I’ve been watching the clouds lately – noticing the way they are constantly moving, shifting, changing. Never still. Always painting a new canvas across the Iowa sky.
Clouds make me happy. Most of the time.
Although I spent a portion of this past year under a cloud cover that simply felt darkening. It gave way to hopelessness and setup camp with purposelessness. It operated like a low-grade temperature - not demanding enough to require attention, but persistent enough to keep me ever aware of its presence. During my annual checkup, my friend and doctor probed me, while seemingly performing a routine depression screening, and I answered honestly. “I’m doing ok, but there are days when I simply must choose joy.”
Living under the cloud. Seemingly disconnected from the Son.
I recognized the disconnect. The void. My heart…detached.
I simply wasn’t sure how to break the cover.
If only I were faster, perhaps I could outrun it?
I know you non-runners may roll your eyes…but I actually find running to be therapeutic. I don’t obsessively run, or even competitively run. I merely run for the sake of enjoyment, and sanity. Many a problem has sorted itself on a mile left behind.
And thanks to a Black Friday treadmill special, I can now log some winter miles in our basement.
I was only a mile in the other night when I began contemplating what I wanted to leave behind in 2016. What thoughts and patterns were not serving me and what I needed to focus on in the year ahead. I felt a sudden and unexpected shift as the Lord spoke to my heart. I was surprisingly overcome by emotion and undeniably drawn to my prayer room, which sits adjacent to the treadmill (as good of a reason as any to stop running). I fell to my knees under a husband-made, barn-wood cross. And like a moth drawn to a flame, I opened my devotional as if I had no other choice than to follow His prompting. I felt Him undeniably speak to my heart: “the clouds are shifting, this darkening trial is complete.”
I opened to the bookmarked page where the next devotional was teed:
You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary. Revelation 2:3.
“KEEP MOVING FORWARD. In spite of the obstacles you see and the words of discouragement you hear, keep pressing on. God has called you to move forward toward a goal that only He fully realizes, but he wants you to keep stepping out in faith.”
God used Jill Holler’s words in her devotional, Life in His Hands to confirm what He was speaking in my heart.
And just like that – I felt the clouds part. I felt a lightness, which I hadn’t felt in a long time. It wasn’t a change in my circumstances, but a bridge across the separation.
I realized in that moment that it was the silence more than the circumstance, which had defined the trial.
My circumstances did not need to change in order for my heart to surrender. I inhaled and took stock of the position of my heart…no longer defensive. “You’ve been defensive for years now my child…it’s time to return to me with all your heart.”
I was hit by the weightiness of this claim. I had been defensive. For years. Ever since He answered a prayer differently than I thought right. I’d remained faithful, but defensive, as if I'd negotiated the terms of our relationship...I’ll trust you…at arms length.
But God isn’t a partial God.
Return to me…with all your heart. Joel 2:12.
Have you been disappointed by God? Has He answered a prayer differently than you had hoped or seemingly not answered at all? Remember He tells us in John 16:33 that in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. He is always at work. He is always faithful. And His purposes are often greater than what we can possibly understand. In Jill’s words:
“He will be able to use us if we are able to stand firm in our faith. Because of this, God chooses to train us up to maturity through trials and hardships, so that we can go forth in the purpose He has called us to. This type of training does not appeal to many of us, however, for most often, we can only see the suffering of the moment, not the end result.”
The sun is shining brightly this New Year's morning! The clouds are present, but the sun has broken through. His Son's likeness breaking through in me...in you...if indeed we share in His sufferings. Romans 8:17.
No storm can take the sun away. The sun is always shining. You just have to take a walk on the clouds. ~ Sam (Unconditional movie)
***We just returned home from church where the pastor invited us to extend our arms forward, palms up and receive the gift of 2017. Yes...let us trust the Son is always present above the clouds and receive all that 2017 has in store!
Accepting a new thing, often means letting go of the old. But oh how stubborn some dreams die. I've walked through a challenging season in 2015 reorienting to new realities and dreams that look different from those once imagined. In many ways, the realities are greater, yet in others, they feel less; perhaps the less merely reflects the different.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!...
My faith journey has largely been marked by radical obedience and what I can only describe as supernatural faith (for I know it doesn't entirely come from me). But for a portion of 2015, it seemed every prayer bounced off the ceiling, God felt distant and as a result I allowed a bitter seed to take root. While bitterness promises to console, it never actually satisfies. Wallowing in this state, I sat across from a fellow Jesus lover who is marked by a similar faith to my own. I not-so-humbly confessed "I'm not supposed to struggle in this way, wrestling with these feelings of indifference and doubt, I'm supposed to be on fire for the Lord, willing to walk through any trial."
I guess I somehow thought myself immune to humanity. I assure you, I. Am. Not.
I've heard plenty of testimonies where people have walked away from their faith due to hard circumstances, unanswered prayers, healing that never came...devastating loss. Having danced with doubt, I understand the reversal. In bolder times I actually prayed to give God "permission" to use whatever circumstances He needed in my life to bring the most people to Christ. This may seem like a noble pray from the mountain top but let me tell you, it is a devastating reality from the valley; suddenly backpedaling, "anything but this." Nevertheless, the valley continues to be my most sacred training ground, the place where the Lord shows me more of His faithfulness and the depth of His goodness, if only I can muster the strength to trust in His promises. It is here I find the courage to pray that prayer...again.
Trials included, I realize I've lived a rather favorable life and most days I look around at the blessings He has given me, in awe of His provision, protection and forgiveness. But we all have our battles, our heartaches, our unspoken or unanswered prayers - desires we carry in the hidden depths of our hearts. And in each of those places, we find fertile ground for pain; pain if left unchecked can easily sprout into bitterness. Instead...what if we trust Him and allow Him to till up our soil and sow a new thing?
In 2016, I'm choosing to believe the Lord can deliver us from those hard places (even if his delivery looks different from how we've imagined) I trust He is doing a New Thing. He who made a path through the mighty waters shall make streams in the wasteland. I wonder...will you meet me here - in this place of trust, forgetting the former, laying down our expectations, and freeing us up to receive the new.
This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “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 wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:16, 18-19
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Hi - I'm Brandy. I'm a farm girl at heart, but currently hang my hat in suburbia. I love my family and the roots they gave me...roots which provided enough courage to fly. I fell in love with Jesus in my twenties followed by Africa and my husband in my thirties. I'm fascinated by the tapestry God is weaving with our lives and the purpose behind each of our unique threads. I'm passionate about moving people closer to who they were created to be...closer to Him.