Saturday, March 31, 2018

God is My Everything-But What About Everyone Else and Thing I Desire?

Waking up a bit later than usual, I shuffle downstairs making my way through a myriad of toys deposited by dogs and grandkids.  My goal is to head straight to my first cup of much needed coffee.  I smile as I see my sweet husband has already finished the prep work of putting just the right amount of creamer in my favorite mug which sits on the counter-top along with the Keurig canister filled with my preferred brand of coffee. I place the lovingly arranged container into the brewer and wait for what seems longer than it really is, until I can have that first sip and emit my ritualistic morning, “ahhhhh”.  I am now ready to greet the morning that has already greeted me.  Watching our three precious ginger babies interact with their own morning rituals, I smile again as I am grateful.  I get to experience these memory making moments because my beloved daughter and her beautiful family are living with us for the interim while their house is under construction to finish up the final touches.  The dynamics of two adults and one pup has now dramatically but favorably shifted to four adults, three children age ranges ten to four and two dogs; one rambunctious pup less than a year old and the other whom we lovingly refer to as “the old man”. 

The kids and fur babies and I exchange some warm hugs and my heart floods with love again as I hear those sweet voices enthusiastically say, “Good morning, Nana!”  Their bright smiles are enough to bring sunshine to this drizzly Saturday morning.  I have to use self-discipline to not just park on the couch to continue to drink in not only my warm mug full of coffee caramel goodness but also drink in the giggles of those cherished children.  So I gather up my bible, journal, prayer cards which are for specific people and prayers I declare every morning, and head back upstairs to have quiet time uninterrupted.  I treasure those “interruptions”, but I have to focus in order to spend time with the One I am most grateful for, my Lord.

To truly enter into His presence, I find anointed music, coming from the hearts of those who likewise are in love with Jesus, and in so doing I am taken straight into the throne room of grace and peace.  There is power in that place and if I go and give my heart with total abandon, I receive far more than I give.  I don’t understand why we get so much in return for so little, but I don’t question the goodness of our God.

As I am listening and even quietly singing along with my raspy, morning voice only a father could love, I begin to hear the words from a familiar song, only this time they leap into my heart with a force not typical for when I have heard it in the past.  I sharpen my focus as I recognize this is a manner in which my Father speaks to me as He is choosing to impart a fresh revelation.  

Sinking Deep by Hillsong Young & Free

Standing here in Your presence
In a grace so relentless
I am won
By perfect love

Wrapped within the arms of heaven
In a peace that lasts forever
Sinking deep
In mercy's sea

I'm wide awake
Drawing close
Stirred by grace
All my heart is Yours
All fear removed
I breathe You in
I lean into Your love
Your love

When I'm lost You pursue me
Lift my head to see Your glory
Lord of all
So beautiful

Here in You I find shelter
Captivated by the splendor
Of Your face
My secret place

Your love so deep
Is washing over me
Your face is all I seek
You are my everything

Jesus Christ
You are my one desire
Lord hear my only cry
To know You all my life

I connect with this song in what I experience with this intimate time of sharing hearts with Jesus, but in particular, the words of the Bridge impact me profoundly.  I realize as I hear the words, “Jesus Christ, You are my ONE DESIRE” that I relate but also feel slightly troubled.  I try to process the quandaries my heart and mind have with that statement and I finally go to Him.  With full disclosure of that which was hidden, I pour out my heart and put words to what has now been exposed. 

So I state, “Lord, I know my love for You has matured to a place I now truly love You above all others.  To my surprise, I discovered that in finally making You my first love, my love for all others has deepened and is more meaningful.  But when I hear you are my ONE desire, I have to confess, I deeply desire others in addition to You.”  I wait in the quiet as I sense that with this morning’s revelation I am soon to obtain the answer, with no guilt or fear, knowing I am not angering my kind Lord who loves to reveal mysteries to us when we go to that undisturbed place with Him.  

I begin to ponder that He is all and in all. (Colossians 3:11)  He doesn’t just love us but He IS love. (1 John 4:8)  His presence cannot be contained as He fills the heavens and the Earth. (Jeremiah 23:24) All things belong to Him. (Hebrews 2:10) These separate scriptures began to string together to form the answer to how I could still have Him be my ONE desire, yet still desire others and other things! 

With revelation as a light bulb illuminating my mind, I arrived at this: He is part of every relationship I have; He is in and owns the material things He wants to bless me with; He is everywhere I go; and as I love or am loved, it is Him in action with the most powerful aspect of His nature.  So even though these people or things may seem separate, they are all interwoven in the fabric of Him and the multifaceted endless person of His being.  In seeing these other treasures in my life, I am seeing Him.  In experiencing the beauty of other people, places or things, I am seeing His beauty. In deeply loving others or being loved by them, it His love I am giving and receiving.

I am grateful for this new freedom in Him to truly enjoy richly everything He has given us. (1 Timothy 6:17)  I think sometimes we get so caught up in distress that we are trespassing some religious boundary so we can’t fully enjoy people or things for fear of them becoming an idol.  The only way that can happen is if we forget the realization of Who gave us everything we have; if we dismiss Him when we are loving others or receiving that love; if we aren’t thankful for what He has given us but just take relationships or things for granted; if we aren’t mindful of Him in all these people and things, then we are in danger of making that person or thing an idol.  But if we filter all things through Him first, just like that morning cup of coffee dripping through the container of what held the grounds that created that delicious cup of coffee for me, then we will be able to truly enjoy this gift of life He has given us in Him, the One who is Life. (John 14:6)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thrive Anyway

Sitting at our Symmetry Financial Group (SFG) National Conference in Raleigh, NC a little over a week ago, as is customary, our wonderful owners, Brandon Ellison, Casey Watkins and Brian Pope, knew the perfect time to stir up a little extra activity amongst the attendees.  We had all been like sponges absorbing wonderful nuggets for success and personal growth, and had been stuck like glue in our seats for hours so as not to miss a single word of wisdom and information.  To revive that physical inactivity, they playfully tossed objects of energy drinks and squishies at us with a warning for a head’s up so as not to catch anyone unaware and subsequently injured in any way.  I was fine as far as my energy level went but when they made the call for the squishy, my hand shot up like a 5 year old just wanting one of those treasures with all my heart!  I had no idea what it even looked like but I wanted to be the possessor of one!  To my surprise, one shot straight into my hand with the greatest of ease.  It was like it was on a zip line connected to Brandon and me. I was now the proud owner of a foam, two-tone green creature who stands about 3” tall, grinning largely with raised hands and a stance that secures the weight of what it is imaginarily holding.  

On the following Monday having returned home, with a renewed excitement to delve into my work as the recruiter for my husband Kurt and my business, one of the first orders of business was to remove that squishy from my suitcase and place it in his new home-under my PC monitor.  I wanted an intentional visual throughout my day that Kurt and I are thriving here with SFG.  How could I not feel a sense of joy as I look at that innocent, supremely happy green face, perfectly content in its assignment to help give me a reminder that we are blessed!  We ARE thriving as we continue to grow in our place here at SFG!  

I didn’t always feel this way, however.  Kurt and I were at an all-time low point in our marriage, when he came to me with a plan to come on board with his new career here.  I was the poster child for skeptical! I was worn out and just wanted him to find something “safe” to get us out of the tremendous debt we had incurred after a total between us of 8 major moves in approximately 5 years, all of which required the services of wonderful yet albeit expensive professional movers.  We didn’t have a barrage of people to ask to help us with any of those moves.  Either I relocated or he had or we relocated together as our life took twists and turns to be in what we believed was God’s ordination to place us geographically where we believed we should be.  Even though I trusted God for the first ones, by the seventh move for me, I just felt I didn’t have the emotional or physical endurance for yet another move.  

Now, with the second company in Missouri to terminate his position as a business move, and severance having run out after we had only made two or three payments on the new house we had purchased together, we faced the very real possibility we were going to have to move yet another time which would be my eighth time for a major move.

Because of particular circumstances, my trust had eroded in everyone and even in God, the One I thought I would never mistrust again.  I had grown in my relationship with Him and now knew Him intimately since the mid 90’s and had been through far worse life experiences than this current one.  Those previous events only served to strengthen my resolve that my Lord was there with my family and me in the middle of our messes and He would bring a resolution as only He can that actually turns around bad things and brings life and goodness out of them.  However, this time I just couldn’t seem to muster up that trust; I just didn’t want to.  I wanted to wallow in self-pity and a victim mentality because it just felt good and easier to go to that place instead.

So I had to fully rest on Kurt and his faith that the Lord would somehow turn this latest possibility of losing our home into a place of greatness which would bring a sense of security back to me that had slipped away from my grasp.  So I agreed, begrudgingly, that SFG would be our next path.

I never knew initially that my man, whose heart is the Lord’s, would hear His voice clearly instructing to plant in the soil of an incredible company.  I didn’t know SFG would be used by God to transform us individually, as a husband and wife, and as leaders to truly thrive in a culture that is safe, and growth minded in areas which are far more important than our income.  Our income has done a 180 degree turn, however, and with the math and cultural aspects behind the business model I know it will continue to grow to a place of explosion which will provide opportunities for giving in ways we have always wanted.  We have been able to change some lives now but I know it’s going to go a level of extravagant giving that we have never imagined.

So what does my initial introduction of that little happy, green squishy propped under my monitor have to do with this account of gratitude to God and SFG?  It’s my daily reminder that:

-In trusting God, He is in control of the entire world (World Wide Web I navigate daily on my PC and seeing He is holding the entire world in His hands).  

-The smile on his face reminds me to not let anything steal my joy again.  It’s my decision to maintain my joy or to let it go.  With God’s help, no matter what it looks or feels like around me, I can choose to keep my joy, knowing He will work things out for our good since we love Him and are called according to His purpose.  We will see Him develop His purposes in this journey as we continue to seek Him for His plans for us.

- At other times, that squishy represents offering my praise to God (uplifted hands) whether it’s easy to do because things are working out well or if it's a sacrifice to give it because it appears they are not.  The Lord is worthy of my praise at all times.

-On squishy’s stomach (core of his being) are the words, “thrive” and then “stop, focus, grow”.  Truly, what’s in the very midst of us has to be a mindset of life which is shown through the fact that we are growing.  If we aren’t growing, there is no indication that we are living this life we were blessed each day to be given by our Creator. In order to grow, we have to be intentional to stop and focus on what we are called to do.  Otherwise, it will elude us as only good intentions which never evolved from a thought in our mind to an actual manifestation in our lives and in the lives of others of whom we are to give.  We can only give from what we personally possess.

It’s all a matter of trust, which comes from authentic relationships and grace when those disappoint, gratitude in always seeing how blessed we truly are, and intentional actions to bring us to a place we can truly thrive in this life.  

So like my squishy friend, be joyful, be grateful, and know this is bigger than you as it’s all being upheld by a God who is more than enough to take care of it.