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What about when God plans disaster?

Wait, what? God plans disaster? He does. And this might not be my most popular post. But we need to know that God plans the steps of everyone for His purpose, even when it includes an earthly version of disaster.

Last fall, I was participating in a nightly Praying the Scripture challenge and I wrote this quick commentary on which I’m elaborating today.

Christians are are facing a world that has increasingly abandoned scriptural teachings. Even churches are affirming sin and teaching unsound doctrine. The American political landscape is more divided than ever, and we can’t even trust our news to report objectively.

We are wringing our hands, wondering what to do, but in a completely unpopular position, I’m asking what if this is part of the plan?

What if disaster is part of God’s plan?

Really – this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, but Jeremiah spent the ENTIRE book warning Israel God was going to destroy them if they didn’t repent and turn from sin.

False prophets kept telling the people not to worry, “God isn’t going to destroy us. He wouldn’t do that! He is a loving God.”

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

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And time and time again, God sent Jeremiah to tell the people, Yes, I love you enough to get your attention and correct you.

God’s ultimate purpose in all He does is that all would repent, not wishing any would perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Wait, what? God plans disaster? Yes, He does. And this might not be a popular post. But we know that God plans the steps of everyone for His eternal purposes.

Israel didn’t listen. Judah didn’t listen. America isn’t listening.

Culturally, we’re using our feelings to decide what is true instead of the immutable truths of God’s word.

Are we lost? We're using feelings to decide what's true instead of God's word. Seek His face. Click To Tweet

I know personally, the growth in my spiritual walk, the depth of my faith, has come in the times of suffering, not the times of ease or plenty.

Originally, I wrote this post weeks before my hip implant failed, my hip surgery failed, my recovery stalled and I’ve been very much handicapped. But despite my pain and tears and frustrations, my marriage is better, my faith is stronger.

God plans disaster for a purpose.

He let me hurt physically to strengthen me spiritually, to get my attention, to redirect my focus going forward. Because God plans disaster with an eternal perspective. He can see how today’s choices will resonate through history.

Maybe God is calling us to grow in the disasters that we face.

Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Many quote this verse from Jeremiah, but few include the context.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper  .   .   . 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 

In verses 4-10, God promises He has a plan, but it includes 70 years of exile.

God's plan might include disaster, but it also includes redemption if we repent and turn. Click To Tweet

Christians often cling to Jeremiah 29:11 as if it promises easy lives. But nothing could be farther from the truth, because God’s plan is measured in eternity, not just worldly blessings.

His plan is to redeem as many of us as will turn to Him for eternity.

Even as destruction rained down on His chosen people, God promised He was with them in exile, and that He had planned all this for their redemption, not that they wouldn’t suffer.

Once His people had been in captivity for 70 years AND were ready to repent and turn . . .

Jeremiah 29:12-14(ESV)

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

God planned the redemption even before the disaster struck, and sent messengers begging the people to listen so the whole mess could be avoided. They stubbornly didn’t want to listen or change.

Neither do we.

But God is sending people to warn us, like Shane Idleman and Francis Chan.

If we don’t listen, disaster may be necessary to get our attention. We may yet be headed for a large fall from our perspective. But nothing happens without purpose.

When we face disaster, we rush into the arms of our Father. Christians demonstrate faith and hope when we calmly walk through hard times.

Thinking in parenting terms – “Honey, don’t stand on that chair.” She ignores me, so I repeat myself.

“I said, Don’t stand on that chair! You are going to fall and get hurt!” I’m shouting now.

When she refuses to listen, I, sometimes, stand back and let her fall (when the hurt won’t be too much) so she will learn to listen and obey, so she will not need me to warn and shout next time, so she’ll learn wisdom.

I don’t want her to fall. I want her to stop standing on the chair. But I know she’ll learn when she falls.

And when God plans disaster, he doesn’t want us to hurt, but He would rather see us hurt for a season than be lost for eternity.

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Pray Awake – FREE Printable Daily Prayer

Letting the world into your home before checking in with Him? Pray Awake is setting the tone of my heart & home. Join me and PRAY AWAKE! Free Printable!

Pray Awake has become my new morning routine. The second I’m awake, I pray. I love how it quiets my heart and sets my eyes on Him. It starts my day even better than coffee. 😉 Free Pray Awake printable at the end.

Several months ago, I felt very convicted about how I started my days. I would usually roll over, grab my phone, and check Facebook.

As if that were more important than checking in with God.

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Checking in with Facebook and Twitter before you're checking in with Him? PRAY AWAKE with me. Click To Tweet

Blessedly, I have the luxury most mornings to gradually open my eyes, covered in snuggles with my little, but starting my day without prayer, I found myself worrying about this, stressing about that, completely letting the world into our home before I even put my feet on the floor.

The world’s anger, fear, ignorance, intolerance, vulgarity – I was letting it in before putting on my armor!

Ephesians 6:10-18 talks about the importance of wearing the armor of God.

I was inviting it all into my head and heart before putting on my armor. I needed to Pray Awake!

Why had I let that become the focus of my morning routine?

Something had to change.

I made a conscious decision to pray awake every morning.

I really wanted something sweet and simple that would set my eyes on Him and set a tone of service and ministry in my home for the day. My heart has to choose to lay down my selfish flesh everyday.

Pray Awake is a sweet, simple prayer to set my eyes on Him & a tone of ministry in my home. Click To Tweet

PRAY AWAKE kept coming to mind every morning, and those two words grew into an acronym of a prayer.

I really wanted to start with PRAY, but couldn’t find the right words. Then, in the face of some discouragement, I prayed for God to wake me the next morning & the words “Please Remind me I Am Yours” were on my lips.

So many battles I fight are calmed when I remember I am His. My confidence in who I am doesn’t come from my waistline or a jar, but the beautiful, useful vessel God is creating me to be.

I want all my ways to reflect God in my life, from how I handle the laundry to how I handle stress, to how I sing one more song at bedtime or answer a petulant child from a place of His peace not her chaos.

Letting the world into your home before checking in with Him? Pray Awake is setting the tone of my heart & home. Join me and PRAY AWAKE! Free Printable!

Welcoming God’s agenda for my day was a mental shift for me, realizing that my plans for my day were second to being obedient to God.

Do I answer my petulant child from a place of His peace or her chaos? #PrayAwake Click To Tweet

I had spent too much energy getting frustrated when my daughter’s desires or disobedience interfered with my goals, letting life’s redirection stress me out, instead of listening to His quiet calling to follow His agenda.

If my life is His – shouldn’t my day be His also? Accomplishing HIS tasks for my life reminds me my days are not my own.

Spending more time in His word has shown me how important it is because that is how we KNOW God, understand His character, and grow a relationship based on real faith and trust.

The last line really grabs my heart – Empowered to live in obedience. People think being meek and obedient equals weakness, but being obedient has taken more strength than I ever imagined.

Showing love instead of anger when God says forgive, watching the world reject you and Him, standing strong in the middle of chaos, having conviction in things unseen while the world mocks: These things take a supernatural empowerment, a strength I only have through Christ.

Starting the day with prayer has changed me. I parent more calmly, I tackle my day instead of the people between me and my coffee maker, LOL.

I run to Him first and that has made all the difference.

Pray Awake Printable

  • For best results when printing, make sure you select SCALE to Fit so your picture prints within in the printable margins of your 8.5×11 paper. It should come out as perfectly ready for an 8×10 frame.
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Tomato Plant Children

We can tend the soil, nurture the shoots, but we can't always see the storms looming in the distance. Tomato Plant Children - Heaven Not Harvard

We eat a lot of tomatoes. I think my husband lives on pico de gallo. I can’t tell you the number of last-minute shopping trips that involve needing a tomato. So, in my infinite wisdom, I, who cannot keep any potted plants alive and do only marginally better with a flower garden, decided we should buy a trellised potted tomato plant last summer so we would have at least a small supply on hand.

We carefully picked just the right place for it, watered it diligently, watched excitedly as it bloomed. When the first tomatoes began to grow, my daughter stood over them everyday waiting to pick the first one. In fact, she couldn’t wait and picked a tiny green one. Of course, we fried it. We do live in the South now. It was adorable. Just about three bites worth, but she was so excited to eat something we grew.

We couldn’t wait for red, ripe luscious tomatoes to grow.

We can tend the soil, nurture the shoots, but we can't always see the storms looming in the distance. Tomato Plant Children - Heaven Not Harvard

We never got to eat any of those tomatoes. As soon as each tomato got nearly ripe, it either got a disease or got eaten by the birds. We were so disappointed. I was frustrated. I had nurtured the plant and soil, watered carefully and lost every tomato. I’m sure better gardeners would have ideas, but with my lack of knowledge, we were helpless. I thought keeping the plant by the front door would help us remember to water it, protect it from the dogs, and give it a good amount of sunshine. I didn’t count on the birds.

I think there is a lesson in my tomato plant children.

We can nurture soil, tend a seed, grow a healthy plant, then watch the birds tear it apart. Watching our poor tomatoes get almost big enough to eat and then be destroyed by forces we couldn’t prevent, made me think about raising my daughter and her brothers.

I’m doing my best to raise them with good solid roots in a loving family, knowing God’s love and grace, but I can’t see every eventuality that might befall them. I see the boys sliding headfirst into adulthood and have no idea how to best prepare them for it, how to protect them from the world and themselves.

1 Corinthians 3:7 ESV “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

But maybe that isn’t my job. I can’t protect them from everything that might ever come their way. I just can’t. We’re still working on getting them to remember their chores. 🙂 So what IS my responsibility as a mom?

Proverbs 22:6 ESV “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

1 Corinthians says my job is to plant and water, but hope in the Lord for the growth. I have to point them to God and pray for them. Because we will all do our earthly parts to give them tools for the future, but it won’t be enough to stave off every disaster or poor choice they can make. Even if they listened to every word and completely obeyed (ha ha, yeah, right), they will still face hurts, tragedies, pain, sickness and life changing decisions.

I can’t tell you the hours I’ve spent agonizing over parenting decisions. Some days, it feels like it is all on my shoulders how these children turn out, and honestly, I’m still working on how I’m turning out.

But I can’t hold onto that any longer. These are my tomato plant children and I’m taking responsibility for my part. How they turn out is between them and God. Each day, I just have to choose to do my job in obedience, water those plants, tend to those roots, and know that worrying about the results is up to Him.

 

 

See similar posts about living and parenting intentionally for the Lord here.

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Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which, in turn, saved our marriage.

We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team.

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By the time we tried to communicate, we were boilers ready to explode, harboring so many hurts and slights.

My marriage was failing!

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying so hard to be a “good” wife while he was such a selfish jerk.

He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. He used the last of the milk, broke my favorite dishes with his carelessness, and left me home with the stomach flu and toddler to go hunting. If I ever dared to complain, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

The train wreck of our marriage was hiding so many broken pieces, I didn’t know where to begin.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I could live the rest of my life with this awful person who hurt me at every turn. Guarding my heart from him, I walked on eggshells whenever we were together. Often, I went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would start being what I needed.

What a selfish creep .  .

I was.

Wait, what?

Yep, I’d been angry and bitter because I’d been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the places God should be. I was bitter from my selfish, unmet desires.

I began seeking God’s answers for my life. At first, when I read about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept reading my bible and praying about it.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Over time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for grace, and understanding God’s love for me. It unlocked my heart. A veil lifted.

I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and hurts.

I stopped seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function.

Then, I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall between us.

Can Secret Service tear down the brick wall of bitterness?

Even when I had been doing the right things, I’d had the wrong heart. I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful chores I had done for him during the day and wait for his gratitude. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing things to serve or to get something from him?”

Even when I did the right things, I had the wrong heart. I wasn't serving. I was showing off. Click To Tweet

My motives weren’t pure. I wanted his love, recognition, respect.

A lesson from my Bible reading came to mind, about how we are to serve those in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Was my husband needy?

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but what if his poor attitude was because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs?

Through the lens of God’s grace, I suddenly saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion.

As God’s word poured grace and forgiveness into my heart, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine. Click To Tweet

I began my secret service.

I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to. Our Father sees what we do in secret.

Quietly, I began doing things without his asking, like noticing his toiletries need replacing, making his lunch, preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been frustrating.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret service for him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

One job I would never have considered before surrendering to Christ was picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the bathroom floor.

Every morning – He walks past his closet (where his hamper is) to leave the house, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor under the edge of the vanity. Previously, I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

But God was working on me. Before, I would have nagged him about being so lazy for leaving them there. My nagging would have become an infection between us.

Even several years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Then three years ago, I began to pick them up with a grateful attitude. “Thank you, Lord, my husband is not in Iraq.”

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that all my service is for You ultimately, and is about humility and serving without drawing attention to myself.”

One secret of my service is remembering that my service is ultimately in HIS service. Click To Tweet

I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. Mostly, I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. And I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When service filled my heart, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. My focus shifted. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. When his work day had been awful, I gave him some grace to find his peace so he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

It’s humbling and real. And every time I have shared this story with women whether 2 or 100, I’ve seen tears and nods. We all have our own dirty underwear mountain that we need to surrender.

So, I share in case another wife needs to hear my story. Nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return.

and Secret service is counter-cultural . . .

Our culture asks what’s in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude.

I’ve never been more joyful than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity underwear because I see how God has moved in our marriage and in his heart through my tiny acts of obedience.

And sometimes we need reminding that we’re not supposed to blend in.

Besides, the underwear was just a start. Once joining the Secret Service, I found so many ways to quietly serve people. Those services are treasures I hold like sweet pearls, knowing I’m seen by my Heavenly Father from whom nothing is secret.

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