Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Life with Nona: Growing beauty in the ugly...

Life with Nona: Growing beauty in the ugly...:   I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.  It’s not important who does the plant...

Growing beauty in the ugly...

 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 
The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
1 Corinthians 3:6-8

This year I planted some sunflower seeds I had gotten many years ago. They were the giant ones...the ones with the big beautiful faces. I can't pinpoint one reason for waiting so long. I just knew this year was the year I would take the seeds out of the packages & plant them, talk to them & watch them bloom. I wanted to grow something new & after reading about the wonderful extra large faced ones...I knew they were the ones I wanted to spend my time & effort on this year. 

I researched the best ways to start these beautiful, smiling lovelies. I learned that the seeds that grow in the center, creating that smile, would eventually feed the birds that visited my backyard & that was ALL I had to read. I was determined to love these seeds to their very best selves. I would plant seeds of love & harvest a crop of joy. But that doesn't always look like what I imagine, in my rose colored mind. Sometimes the reality of behind the perfect pictures of the beautiful things on the package, well it only tells a very small part of the whole story. Just like with life. It's what's in between that is why that picture is as beautiful as it is. 

I got them planted a little later than I had planned, but I got them in the soil. Then I added them into my normal morning routine. I would do all my feathered friends waters, birdbath & my doggies water bowl...then fill all my feeders...then I would water & sing or talk to the sweet seeds hiding in the soil. It didn't take long to see the first sprout...proudly springing up to brighten my day with a fresh breath of life in the air. I name him, Adam.

Fresh new life. I was so excited to share with everyone that the seeds I planted were sprouting. I get so excited to share joyous news with those I know, I forget that they may not be as excited as I am. For a long time I would be more selective about who I shared my excitement with. I worried about offending others, I worried about what others would think/say about me sharing a wonderful blessing. Sometimes my blessings don't seem to be the same for others, in their lives. It may be more burden & less joy for them. God has taken the last several years to teach me that I may not be a fit for everyone, but I am just what He created me to be. So through too many experiences to count, I have learned that it's ok. It's ok to be excited & to share my excitement with long as I remember that they may not react the way I am expect & that's ok, God has taught me that it's NOT me they are reacting to, but themselves. So I share.

Before I got up the next morning 2 more beautiful green sprouts were peeking out & a tiny little one was just reaching the surface...

For several mornings after that day, I was blessed with at least one new beauty breaking through the dirt that had covered it until it was ready to share it's beautiful face with the world. Each new green sprout, brought me such joy & pretty soon I felt like I had a new litter to take care of. 

As they started to seek the sun, they started to stand taller...trying not to be the one with the shadow, but the one that was always bathed in the warmth of the sun. So funny that in life it seems that when we think others have something, we need it too. That if God asks us to step back into the position with less, we tend to compare what we have, with what others have. If we come from a view of "we all deserve..." well we will live in a constant state of "the grass is greener..." I, myself, have found that when I start looking around at what others are doing, getting or being, well it makes my life look "less than." If I stay in that mindset, I will stop seeking what God has for me. I will miss out on what God has for me & what God has is always better. 

As the days, then weeks went by my litter of future seed bearers kept growing. They were growing so fast, then a late bloomer came up one day. I called him Paul.

Paul came along right before I was going to transplant them into a couple of storage tubs...I decided that if I plant them mobile, I can take them with me. I tend to get attached to living things. 

I used to consider this a curse. But God. He has shown me that loving living things is how He created me. When I try not to be who He made me to be & surround myself with stuff, I am not happy. I seem to just want more & more. Which is part of the reason I allowed food to be such a huge struggle in my life, for so long. I was created to love, just not to love things, but to love life. When I finally gave God this part of me, the struggle to fit in & have the same thing as everyone else, I found my sweet spot. The place where I have never failed to find God. Not in stuff, or places, or food...but in every breath I the peace that only He can give. 

I have to stop seeking others & their opinions about my journey. I have to stop getting attached to things & places...even to people. In this season of trimming, He has walked so many right out of my life at the end of their season. I think that I have fought Him more over this...but in Psalms 32:8-9 God says...

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

As I read & search His word for His point is for these verses...for me...I realize He is basically saying to me, "Don't be stubborn, stick with ME...not people."  He reminds me that He, is ALL I need. He will ALWAYS give me what I need. People may come & go, but God...He is faithful. So in this season of growing this litter, I may be doing it without other people to share the joy with. 

The ruler of this world knows that God created us to crave connection, to struggle with chasing happiness. So he will send people into my life to distract me, to deter me from God's path, to drag up the desire to find the joy in things...instead of God. God can use though people to remind me that He's ALL I need. God will remind me, that though those people may not know it, He is using them to mold & shape me. I do know that with or without those people, God is creating & building a He will be known. A testimony that will bring Him glory, show His power & also how much He loves me.

As I started to realize that the sweet sprouts were getting too big to share the tiny containers they were in, I knew it was time to give them more room to grow. I was going to put them into a single 32 gallon tub, but after getting prepared with soil & then carefully separating each plant, I realized that a single tub wouldn't be enough. So out came tub #2. Some of the plants were attached by the root, they couldn't be separated without killing one of them. 

The instructions on the package suggested that I "thin out the plants." I knew that I couldn't make that I decided to plant the ones that were attached in a single spot. I told my guys, "survival of the fittest I guess." When God thins my circle I know I stand around looking dumbfounded & wondering where people are going? But God sees the whole picture & I only see surface level. So I figured if God wanted to thin these flowers out, He would do it.

I did however talk to, sing to & care for ALL of them...they ALL survived. The grew taller & more leaves. They tried to outgrow their neighbors, they tried to steal their sunshine. It's funny so many times that's how the enemy distracts us. He tries to up his offer, he tries to use others against us to make us rise up in pride, or envy.

Soon the signs of the smiling faced beauties started to show up. The buds were quickly starting to top each of the stalks. Some had more than one bud. 

The anticipation of when I would finally see the beauty bloom was almost too much. I knew how much love I had put into bringing them above the soil, then to keep them living & growing. I was so excited. I know that in my life I have poured myself into so many relationships, only to have them fail. I wasn't ready for these to decide not to bloom. I really wanted to see the efforts I had made in the beautiful face of these flowers. 

I wouldn't have to wait long, the next morning the first one opened it's beautiful self up & I was NOT disappointed. He was beautiful, amazing. Then I noticed another ready & before the end of the day I had 2 beauties chasing the sun with their faces lifted high.

I have continued to watch each of these beautiful babies open up their faces to the amazing sun. I have fed them, trimmed them & kept them in spots with all the sunshine they wanted. They did not disappoint me. They brought me lots of joy. Not only because of their beauty, but because of the life.

Even Paul brought his joyful face to follow the sun...

I am new to this growing sunflowers role. The days got hotter here in the desert, so the morning I went out & my beautiful litter had fallen over...I started to cry. I truly cried sitting on the patio looking at my poor babies. I thought if I got them water they would be ok. So I watered them, but they wouldn't lift their faces that day, actually I had no idea they wouldn't lift their faces to the sun again.

I couldn't figure out what I had done? How did I kill them? I searched them on "the Google" & learned that after blooming they go into a "ripening" season. Their faces fall & they lose all their petals. Those smiling faces just disappear that fast. Kind of like some of the people God's taken from my life. One day they are there with me, professing a forever friendship & the next day they are gone. But thankfully I have God. He helps me realize the road He is walking me is narrow & others will fall away as my road narrows.
 In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says...

 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it."

I read on & learned they are ripening the seeds they are growing. So though the beauty they once had was bright & cheerful, their new beauty would come from deep down inside. They were almost disguised as "ugly" by this world's standards, during the time they are busy working hard on the inside. The deepest parts of themselves. Like when God is working on the deeper parts of me. This world may tell me that parts of me are "ugly" but God's doing a work in the deepest parts of me. This process isn't pretty, but it's necessary for God to grow this story of His.

One morning I was heading out the door to enjoy my usual routine & startled a sweet red headed bird that was standing on the back of Adam, bent over the side eating the seeds...a new joy raised up in my heart. I could barely contain my excitement as I headed over to talk to & water my beautiful litter. I whispered this is why I planted the seeds Lord!!! I wonder if that's how God feels each time we actually receive the wisdom He has for us & we do what He's created us too?

I know this, God has asked me to trust Him & His plan. This is a struggle for me sometimes. It used to be a lot more often, so He's changing something in me. I know that before today if I would've known that the beautiful time with this litter was so short, I may have just left the pack of seeds in my gardening tub. It helps me realize that just because it's not my perfect, that God's perfect will always be better. That though all the hard work & time I put into something may not create what I imagined, it will still serve it's purpose. That all the relationships that have come & gone, served their purpose for God.

 I pray that I can live in the purpose He created me for. I know that sometimes the beauty of growth comes during the "ugly" times. May I remember that even in my longest, hardest, deepest struggles, God is growing something me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When God calls us...He does not stutter...

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
    but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
 Blessed are those who fear to do wrong,
    but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.

Proverbs 28:13-14 

These are the verses that God brought my way this evening as I sit down here to put into writing what He's giving me today as He has walked me through the second day back on track with the health journey He began with me back in 2015...a long, painful & very life changing journey that's been about so much more than the 100 + pounds I've shed. 

In fact, the last few weeks I fell back into my "comfort zone" that food has always been. Food was THE most important part of that comfort was my go to for every single emotion I felt. You can imagine after losing that much weight, falling back into old habits...well let's just say it's easier to just hide behind the work that was already done...without sharing my struggling again. 

Between the fear of letting others down, of giving my haters the joy they seek in my failure, for whatever reason. So it was easy to just fall back...quietly without a whisper, but GOD. He reminded me that He already trimmed that away & called it good.

So these words remind me that hiding behind the sins that held me captive for so many long, painful, lost years...will only take me backwards. I already know how to walk this path. Or do I? I've been on this path for awhile now. Or have I?? Just because God has freed me of many of my past hurts, doesn't mean I can't choose to pick them up again. He's cut many of satan's strongholds on my heart & mind. He's shown me REAL love, He's given me an identity & called me I believe Him? Believe Him EVERY moment?? EVERY breath??? Do I hear Him speaking to me? Or do I get comfortable & stop searching constantly for God? Do I finally fool myself into believing "it's ok this time..."? It's just a "stumble."

If I'm still falling back into my worldly choices to sin, it's not stumbling anymore...I have to call it what it is, SIN. 

God knows I will sin, He knows the deepest, inner most parts, He knit me together...He already sees me complete, but knows how my journey will shape me & bring others to see Who He is. What I have most often failed to realize in the past is that when God does something new & calls it "good"...He does not stutter. He MEANS it. When He asks me to step out, up, over, down or in, He does NOT stutter. So when I stand frozen from fear, stubbornness or whatever reason, I can NOT pretend I don't hear Him, that is SIN. 

Most of my life, I have used excuses to give me peace about my sin. But this last couple years, God has NOT let me fall back on my excuses. He has started being much more direct about showing me very quickly if I even start to create an excuse. At times I have gotten upset, change is hard for me. Those times I have quickly learned to be still & listen carefully for His guidance, this I have found is so much better...the pain is sometimes harder, but the new peace is much more comfortable & permanent...if I choose.

I know that some that have loved me, or believed they did, wanted  to help. They would share their thoughts, they would give advice, or they would distance themselves. I've learned however, that ONLY God can show me His way & when I rush ahead without God, the results can be disastrous & very, very painful. I've hurt others & been hurt by others. Even though they believed that they were giving me good, sound advice...God always has the last word in my life. 

As God is growing me, He's also growing my desire to surround myself with people who are also on a journey with Him. Who live their journey out loud without fear. That love me like He does. That are willing to be coarse sandpaper for me when He needs them to be...without fear & without GIVING UP on me. They will be BOLD & UNAFRAID of "not fitting in." THE most important quality I am seeking in those He surrounds me with now is that they have a deeply rooted relationship with Poppa God...not the kind so many "live" today with the "Church is on Sunday, the rest of the week is mine" attitude. 

I know this attitude well, I lived with it for many years...most of my life even. Even serving with a church on & off. The picture of my "relationship" with was not only cropped, but for many years it was "photoshopped" to show only the best parts of my life. I cropped out the messy parts, the times we were in the darkest parts of our lives. I only put the pictures that showed what this world considers "good Christians." What those I believed had a deeper, closer relationship with God than I did, looked like to me.

 I truly learned a great deal about deep, true faith  from some amazing sisters & brothers in Christ. God also has shown me some that claimed to have a relationship with Him, but really only live in that relationship when it fit into their "box." Otherwise they found some "fault" in living for Him. 

I also learned that looking to others to show me what my relationship with God should look like...well that's foolish. I should be looking to God, the Author of my journey, the Creator of my life's testimony. Only He can give me His direction. That has taken me years to learn. I've compared my journey with other peoples & I've felt less than...I've also felt more than. Both of these comparisons have fed into what satan would like me to focus on...others. 

God is also asking me to focus on others...for completely different reasons. He wants to love them, teach them & He wants to speak to them through me. If I am stuck comparing their struggles, their blessings, their lives with mine they won't see Him, they will see another jealous, hater that wants to see them fail, calling themselves a Christian. 

If I am living this "perfect" life claiming to have a relationship with God, I am not giving God the opportunity to reach out to people who don't have the "perfect" life. People may be more comfortable seeing the "reality" of what living for God is. Finding joy in some of the hardest, longest, darkest storms...when others walk away. I WANT to find God in the storms & what His purpose is in each one. I WANT Him to reshape me, to mold me. To make me the daughter He sees.

 That does not mean it feels good, in fact some people I have loved dearly have walked away & though I try to pull them back, it's not me that they will hear. Others have heard my Poppa in words He's spoken through me, or seen Him in times I have said "yes" to Him, even though I couldn't see past my doubt. 

When I first learned that being a Christian is so much less about rules & so much more about loving God with all of my heart & my life, someone told me "God doesn't want you to wait until you're perfect to live for Him boldly. He wants to perfect you as you live boldly for Him." So many struggle with that concept, I fight this too. I think that I have to be a certain way, or be beyond reproach before I can "live out loud for God, with God"...but God wants me to learn from Him so others can see Him building & growing each part of my testimony. He wants others to realize I walk the same struggles, hurt the same, get angry & I am far from perfect...but I am His.

Though my dark times may not be the same as others, He can use the truth in those moments to show others that everyone has difficult paths. No one is exempt from the pain of letting go of everything we've ever known as comfortable. But God wants us to expose the real life struggles, for others to see their struggles in ours & then see how we react to them. If I am choosing to keep sinning in the midst of a struggle & keep asking God "why," instead of digging into God's word & finding the "what" God has for am I any different than the "world?" 
Ephesians 5:13-14...says,

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.

At this time in my journey God is asking me to be authentic. He isn't going to let me hide behind "who" I used to be...He trimmed that away. No, He's calling me forward for Him, to live out loud for Him, always. Even when I look at something He remade & forget how He did it. How will He reach the lost if I refuse to let them see me lost...when I truly am. 

Stop looking around & start looking up & in...celebrate with those who are experiencing breakthroughs, instead of comparing you valleys with their mountains. Remember y'all that comparison is the thief of joy...don't let the enemy steal your joy.