Jesus is Lord of “What Might Have Been”

I heard this phrase in a sermon last week; “Jesus is Lord of what might have been.”

It couldn’t be a more timely season in my life to hear this statement and to sit in the truth of the many passages that support this claim. I know that Jesus is Lord over all of the “what ifs,” “could of’s,” would ofs,” “should ofs” and “not nows” in my life, but there are times when my sight of this reality is blurry and my practical theology isn’t matching up with my systematic theology. At times, I see in myself a tendency to forget about the comfort, strength, motivation and relief that comes from knowing that Jesus is King over all and that the Lord will glorify Himself no matter what – – even when the “what might have beens” of my life are circling around in my thoughts.

When I was reminded of it this past weekend, I was comforted and relieved.

Gratitude-Changes-Everything-Free-Printable-Gray-GoldI can’t begin to count how many “what might have been” thoughts have crossed my mind in the course of the last four months, let alone this past year. But what I can do is share with you what I’ve realized about my “what might have been” pondering. The Lord reminded me of Proverbs 13:12, which says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” What a difficult realization to confront: my wonderings about what could have been are all too often connected to “deferred hopes” and reveal that my heart is sick and tired and wants things my way.

When I really considered the desires and petitioned prayers I had labeled as “what might have beens” over the last several months, I saw a theme. Although the theme of my thought patterns haven’t been completely lost in an abyss of “woe is me,” because certain things ended up in the “what might have been” pile; I haven’t truly  been resting in the truth that Jesus is Lord of whatever might have been in my life. 

This week I took a serious look at the thoughts that were going through my mind.

I’ve wondered about what might have been in regards to my dreams for helping plant a new church in DC. I’ve wondered about what might have been in some of my friendships that have seen easier seasons. I’ve wondered what might have come from newly discovered connections and sparks with people that seem to have fizzled out. I’ve wondered about what could have developed from a short-lived, whirlwind experience of chemistry and unexpected interactions with a guy who actually got my attention. I’ve thought about what might have been in areas of my career that I haven’t yet had the chance to explore. Let’s be honest, I’ve wondered what might have been had I been as strict as I could be on my nutritional goals.

I could go on, but you know what? I don’t need to because I think you get my point. Amazing epiphanies can happen when one actually pays attention to the topics of their thoughts, their words and the frequency of those two things.

Who seriously wants to live in the negative, Debbie downer zone of “what might have been” rains of thought? I definitely DON’T!

I want to view the desires I had for past situations in my life for what they are: under Jesus’ power and Lordship. I want to fight my natural tendency to analyze everything and choose to wonder about “what might have been” had the Lord not saved me from a life I would have chosen for myself – – but only briefly because wow that’s a dark whole! I want to wonder what might have been had He not been the Shepherd that He is, what might have been had He not called me His child or had He not provided a way for me to be reconciled to Him in Christ?

I want to wonder about the “what might have beens” of my life in this way so that I am encouraged and motivated to walk in a manner worthy of His calling (Eph. 4:1). It’s freeing to know that by the power of the Holy Spirit I can truly identify the ways in my life that the Lord has been making the desires of my heart in tune with His will, but not allowing the “what might have been” hopes of my heart and it’s limited scope of what I need! From this perspective, my hopes and desires will come true and the Lord will show Himself to be that tree of life described in Proverbs 13:12.

I’m grateful that the Jesus is Lord over everything single “what might have been” in my life and I am grateful He knows better than I do about what hopes, dreams and desires of my heart should inevitably fall under that category. He knows what’s best for me and calls me to trust Him in that.

Everything else pales in comparison.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Processing the Last Year in Light of Psalms 23 & 24

A few weeks ago I heard a sermon on Psalms 23 and 24 and I can’t stop thinking about the implications of these two passages. Don’t you just love when that happens?

I’ve been planning to post a blog about Psalm 23 in particular, and when I went to write it I realized it was almost July 14th, so I decided to wait and combine my posts. Some of you may not realize the significance of this date, but exactly a year ago today three friends and I set out on our cross country adventure from SoCal to DC. I won’t go into the details of that trip here or about why I uprooted my life to move back across the country (after moving from Boston to SoCal six years earlier), but you can read about it in this post where I announce my big move news. And for fun, you can read about how I was feeling three weeks before the move and one week before the move.

But, back to the blog at hand :); we all know I ramble.

change-quotesAs I thought about the truths in Psalms 23 & 24 and realized it’s been a year since I left California, the two thoughts collided; the aftermath of which was beautifully enlightening and deeply comforting.

Psalm 23 describes the Lord as a Shepherd. This psalm is often a passage that’s read at funerals or used for comfort in troubling times, but my recent studies have reminded me of the rich truths and encouragement it offers for all seasons of life. As one of His sheep, the Lord leads me, never leaves me, always knows what I need and in what season I need it.

Psalm 24 declares the Lord as the King of Glory. Not only is He near to His children, but He is King over all and will be glorified no matter what. He is all powerful, mighty in battle, all knowing, and He is the one who established the earth and all of its inhabitants. Nothing in my life is out of His control and He is the author of my salvation.

When I think about the last year of my life, I am immensely comforted by these two Psalms. When I think about the events and realities of the last four months I find great hope and rest in these two passages. Not only have I experienced all four seasons that DC has to offer in the last year, but I’ve walked through several seasons of my life and relationship with the Lord in the last year.

I’m grateful to be on the other side of this past year, reflecting on all that’s happened and all I have learned.  

This last year has been full of amazing and heart breaking experiences, challenging, eye-opening and inspiring circumstances, uncertainties, confirmations and HOPE.

It’s been a year consisting of more changes and transitions than I could have ever anticipated or expected. It’s been a year full of developments that have challenged my trust in the Lord, my perspective of friendship, my ideals and desires to one day have a significant other, my thoughts on celebrating and suffering well with others and so many more of my ideals.

It’s been a year that has revealed my expectations for church life (both preferential and biblical), my desires toward ministry, toward service and how the Lord would use me within the body and His kingdom. It’s been a year that has stretched my comfort zones in more ways than I could explain here and a year that has solidified desires I have toward my career and personal life a like.

It’s been a year that has resulted in new and changed relationships from near and far. I’ve seen friendships grow in spite of distance and friendships strengthen regardless of proximity or circumstance. This past year has been one that’s resulted in glimpses of “what could have been” and “never would be,” to lessons in “what may still be,” “what is worth the wait,” “what’s worth the sacrifice and heartache,” and “what doesn’t really matter in the end.”

This has been my reality since last July.

But as I ponder the last twelve months, I find myself being most thankful for the fact that it’s also been a year that has expanded my understanding of the Lord and His word, my worth in Him, my purpose in Him and my desires to trust Him through every season still.

Psalm 23 reminds me that the Lord has my best interest in mind. He makes me rest when I need it, He leads me through dark seasons of life when I can’t see, He sits me by still waters when I am in need of refreshment, and He comforts me with His rod and staff by preventing me from making unwise decisions or drawing me back to the fold when I’ve wandered too far.  He’s been faithful this past year and all the years of my life, and will continue to be!

Psalm 24 reminds me that my God is in control and no matter what happens He is still the King and will be glorified. No “unexpected” changes in my life are outside of His power or knowledge and all things will work together for His glory and my good. He will win the battle, He has made a way in Christ and I am blessed in Him because I belong to Him.

In light of everything I can wholeheartedly say that it’s been a wonderful year; through the tears, the fears, the smiles and the laughs I can say “thank you, Lord!”

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely in a Crowded Life

My blog topics thus far haven’t been too heavy, but today that’s not the case. The reality is that there are times in life where the air and circumstances are heavy; so much so that the weight seems unbearable. This week alone I’ve heard of some heart breaking things in the lives of people I love and in the lives of others I don’t personally know  – I just want to wrap my arms around them and say:

“You’re not alone in this. Please let me walk in this mess with you.”

Loneliness. Even typing the word is somewhat depressing.

Hearing about the struggles of others has forced me to step back and take a public look at my own battle with the dreaded state of loneliness. It may come as a shock (or not) to some of you who know me, but it is true that even a “social butterfly” like me has faced depression and loneliness head-on. In fact, I still battle to keep my thoughts and actions in check all too often.

Loneliness comes in many different forms, can be brought on by seemingly insignificant situations and reveals so many different things about our hearts. For example, I’ve felt completely alone in the middle of a crowded room with loved ones and I’ve also felt lonely as a single woman who desires to be in a relationship one day. I’ve experienced this feeling in times of great success with my career and in times of great emotional turmoil and loss that’s being shared with others around me. In a sea of hugs and great times I’ve felt completely alone, and in a desert of meaningful relationships and community I’ve experienced a deep sense of being forgotten, misunderstood and/or lost.

As you can see, my relationship with feeling lonely has been exasperated in different seasons of life – yet not all of which were “bad” seasons.

Speaking of seasons, I enjoy everything about them. The delight of a new season coming in with each new weather cycle makes my heart leap with excitement. There is just something about the “new beginning” aspect of the change in seasons that motivates me to re-energize. Needless to say, I do not appreciate when some seasons “over stay their welcome” and last way too long for my liking.

Summer in SoCal does this a lot. In fact, Summer is my least favorite of all four seasons. There were times when I felt like I lived in an endless summer during my six years in California.

But even Summer has it’s purpose and pleasant associations; though for an Autumn and Winter enthusiast like me, these things are difficult to identify. It’s been the same way in my seasons of loneliness and depression. However, once that moment of realization occurs I’m overwhelmed by the beauty that can shine through even the darkest and lowest depths of despair.

“Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God and offering it back to him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself” (Elizabeth Elliot).

The beauty I’m talking about is the working of the Lord through His Spirit and His Word. In the moments of questioning, in the moments of feeling overwhelmed by isolation, and in the moments of pain the Lord hasn’t been absent – my God has been there through it all and will always be there. This is a wonderful truth and I love the feeling of the Lord wrapping His loving arms around me and saying “I’m not going anywhere.” But I’ll admit that there are moments in my walk when this fact is not as clear to me and that this statement is “easier said then realized and embraced.”

IMG_7594It has been in those “dry” and “desperate” times that I’ve heard the Lord the loudest through others. He always has a plan and has brought “company” across my lonely path (even if it seemed like it took forever on my time table) in His perfect timing. Sometimes these individuals don’t even know how radically their words or actions were used by the Lord, but what mattered most in those moments was the truth the Lord revealed to me about my heart before Him, about my current valley, about my current emotional state and about where He was calling me to go forward from there.

My goal in this post is to emphasize with anyone who is going through the pain of loneliness (because I’ve been there; and recently!) and also to offer some hope through the encouraging words of others on the topic. Sometimes going through this valley is a lot like driving through Kansas – it feels like it will never end!  But it can end and there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you’re willing to see it.

If you take anything from my post please remember this: You are NOT alone in your loneliness. The Lord can use it and it can be a purposeful, though horribly difficult and exhausting, season of life. Don’t run from it, but by all means don’t hide from others as you face it.

“And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies, and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good.”(C.S. Lewis)

I mean this from the bottom of my heart, if you need a friend I’ll be there. You can contact me via email (ablogseyeview@gmail.com) and I will answer – even if I don’t know you. That is how important it is to me that you no longer feel alone in this tricky battle.

Below I’ve included links to a sermon series (from The Village Church of course) that I found encouraging. Below that are some verses that serve as necessary reminders in the midst of a very real struggle that all humans face.

Links to “Only the Lonely” Sermon Series: *
The Pain of Loneliness
The Joy of the Hiding Place
The Jewel of the Wilderness
The Hope of the Exile

*you can get the MP3 or for you readers, they have the transcript available.

Encouraging Verses: *

I Corinthians 10:13 -14 | Psalm 119:143
Hebrews 13:5-6  |  Romans 8:31-37  |  Psalm 16:11
Psalm 1:1-3  |  Matthew 11:28  |  Psalm 46:10
Psalm 55:22 | Hebrews 2:1-18 | Philippians 4: 4-9

*These verses/passages are worth the read and I encourage you to take the time to meditate on them this week. They are only a fraction of  what God’s Word has to say about loneliness. 

Thoughts on Giving & Meeting Needs

Yesterday my friend Corrine and I had the privilege of writing thank you notes to the people who donated to help her and her husband pay their medical bills (you can see more about that here). It was a great way to reflect on how the Lord provided for their needs through the donations and generosity of others. As Corrine, myself and my roomie were talking about the concept of giving and meeting the needs of others, we started discussing the series our pastors are doing at our church.

As I thought about the concepts we were discussing, this thought came to mind:

Giving shouldn’t be a matter of “should I,” “how much” or “when to,” but rather a matter of “what or who to give to.”

This thought doesn’t just apply to giving money, but to time, emotions and talents as well. The Bible calls believers to give sacrificially and to give when the need comes up, not when it’s convenient for us. Whenever an opportunity comes up to give the Lord often brings to mind Proverbs 3:27-28; “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.”

I have to admit there are times when opportunities are presented and I miss them; sadly sometimes due to my selfishness and unwillingness to do good when I have the means to do so. When I think about selfishness and self preservation I realize that, at their core, they truly reveal a serious lack of trust in the Lord. So it wasn’t surprising to realize that the same chapter where the verses above can be found are the often quoted Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

These verses are life verses for me and I can recall many times when they’ve been dear friends to me in great times of despair. They have also been reminders to continue to look to the Lord in times of great blessings. And of course they have been exhortations in times of learning and growth. I just love how the Lord reveals new layers and truths through His Word over time and in different seasons of our lives!

Which brings me back to our  current sermon series, “The Practice of Giving.” I must say that I am BEYOND grateful for how our pastors have approached this topic. The topic of money is always a tough one to cover, but the topic of how to be kingdom minded with our money is another battle entirely. I’m proud of my pastors for how they’ve discussed these issues in their sermons and I’ve been challenged in many ways.

I’ve been challenged to approach this concept of giving from all angles, not just from the perspective of money. I’m challenged to ask myself how I’m giving of my time in prayer for others, in service to others and in making myself available to meet needs that come up. I’m challenged to ask myself if I’m missing any opportunities to meet needs around me because I’m so consumed with myself, with materialism, with “my time” and/or my “to do list.” And of course many of the opportunities that come up will be to help meet financial needs, so I’m challenged to ask myself if I’m trusting the Lord to provide when He presents an opportunity for giving financially -it’s His money any way!

Lastly, the Lord continues to challenge me to trust Him to provide for my current needs with moving to DC. As the date gets closer He’s revealing that these needs aren’t just financial, though it would be easy to be consumed with that aspect of it. There are needs of prayer, needs of physical help with moving, needs of encouraging words and even needs of  farewell hugs.

So often we think that the word “giving” only refers to financial giving, especially when mentioned in a church setting, but that’s not always the case. Giving means acknowledging the Lord in all we do and trusting Him to make our paths straight. Giving means trusting the Lord in all areas of life; whether that’s seeking Him to answer the question of “where or who to” to give to or surrendering our own needs to Him and trusting Him to provide above all that we could ask or think of.

I know it will continue to be a long road of progressive sanctification, but my prayer for you and I is that the Lord would create in us hearts that desire to give and surrender to Him in every way that He calls us to.

Video

Any and All of Our Afflictions Are Meaningful

I’ve got a 15 minute break and what better way to spend it than to share some encouragement with anyone who reads my blog :). I felt a little defeated earlier this week and a friend of mine shared this song by Shane and Shane with me. The lyrics are really amazing and speak truth; not to mention they’ve coupled the song with a great excerpt from a John Piper message. He hits the nail on the head when he says that our afflictions are not only light in weight in comparison to what Christ suffered for the glory of the Lord and in light of eternity, but our afflictions are meaningful in the Lord’s eyes. I was blown away when he put into perspective that the Lord cares about any and all of our afflictions for the purposes of growing us in Him; Piper says “…all of it is totally meaningful. …every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness – it wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something…”

Just listen and watch. It took me less than 15 minutes to share this with you and it will take you less than that to listen. It’s a necessary reminder that I need to preach to myself every single day.

My First DC Update – Traveling, First Impressions, Anticipations, Vision Casting & More!

So this is my first official post from Washington DC and it feels great. Though I don’t officially live here yet, it feels like home already. I can already imagine myself becoming a Metro regular, learning the back roads to places that will become my favorite getaway spots, and wearing out the soles of my shoes while exploring the hidden treasures I don’t even know exist yet!

Here are a few selfie glimpses of the excitement I’ve experienced so far:

IMG_5811 IMG_5810

(Clearly I’m in a silly mood. Clearly Emilie and I are both oozing with excitement here while waiting for our plane to board.)

There is something so intriguing and satisfying about the history surrounding me as I sit in this adorable coffee shop in Arlington, VA. Needless to say I was inspired to post a blog and share about this journey to DC. Our trip has been great so far (all 24 hours of it) and here are a few things I’ve learned already:

  • Southwest is one of my favorite airlines – Free checked bags, pleasant flight attendants and overall an enjoyable experience for travelers like myself.
  • Reading remains one of my favorite past times – Having a busy life makes it difficult to carve out 5 hours of quality reading time. BUT yesterday that’s just what I did; got lost in a good book! It was absolutely delightful and before I knew it I was on chapter 19 of Insurgent and the captains was saying we would be landing soon.
  • SuperShuttle from IAD (Dulles Airport) offer reasonable rates – We needed a ride from the airport (about 30 miles away from our hotel) and Super Shuttle was a great option.  We received quick service, a comfy van to rest in for the ride and it ended up being less than $40 for the two of us. It was VERY convenient for a late night flight.
  • Priceline has some great deals – Steven, the pastor of our new church plant, found a great deal for us on Priceline. Our hotel is beautifully decorated, in a perfect location and overall I’ve been very impressed.
  • Goody’s has HUGE slices of pizza – After getting settled into our hotel room at 12 am EST we realized how hungry we were from a day of traveling.  So of course we ordered pizza after checking out reviews on Yelp for this popular, late night pizza place. It was tasty, it was VERY LARGE, it will last us the entire trip and overall it was good. They did take a little longer than I had hoped to deliver it, but in the end it worked out.
  • Living in a city with a Metro again is going to be fantastic – The thing is, I’ve REALLY missed having easy access to public transportation. It saves gas, and it saves on being stuck in traffic or going around in circles because of the many one way streets around here.
  • Sky is the limit with touring options in DC – We’re about to set out on a little exploration of Arlington Cemetery, Georgetown (can’t wait to do all of these fun things I found here by Rachel Cooper), and whatever else we find! I’ve missed living in a city environment and also living so close to historical and architectural wonders that are so close and within driving distance.
  • I’m a city girl at heart and always will be – I say this a lot, so this isn’t a new revelation. But being here right now reminds me and rekindles in my soul a longing for the person God created in me: a woman who loves fast pace, city life and also loves the varying cultures and lifestyles that comes along with it. I anticipate meeting a mixed group of people on this trip and when I move here and all I can say is “LET THE RELATIONSHIP BUILDING BEGIN!”

Parking Spot Pursual

There is something amazing and beautiful about someone knowing you so well that the the mere hint of them thinking a thought toward you makes your heart skip a beat. That moment when you get a glimpse of them planning a surprise for you or you start to get a sense of something happening just because they wanted to express how much you mean to them – that moment when your heart smiles. When someone knows you so well that they spoil you in ways that would be considered insignificant to others. This is the kind of relational knowledge that we all desire to have with others because we all desire to be known and to be thought of in an endearing way at one point or another.

All of that to say, I absolutely love how the Lord pursues me. His pursuit of my heart is revealed in the simplest of things. He pursues me in ways that are seemingly meaningless to others, but He knows how to get this woman’s attention. He knows me so well and He knows just how to communicate that He sees me, that He loves me and that He has my life in His hands.

I mean who doesn’t love when they recognize that someone has been eye searching a room for them? Everyone loves to be seen, to be known, to be pursued for a closer relationship and to be acknowledged as special in ways that only you and that other person would be able to share and truly appreciate. Being pursued in this way by a friend, by a romantic interest and even by a family member, is a thing to be cherished and is often taken for granted.

I take the Lord’s pursuit of my heart for granted all too often.

Thankfully He knows exactly How to communicate with me and how to get my attention – all just to say “I love you and you are Mine.” The best part is that He can make even a parking spot a metaphorical glance across that room or a whispered “just because I love you and thought of you” gift left at your front door.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I appreciate practical gifts and gestures, I mean they are my favorite. So when the Lord frequently provides a close parking spot for me when I come home late, well I just can’t help but grin from ear-to-ear and say “thank you, Lord.” Yes, it’s just a parking spot and it is kind of a ridiculous thing to write a blog post about. But it’s not just a parking spot to me and God and I like it that way.

It’s His love note to me on those nights when I come home after a long day and need to be reminded that the small blessings in life can sometimes have the biggest impact on our large anxieties. It’s His “you did it” hug on days when it was a great day and I feel like so much was accomplished. And it’s His “hey I am thinking of you, let’s hangout soon” text when I’ve been busy and haven’t looked in His direction long enough to respond to His expressions of love toward me. It’s even His necessary rebuke in moments when I’m complaining to Him about circumstances of the day or in this life; He will just say “hey, you have much to be thankful for and here’s a small reminder to get you to ponder all of the times I’ve communicated my love, my thoughts and my plans for you throughout this day alone – not to mention this week, this month, this year and throughout your life in general. I love you and I won’t leave you wondering if that’s true.”

Maybe for you it isn’t a parking spot or a common need being met, but it’s something. I would encourage you to pinpoint what gets your attention. Begin asking the Lord to help you see how He is pursuing you every single day. He is faithful and will always pursue His children.

“For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” – Psalm 33:4