When you pass through the waters

To say the last several months have been difficult is almost an understatement. They have been a rollercoaster, complete with twists, turns, and steep drops. If you were to capture all the emotions and feelings that have gone on in our home since the Fall on canvas, you’d end up with a Picasso-like painting, a scramble of shapes and colours and contours.

I admit that it has been hard to remain positive and see the good in all of it…to understand how all of these things, some more than others, bring glory to God. But maybe it’s not the things themselves, but rather my response to them that should be glorifying to God. Instead of having a frustrated, sad, angry, and tired response when we take two steps forward and five steps back (which does not glorify God) what if I respond patiently, prayerfully, lovingly, with self-control and gentleness? I’m pretty sure that would glorify God.

Throughout these last few months, a text that keeps coming up is Isaiah 43:1-3. God is speaking to Israel, but this is one of those times when what He is saying holds true for all believers.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and through the rivers,

they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through the fire you shall

not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, you’re Savior.”

These verses reminded me that I should expect suffering and hardship and trials and difficulty and sadness in this life. Just because I follow Jesus doesn’t mean I am immune to these things…neither are you. We all experience these things because we live in a broken world. That’s part of the curse. In the verse above God doesn’t say “IF you walk” or “IF you pass through”, but “WHEN you walk” and “WHEN you pass through”. But our focus should not be on the “hardships” that He lists…and I don’t think that’s God’s focus in these verses. Before He gives a list of “hardships”, God says ,”Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.” And after every “hardship” is named, hope is given…”I will be with you”, “they shall not overwhelm you”, “you shall not be burned”, “the flame shall not consume you”.

WHY? Because He is the LORD our God, the Holy One, our Savior. And if He says He will be with me, then I can trust that He will be with me because He says He will. And as I walk through these difficult days, prayerfully keeping my eyes focusing on Him*, the difficult days will not overwhelm or consume me. Instead, with the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, I can respond with the fruit of the Spirit, glorifying God.

*This doesn’t happen every time something difficult comes along. Often times my eyes are on the suffering and difficulty. What can I say? I am a work in progress and am thankful I live under grace.
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For our good

Due to an upcoming oral procedure, Gingernut had to have some blood work done a few days ago. To say it was not fun is an understatement. She screamed and cried as soon as she saw the rubber band that would go around her arm come out. From there it was downhill…and it was a long hill. I’ll save you all the horrific details but in all the commotion there was a lot of illogical thinking going on in her 9 year old brain, such as “Mommy, if I do it then I get to punch you in the face,” and “They’re taking all my blood!!!”. After many long, painful minutes and me and one nurse holding her down while another nurse drew the very small vial of blood (not the huge one that she would lead you to believe had been taken), the deed was over. But it came with some a lot of tears, anger, confusion, and complete meltdowns – both from Gingernut and myself.

Gingernut could not see how having blood drawn is ultimately for her good. All she could see was the immediate pain it caused her. In the thick of it all, we are like that…we only see the immediate. But when we can’t see how suffering or disappointment or pain is for our good, what is our response?

I admittedly fail to respond in a way that reflects what I believe about God. “Life” happens and suddenly I forget that God is faithful and good and trustworthy. I forget He is near and present, instead ignoring Him as though He were something familiar that I pass by on the street everyday, like a lamppost or a mailbox. I forget in the midst of all that life throws at me that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light” and I try to carry heavy loads on my very weak shoulders. I become illogical believing lies about myself and God.

But what should our response be when life says, “I’m gonna draw some blood for an unknown reason that won’t be made known to you for a the unforeseeable future…or ever?” When everything is turned upside down how should we respond to God and then to our situation?

When God tells Abraham take everything he owns, pack it up, and head out to a land that He would show him later, I wonder what he thought. All we are given in Genesis 12 is, [s]o Abram went….” We are not privy to his thoughts here or even when God tells him to take his son (the son that would be his heir and make him a great nation) to the top of a mountain to offer him as a sacrifice. Thoughts, no, but words and actions, yes. His response when Isaac questions him about where the lamb is for the sacrifice is, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

Faith.

Abraham responded to God in faith. In Hebrews we learn that by faith Abraham obediently left his father’s house to go to a place that was to be his inheritance, not knowing where. By faith Abraham offered up Isaac considering “that God was able even to raise him from the dead.”

Abraham perhaps couldn’t see how going to an unknown place or sacrificing his son was for his good (and God’s glory) but he did it. He did it trusting that God is God and although his circumstances were perhaps unclear to him, God was not.

When we can’t see how something is for our good and God’s glory, it’s ok. Guess what? We don’t have to know. We aren’t even owed that knowledge. But we can rest easy. We can relax. We can breath deeply. Because the One who holds all things together…He knows and He wasn’t even surprised it happened.

Like a Tree Planted By Water

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It was movie night. The kids were engrossed in the action on the TV, while devouring a huge bowl popcorn. Paul went to the bathroom, soon afterwards calling for me to come help him. Sitting down, he said he was having extreme pain in his side and felt like he was going to pass out.

I helped him to the couch, where he laid, curled in a ball of pain. The kids sat…still engrossed in the movie, devouring a now half-eaten bowl of popcorn.

I somehow knew immediately it was either an appendicitis or a kidney stone, which his father has and which I, honestly, have been waiting 10 years for him to develop. Either way, it was clear after less than five minutes he was going to need to go to the hospital.

I called Justin, our teammate. After apologizing for calling so late on a Friday night, I explained the situation. We decided it would be better for Justin to take him to the hospital and for me to stay at home with the kids, who are still glued to the TV but done with the popcorn.

I packed a bag just in case he had to stay overnight. Justin and Santei (an intern) came as quickly as they could, and after helping Paul down the stairs, I put him in the van and sent him to the hospital…without me.

I promptly returned upstairs to put the kids to bed. The movie had ended and they finally noticed Daddy wasn’t there. I calmly explained Justin was taking him to the hospital because Daddy was in a lot of pain and we weren’t sure why.

I crocheted and watched a movie and prayed. I waited to hear something.

Because that was all I could do.

And while I wanted to be at the hospital, I knew that even there, I would be doing the same thing and not even in the same room with my husband.

During this whole process, I remained calm. I did not once panic or cry or freak out. I don’t know that my reaction would have been the same a few years ago. I’m prone to dramatics, so needless to say, remaining calm during high stress situations is not my forte. My dad has always said there is something to be said about being steady, even during difficult times. He is the epitome of steadiness though. I’ve seen him break bad news several times, and the words that would always comes to my mind as I watched him were calmness and steadiness.

I have been reflecting on how it is I was able to stay calm. The one thing that keep coming back to my  mind is something I read several days before the kidney stone attack, which we learned it was about an hour after he got to the hospital. It was Jeremiah 17:8,”He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The preceding verse tells us whom “He” is referring. “He” is “the man who trusts in the the Lord.” Who is speaking? God. God is telling Jeremiah the man who trusts in the Lord will be blessed, though trials come, he will remain steadfast, strong, and bear fruit because he is rooted in the Lord. Back up a few verses and he tells us what happens when we put our trust in “man and makes flesh his strength.” Basically, nothing good.

It is not by my strength that I am able to do anything. My weaknesses are made clear to me on a daily basis. Like Paul, I want to be content with “weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” because “when I am weak, that I am strong.” I want to be steady and calm when the hard things come not out of vanity but because I believe it points to the power of Christ in me.

My strength would have failed me that Friday night. I would have been crying, worried, anxious in my own strength. I believe the Holy Spirit began doing something in me long before that night: showing me my weaknesses and finding strength in Him, giving me a thirst for Him so that I spend time with Him not just in the morning but throughout the day, and learning to allow Him to be the roots that hold me fast, steady, calm, bearing fruit. Because of these things that He was doing in me (and that I was allowing Him to do) I was steady and calm in a moment when I normally would have been anything but.

The Bad Thing About Living in Community

So, I don’t really think that belonging to a community of believers is bad. However, the title got you to click the link so let’s keep going and I’ll explain my meaning behind the title. 

When true Christian community happens, there are bonds that form between people that last long after job transfers, moves, and life changes. They are bonds that grow deeper than friendship. They are the bonds of Christian love. 

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From about the middle of August until around the middle of November I go through a period of something that I am going to name “Not Greatness.” The Not Greatness doesn’t affect me everyday…I’ve been there, done that, and learned a lot along the way. However, every year since leaving Winston-Salem, I go through the Not Greatness. It usually sneaks up on me out of nowhere. There I’ll be, minding my own business, going about my day, and BAM! Suddenly I’m crying, longing for something I left behind.

What is it the I am longing for?  What is it that the Not Greatness has me bawling my eyes out over?

It is community. Specifically, the community I left behind in Winston Salem.

Why this time of year? I have some guesses but I don’t know exactly. The Fall made me fall in love with Winston Salem, and Winston Salem made me fall in love with the Fall. I had never seen leaves turn the colors they do until I moved there. The golds, reds, and oranges surrounded me as I walked my neighborhood. I learned to appreciate the full cycle of life and God’s creation in a different way. It is a time of the Dixie Classic Fair, walks on brisk days, fire pits and smores, festivals, trick or treating, and hot chocolate. 

But if it was just these things and events I don’t think I would have such a longing. I don’t think the Not Greatness would even rear it’s head. And I don’t think that two years ago I would have walked through deep depression. No, it’s not the things and events.  It’s the people that were with me when I was doing these things and going to these events that made them so special. The people  are what I long for and miss. They are the reason behind the Not Greatness. 

Please don’t hear me say I don’t love where I am or that I want to be somewhere else.  I love where I am. There is no where else I’d rather be. I’m trying to make new traditions and find new events and things to invite others into that will make them just as special as the things and events I left behind. I am loving the community that is developing around me. It’s beautiful and lovely and brings great joy. But there are times when I long, desperately so, for those friendships I left behind that go deeper than friendships. They are relationships rooted in Christian love and community. 

So why is it that I still miss this community so much? What is it that made it (and continues to do so) special? It’s the love that exists between us. It’s the love that most of us hear preached about at weddings, but really was intended for the Church. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes to the church in Corinth that “[l]ove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

When the Church remembers that is to be like Christ, who IS LOVE (which means he is all the things in the list Paul gives us) then what a better Church we would be. How amazing it would be to have a body of believers who didn’t insist on their own way or hold grudges or let sin slide under the rug. How incredible to have that body be patient and kind to one another, never letting arrogance or conceit or envy put them at odds with one another.

And this is how my community in Winston-Salem functioned. It did not accomplish this perfectly, but this description of love was its foundation. Everything was based on this. It was how we were able to forgive one another for offenses, celebrate each others successes, mourn losses, serve selflessly, give freely, and take correction. It was a community that pushed me, tried me, made me uncomfortable with my sin…and drew me closer to Christ.

So what’s the “bad thing” about true Christian community ? It is having to walk away from it. I guess the Not Greatness isn’t so bad either. It reminds me of people I love. It reminds me to pray for them, call them, text them.  The great thing about this community is that no matter where I am in the world, it will always be there. A phone call, a text message, a FaceTime call away. They are forever a part of our lives, no matter how many miles separate us. This is what true community should be, right? Our lives should be so interwoven that when one of the threads breaks away, it 1) hurts like crazy and 2) is not severed completely from the others.

As I think about where I am now, I look forward to the new relationships and community that are developing that will be closer than friendship because of in Whom it is rooted. I am excited for the 1 Corinthians kind of love to permeate who we are as a church and how we interact with one another.

So I give myself permission each Fall to feel the deepness of the Not Greatness, but I don’t give my permission to stay there. Instead, I mourn what was and I look forward to what will be.

Holding Hands Because I Want To

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She’s never been a really super cuddly one, that title belongs to her brother. As a toddler she would sometimes push me away when I would try hug her or kiss her little dimpled check. This has changed little as Gingernut has gotten older.

Me? I like touch. I like cuddles and hugs. I like to hold hands with the kids. Lil’ Paul will almost always hold my hand. Gingernut…not so much.

Several months ago, Gingernut and I had to have a “talkin’ to.” For those vague with this phrase, it is simply when one person needs to be talked to about something of importance by another person.  Our “talkin’to” was about hand holding. When I would take Gingernut’s little porcelain white, freckled hand in mine, she would kinda pull/snatch/wrench it away, which almost always upset me. Finally, one day, instead of getting upset, I explained to her that when she pulls her hand out of mine it hurts my feelings. If she doesn’t want to hold my hand she only has to tell me so. Now, she does just that. But I’ve found that since the “talkin’ to” she will come up beside me and slip that dear little hand into mine more and more and without any coaxing from me. She takes my hand because she wants to, not because I forced her to do it.

Our heavenly Father desires for us to come to Him not out of a forced will or out of a sense of duty but because we want to, because we know in Him is found our fullest satisfaction.

The psalmists wrote:

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

“Delight yourself in the LORD; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

Jesus  said that “‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.'” Matthew 13:44

In God, and only God, can we be fully satisfied. The psalmists knew this. Jesus knew that we could never been satisfied without him. And when we are satisfied in him then we come to him with joy, thanksgiving and praise. How could we do otherwise?

I was told many moons ago that sometimes we come to God solely out of obedience. We won’t always “feel” like reading the Bible or praying, but we do it anyway. I know that the not always “feeling” like it feeling is true because I have experienced it, but does that make it ok? Is God most glorified and honored when I come to Him solely out of obedience or a sense of obligation or an “I have to” attitude? I don’t think so. Based on what I read in Scripture I think that just like I want Gingernut to want to hold my hand, God wants us to want to be with Him. Not because He made us but because it makes us happy and fulfilled and complete to do so.

In the 100th psalm, the psalmist writes,

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

We are to come to Him with joy, gladness, singing, and thanksgiving. That doesn’t sound like someone who feels an obligation or duty. It sounds like someone who has learned that in God is found their fullest satisfaction. If I know that, as John Piper says, in him is satisfaction to the fullest and forever, then how could I ever come to Him solely out of obedience or obligation? Abiding in Him is obedient, but it is done out of love. I want to always pursue Him with a humble spirit, full of praise and adoration, knowing that in Him only can I ever be truly joyful, content, filled, satisfied, loved. He wants to be my greatest desire. Do I want Him to be mine? If I know the truths found in Scripture how could I not?

And yet, so many times I fail. I fail to delight in Him, choosing to find my delight in the world and always coming up empty. I fail to be fully satisfied in Him, instead looking around me for satisfaction. I fail to love Him and end up not loving those around me well. I fail to praise Him and by the end of the day I have all but cursed the life I live.

I have learned that in those moments, the moments when I don’t “feel” like it, the first thing I need to do is confess and ask God to forgive me. Then ask Him to give me the desire to want to be with Him, to remind me of His greatness, His goodness, His love, His grace, His mercy.

I want so much to crave Him every single moment of every single day for the rest of my life. I want to love Him so much that the love I have for others looks like hate in comparison. I don’t want to have “spiritual highs” because they will inevitably be followed by  “spiritual lows”. Even in the valleys that life will inevitably bring my way, I want to be found faithful, not just in my having a relationship with God but with how I have attended to that relationship. I want to purse Him on the mountaintops and the valleys. I never, ever want to think of my relationship with Him as mundane or ordinary. And I never, ever want to come to Him out of obligation or because I think I “have to.”

I always want to want to slip my hand lovingly, quietly into His, allowing Him to gently hold me, leading me where He wants me to go. And in doing so, bring Him glory and honor.

Affection, Unity and Love: Things found in the Gospel

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Our summer interns left this week. I don’t think I have written about them this summer. Daniela has been here five weeks and Chelsea came down for three weeks after some time up north. During these last few weeks they have become an interwoven part of our families and it has been hard this week without them here. While I am excited to hear about all the incredible things that await them in the coming months, I am also incredibly sad. Part of me is still expecting the door to ring at 9:00 every morning.

Two weeks ago Tommy Orlando, a pastor from America, and his family were here for a few days. While here, Tommy preached on Acts 20, focusing on verses 36-38.

“And when [Paul] had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

Tommy’s main point was that there should be great affection between believers. Even if we have nothing in common, nothing that would bring us together under normal circumstances, we have Jesus. Jesus unites us. It may be all we have in common, but it’s the greatest thing we have in common. It binds us together in a way that nothing else can, which is why Jews and Gentiles, slaves and slave-owners could weep together as they saw Paul to his ship, knowing they may never see or hear from him again.

If the Gospel unites us, if it creates deep affection between believers, then why is they so much disunity among us? When I read the things people are writing in light of all the terrible recent events not only in America but around the world, a question presents itself: Where is the Gospel?

Church, we are not told to only love the easy, those who look like us, those who think like us, those in the same socio-economic status as us, those who go to the same type of church as us.We are told to love. Above everything else, love.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”            1 Peter 4:8

How can we expect the world to change when professed Christians do not love each other with the love of God? But how do we define that love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and 1 John 3:16 tell us how.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Jesus is the only person who loved perfectly because he is only the one who could love perfectly. He set the bar high, didn’t he? But if we are to be imitators of Christ, then it means we are to imitate him in all things, not just the things that suit us or the things that are easy. We are to love all people, all the time. How else can the Gospel be seen?

 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.When we take our eyes off the cross, forgetting all that we have been forgiven, and only see the differences, the sin, the ugliness in each other, we can not have a deep affection for one another. If we cannot love one another well, how can we expect to love those outside the circle of brotherhood well?” Luke 6:42-36

We should have a great affections for one another to the point that we suffer, we laugh, we cry, we rejoice, and we grieve with one another. That is not only having great affection for each other but what it means to live in community with one another. Our great affection for one another should trump any wrong suffered. As Tommy said, how can we remember the bloody face of Jesus hanging on the cross for our transgressions, forgiving us, loving us, dying for us and NOT forgive, not have sympathy, not care for other brothers and sisters in Christ? How can we turn our heads and look the other way when they are hurting? The love found in the Gospel compels us to care for them. Even if it is the only thing we have in common.

This affection, this love, that unites us is exactly why it was so hard to say goodbye to two young women I have only know a few short weeks.

Making disciples at home

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19

I think this might be the mantra of every mission-sending organization on our planet. It’s a good mantra to have. I’ve spent the last 9 years trying to understand how to live out the Great Commission, but lately I have been reflecting on who I am ministering to and who am I living out the Gospel in front of the most?

The answer is my kids.

I forget all too often that during this period, Paul and I are their disciplers. Recently, while sharing a meal with our teammates, I was reminded of it. My job as their mother is to point them to Jesus.

The most important thing I will do is send Gingernut and Lil’ Paul out into the world as adults who follow Jesus with their whole hearts, who understand what it means to pick up their cross and follow him. This is a great responsibility, one that I don’t take lightly, but one that I sometimes forget to make the focus of my mothering. I too often allow the stresses of life, the tantrums and fits, the disobedience, the lack of energy and sometimes want I feel to overshadow it. God forgive me.

When my children leave “the nest” I want them to go into the world seeing it through the lens of the Gospel. I don’t want them to have an American worldview or an Italian worldview but a Gospel worldview.

This is my great task…to prepare, teach, show and encourage them in the ways of Christ. If they are the only two people I disciple over the next 14-plus years, then I will count the time well-spent. I could reach all of Salerno, but if I fail to show and teach my children what it means to be a follower of Jesus, what have I really accomplished?

God gave two children – two of His children – to raise not in a religious household, but in a household that lifts up and makes much of His name. This responsibility, this great task, has driven me to my knees in prayer – prayers that He works and moves despite my weaknesses and sin, prayers for discernment and wisdom as I teach my children, prayers for learning how to rest in Him when the days are long and my patience in short, prayers for the ability to do everything in love even when I don’t want to.

So, next summer, when we are back in the U.S. and you ask me how I spent my time, I’ll certainly tell you about the Italians I know and what I do at the church, but mostly I tell you about my children.

 

 

 

He Leads Me

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A few months ago the online workout group I am a part of (project momsanity) challenged its members to memorize Psalm 23 while doing wall sits, which I joined in on due to the fabulous prizes that could be won at the end of the month.*

While walking home from dropping the kids off at school one day that month, I was going over the psalm…just saying it over and over and reflecting on each part. As I got to “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” part, I stopped in my tracks, realizing that part is not separate from the first part. The Holy Spirit has been guiding me as I have been flushing out what this means for me on a day to day basis.

I have been taught that sheep are about as smart as a bag of rocks, as sharp as a marble, not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier….But in doing some research on them, I found a study from  University of Illinois reporting sheep “to be just below pigs and on par with cattle in IQ. Sheep can recognize individual human and ovine faces, and remember them for years…If worked with patiently, sheep may learn their names….”

I think Jesus knew this before the research was done. He talks about sheep a good bit in his teachings.

“The sheep hear [the gatekeeper’s] voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10: 3-4, 14-16

As followers of Christ, we know his voice. We know the leading of the Holy Spirit when he guides us. And because we know his voice we can walk through the valleys, trusting God is with us because He has already been leading us…leading us beside still waters, in paths of his righteousness and us to lie down in green pastures.

There is something to be said that when the rockiness of life hits there is a river of steadiness through it. There is something that can hold us firm on the path. And its God. Even though life at times is murky and we can’t see, we can have a steadfast faith, a faith that endures. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I won’t fear. Why? Because God is with me. And I can trust that God is  with me and leads me to the still waters because He has proven Himself many times before. I just have to remember how He has lead me before. Then I can believe He will lead me now.

But it is in the valley that sanctification happens.So when we are in that valley we have a choice. We can choose to see the darkness of the shadow or we can choose to turn away from the shadow and face the light. We can be like sheep and follow the shepherd or we can be like a goat: stubborn, obstinate, refusing to listen or be guided by anyone but ourselves and remain in the dark valley.  And where has that gotten anybody but into deeper darkness. (My friend Lindsey wrote an incredible post on sheep and goats that you should read.)

When we turn and follow the light, we walk through it and eventually we climb out of it  not because of anything we have done in our own strength but because of what HE has done for us, in us, through us, ahead of us. And in those valleys we can have peace and rest because we trust. Because we have a good shepherd who we know is leading us in the paths of his righteousness by the still waters, making us lie down in green pastures. As we go through the valley and become more sanctified, we trust him more, we cling to him so we can climb the hill with clean and holy hands lifted high and with a pure heart.

I more times than not, have forgotten that Jesus has led me before. That He has never been unfaithful. But I as am walking through some valleys in my life at the moment, I want to rest beside those still waters. I want to lie down in that soft, green meadow. I want to turn from the shadow that the mountains are casting around me and walk in the light that is shining down in the valley from above those mountains, being led on the path of His righteousness. All for His name’s sake.

 

*I did not win any prizes, but I can hold a wall sit for at least a minute now.

**Kendrick, Keith; da Costa AP; Leigh AE; Hinton MR; Peirce JW (November 2001). “Sheep don’t forget a face”. Nature 414 (6860): 165–6. doi:10.1038/35102669PMID 11700543. 11700543.