Battle Formation

Life for me right now is in a state of flux.

I don’t know if it’s that I’m approaching 40 and kind of going through a mid-life rethinking. I’m not in crisis. But I’m just rethinking what I’ve done and where I’m going. Where I want to go. What I want to do. What I want to be in this next stage of my life.

In my spirit, I feel change. There’s a stirring of something different coming, but with it there’s been a constant and equally powerful command to just wait. Wait.

I find myself in a new state, new home, new church, and surrounded by new people.

I’m not in the classroom teaching anymore; I miss it at times, but on the days I sub, I’m not sure that’s a good fit for me anymore. I’m staying home now and doing a bit of online contract work that doesn’t ignite much passion in me, but it’s a bit of money and some sense of accomplishment.

I’ve got a trillion ideas about what I could do. I could write. I could go back to school and get my masters in something a little different. I could teach. I could open my own business and sell refurbished furniture or cute clothes or a mix of it all. I could go back to school and do something completely different. I have a million ideas, but none of them sink into my soul and say, that’s it, go for it.

I haven’t even found my “sweet spot” to serve in our church. I help greet new families on Sunday mornings and enjoy it, but it doesn’t feel like it’s IT. I want more. I’ve prayed about it, but God hasn’t opened any opportunities yet.

I know God has something different coming in my life that I feel is just going to be really a big step away from my past and current normal, but I’m clueless as to what it is.

I’m trying to find my place and my fit. I desperately want God to use me. If He’d just say the word, I would do IMMEDIATELY what He wants me to do. I have no qualms about obeying Him; whatever it is He tells me, I’m in. But the wait part about drives me crazy.

On some days, I feel like a racehorse, ready to go. I’m ready to plunge ahead and sprint towards whatever it is the Lord is calling me to do, but I’m stuck behind the gate waiting for the gun to give me permission to get a jump on my calling.

On other days, I feel like a tree being stripped of every branch, leaf, and comforting part of me. All I knew is gone, and I feel like a measly, barren trunk in the midst of a forest of towering evergreens.

Yesterday I sat in a Bible study that touched on this very topic. Our leader, Mollie Duddleston said, “God doesn’t want us to move ahead of where we have the maturity to be.”

So challenging. In a way, it’s humbling to think I’m lacking in something that God is waiting to be developed in me so that the gates can be opened and my branches and leaves can flourish again. Satan uses that at times to tell me I’ve messed up so badly that God can’t use me or that I’m not worthy of serving.

By being almost 40, I’m familiar with Satan’s stupid methods of attack. Thankfully he’s not very creative and just keeps recycling the same old garbage. And yet, on some days, it’s hard to combat him. Gratefully, God is always waiting with his Word to use as ammunition.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I thought I had this thing pretty well figured out. I had learned to adjust to the waves and storms that came my way for the most part, and I knew where I was going. What I was doing. Who I wanted to be.

Of course, also at the almost age of 40, I know now that I know a lot less than I knew in my 20’s and early 30’s. I’ve heard many other women say the same. It’s a  good thing.

Now, at this stage of life, the fact that God may be waiting on me to learn or discover something is not as big of a shock. I really know nothing. It’s easy to be an expert on parenting with a few little ones. It’s easy to be an expert on marriage without many tough storms to weather. It’s easy to feel like I’m in the more “seasoned” stage of my life without hitting many rough seasons. I can now deal with the fact that I need to learn more because I’ve accepted that I really know nothing.

But it’s just hard to wait. I’m ready. I don’t like waiting.

Today, part of my chronological study covered Exodus 13. I’ve said before I always learn so much from the Israelites. And I love reading about them because they were in flux too.

They were in the process of escaping Egypt. The unknown was before them. A tough life of misery, slavery, and thankless work was behind them, along with the Egyptians and Pharaoh chasing them down.

Exodus 13:17-18 says, “God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, ‘The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.’ So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation.”

Did you see that? They left in battle formation. They expected a fight. Their hands probably rested on their weapons while their ears stayed alert to every little sound and their eyes scanned their surroundings for sounds of trouble. I’m sure their hearts were pounding waiting for whatever attack might come. They were ready.

But, God knew they couldn’t handle a battle. He knew they weren’t ready. They didn’t have the maturity to face what they thought they were ready for.

Is anyone with me? As our table discussed, several women felt the same. Where am I going? What are You doing with me God? What is Your calling on my life at this time, aside from the responsibilities You’ve already given me? Can You do more with me? Will You?

All we can do is wait, be patient, and know that God is moving. As for me, I’m going to be in battle formation, ready to use the skills God has given me for His glory while keeping my eyes, ears, and heart alert to what He wants to teach me. Praying you’re able to do the same.

Use Your Words

“Use your words.”

This is a sentence Jason and I repeat frequently in our house, especially with our twin four-year-old girls. I don’t know if it was some glitch in our adoption transition or just a quirk in their personalities, but they have always struggled with asking for what they want.

In their orphanage, the doting nannies often didn’t say no. Many of the “mamas” had been orphans themselves, so they did everything they could to keep their little charges happy. That was great then, but the world sure came crashing down when the girls came home. It took only a few “No’s” and a bit of discipline to send their minds spinning. Hearing a “No”, even if it was necessary to keep them safe, twisted something in their little psyches that kept them from asking for anything. And so it began.

On some mornings, they will be ready to eat breakfast and watch cartoons, but instead of asking, they will stand awkwardly near us and wait for us to say, “Hey, do you want to eat breakfast and watch Mickey Mouse?”

Sometimes we do jump in and rescue them, offering the words we can tell they want to say, but in the long run this doesn’t help them. We realized pretty quickly this “rescuing” didn’t train them to use their words more frequently but only affirmed their choice to stay silent. So we often repeat to the girls, “Use your words. ASK for what you want. Mommy and Daddy LOVE to help you!”

You better believe that when they do ask, we jump to praise them and lavish upon them whatever they are requesting. One night this week, our older three kids asked to have some Halloween candy for dessert, but the little girls just stood there awkwardly, staring at everyone else eating candy. Sadly, we sent them to bed without any treats. However, the next night they did ask for candy, and we not only gave them candy but also lots of praise and marbles in their reward jars! “Great job using your words!”

You may think this seems a little strange. Why not just give them the candy or offer them breakfast? It’s not that we’re teaching strict manners or have some power trip going on. We want them to be comfortable coming to us with their needs. We want their hearts to trust us to both provide the basics and give generously. It’s a relationship issue. We desperately want that glitch in their little psyche to be healed.

This morning, I noticed Lyla was sad after I told them to go to their room to play for a bit while I was finishing my quiet time. They usually prance off happily to pull out their Barbies and dress up clothes. I called her to me and asked why she was sad. In a quavering voice she said, “Because I want to go outside and play.”

“But Lyla, you never asked me to go outside and play. How can I know that you want to play outside if you don’t ask? You’re crying about not being able to do something that you never even asked me to do. If you had asked, I would have said yes!” I wiped her tears, sent them outside anyway, and turned back to my quiet time.

Oh yeah. God is trying to teach me the same thing.

There have been lots of times that I have gotten a “No” from God. Maybe my request wasn’t the right timing. Maybe a “No” was needed to keep me safe. Maybe His “No” was just because this world is fallen, and if I had a perfect little life here on Earth, I would never long for heaven. No matter God’s reasoning, some of those “No”s from God wounded my heart.

There have been seasons that I have struggled with whether I’m good enough for God to bless or if I’m even on His radar. On some days, I feel like my little girls, standing in the kitchen while watching my older siblings gobble up yummy treats, knowing it’s useless to ask because He probably won’t give me anything anyway. Maybe He’d rather just hand out treats to my more deserving siblings instead of me.

I realize that I have let Satan train parts of my psyche. I bemoan the trials in my life before I even ask God for help. I get down about the down payment that’s due for braces or the strained relationship with a family member. Instead of taking those heart hurts to God, I just sit and feel sorry for myself.

And yet, I have a heavenly Father that is just WAITING for me to ask Him. He wants me to come to Him with my heart’s desires. If He simply jumped in and gave me what He knows I want each time, I wouldn’t ever have to come to Him and ask. We wouldn’t have a relationship built upon my faith in Him. My heart wouldn’t be filled with gratitude for His blessings. And God wants to receive glory when He answers our prayers! If we never voice them, would He be glorified?

Gently, God brings to mind the many other times that I have asked for something, and God has poured out his provision and mercy. He reminds me of the times He answered before I even asked. He prompts me to then bring this current request to Him, to trust Him wholly with my heart, and to thank Him in advance for how He’ll answer it. I know this is true because His word tells me so:

Jeremiah 29:12 “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

John 16:24 “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

1 John 5:14-15 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

God is after our hearts. He wants a relationship with us. We have to pray SPECIFICALLY for the burdens getting tossed around in those worrisome minds of ours. God is waiting for us to “use our words” so He can pour blessings on us. I’m so grateful He is a loving, patient Father who takes the time to shape my heart. May I be the same kind of mother.

Join the Movement

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Isaiah 43:18-21

Since my last blog post, God has continued to work on my heart. He is gently and lovingly showing me my selfishness and my easy tendency to be so self-centered. He is so kind and patient with me. Oh, I am grateful.

Things still aren’t easy since moving. Genuine friendships don’t come quickly or easily, and I miss the people we “do life” with at home. Doing life with them was a lot easier when it wasn’t via text message. And working our way into a new church, new school, new community, new teams, etc is NEVER easy. I’ve definitely had my fill of awkwardness these past few months. :)

I’ve had some moments of self-pity. I’ve had lots of prayer time asking God what in the world He’s doing. Why in the WORLD would you have me to live in ARKANSAS??!! So random!

However, I’ve reached a point of having peace/contentedness. I’m not necessarily filled to the brim happy, but I’m not unhappy either. God has pressed many verses upon my heart these last few months, but Isaiah 43:18-21 (above) is a repeated one. It’s a verse I’ve heard and read a million times, but it’s so fresh again right now. God has said to me, “Hey, yeah, it’s different. It’s new! But can’t you see that I’m doing it? Can’t you sense it springing up? I’m giving you water in the desert and streams in your wasteland – can’t you see? I formed you to praise me; now can you see what I’m doing? Be grateful!” For a while, my answer has been nope, don’t see it God. I trust you implicitly, but I do NOT see what you’re doing!

Yesterday our pastor preached one of the most challenging sermons I’ve heard in a while. I’ve heard him speak of the need for another Great Awakening in our country several times, but yesterday was the first time I really got it. God really showed me that it could really happen! Through the united prayers of His people, a Great Awakening is really possible. How exciting would that be to witness?

I know God is moving because just in the last 24 hours, I’ve seen two other blog posts come across my FB feed of people realizing that God is calling them to prayer in regards to all that is occurring in our world: Candace’s post here and Jamie’s post here. A movement of God is at hand. I think He is pressing on us to pray dilligently and to turn to Him in expectation of HIM to move.

Some of the personal highlights for me from our pastor’s sermon yesterday:

I’d strongly encourage you to take a moment and watch Pastor Floyd’s sermon here entitled “Lord, Do It Again”. (As of this morning, it’s not up yet, but it should be soon.)

For me, I realized that I’m all in. I have wasted a lot of time looking at how I feel and what I want and whether I’m happy or content or whatever. The thing God said to me yesterday was, “WHO CARES??!!!” I realized there is so much Kingdom work that needs to be done! And that’s what I really want more than ANYTHING! I want to do God’s work and be used by Him. I want to be a tool that God can count on! Taylor wrote something similar this week!

And why do I think I’m exempt from the command to pray? Why do I think I’m exempt from evangelizing? I have wasted a lot of time passively just waiting for Jesus’s return to “fix” everything. I watch the news and think, Oh Jesus, come back now. Please just come on back. I complain that this world and our country is in a mess, but how much do I DO?? I have been convicted like crazy this week about my lack of action and my passive disbelief that anything can be done. But, the world being in a mess isn’t a new thing. Check the Bible and some history books out!

Our pastor has issued a call for prayer on his blog. His call is for us to pray fervently for another Great Awakening. And let us not just pray for a bit, but pray fervently until we see results! Let’s pray that God MOVES in our country, our cities, our churches, and our families!! Let’s JOIN THE MOVEMENT!!!

And let me add that yes, my pastor is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, I’m a part of the SBC. I recognize that the SBC gets a bad rep sometimes. It’s not seen as very “cool” sometimes, and goodness, with some of the things I’ve seen from some Southern Baptists, I get the lack of appeal at times. But, just as I don’t judge all other denominations by the few that make sound bytes on the news, don’t judge all of us Southern Baptists by a few. I’ve learned a lot about our convention lately, and there’s a lot to be proud of. For one, our convention has people on the ground in Iraq that are giving aid in the ISIS crisis with ways to help. The SBC also has a division that does some amazing work: The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. And those are just two divisions of the SBC. Yes, our convention isn’t perfect, but neither are any people or churches or denominations.

This call to prayer isn’t about a denomination. It’s about Christians everywhere pleading for the Lord to move. So like the SBC or not, joining fellow Christians in prayer is important and at this point our only hope. Let’s do it and see God move!