Welcome to Heartsprings, where I share what springs forth from my heart for God and His people. I pray that what you find here blesses you and draws you nearer to your Heavenly Father who loves you like no other.

In His love,
Brenda :-)

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Perfect Resource

When you have questions or a problem, where do you go for help?  Is your first instinct to go to your friends, family, or even a neighbor?  I know mine is.  I don't want it to be.  I want my first instinct to be to go to my Heavenly Father.  "O' Lord, hear my plea for justice.  Listen to my cry for help.  Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips." -Psalm 17:1

I read that verse this morning and thought about how I sometimes pray with fervor because I'm worried that God won't answer my prayer as quickly as I would like Him to - or as obviously.  God knows everything!  He knows me better than anyone, including myself.  Who better to take our questions to than the answer Himself?  I asked myself why I took my problems to my friends and family first.  The answer I came up with was, "because they answer me faster and it's not as difficult to hear them."

We are such a microwave society.  We want it all and we want it now, and we want it just the way we want it.  We are so spoiled!  I don't know how many times I've sat down and attempted to be still before God only to battle a million thoughts running through my head, and a need to be up and doing something.  Task oriented, microwave woman.  That's me!  If I would only be patient long enough, and quiet long enough to hear His answer, I would probably be a lot more successful in my life.  My Heavenly Father knows what all I need to do in a day.  He knows exactly how much time I need to accomplish each task, and He knows which tasks really need accomplishing.  I need to trust that He's not going to derail my day because I took the time to sit and listen to Him.  In fact, He will redeem my time.  I know that because He's done it faithfully in the past.  How soon I forget though, all He's done for me.  Sigh!  All to easily, I forget and fall back into my "chicken with her head cut off" patterns.  I'm just being honest here.

What if I practiced a little self-discipline and made myself take ALL my questions and problems to Him first and actually waited on His answer?  I wonder exactly how that would turn out?  Would I be spending all my time sitting around being still and quiet?  Hahaha!!  That's a funny picture to me.  I think I'm going to make it an experiment.  I'm going to write all my questions and problems down in a journal, and for the next week I'm going to take every last one of them to God and no one else (unless He tells me to seek counsel from someone in particular).  I'm going to ask for His help and do my best to sit still and listen, and when He tells me to get up and go about my business while I'm waiting, that's what I'll do.  I'm going to trust Him solely and completely.  Wow!  That actually sounds a little scary!  I'm going to do it though because I know that He is the perfect resource for ALL I need to know, so I'm going to put what I know into practice.  How often have I NOT done that?  That's an entry for another day.  I'll let you know how my week goes.

Brenda  :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maintenance or Mess?

I just had to share this because the simplicity of it is just so profound!  A quote from the devotional "God Calling":  "It is as a race.  Nothing must daunt you.  Do not let a difficulty conquer you.  You must conquer it.  My strength will be there awaiting you.  Nothing is too small to be faced and overcome.  To push small difficulties aside is to be preparing big troubles."  

That last sentence struck me the hardest.  So often it's the big challenges that I really see needing to be conquered, when in reality, they probably started with something small that I ignored.  How awesome a thought is that?!  I mean, I'm sure there will always be big things to confront that were big to begin with, but how much easier would things be if we knocked out the little things when they first confront us instead of letting them grow?  See what I mean about profound simplicity?

 I don't know about you, but I am notorious for complicating things.  I have a dear brother-in-law who loves to tell me to stop thinking so much.  He says I over-analyze and complicate things all the time. What IS that?  Does it come from my seemingly inherent need for drama?  (I've been called a drama queen more than once in my lifetime and have given birth to several of them  :-/ )  Let's analyze this - if I let some small trial grow until it's more like David fighting Goliath, that's much more dramatic, isn't it?  More dramatic is more fun, right?  Well, not always if I were to be really honest.  Actually, I think as I get older drama becomes more tiring than fun.  If I really think about it, I HAVE been steering more toward simpler things these days.  So, maybe I WILL confront things more while they're still small.

Something else that crosses my mind; oftentimes when a small annoyance shows up I find myself putting off confronting it simply because I have bigger things to attend to.  Does that ever happen to you?  I put it on the back burner and add it to the list of things to get to "later".  "Later" could be later that same day or it could be a month into the future (more times than not it's at least a week or two "later").  By then it could have grown into a level 1 emergency!  Hmmmm.......I think there must be a solution here I just don't see it right this moment.

Let's analyze some more.  :-)  I know I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and the Holy Spirit is my Helper who recalls things to my mind.  Maybe I could pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help me get to things sooner.  Maybe I could make myself a note of some kind or set an alarm in my smartphone and make it act like it really is smart!  That would take two seconds and probably save me a lot of time down the road - two seconds well spent.  If, however, I'm not in the middle of something really important like making sure my homemade syrup that I'm making for my homemade pumpkin pancakes doesn't boil over, then I could handle it right away.  By the way, making sure syrup doesn't boil over is very important.  You don't want to deal with the alternative - talk about a sticky situation!  Heehee!!

All kidding aside, I would really like to go through my day with more awareness of the things coming at me and an intention to deal with even the smallest of challenges right when they challenge me.  I think a lot of times as a mom I'm dealing with so many different things at once that sometimes I just duck or block without even really seeing what I just avoided (put on the back burner).  Does that make sense to anyone?  Something else I've noticed that seems to be diminishing with age is my multi-tasking skills (that sounds like a whole article in and of itself).

I think the bottom line might be focus.  Like a racer is focused on his race; his breathing, his pace, the finish line.  I need to be more focused on my race.  I need to see the things that come like hurdles on the race track and bound over them rather than letting them trip me up.  I have God's strength to help me with that so I might as well use it.  I would much rather work with God to maintain my pace and overcome obstacles than end up in a heaping mess just inches before the finish line.  How sad would that be?

Heavenly Father, strengthen me to run this race you have set before me with energy and focus (and maintaining my multi-tasking skills would be really great) so that my life honors and glorifies You.  I thank you for all the tools You have given me to do all that You have called me to do.  In the amazing name of Jesus, Amen!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Transparent Testimony

I have been a devoted follower of Christ for seventeen years now.  I guess you could call me a spiritual teenager.  My spiritual upbringing occurred in a wonderful church where I had several beautiful, godly women as mentors.  Eleven years into my journey, God did something incredible that I am still processing.  He ripped me away from my wonderful church, and my beautiful mentors and friends, and dropped me in the middle of the desert.  Well, central Texas, to be exact, but it may as well have been the Mojave to me.  It's actually amazing to me how much insight He gave me beforehand, and yet how shocked I was when it all actually happened.  I knew God wanted to do a new thing in me, and He wanted to take me to the next level with Him.  I also knew that I would be following Him into the desert, and that there would be trials.  Knowing something in your head, however, is a far cry from the actual experience of it.  I really had no idea what I was in for.

The list of things that I have experienced in my six years of "exile" is extensive.  Things I never could have imagined and can't really begin to list here.  Partially because it would take a novel to fill it all and partially because a lot of it would just bore you.  I will say this though, every area of my life has been shaken and rearranged.  Everything I believed has been questioned.  The very essence of who I am as a person has been dissected and examined under a microscope.  Some of the trials have come directly from God and some have been a result of my response to what God was doing.  Needless to say, I didn't always respond positively.  What I want to share with you today is a sort of epiphany I had this morning about being who God made me to be.  A result of the microscopic exam, perhaps.

Let me provide a little insight first.  I spent a lot of my life being very insecure and intent on doing things "right".  I grew up under a very critical dad and was heavily influenced by a perfectionist grandmother.  So, when it came time to be a Christian I looked around for someone to model.  I guess out of habit, I looked for "perfection".  I looked to people who looked perfect on the outside.  Fortunately, most of them were also beautiful (I have come to learn that no one is perfect) on the inside.  My insecure little brain, however, associated the outer appearance with doing it "right".  I decided that being a good Christian meant dressing well, perfect hair and makeup, and perfectly manicured nails.  After all, that was how my grandma always presented herself and that was how I was taught to present myself as well, even before becoming a Christian.  It was a perfect fit.  Don't get me wrong, I did understand the gospel and actually submerged myself in Bible study.  I also thought being a Biblical scholar was the way to superior spirituality.  I needed to be the perfect package, remember.  My trip to the desert changed all of that.

In spite of my superficial perspective on Christianity the Lord managed to lay a strong foundation, through those beautiful mentors I mentioned, that I was able to rely on while being buffeted by the enemy in the desert.  I really can't begin to tell you how badly I was shaken by what God was doing, and that was the point.  Unfortunately, the enemy used all the questions and doubts that arose as a virtual playground.  I will be very transparent here and tell you that I have not grown like I could have these past six years.  I have doubted God.  I have disobeyed God.  I have been angry with God.  I was in a tailspin and couldn't seem to stop it!  All the weaknesses in myself that I thought God and I had worked through, resurfaced.  I cannot remember ever being more confused and frustrated than I have been since  being uprooted, and I don't think I have ever cried so much in my life.  I have always known that God was in control and I have always chosen to believe that He has a plan for my life.  I have had to remind myself so many times of all the truths I know about God because there was such a strong pull to stop believing.  Yes, stop believing.  There were times when I thought it must be so much easier to just stop reminding myself and do something to change my circumstances on my own.  God was just not working fast enough and He was not relieving my pain, confusion, and frustration.  I have reached the end of my rope several times in the past several years.  If I had a dime for every time I said, "I can't stand this anymore!", I would be buried in dimes.  Somehow, all of the inner turmoil magnified my need to do it "right".  Probably because everything seemed so "wrong" to me.  The ironic thing is, the more I tried to do it "right", the more I had to try to do it "right".  I could NEVER seem to do it right.  I couldn't do marriage right, motherhood, Christianity, myself......nothing.  The battle between spirit and flesh has never been more apparent to me than it has been these past few years.  My spirit knows that I can do nothing in and of myself and yet my flesh is determined to make everything "perfect".  I know that God's plan and timing are perfect, but my flesh wants to do it in her time and according to her plan.  The battle raged in every area of my life.  It has been..........tiring!  Then this morning, the epiphany.  Seven simple little words that came out of nowhere; "What if you're not doing it wrong?"  What?!

Could it be possible that God didn't create me with a cookie cutter?  Is it possible that there are more important things than having your house spotless and being perfectly coiffed?  Could it be, just maybe, that not making your bed every morning is not a sin?!  What?!  Maybe this whole thing with God - this Christianity - is really and truly about relationship and outer appearance has nothing to do with it, not even a little?  It shocks me to know how shallow I've been, how self-reliant while thinking I was relying on God.  A wonderful pastor friend of mine once used the term, "glory seeker" to actually describe himself.  That phrase struck a chord with me because I am guilty of the same.  I have always wanted to be important and well loved.  I have sought the approval of man more than the approval of God and thought that doing everything "right" was the way to obtain it.  Knowing that I was already important to and approved of by God was head knowledge.  My heart hadn't bought it yet.  I think my heart is just now starting to really believe it.  Being a Christian is not about looking the part.  It's about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength regardless of what anything looks like.  It's about being sold out to the One who deserves all you have because He gave His all for you.

All those years I tried to fit myself into a mold that I thought was "right".  I was not being completely true to myself or to my Heavenly Father.  I wasn't trying to discover who He made ME to be and what HE wanted me to look like.  Don't get me wrong, I like my share of "cute", but I put way too much stock in it in the past.  So, with you as my witness, as of today I am breaking the mold.  I will no longer try to fit myself into someone else's shape.  I must let go of of pre-conceived ideas about everything and embark on a new journey with God - discovering what He has for me now and who He intended me to be all along.  "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead", - Philippians 3:13  It is imperative that I keep moving forward and leave the past behind - every today as soon as it becomes yesterday.

Walking with God is an amazing journey....all of it.  The mountaintops, the valleys, the dusty roads, and the lush meadows.  It all goes together.  One cannot be appreciated without the other.  God never promised me a rose garden, but He did promise to always be with me and He has been.  The reason I could come to the end of my rope several times is because He kept giving me new rope - a lifeline - and here I still am.  More hopeful than I have probably ever been, and possessing a deeper understanding of who He is and what He's really all about.  We still have a lot of work to do, but a major hurdle has been  jumped with the destruction of the mold of "rightness".  Hallelujah!  Onward to further discovery!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Easy Joy

"In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
 -Psalm 16:11

I think I have finally learned something about the joy of the Lord.  I cannot MAKE it happen.  I do not enter into the fullness of His joy through effort.  For years I struggled to understand the whole concept of "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10) and what exactly that joy was supposed to look and feel like.  The keyword here being "struggled".

I am by nature, a melancholy personality; analytical, perfectionist, the glass is half empty, etc.  Joy and happiness don't always come easy to me partially because I try to wrap my brain around them rather than just experiencing them.  I need to understand WHY I should be happy, and I wait for something terrible to happen that will destroy that happiness.  Sad, I know.  I also know that I'm not alone in that.  There are a lot of people like me in that way.  I believe we've been conditioned by bad things happening in our childhood or early adulthood.  Just when things start looking up.....wham!  A tragedy or just plain hard times come to knock us down again.  Why bother with happiness or joy when it's going to be short lived anyway?  Kind of like bed-making.  Why expend all that energy when it's just going to be messed up again in a few hours?  Okay, maybe those things aren't really even on the same plane, but there's a little correlation, right?

The funny thing is, I have always wanted to be happy.  I have spent a good part of my life with happiness as my goal, and did everything I knew of to obtain it.  I have never wanted the dark cloud that so easily comes my way.  I battle it constantly and always have.  I would catch glimmers of optimism, joy, and happiness, but it was never enough.  I have and do want more.  I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength and I want to bubble over with optimism and hope.  I have several friends who are like that.  They make you smile just by being in the same room with you.  Their light is contagious. Unfortunately, I can't be with them 24/7 so when I leave their presence the light fades.  I'm a Christian. I'm supposed to be joy-filled and hopeful.  What kind of testimony is a black cloud?  No one wants any of that.  That was part of the head game I played with myself and that nasty devil loved to perpetuate it. The truth is, Christians are still human.  We will always have challenges and things to overcome on this planet.  No human being, Christian or not, is happy and joyful one-hundred percent of the time.  It's just not humanly possible.  Unless you live with a person, you're just not going to see all the down times.  Most people will put on their happy faces in public and only show you the good anyway.  We all want to look as though we have it all together and our lives are perfect.  Even if someone's life is really, really good - it's still not perfect.  I think I have finally convinced myself of that and have stopped comparing my life to others.

I'm not going to blow sunshine and tell you I've discovered a quick-fix and I am now one of those bubbly Christians I mentioned earlier, but I will tell you what I have discovered.  I need to stop struggling.  I need to stop trying to wrap my brain around everything God is and does (because it's not possible anyway) and simply "be" with Him.  That's where the joy is and the more I am with Him, the more His joy permeates my being.  For example, I have recently taken to memorizing Scripture again.  I pick a verse for the week and each day I fill a journal page with that verse, sometimes saying it out loud as I write it.  Guess what?  I am noticing a change in my attitude!  I am feeling more of His joy deep down inside.  If I keep going like this, I may one day be bubbling over like I've always dreamed of.  It's a process though.  That's not to say it can't happen overnight.  God can do anything.  For me, however, I've needed the lessons that the process has provided and I'm looking forward to more because I know I will need more.

One of the lessons I have learned is that there is a lot of joy in the little things.  In the middle of my day, remembering how much He loves me.  Listening to Christian music while driving in my car.  Noticing things like clouds, trees, flowers......His amazing creation that He created for us!  I can't look at a beautiful sunset and not smile in awe.  The joy is all around us as well as inside of us and the only effort necessary is to notice.  That's not much effort at all, and it's certainly not struggling.  How crazy is that?!  We humans tend to make things so much more difficult than they need to be.  I am terribly guilty of that.  What a waste of energy!  I think I may put a sign up on my bathroom mirror to remind me every day, "Keep it simple.  Joy is easy."  Amen!