Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The storms of life prove the strength of our anchor.

    The storms of life prove the strength of our anchor.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
                                                     Proverbs 3:5,6 

The past few months, our lives have been filled with storms- and I'm not talking tiny ones. Not "my kid spilled juice on my new carpet", "I'm fighting with my best friend", "we are tight on money this month" kind of storms. I'm talking earthshaking storms, the kind that change your entire life. The kind that will either force you to panic and lose all faith, or make you cling to your belief that God will get you through the other side of the storm. 

We lost our home.

While we were camping with our CROSSroads group at LifeFest (a huge 3 day Christian concert in Osh Kosh), we got a call telling us that our apartment had flooded. The tenant above us broke a pipe, and water drained down into our apartment for over an hour, and the damage was so bad that we would have to move out for them to be able to fix it. 

Now, as a woman, your home is a safety net. It's where a lot of our stability comes from, and the place we offer stability to our children and spouses. To have it pulled out from under you with no warning leaves you in a state of panic that I can't even put into words.

The home we had spent years building, caring for, and making memories in was just suddenly gone.

We had to do an emergency move- and thanks to some great friends, it got done pretty fast. Thankfully, NONE of our stuff was ruined or even wet- only the walls in the apartment were damaged. We were put in a temporary upstairs apartment in the same complex, but told we would need to find somewhere else to live. We were basically homeless- technically having somewhere to stay for awhile, but not able to have a home, and living out of boxes with most of our stuff stored in the garage because we knew we were just going to have to move again. 

For weeks, I prayed and fasted. I didn't understand why this was happening, but I knew God had a reason. I've been walking with God and doing ministry long enough where I have seen God use crazy, confusing circumstances to orchestrate His will, and use bad things to bring blessings.  

Knowing that, however, didn't stop me from worrying. Or grieving. Or hurting for my little boy- the little boy that I am responsible for giving a stable life-  who was so confused about where his home went and didn't know where he was supposed to sleep at night, that he walked around with his blanket crying until finally settling on the floor and falling asleep, because he no longer had his bedroom. I felt like I had lost a big part of our lives, without the chance of closure.

Being in limbo is a horrible feeling- especially if you are someone who isn't blessed with the spiritual gift of patience. The not knowing what is going to happen next is a nightmare for someone with control issues. 

How were we going to find somewhere else to live? How were we going to move everything? Where we were going to come up with all of the extra money to do this? I had tons of thoughts racing through my head, until a still, small voice reminded me that He has never failed me before, and He won't start now. I had to trust Him- because ONLY He could turn this situation around. He was allowing this situation to force me to give up my control, and depend completely and utterly on Him. 

God uses the hardest times in our lives to get us to cling to Him the most. I have grown the most as a Christian when I was personally suffering the most. It is in the times of confusion, of fear, of doubt, of wondering, of feeling forgotten or hurt of lonely, that we grow the closest to Him. It's in the valleys of life where we can truly see God walk with us, and when we come to the mountain on the other side and look back, we can see He was with us all along. 

It is in the valleys where we realize that He alone is enough. When there is nothing that we can do to fix a situation, He shows just how powerful He truly is. Seeing His faithfulness in impossible situations shows us just how much He is God, and just how much He loves us. Seeing Him work things out in ways that no human could, keeps us in awe of His glory and omnipotence. 

 Through all of it, God kept reminding me to put my trust in HIM. Was my security in where I lived at, or in God? Was I putting my faith in a home, or in the one who made all things- including our home? The one who had given it to us to begin with, the one who promises to never leave us or forsake us, the one who has taken care of me through the years even when I wasn't walking with Him- was I really going to believe that He would stop taking care of me now?

God was using that time to build my faith- to trust and depend on Him alone. I believed He would come through- He had to, because there was nothing I could do to fix the situation. I know God well enough to know that He doesn't fail, that He loves me, and that He will never stop caring for me. Yet, everyday, I had to fight the doubt that would creep into my head with the word, prayer and fasting. I had to hold fast to my faith, and trust that my God would come through for me- no matter what it looked like. He will always provide, sometimes just not the way we envisioned. 

I had to fight fear with faith, I had to believe that God would move, I had to recall all of the times He has shown Himself faithful and come through for me before. I had to tell the little voice in my head that would pop up to taunt me with doubt to go for a hike. I had to really, truly stand fast in my faith. The only other option was to completely crumble, become hopeless, and give up.

I have a tattoo on my ankle of a cross, a heart, and an anchor. I got it to remind me of  Hebrews 6:19- that hope in God anchors my soul. I also have a tattoo on my wrist of a cross with a semi-colon to remind me to keep going when I could give up and stop, because God is not done with me yet. I have spent a lot of time in the past month looking at those two tattoos.

I chose to try and look at the positive in the situation. I could have blamed it on the devil- that He had taken our home from us, that we were being punished for something, that God didn't love us anymore- but the more I prayed and fasted, the more I heard God tell me that HE was using our apartment being flooded as a way to move us to where HE wanted us and needed us to be.  It was time for us to move on. He was in control, and I just needed to give my control up to Him, and let Him work out our situation.
So I waited. 
And God showed up.
The end result of all of this chaos was an answer beyond our wildest dreams. God gave us a home that we could never have imagined having. A beautiful, huge house, with tons of room to run and a big back yard for our little boy, a park basically in our backyard, a giant screened in front porch, and wonderful Christian neighbors that uplift and help us. It is literally everything we wanted, and everything we dreamed. It is everything we thought we would never have- and wouldn't have if it wasn't for Him. He has placed some wonderful people in our lives that I will forever be grateful to. 
It's a far cry from our two bedroom apartment that was surrounded by neighbors who hated the fact that we were Christians. 
We are happier than we have ever been. I am astounded and humbled that God loves me the way that He does, because I don't deserve it. That He cares so much about us that He would do whatever He had to (including a flood) in order to get us to His blessings and plan for our lives is amazing. The fact that the creator of the universe knows my hearts' desires and provides in a way that is miraculous is astounding to me. I am nobody, but I am somebody to Him- a beloved daughter of a father who has a good plan for my life, and chases me down to show it to me. 
What we thought was home in our apartment, is not what God intended for us. It was never meant to be permanent, but a stepping stone. He had better things in store. We just had to let go of the old, so that God could give us the new- and not complain about it in the meantime. 
I read a story once about a little girl that had a costume jewelry ring that she loved. She wore it everywhere, and wouldn't take it off. It was fake and made of plastic, but to her it was her most treasured possession. One day, her father came and asked if she would give him her ring. She clung to her little plastic ring, and cried and pleaded to keep it, because she loved it so. Little did she know, that behind his back, her father was holding a real diamond ring. He had something better for her- something better than she had ever known- but she needed to give up what she was holding onto to receive it.
God works that way with us to. His ways are not our ways, and He sees the big picture. He knows what we need, where we need to be, and how we are going to get there. He wants us to trade our plans for his- to give up our plastic ring for his diamond one. Yet sometimes we become so attached to what we know, to what is comfortable, that we lose out by not following God into the unknown. 
God knows. If he takes something away- even if we believe we really need it- it is only to give us something better, or to get us to where we need to be. We just need to trust him in the journey.
In the unknown, in the midst of the storm, is where we learn just how weak we are, but how powerful our God- our anchor- really is. We gain a closeness to God that we would never get any other way.  And in the end, that makes it all worth it. 
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. 

Hebrews 6:19-20

 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

   Job 1:21 
He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’