Many are the Plans…

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans…

I’ve waited patiently for three years (ok, not so patiently) to enroll in Bible college. I’ve wanted to transform myself from the uneducated hack to the educated hack. It’s taken this long for the finances and timing to be just right. Finally I was able to enroll at Liberty University in a two-year program to receive a diploma in Biblical studies; I also decided to take a hermeneutics elective. Once the transaction was completed, confirmation in hand, I was overwhelmed with excitement.

Then the door-bell rang.

Oh right, the home-school curriculum for my daughter arrived.

As I pulled out the books, manuals, instructions, and lesson plans I was overwhelmed. “Many are the plans” sang ominously through my head. Indeed. I was planning on spending the day finishing my other year-long course in journalism. I had one lesson left and was super-pumped to complete it. Searching through the instructions, guides, manuals and products-to-buy lists included in the box of curriculum materials, I realized it would take at least 3-5 days to sort through it and develop an organized lesson plan. Whoever thinks home-schooling is easy, or lazy, or whatever, they are sadly mistaken. It’s like being a “real” teacher minus the pay (when done appropriately).

Many are the plans…

On top of home-schooling and being a student myself, I was reminded of all the things I still had “to do”. The list was endless.

A 45,000 word manuscript to finish before Novemeber’s conference; 6 books to read and review in the next month; articles to write for two different websites (besides this blog); a backyard landscaping project; church ministries and other activities…my head was spinning. Oh, and I almost forgot, there is approximately 500lbs of dog poop (a rough estimate) in the yard calling out to me, “Scoop! Scoop!”

So so so many are the plans…

But—it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. I can make all the plans I want, I can sign up for every ministry, activity, conference or course but it is only through God that my plans prosper. If indeed they are HIS plans. Otherwise, I don’t have a prayer.

So, this morning I found myself taking a step back. Instead of attacking my “to-do” list, I listened to Psalm 118-119 on audio, read from Isaiah, and spent some quiet time with God asking Him what HIS plans were.

My new plan consisted of listening to the Holy Spirit as he guided each step of the day. I pray the Lord’s purpose prevail in each moment of each day of my life for His glory and my freedom.

Lord, I want your plans and purposes for my life. Thank you for providing wonderful opportunities, answering prayer, and giving me the desires of my heart. Keep my eyes focused on you every minute of every day. Let your plans alone prevail over my life.

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Validation

“You are truly one of God’s special ones…You are part of a rare breed, Rebecca, and I am thrilled to work with you,” my instructor recently wrote me, someone with a bachelor and master’s degrees in education and writing.

There’s been a consistent theme in my ministry of writing; I never seem to get validation from the people closest to me including family. In fact, most of them never read anything I write. I’m not sure why, but I think my past has something to do with it. Sometimes when you know a person well and the things they’ve done, it’s hard to see them in any other light then the failures they’ve mastered.

God has used these circumstances to do two things. One, he has shown me my own heart. I’m made aware of how I care what people think when only God’s voice matters. Two, he uses other people, people I don’t know personally, to confirm my ministry. In other words, he works in ways I don’t expect. Isn’t that how He usually does things? You’d think I’d have figured that out by now.

Right when I’m feeling bluesy that no one in my life seems to care, God gives me the gift of validation. Yes, abiding in his will is enough confirmation for me, but He knows how I have longed for the approval of loved ones and have rarely gotten it. Instead, he gives me little gifts like comments from my teacher or praises from my editor. He reminds me that these compliments are gifts from Him and he chooses to speak my love language out of his great compassion for me.

Reminded of his grace, my flame ignites hot to press on and continue my education as well as pursuing my God-given goals. He’s there encouraging me every step. He only gives me enough to chew on for the moment, though, and reminds me to continually seek Him in humility and gratitude.

This morning I’m about to leave for church and I eagerly pursue my opportunity to sing praises to the Lover of my soul, the ultimate Validator.

“The Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in honor and sing for joy in their beds.” Psalm 149:4-5

Demolished Expectations

I have a nasty habit of having expectations as high as a skyscraper. Usually they crumble with as much force as a scheduled demolition. This time I asked God to lower my expectations, if not demolish them completely.  I wanted to be proactive,”Lord, please help me to have a grateful heart.”

Mother’s day arrived, and I remembered my prayer. Yet I still found myself oddly expectant of something great. Unfortunately for me, God hadn’t forgetten my prayer.  Deep down, despite my prayer, I expected to come home from church to a beautiful bursting bouquet and an expensive electronic device I hinted at wanting the day before.

Near the end of the Sunday class, my phone began to vibrate. I saw my husband calling and had the immediate sense it wasn’t going to be good. He never called me when he knew I was in church. As soon as the class let out I called him back.

“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.

“I’m broken down on the side of the road with a flat tire, and the cheapest one I’ve been able to find is almost $300. Apparently I have a ‘rare’ rim size.”

I felt disappointment drench me like a broken dam.

God allowed me plenty of time throughout the Mother’s Day message to ruminate over my shattered expectations. He reminded me I had asked for divine intervention on this issue. I was beginning to think I should have been more specific. “One dozen roses instead of two, Lord, thanks.” With new resolve, however, I decided to be ok with whatever waited for me, choosing to be thankful for my husbands safety and ability to get what he needed for his truck.

After the service ended, Samantha and I were walking to the car when she erupted in tears. After 30 minutes of hysteria she finally told me what was wrong which further exasperated me. She was mad because there was a toy she didnt get to play with in Sunday School. Really?! By the time I got home, I was nothing short of ticked off. First the flat tire, now this. My pout-fest rivaled that of a 2 year old. When I walked in the door I found 2 roses in a vase and a chocolate cake covered in strawberries.

At first I thought it was sweet my husband spent a couple bucks on flowers despite our recent financial burden, but then I noticed the checkbook. He had obviously found a used tire much cheaper than anticipated. I glanced back at the flowers and felt anger brewing rapidly. What made it even worse was knowing full well (thanks to the Holy Spirit) my attitude was wrong. He had that much money to work with, and I got two little roses! Not to mention the decadent chocolate cake; don’t get me started! He knows my struggles with an eating disorder, yet he still purchases tempting food as a gift! Doesn’t he know me at all?!

He handed me a piece of paper freshly printed. It had pictures of him with Samantha, and some other meaningful memories. It also said something about me being a superwoman. He had made me a card. I was even upset about that.

I sat on the couch and sulked while Samantha continued her cry-fest in her room. Eventually everything calmed down, and, sensing my disappointment, my husband insisted on taking me to a restaurant so I didn’t have to cook. With all the attitude I could muster I agreed.

The meal was one of the best I have ever had. I was immediately pleased. I guess it’s rare that I eat something so delicious I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. This time, though, I know the Holy Spirit was working. I ate my meal in absolute bliss and noticed my husband. It was at that moment God chose to show me my ungrateful, selfish attitude. I apologized to Chris, and expressed my thanks for how hard he tried to make my day special. I admitted I had been a…well, I admitted I was less than a superwoman.

Later that afternoon a migraine set in, capping off the day with an exclamation point. I had completely forgotten about my sensitivity to red wine which I had drank with my dinner. (I might drink a glass of wine once every few months, making the irony even more poignant.) This morning I still have this migraine, but I am oddly aware of God’s presence in the chaos of yesterday.

Everything that happened was a direct result of God answering my prayer to adjust my expectations. He didn’t just adjust them, he annihilated them. Even more ironic, he used me as the tool; revealing heart issues that needed correcting and offering me an opportunity for repentance.

“To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.” Ephesians 3:20

 

Promises in the Rain

“Mommy, mommy!” Samantha raced into my bathroom where I was comfortably relaxing in the shower.

“What is it?” I poked my head out thinking someone or something was on fire.

“Mommy, it’s raining!”

“Ohhhhh….” was the resignated realization of a promise I had made to her the previous weekend. The weather report had predicted rain, and she had begged me to let her play in the mud puddles. I agreed. Then the clouds opened up and it didn’t rain. I had succesfully dodged that bullet, until today.

“Fantastic,” I thought, “I have so many things to do today, and standing in the pouring rain while my 4 year old jumps in the mud isn’t on my list.”

You need to honor your promise.

Sigh. “Ok, Lord, I will honor my promise.”

I got out of the shower and ready to stand in the rain. It occured to me I should bring my camera and record the one time I agreed to let my little girl splash in the mud. Samantha was in her pajamas and flip-flops and we set out. I was immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings. The pouring rain, the trees bending under the wind, the smells of fresh moisture, and even my daughter covered in mud. It was like viewing a movie in 3D for the first time, everything came alive to my senses.

rain

I lifted my camera and began snapping pictures, thankful for the marvelous beauty God was showering despite my reluctant obedience.

puddles

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Samantha, discovering her dirty feet, decided two hops was enough and wanted a shower.

muddy flip flops

I took that time to catalogue the beautiful treasures God had given me through my camera lens. If I hadn’t obeyed the Spirit’s prompting, I would have missed out on a glorious experience; an opportunity for reflection, praise, worship and teaching my daughter that she can trust me to follow through on my promises.

fresh pathway

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

I learned a valuable lesson this morning. I need to slow down and take time to reflect on the treasures around me:

birds nesting,

birds nesting

flowers resting,

flowers resting

trees growing,

trees growing

and children playing.

muddy Samantha

There’s more to my world then finishing the next project, making the next phone call, or cooking another meal. I need to remember God’s faithfulness and love and delight in his handiwork and maybe the day won’t seem so hectic after all. Sometimes I just need to throw that “list” in the wind and dance in the rain.

“It is good to praise the Lord.” Psalm 92:1

pink flowers