyrics. But most of all I love the story behind the song. Horatio Spafford wrote these words while mourning the loss of his four daughters, killed at sea. This tragedy was one of many Spafford suffered, including the death of his only son several years before, and the loss of his business to the Chicago fires. And yet, in his grief and sorrow he was able to say “it is well with my soul.” Oh how I aspire to affirm these words and posses the faithfulness of Mr. Spafford.

Last Sunday our amazing praise band sang this song and by the second line a giant lump had formed in my throat preventing me from doing more than mouth the words. Then the tears began to pool until they flowed over my lashes and down my cheeks. I wept for the beauty of the song. I cried because of the promise of the words. But more than anything, my heart broke because I so desperately wanted to say those words and believe they were true. To trust in my Father so deeply that even when I’m in the middle of a raging storm I can be confident that He will whisper peace to my soul. But the tears came because I knew all that I was lacking.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. Stress, overwhelming responsibility, lack of sleep, lack of focus…lack of faith. I have felt like the “Jordan above me” was sweeping me into its current. And I most definitely have not felt like all is well in my soul.

It is hard to face this part of myself. This part that lacks faith and falls short. That doubts and mistrusts and turns away. That focuses on the unfavorable and overlooks the blessings. That sees adversity without opportunity and cries out “when?” and “why?” instead of “I can wait” and “I put my trust in You.” In the midst of horrible tragedy and loss Horatio Spafford was able to have peace in his soul, but I have a rough week at work or struggle with my kids and I start to fracture.

Patience, trust, faith. These are the things I try to teach my children, they are prayers I lift up for friends who are struggling, encouragement I pass on to colleagues, words I share with all of you who read this blog. Yet so often I forget them for myself.

But our God…He knew I would. He is so good and merciful; He caters for my lack of faith and meets me where I am. The living word says, “…there is one ray of hope:  his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction.  Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.  My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:21-24, TLB).

His loving-kindness begins afresh each day. Can we just sit together a moment to soak up the warmth of that promise?

Lamentations 3:23

He doesn’t just love me; He doesn’t just forgive me. But He is kind and gentle with me. No yelling, no losing His patience, rolling His eyes or sighing heavily and muttering under His breath, “you’d think you would have gotten this figured out by now.” Instead His loving-kindness is there, refreshed and renewed every day. Which means I get a fresh start every day. We all get a fresh start every day.

Every. Single. Day.

Yesterday my soul was weary. My faith wavered.  My trials consumed my thoughts. The river rolled over me and I struggled to keep my head above.

But today? Today is a new day and His gentle, loving kindness is pure and bright and fresh. It glows like a rising sun and I have another chance to bask in its warmth. To let it wash over me and straight into my soul. Another chance to choose trust, patience, and faith instead of doubt, worry and fear. To choose to say: it is well, it is well with my soul.

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Shutting down and shutting out

I shut the door to my son’s room to muffle the sound of his screaming and crying from the other side, promising me he’d be a good listener if I would just please not send him to bed early.

I shut off the light in the kitchen so I wouldn’t have to see the sink full of dirty dishes and the stack of recycling waiting to be taken out.

I shut the lid to my laptop, deciding the 65 unread messages would have to wait another day and the blog post I’d been working on for days would go another night unfinished, unpublished.

I walked into my bedroom and shut the door on the unvacuumed floors, and unfinished science fair projects scattered from one end of the room to the other.

Then I lay on my bed and shut my eyes, wanting to shut out the day, the world.

And I heard a whisper deep within my soul “don’t shut me out, too.”

Here’s the thing: sometimes my day-to-day life feels like too much for me to handle and all I want to do is shut-down and pull the covers over my head. This week was one of those weeks. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of dirty dishes and conference calls. By Wednesday I was too tired to keep my head above water. That was the night I shut my bedroom door and, with tired body and depleted soul, collapsed into bed, hoping to escape from everyone and everything on the other side of that door.

But in those first moments after my head hit the pillow and I started to slip into self-pity, I heard God’s voice: “don’t shut me out, too.” And it was then that I realized I had not let God into my week. I had been so caught up in the long list of “to-do’s” I had failed to invite God into my messy kitchen, or cluttered family room for a visit. I didn’t ask Him to look at my full calendar or flooded inbox and give me guidance. Honestly, I don’t know if it was because I was so caught-up in my own “stuff” that I forgot to seek Him or if it was because a part of me felt like these little daily stresses were not important enough to take to Him. Maybe a little of both. But I can tell you that as soon as I realized what I had done, I felt a bit foolish.

In Isaiah chapter 41 God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand…For I hold you by your right hand—I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41: 10, 13, NLT)

Don’t you just love the imagery of God’s very words to His people? I read these verses and I can just feel Him by my side, wanting to be there and to comfort me.

I feel like I’m drowning in chores and work and parenting demands and God says “I will hold you up.” I feel like I am weak with fatigue and worry and He says “I will strengthen you and help you.” I am lost and unsure what to do next or how to get it all done and He says come, I will “hold you by your right hand” and lead you. I want to shut out the world and pull the covers over my head and He whispers, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

Isaiah 41:13

We are taught in Sunday school that there is nothing too big for God to handle, but we must remember there is nothing too small for Him either. He wants to be invited in to our messy house and our messy life. He wants to sit next to us and have a good long look at that “to-do” list and help us prioritize. He wants to hold our hand and help us take deep breaths when our children are throwing temper-tantrums.

My friends, whatever you are struggling with, whatever has you feeling drained and bested, don’t hide from it behind closed doors. I encourage you to invite God to come along side of you. Because there’s nothing He can’t handle…even dirty dishes.

A New Year’s Prayer

Beloved Father,

Thank you for the many moments of laughter, joy and delight you brought into my life this past year; for time spent with friends, family and all whom I hold dear.

Thank you for the challenges and hardships, the sorrow and loss; for it was in those painful times that I was able to remember how you suffered and died on a cross.

A new year is upon me and I am filled with great hope and anticipation; wanting nothing more than to draw closer to You and be your dearest relation.

As the weeks come to pass, I ask you to give me pause in the moments of happiness and peace, to not rush through my days in a hurry or work without cease.

And during those times of fear and sadness that will inevitably come, I pray I will seek the comfort and strength of your arms and to the enemy’s plots I will not succumb.

While I don’t know what the new year will bring or what the future has laid, I will take comfort in knowing that it will all be part of the plans You hath made.

I praise your name dear Father and put all of my trust in You, for all that is to come in this year anew.

Amen

 

Small moments, Big impact

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “what is my legacy? How am I making a difference in this world?”

I think for some people it’s very clear. Pastors, missionaries, humanitarians and aid workers — these people can see how they are influencing lives and doing God’s work on a daily basis. For the rest of us, it may be hard to look at our lives and know how/if we are leaving a mark. Sometimes the way people touch our lives and impact our spiritual journey is bold and immediate, like a large rock being thrown into a pond, making a huge splash, and maybe even displacing us. But more often I think it is the small interactions, the bits of encouragement or truth that are said in passing, that end up staying with us, like quiet raindrops on the pond, slowly filling us up and over time changing our core substance.

Over the last 15 years I have been a youth group leader, confirmation teacher, Sunday school teacher, and led adult small group Bible studies. I can’t say that in any of those roles I’ve witnessed anything I said or did causing a big splash in someone’s life. But I certainly pray that my words, or perhaps even just my mere presence have contributed drops of hope, encouragement or truth that has stuck with them.

I know there are several instances of these small blessings in my life that have had a lasting impression. They were seemingly insignificant  at the time. Simple conversations or gestures that likely the givers don’t even recall. But they have had a huge impact in my life and stayed with me.

small raindrops

I’ve already written about how my dear friend Mary gave me my very first Michael W. Smith cassette tape when I was 13, which began my 25 year love affair with his music. It might sound silly, but that gift really changed my life. It came at exactly the right time to get me through an incredibly difficult period of life, but more than that, it introduced me to the world of contemporary Christian music and how good music can have a significant impact on the worship experience. I am not much of a musician — despite 7 years of piano lessons I can’t really play anything more difficult than Ode to Joy (the easy version), and the three years I played clarinet I spent as the perpetual third chair — but I know and appreciate good music. I know that it can change the entire worship experience, and can surpass language and cultural barriers to bring people together. I have experienced the Holy Spirit through song. And my most profound worship experiences have been set to music.

Today, I have the pleasure of working with the worship leader at our church to recruit and schedule musicians, evaluate potential songs, and help plan and create additional creative arts elements that go into our services. Despite my inability to sing on-key or play an instrument, I have a way to influence and support the worship experience because of my love and understanding of music, and it all started with that “Go West Young Man” cassette.

When I was 17 and a senior in high school I was eagerly planning for college. After a trip to Appalachian State to interview for some scholarships and tour the campus, I came home and excitedly relayed to some friends all the reasons college was going to be totally awesome! (said in my best 90’s voice) As I told my friend Cara, who was a year younger than I, about the campus and the facilities, she asked,”did you look at any churches while you were down there?”

“Well, no, I didn’t get a chance to do that yet.”

“Don’t you think that is important? That you find a church you can attend while you’re there?” Cara was clearly wise-beyond-her-years. While I had been so caught-up in the campus life, looking at dorm rooms, checking out the football stadium and the coffee shops, I had not once considered looking at churches or finding a Christian student-group.

After that conversation with Cara, I contacted the school about the Christian student groups and ultimately joined the Lutheran Student Association (LSA), which had a HUGE impact on my spiritual formation during those four years. I also found the local Lutheran church to be my home-away-from-home. The pastor and his wife became like family to me, and in 2000 I was married in that church.

I’m sure my friend Cara didn’t know the impact her simple question would have on me, and probably has forgotten it ever happened. But 25 years later it still remains in my thoughts.

The last story I’ll share is more recent. In my 15 year career as a marketer, I’ve had the joy to work with some fantastic managers and mentors, many of whom have become personal friends. When I first started working at my current company I had two managers, one of which was in South Africa. Soon after I started in the new role I got to travel to Johannesburg to meet her, and we spent a good bit of time getting to know one another on that first trip . Ironically, we shared bits about our personal lives that might not have come up so soon if we worked in the same office. Over dinner my second night there the topic turned to our personal beliefs and we found out we were both Christians and our faith was a big part of our lives. This bit of early knowledge, I believe, really shaped our professional relationship and personal friendship because we could be very candid and honest with one another and didn’t worry about crossing any professional boundaries.

I recall one conversation in particular, about 5 years ago, when I was considering going back to school to get my Master’s Degree. I was lamenting to her all the reasons I was afraid to make the commitment. She said to me, “Yes, but God does not want us to have a spirit of fear. We are called to trust in Him.”  Wow! Convicted, this girl right here, thank you very much!

Again, that one statement –that little raindrop — struck me to my core and has stayed with me. Whenever I start to get caught-up in the fear and worry of branching outside of my comfort zone, I remember Jo-Anne’s words and I turn to God to take away my fear and give me strength.

This past weekend at the She Speaks conference, keynote speaker Lysa TerKeurst reminded us that it is not about our words, it is about The Word.

His word.

When we speak the truth to all who come across our path, God will use it to change hearts, encourage the hurting, and create a lasting effect — whether it shows up as a big splash or a tiny drop. I try to remember this and trust God that He will use my words to encourage others and shine a light on the truth.

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear how someone has said or done something in your life that’s had a lasting impact on your spiritual journey. Please share either through the comments section or on my Facebook page.

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” – John 7:18