A Call to Discipline

I originally wrote this the day after Thanksgiving, 2016.

One conclusion I’ve come to – or one revelation I’ve received – is that my discipline is sorely lacking.  The only things I’ve ever been good at doing consistently are: nothing, watching TV, eating, and sleeping.  And most recently, playing on my iPad/iPhone, checking Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.  RIDICULOUS!

And the thing is:  I could easily see this as a continuing trend.  I have no trouble seeing that at all, as a matter of fact.

For example, this blog.  When I started it, I did a good job for a while. Then, I got out of the habit.  The same with exercise and keeping a healthy diet.  Every journal I’ve ever started has gone the same way as the blog, the exercise and the diet.  The closest I’ve ever come to being consistent about doing something every day is taking my vitamins and supplements, and even those I skip a day or two at a time.

Then there’s Bible study, quiet time, reading, writing, etc.

I could go on and on but, I’m not going to beat myself up over it.  It’s just a point that needs to be made.

I’m 42 years old and I’ve pretty much balked at the establishment of a routine in my own life.  I know I do better when I have at least some sort of routine – a certain amount of discipline – and yet……

That is why I have challenged myself to practice this little bit of discipline.

My one discipline for the mornings is to spend time DAILY in the Bible, and I already have a plan laid out.  I do not have an agenda or any kind of ulterior motive except to get some discipline in my life, and to get to know the Bible and my Heavenly Father (Abba).  These are my “baby steps”.

I’ve typically only gone to the Lord, or my Bible, whenever I’ve needed something or felt desperate.  Most of my life, I’ve tried to handle my junk myself so as not to bother God too much.  Truth be told, I’d rather not have to need God (or anyone else) at all.  Add to this the fact that God also goes by the name Abba Father, and things get particularly complicated for me since I received some wounds from my biological father during some pivotal years in my life.  Thus, I’ve spend a lot of years relegating God to the periphery of my life while playing the “good church girl” who does and says all the right things so as not to rock the boat so much that He might bail on me.

I wanted to be the conductor of my own train while appearing to allow God to do it. As I matured, I began to turn over more and more control, but I still tended to run in and snatch back the wheel whenever things started getting bumpy or rocky.

After several years of marriage, my issues with men (stemming from some unfortunate encounters early on in my life) had been mostly massaged out by the faithful and honest love of my husband. I found I had reached a point in my walk with him AND the Lord, that I could trust my man when he said he felt like he had received direction from the Lord.  So, I would trust the Lord’s conducting of my husband’s train, believing, at least in part, that it was all the same train.

And it was.  But….it was not.  All at the same time.  And since the metaphor starts to get a little messy here, I’m going to leave off by saying:  I learned the hard way that trusting the Lord through my husband is not the same as trusting the Lord for myself.

A thought occurred to me as I wrote that last sentence that I’m going to call Divine Inspiration:  Exactly how did I get to the place in my marriage where this girl who had had such terrible experiences with men could be a married woman of 20+ years able to trust her husband’s guidance so fully that she would walk through fire with him, and then continue to walk through it (OKAY, stumble through it) without him after it became clear that the Lord was not going to answer her/their prayers the way she hoped?

That answer was easy.  I have gotten to know my husband.  We’ve spent years together.  Not every day of our 23 years, but more than not.  I know his intentions toward me.  I know his heart toward me.  I believe him when he says he loves me and cares for me and wants to provide for me.  I believe he will not do anything to jeopardize our relationship.  It’s been a long, and sometimes hard, road getting there, but I’m there.  And I got there – WE got there – by putting in the time.  Something I’ve not been quite so good at doing in my walk with the Lord.

I’ve had 23 years with my husband.  But I’ve been calling myself a Christian since I was 8 and, now, I’m 42 years old.  I’ve been calling myself a Christian since BEFORE any of my issues with men ever began.  Yet, here I am, having still quite a bit of book knowledge but not nearly enough heart knowledge about someone I’ve been in a “relationship” with for more of my life than almost anyone else I know.

So…I’m going to take some time this year getting to know Lord, getting to know Abba Father.  Surely, He’s worth at least a year of my dedicated time.

(BY THE WAY:  as I write this, the date is 12/14/16.  In case I needed any further confirmation that discipline is something that I need to be working on, my Sunday school teacher, offered a lesson on spiritual resolutions that he is going to challenge us to adopt for 2017.  They all revolve around disciplining ourselves to be more diligent students of the Bible and spending more time with the Lord in our private lives.)

Long time, no see :(

WOW!  It’s been a LONG time!  I feel like I should apologize for not posting so long but I know that’s just performance-based anxiety-guilt talking, so I won’t.  I also won’t make any lame excuses about time having gotten away from me.

Truth be told, when I started this blog, it was in a desperate attempt to bring something of value to God and to be thought something special enough to have some very desperate prayers answered.  He did answer those prayers and, immediately upon receiving my answers, my life entered a surreal tailspin.  WHY?  Well, the short answer is because God did not answer the way I wanted Him to.  He didn’t even answer the way He typically had for most of my life up until that point.

What I began to realize – with the Lord’s help – was that I had been under a pseudo-assumption that God and I had entered into a type of contract.  I say “pseudo” because, had you asked me if I believed that, I would’ve said NO.  Because, of course, that is absurd.  God wants it all, or nothing at all.  There is no contract.  No deal.  No negotiations.  No bargaining.  But prior to that one fateful day in March 2013, my life had pretty much resembled a contract.  To my mind, at least.

I did my part.  I was the obedient, good little, Bible-study-attending, never-miss-a-Sunday-or-Wednesday-service, church girl.  And God did His part and delivered me SWIFTLY – as promised – from ALL my troubles.

It was a pretty sweet deal.  Until it wasn’t.

Because, one day, He said NO.  And that no led to another no.  And that no led to another no.  Until the “no’s” were piled so deep I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever hear a “yes” again.

And just when I felt like I couldn’t possibly hear another “no,” Rejection came.  Well-meaning, good hearted, people thinking they were helping (to shake me loose from an obviously-self-imposed rut; who thought I was somehow guilty of the sins of pride and sloth; or that  I was refusing to help myself by not stepping out in faith, by trusting God) dropped my hand.

I suppose they felt like they were the only ones walking the path we were on and they were tired of carrying me or dragging my dead weight.  I don’t know exactly.

All I know is what I was told:  we simply do not have the grace to serve you and your family anymore.

BOOM!  Another no!  Only this time it came from Job’s friends and was paired with exhortations to get on with my repenting because surely I was sinning.

The damage was more than I could bear.  AND, I was mad!  My friends had hurt me and God had let them, and I couldn’t make anyone believe that the way there saw things was not how they really were.  How could I continue to attend a church where a small – but very important – group of people (people who had walked with us from the beginning but now had not grace left to extend) would now turn their backs on me?

Did I put more trust in them than I had placed in God?  The answer was obvious, given how devastated I was over something I had been certain for two years was inevitable.

People will always fail me.  And God will let it happen whenever I start to trust in men more than I trust in Him.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn many times and, sometimes, very painfully.  And still, my first instinct is to ALWAYS try to figure things out.

It is with that in mind that I have chosen this year’s course of study.I am choosing to focus on Abba Father this year.  What He says about me.  What the Bible says about Him.  His promises to me.  And how His Love for me is based on His Goodness and not on my ability to do enough good often enough to feel worthy of that Love.

The plan I had before (the plan I had when I started) was all about me bringing something to God, hoping He’d love me.  This plan – which I’ve prayed over since before Thanksgiving – has its roots in The Father, and not in my own pride.  My goal is to draw near to God so that He will draw near to me.

I’m going to be blogging my S.O.A.P. notes for each scripture.  I will also Instagram a shot of each page (if you prefer to follow me there: @pattyh29).  I will be using the hashtags #gettingtoknowthefather and #iknowabbalovesme.

I would love for you to follow along with me and let me know your thoughts.  BUT, I’ll be here, even if you don’t.  Loving My Father and Letting the Father love me.

Blessings,  Patty

Humbled, and not loving it so much!

Please forgive my absence for the last few weeks.  Packing and moving an entire house, and trying to figure out what’s going into storage, what’s being taken with us, and what’s being donated is a little time consuming.  Now I’m still unpacking, but fortunately I can take my time with that some.

But now, I’ve got a new post for you.

I was having a particularly rough week emotionally last week.   So, I knew going into church, I was going to be weepy.  Our Pastor also started a new sermon series, bound to last 11-12 weeks or so, based solely on Hebrews 11.  He has entitled the series “Fearless Faith.”  Seriously, I’ve begun to wonder if he’s been crawling around inside my head.  My husband’s been gone a month and it seems like everything this man has preached, in whole or in part, has been aimed straight at me.  Sometimes, I can’t even look him in the face when he looks my direction, I’m so convicted.

That being said, it’s a humbling thing to be made to see that I’ve been a Christian for nearly 30 years and have NEVER really relied on God.  Or had to.

I’ve prayed.

I’ve tried to be a good girl.

And even though a part of me believes that Christians are more effective witnesses when they’ve not been rescued from every hardship, I’ve lived most of my last 38 years being spared a lot of trials.  In fact, the only hardship I’ve ever been through in which I was not directly involved was my parents’ divorce.  At the time, it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.  As for who I relied on then…well…I was in 8th grade, so my momma met all my needs.  She, and food stamps.  And we only used those for the summer, until she remarried.

Most of my other issues have been somewhat self-induced, or I knew they were coming.  As a result, painful as the consequences were, I knew I had coming to me what I received.  So, I just grit my teeth and ride it out.  No need to consult God on those matters because, in my view, (1) the consequences of my actions were the answers to my prayer, and (2) isn’t asking God to deliver you from circumstances you placed yourself into a bit like cheating?

Rabbit and I have also been through some stuff:  deployments, unaccompanied tours, relationship struggles.  But again, I didn’t have to really trust God.  Rabbit and I communicate well, so (1) we always worked out our issues, or else (2) I had Rabbit and/or his paycheck/benefits, etc.

All of our marriage, Rabbit has been a FANTASTIC  provider.  ALWAYS!  Maybe too good.  He’s been a great friend, a counselor, my voice of reason, my balance, and a defender of the weak (and this would include his accuser).

And at the very beginning of this whole mess – even knowing the case was a 50/50, he said/she said thing I told Rabbit:

“Don’t you dare take a plea.  I do not want you to say you did something you didn’t do.     Especially this.”

I said this fully aware of what it would mean for me and the kids if things did not go the way I hoped.  But even so, I never believed it would come to THIS.  I never believed God would allow something so unspeakable when the accusation was a lie.

I mean, God is just and merciful.  Right?  God is love and love rejoices in the truth.  Right?  And where could the justice be in allowing a 9-year-old to grow up without his father on the basis of a LIE?  There is no way God would do that to…ME.

YET, HERE WE ARE.

You might think the first thing God would show a woman in my position would be just how much He loves me and wants to provide for me.  You might think that scriptures about His providing for the widowed and orphaned would be comforting me.  While those are nice, that is not where God chose to start.

So, what was the first thing God chose to reveal to me?

The other day I was reading in Philippians about not worrying about anything, about bringing my requests to God, with thanksgiving.  He revealed to me that I was not being very grateful.

You wanna know what my response was?

THANKFUL FOR WHAT?

Yeah, You’ve been providing.  No, I’ve not needed anything since Rabbit went to jail       that You have not provided.  But really, if You hadn’t let my husband go to jail, I wouldn’t need any of this stuff.  I wouldn’t have to be thanking You for all of this stuff because I’d have had my husband.  All of this stuff You are providing, Rabbit was providing quite nicely.  Yes, you are providing.  The kids and I have a place to stay.  We have food to eat and a roof over our heads, and I don’t have to worry about a job right now, but I had all that stuff with Rabbit too.  And the kids had their father.  And there was one less person in the world who would have been allowed to get away with a lie.  I had everything I needed, and You let him be convicted BASED ON A LIE!

THAT was my response.

And you know what that showed me?

Not only have I never been in the position of needing God’s provision for anything – other than entrance into Heaven – (Yes, I know how ludicrous that sounds to any Christian reading this) I really just don’t want to need His Provision.  For anything.  Other than Heaven, that is.

I did not want Rabbit to go to jail for many reasons but one that I would’ve never had to see or admit UNLESS HE WENT was :

I didn’t want to have to trust God to provide for me.

Rabbit was doing a fine enough job.

Thank you very much.

I’ve walked a long way on this Christian path I’m on saying one of two things:  (1) I want Your Will to be done in my life, or (2) I want to want that.

I can’t really say I was lying when I said those things, but I know I had NO IDEA the lengths to which God would go in answering those prayers.

I also know that, two years ago, you could not have convinced me I had that much pride and self-sufficiency built up inside me.

You know that scripture in Proverbs about God knowing the motives of your heart (Proverbs 16:2)?

ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!!

How about that scripture about God resisting the proud (James 4:6)?

YEAH, THAT ONE’S TRUE TOO!

I have known for a long time that God will bring into the light those things that are done in the dark and in secret.  It just never occurred to me that some of those things that needed to be exposed were hiding in my heart.

One last thing and then I will close.  Remember the Psalm in which David prays: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).  Be aware that if and/or when you pray that, God takes it seriously.  Be aware, too, that you may well be shown things that surprise or shock you because you were unaware that they were there.  You are likely to find the truth of Jeremiah 17:9:

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?” (New Living Translation)

 

A Happy Easter Message from my Man! Enjoy because God is Good!!

MAIL CALL! MAIL CALL! GUESS WHO GOT ANOTHER LETTER TODAY!! This time Rabbit wrote something he wanted me to share with everyone. Please enjoy.

The Cross

People watch as I stare at a blank wall or look up to the sky and ask me, “Why do you not worship the cross?” I explain as simply as I can: “I do not follow a cross, that is simply a symbol to remind me!”

I follow a man that was strong enough to continue on, even when people beat him, shred his skin, and broke his bones. He was strong enough to continue when they spit on Him and called Him names, even strong enough to endure being nailed to a cross to be displayed without clothes or mercy. He even stayed strong when they pierced his side with a spear. Why? He did it for me!

I follow a King that was humble enough to eat with prostitutes, the sick, the poor, and even the hated. He was humble enough to get on His hands and knees to wash His servants feet. Yet, He still never once forgot the importance of a child’s love. He was so humble that He announced His coming glory from atop a donkey’s colt. Why? He did it to show His love for me!

I follow a God that was meek enough to come to earth as a man. He was meek enough to allow the one who would betray Him, not only to live, but to succeed in his vile plans, even though He knew about it all before any of it took place. He was meek enough to allow Himself to be tortured and crucified, even though He had command of 10,000 angels. Why? He did this to pay for my mistakes and sins, even though He had none of his own.

You see, I do not follow a cross; I follow a man, who was a King, who was God! His name is Jesus and He died and rose again for me and for you! The cross is to remind, not to be worshiped. Thank You God!

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE! Remember, we serve a risen Savior!

Waiting on the Lord

So, back near the first of the year, my husband bought a devotional – Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (a 365 day devotional by Sarah Young) he was reading everyday.  Everyday, it seemed what he was reading was meeting him right where he was.  It was amazing!

Since he’s been gone and since I am not allowed to send him anything other than letters, I have made it my mission to write out the daily devotions in addition to the letters I send him.  My original intention was just to afford him the opportunity to be able to continue reading the devotions he had begun before he left.  Of course, what started as an attempt to keep my husband immersed in the word, has turned into something that has been blessing me and meeting me right where I am.  No lie, it’s almost like the devotions he was reading were just what he needed when he needed them, but now that I’m the one reading them, it’s like they were intended for me, right where I am now.

Isn’t God good?!

Because of packing, I had missed a couple of days (because I got busy before I got before God) so I didn’t read Tuesday’s devotion until today.  The devotion for March 26th talks about waiting on the Lord.   Take a look:

WAITING ON ME means directing your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do.  It entails trusting Me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure out things for yourself.  Waiting on Me is the way I designed you to live:  all day, everyday.  I created you to stay conscious of Me as you go about your daily duties.

I have promised many blessings to those who wait on Me: renewed strength, living above one’s circumstances, resurgence of hope, awareness of My continual Presence.  Waiting on Me enables you to glorify Me by living in deep dependence on me, ready to do My will.  It also helps you to enjoy Me; in My Presence is fullness of Joy.

The scripture references listed for this day’s devotional are:

Lamentations 3:24-26 – I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 – Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Psalm 16:11 – You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Why do I share this?  Well, for the last 2 years, I have wondered:  “What does it mean to wait on God anyway?”  What does the verse in Isaiah mean when it says I will mount up with wings as eagles, that I will run and not grow weary, that I will walk and not faint?  I had been waiting on God for 2 years.  I hadn’t sprouted wings yet, and I had been plenty tired – though I hadn’t fainted.  All I was wondering was when God was just going to end all this garbage.

Apparently, I had been missing the point of what it means to wait on God.  I had been directing my attention to Him, and in hopeful anticipation of what He would do, but I don’t think I was really trusting Him with every fiber of my being.  I was just holding out hope that He would give me what I was asking for – to keep my husband out of jail.  I don’t necessarily think that was a bad prayer.  We are married, and my husband loves being a father, so to ask that God would allow him to stay with us is honorable.  Right?

While I don’t disagree, I can tell you that what I have been confronted with is having to trust God for my entire life.  You see, right now, I am a full time graduate student and stay-at-home mom, homeschooling the two kids we have at home.  I’ve not had a “real” job since 2003, and that was at a coffee shop.  I did serve 5 years in the Navy, but that ended in 1998.  I don’t have a resume ready because I’m still in school and wasn’t planning on needing it.  My husband and I had fashioned our lives, from early on in our marriage, in such a way that he would be the provider and any job I have will be icing on the cake.

That was our plan.  I thought it was a pretty good one too.  It allowed me to finish school and continue homeschooling.  You know what it would also do?  It would ensure that I didn’t really have to think about the fact that God was the one providing all of our income.

You see, until confronted with the idea that my husband could go to jail and I would be left with 2 kids, graduate school AND no job, no benefits, no paycheck, no home, and no idea what I would do about it, it never occurred to me that, even though I had said the sinner’s prayer and believed that I was saved, I had never really made Jesus Lord of EVERYTHING in my life.  I had no idea that there were a few things that I had been holding back from Him.  I had no idea that maybe I didn’t really believe that I could trust Him with my life or my marriage or my husband or my kids.

But God is faithful.  See, when you pray something that God desires for you to have in your life, he sets about answering that prayer because it will be one more thing in your life that will bring Him glory.  That includes even simple, seemingly benign musings about what it means to really wait on the Lord.

My family was in limbo for 2 years while this case was being processed.  We were told by people who had been through similar situations that the longer it took, the better it looked for our side.  So, I figured that after 2 years, our waiting would be over.  God would intervene and we would be vindicated.  The truth would finally be revealed and all would be well because, then, our lives would be restored to what they had been before.

Well, that’s not what we got!  Now, we have even longer to wait.  Our 2 years has been made 7.

What about the promises to those who wait on the Lord?

Renewed Strength:  Yeah!  People keep asking me how I’m doing.  Well, I don’t have any frame of reference for this aside from being the wife of a man who has deployed numerous times.  But this is not quite the same as that, unless you consider this a mission from God.  So…that’s what we are doing.  My husband will get out of jail, and much like when he comes home from deployment, he’s going to be looking at me and our kids and our home and hoping to see that I have not lost my mind or gone off the deep end and have managed to hold things together until he returned home.  Well, I’ve had help, but I am making it.  And I feel pretty good!  It’s still early, but so far I’ve only had one day that really just got to me.

Living Above One’s Circumstances:  Again, I’ve been married for nearly 20 years to a man who has deployed numerous times.  I’ve never been able to know exactly where he was, what he was doing, or if he would be making it home.  Letters were sparse because he was always moving, and there were no real phone conversations.  Well, at least this time I can write to him.  I know right where he is.  I can visit, and I know that he is safe, eating, and able to take care of himself physically and spiritually.  These are assurances I didn’t really have before.

Resurgence of Hope:  There is an appeal process that starts immediately.  But better than that, I know that my God is a God of justice and of truth.  My husband did nothing wrong.  And he would not take a plea saying that he did something he didn’t do, even if it meant that he would get to spend more time with us.  That was not just his decision.  It was mine too.  In fact, I told him not to dare say he did something he didn’t do.  The person who accused my husband is a disturbed individual.  Much help is needed for this person and my prayer is that the help will come.  What I do know is that there will be no real healing for this person or for this person’s family until the truth comes out.  So, my hope is that God will allow the appeal to go through and that he would move in the heart of the individual who accused my husband so that the urge to tell the truth could not be avoided.  AND, news of our ordeal has circumnavigated the globe.  There are people from here in Maryland all the way around the globe and back again to Virginia praying for us and for this individual.  God will not leave that many prayers unanswered (where 2 or more are gathered…).

Awareness of my Continual Presence:  Well, as if these devotionals weren’t enough, God has shown up in the form of people offering to help with packing and moving.  People respond to my posts on Facebook when they see that I’ve left an update about my husband.  People have called out of the blue to tell me that they found a scripture verse for me.  Men have stepped up to take our youngest son under their wings while my husband is gone, as have women who want to spend time with our teenage daughter.

If what God wants is my utter dependence upon Him, He’s got it.  There is nothing else I can do right now but that.  But it has been good.  While I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone, I really believe that this is going to be the best thing that has ever happened to both my and my husband’s walks with the Lord.  And isn’t that what He’s been after this whole time?