Life Interrupted

Don’t you hate when things don’t go as planned? At times, I know I do; however, gradually I have learned how to better accept these moments possibly as God’s purposeful will. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that changed or delayed plans don’t make me extremely frustrated at times, but I’ve learned to take a step back and think, “Maybe God is trying to protect me from something, or maybe God is trying to teach me something.” Changed or delayed plans can be quite a nuisance, but maybe just maybe on the other side of that God is working things out better than you ever imagined.

Summer of 2011 was one of the worst time periods of my life. I was in the second semester of nursing school taking three classes. Amid all my classes, there was one that semester I was struggling to pass. It seemed no matter what I did my mind could not wrap around the material. I spent extensive hours studying. I bought supplemental books to help me understand the material. I made appointments to meet with the professor outside of class only to leave feeling more confused than before our meetings. Nothing seemed to help! Unfortunately, halfway through the semester I made a hard decision to withdraw from the class and retake it another semester. I was completely devastated and honestly felt like a failure. I would think, “How could this happen to me? I’ve always succeeded academically!”

The next semester didn’t seem any better. Because the class I withdrew from wasn’t offered again for another two semesters, there was only one class within my program that was available for me to take in the fall. I could only focus on everything I lost and negatively gained: losing my “family” that I started the journey of nursing school with, graduating a year later than expected, losing my work-study job because I was now a part-time student, and I developed test anxiety for fear of failing again.

Although this time in my life was not the greatest, believe it or not God utilized that fall semester to teach me lessons and build me in ways beyond what I could have ever imagined. I remember reading a book called Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer. My roommate, at the time, thought reading it might encourage me in some way so she offered to let me borrow her copy of the book. I remember Priscilla encouraging the reader to see life interruptions as God’s divine plan. She also brought to light the fact that God could’ve chosen anyone else in the universe to go through “this interruption” (whatever their “this” is), but He specifically chose that individual with purpose. I’m sure you can imagine my frustration and initial thoughts. From my viewpoint, it made no sense why God would divinely choose me to withdraw from a nursing class that caused me to lose even more in other areas of my life. What I didn’t realize however was that God’s intent was not to make my life miserable, He just had bigger plans than what I could see at the time.

Looking back, I can see how God utilized fall semester of 2011 to build me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. To overcome test anxiety, I had to learn how to depend on Him academically. Previously, I would study and take test under my own strength but God taught me how to depend on Him to divinely lead me during my study sessions and test. I also believe God used that semester to provide me with rest. Anyone who’s ever been through nursing school knows how stressful it is. There were many times where I would experience a random physical complication and think something was seriously wrong with me, but later realized it was all due to stress because of nursing school. And lastly, God utilized that semester to birth a book through me. Who would have ever known that amid what I would describe as a chaotic time in my life, God would lead me to write the manuscript of my first book. When I think back on Priscilla’s words now I can smile instead of cry out of pain about the fact that I was specifically chosen by God that semester. God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed my life to be interrupted and He does for your life too.

I want to share a scripture with you that I’m often reminded of when things don’t go as I originally plan. The scripture is found in Proverbs 16:9 and it reads “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Short and simple but important for you and me to remember. This scripture reminds me to hang on to my plans loosely because God’s plans for me may be different, and if they are different I can guarantee you that they are better. So, if you are currently finding it difficult to accept an interruption in your life rest assured that God has everything under control. You may not be able to clearly see it all now but He will use the interruption for your good because He loves you and has your best interest at heart.

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Fighting with the Wrong Weapons?

Have you ever been in a fight only to later realize that you had been fighting the wrong way the whole time? I’ve been in this situation probably more times than I want to admit. My mind for an example may become filled with thoughts like “Oh great another car issue. Ugh, first an eye exam bill and now a dentist bill. Are you serious? Why is the drive thru line so long? I have somewhere to be in twenty minutes.” You would probably agree that these are normal stresses of life; however, they never seem to occur at a time of convenience.

Recently I experienced a week like the one mentioned above, one filled with a lot of stress, a long to-do list, and in my mind, not enough time. Towards the end of the week, in a moment of solitude, God reminded me of scripture from Ephesians 6:10-18 and 1 Peter 5:8. That’s when I realized that I had been fighting the wrong way the whole time.

Although I had a lot to accomplish that week I was also seeking to intentionally spend more time with God. It dawned on me that my stress didn’t build up until after making those deliberate attempts. Often I mistakenly look at the stresses of everyday life as normal occurrences one must face at one point or another, but God reminded me that “we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world” (EPH 6:12 NLT). The rest of Ephesians 6 talks about suiting up in God’s armor and staying alert. Why? Because the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 PET 5:8 NLT).

Thinking about the scriptures from Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5, it’s no coincidence that after deliberately trying to be more consistent in my time with God stresses came that took my focus away from Him. I became so fixated on the issues at hand and trying to figure out a solution to each of them that I left God out of my remedy equation. Had I been alert and suited in the armor of God I would have quickly realized that they were attacks from satan and I needed to fight with spiritual weapons, truth from the Word of God, instead of fighting physically.

This week don’t just pay attention to what happens around you, but pay close attention to how it happens. It may not be big. Satan can use something as small and simple as misplacing your keys to frustrate you if he knows it will distract you from keeping your eyes on Christ. Remember, the war you’re in is not against flesh and blood and you must fight the right way to win. So, suite up soldier and stay alert! The armor of God is ready to aid you in victory instead of defeat.

Scriptures to Keep in Mind:

 “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (EPH 6:10-18 NLT)

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 PET 5:8 NLT)

The Cross

No matter what age we are, we all go through life situations that are not always easy to overcome. Some situations can bring about discouragement with the appearance of a bleak outlook. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that we will experience trials and sorrows on earth, but be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. This scripture should remind you that God is greater than your situation! God is greater than your financial struggle. God is greater than your health complications. God is greater than your challenging school work and grades. God is greater than your addictions. God is greater than your troubled or broken relationships. God is greater than your past abuse, hurts and pains. The list could go on and on…its unending! When we personally accept Jesus Christ into our life, EVERY stronghold and the power of sin over us is broken (Romans 6:6-7). This is no means by our might, but through the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we have the power to overcome ANY situation we face in life. I believe we underestimate the power of God too often. If God doesn’t move quick enough on “our time” doubt creeps into our mind. I’m guilty too, but sometimes I have to stop and ask “God how frustrating is it for You when I continuously doubt You, and You have NEVER failed me? You pulled me through the last situation so I should doubtlessly believe that You will pull me through the next one.” Today, I want to share a poem with you that I wrote some years ago. As we just discussed, I pray that it will be a reminder to you of the power of God and the cross that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to shed His blood and die on for you and me. No matter what you are going through right now remember that God is able!

The Cross 
The cross has conquered every stronghold 
Conquered every pain 
Conquered every issue that brings my life rain
It has conquered all my fears
Conquered all my tears 
Conquered all my shame, giving me ungodly names 
The cross has conquered my confusion
Separating light from darkness 
Without it I couldn’t see
But it guides me daily, being a lamp unto my feet 
The cross gives me full protection
The seen and the unseen
Keeping me from the prowling lion, and those who’ve joined his team 
The cross brings life to what should die
Like you and me, but Christ paid the price 
No way to repay, but yet our slate of sin is wiped away
The cross reminds me who to return to
And where to look for rest and peace
Because only through submission will I find what my soul’s missing
The cross is ever a remembrance of true unconditional love 
Not earned, but by grace and mercy from above
The Cross

My New Season…My Change

If you’re anything like me, you don’t always welcome change with open arms. It’s not to say that change can’t be good but the outcome of the unknown can seem…well…a little intimidating. I wonder if that’s how the Bible character Joshua felt when God was calling him to lead the Israelites to the promised land. Moses, the Israelites’ previous leader, was now dead and it was time for Joshua to carry the reigns. I can only imagine some of Joshua’s thoughts being, “How can I do this without Moses? Moses has taught me everything I know. God I don’t know if I’m capable of doing this on my own. It’s a lot of them and only one of me, and You expect me to lead these people?” Joshua probably experienced feelings of fear, insecurity, and being overwhelmed. His season of being trained was over and his season of leading had come.

God encouraged Joshua, however. As I read Joshua 1:1-9 three things stood out to me in the passage that I pray we can be encouraged by as well during our seasons of change in life.

1)     Joshua was told to remember his training. In Joshua 1:7 God told him to be careful to obey all the instructions Moses had given him. God prepared Joshua for his season of leadership through Moses. All that Moses taught Joshua could not be forgotten but was essential to follow in regards to the Israelites and his success.

2)     Joshua was told to remember God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). This actually goes hand in hand with number one. Although Moses trained Joshua, all the instructions Moses received during his season of leadership were directly from God. It was reemphasized however how important it was for him to continuously meditate, study and obey the book of the law. God told Joshua that this was the only way he would prosper and succeed in everything he did.

3)     Joshua was told to remember that God would be with him. Throughout the passage, God tells Joshua three different times to be strong and courageous. In addition, God reminds Joshua twice that He is with him. Sure the road ahead may have been scary, the unknown a little intimidating, and I’m sure every day would not be easy, but Joshua could rest in the promise that God would be with him wherever he went.

This same encouragement, command, and promise that was given to Joshua is given to us today. Your new season and change may not be similar to his. Your change may be transitioning from high school to college, entering parenthood, moving to a new city, starting a new job or position, learning how to be content in singleness instead of continuing in a dating relationship God has told you to let go. It could be a plethora of things. In any way, be encouraged and remember the training you’ve received that has brought you to your current season because you will need it as a foundation in your next season. Remember to continuously study, meditate, and obey the Word of God because God will encourage you, instruct you, and guide you through His Word as you journey. Lastly, remember that God is with you wherever you go. God is a keeper and He will go before you and be with you wherever He leads you. This characteristic of God is why we can confidently go forth into our new season being strong and courageous.

Taking Joy in Limitations

How often do you stress over what you’re unable to do? Maybe you’re use to driving yourself around town, but now because of some car issues and a shortage of cash flow you have to temporarily depend on someone else to drive you to your destinations. Perhaps you recently had a physical injury and tasks you never had to think twice about doing like cooking, cleaning, and bathing you now have to call on someone for assistance. Even toddlers get frustrated when they are trying to reach an object pleasing to their eyes, but realize they’re too short for the tall counter it lies upon.  At some point in our life we have all been frustrated over something we were unable to do and it seems as if life would be easier if we could just handle the task on our own.

A few months ago I got a new bed set. Woo hoo! No more back pain. I was excited. My parents would be bringing my new bed set over the weekend so in advance I tried to seek out where we could discard my old bed. I thought this would be a pretty smooth process but unfortunately it was not. I started with asking my apartment complex about their rules and regulations when it came to discarding furniture. In the past, I noticed others to place furniture by the complex’s trash compactor but I wanted to double-check that I would not be doing anything I should not be doing. To my dismay, the individual I spoke with at the clubhouse told me that residents were not supposed to place large furniture by the trash compactor. She said that a separate large dumpster was temporarily placed near the trash compactor a few times a year to allow residents to discard of large objects, but that dumpster was not currently at the complex. The only advice she could give me was contacting donation organizations, like The Salvation Army, to see if they took donated bed sets.

After contacting several different donation organizations, I learned that the Sanitation Department had recently implemented new laws prohibiting companies from accepting and selling used bed sets. I thought that was understandable from a health aspect, but it was still a little frustrating because no one could advise me on how to properly discard my bed set. I didn’t know what I was going to do and my dad didn’t see any sense in toting an old bed four hours down the road back home just to throw it away. However, within the next day or two I noticed the large dumpster to be near my complex’s trash compactor. I was really surprised. “Yes! Thank you God! Now I have somewhere to put my bed.” The dumpster I needed to properly discard my bed was there, but I had been told that it would be taken away the following day which would be before my parent’s arrival. Although I could dissemble the bed by myself I knew I would need help getting each piece to the dumpster and I had less than a day to figure out how to get the job done.

By God’s grace one of my church members was able to help me. He was able to move the bed pieces to his truck and throw it away overhead in the dumpster with ease all on his own. I remember reflecting on the event later that day and thinking, “Man sometimes I wish I could effortlessly do things like that myself. Then I wouldn’t have had to bother anyone at the last-minute or ask them to go out of their way to help me today. I sometimes hate the limitations of a female!” God interrupted my thoughts and quickly redirected my focus. He told me that sometimes I have to rejoice in my limitations. He also reminded me that He created man for relationship and the fact that females lack certain characteristics and skills that males have and vice versa was all a part of His plan. Of course God doesn’t want us to be helpless in a way that we never try to do anything on our own, even the things that He’s given us the ability to do. But if I could do everything all by myself I wouldn’t need others or would find reason to not need them. Likewise, spiritually speaking, if I could do everything on my own I would find reason to not need God and God definitely created us to need relationship with Him.

In what area of your life are you having a hard time accepting limitations? Could it be that God is trying to teach you how to directly depend on Him more or through those He allows your path to cross?

Scripture to Keep in Mind:

20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.   (1 Corinthians 12:20-25 NLT)