Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."
Hebrews 4:16




In North Carolina it's that time of year dreaded by children, teachers, and parents from the first day of school in August.  It's that time when students are instructed to "get plenty of rest and eat a healthy breakfast".  Parents do their best to encourage their children without stressing them out about the importance of a test that can essentially cause them to repeat a grade.  And teachers and staff just try to stay sane while their "performance" is judged based on their students' scores.  What could insight such dread, fear, and stressfulness?.....EOGs, of course!! 

With three sons, we've had our share of End of Grade tests over the years since they began, and I can definitively say, "We're NOT fond!!".  We've always told our boys to do their best but not to let it stress them out.  Easy for us to say!!  They know what these tests mean and, though they put on a good face and pretend not to be worried, they get a little unnerved.

I have a lot of friends in the same boat and over the years we've made it a habit to pray for eachothers' children and the teachers and staff along with our own kids.  We text, email, and call one another with encouraging words and prayers.  This year has been no different.  I have two boys taking EOGs and one taking an AP exam.   So with my work cut out for me, I sat down with my prayer journal this morning ready to call on the One who can bring peace to the worried heart. 

Most of the time when I pray for others I say something like, "Lord, I lift up so and so to you".  But, for some reason, today I pictured God sitting on His throne with Jesus at His right side and me actually taking each of my children to the throne to be blessed.  I've seen numerous movies depicting a priest or a king surrounded by throngs of people seeking "blessings".  But never have I seen God in such a way.  I can't count the times I've read the words of Hebrews 4:16.  But it never occurred to me how very literal they are.

Today God gave me a glimpse into the Heavenlies.  I took my children right to His feet and He blessed them!   He touched them with His hand of blessing and peace.   Yeah, I know, it's just EOGs.  But contrary to what the evil one would have us believe, our God cares about every detail.  He wants us to "come boldly"!  I am so thankful that He does.  So much of parenting is learning that you cannot be everything for your children.  You cannot be with them and protect them 24/7....but HE CAN!   And at His throne "we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

Blessings,
Ann-Marie







Monday, August 29, 2011

Just to Confirm...

Confirm 1. To support or establish the certainty or validity of; verify.

"After His baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my dearly loved Son , who brings Me great joy.'" 
Matthew 3:16-17

Lately God has been doing a lot of confirming in my life.  I don't know about you, but I like confirmation.  To be honest though, I have always felt that my need for confirmation pointed to my own weak faith. 
Until today!

Today He brought Matthew 3:16-17 to my mind.  It's a familiar passage.  We reference it often in regards to following Jesus' example in baptism.  But God showed me another aspect of this occasion I had never considered. 
Confirmation!

When the Father descended in the form of a dove, He was not only saying He loved Jesus and was proud of Him.  He was giving us confirmation.  This Man is who He says He is, I'm confirming it!
Ohhhhhh...I never thought of that!

God knew we would need confirmation from time to time!  I guess the real gauge of my faith here is not do I need confirmation, but do I even realize it when He gives it.  Am I so busy asking for it that I don't see it right there in front of me?

My God is so good!  No matter how long it takes for me to learn something or how many confirmations I need, He is patient.  He never says, "Ann-Marie, when are you going to get this?".  Instead He lovingly reminds me.

Oswald Chambers was so right when he said,
"Faith is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams that He will not stand by us."

Monday, August 22, 2011

I smell rain!!

Whenever I read the story of Noah in Genesis chapter six I can't help but put myself there in the situation.  Most of the time I've imagined stepping into Noah's wife's shoes.  What would my reaction be if Brad came home one day and told me that God had told him to build an "ark".  The ark here is metaphoric for anything that seems straight-up crazy!  I think the support of Noah's wife can be attributed to a little detail tucked away in Genesis 6:9  "...and he walked in close fellowship with God."  She knew she could trust her husband because she knew he walked with the Lord.  Considering this puts the story into perspective for me, and I am able to say that I would support Brad's "ark" whatever it may be.

Lately though, I have been putting myself in Noah's sandals!  Sure, his family was supportive but that was it!!!  Not another person, not a single friend, no one else ON THE EARTH believed him!  In fact, I imagine they outright mocked him.  They probably took great joy in sitting around laughing about the crazy old man building a boat and claiming his God told him to do it.  The women probably stood around the well and gossiped about his wife and how they pitied her and her loony husband.  But Noah never wavered!  The Bible never records an instance of doubt on his part.  "Did God really say that???"  He had walked with the Lord enough to know His voice.  He knew God's character.  He knew he could trust Him.
Noah could smell rain!!
I, too, have heard God's voice.  Countless times in my life He has spoken, and, although I have not always obeyed without hesitation, I have learned to trust.  There were times when His directives were exciting, times when they scared me to death.  When He said leave your family and friends and move to another state I thought He was crazy!  When He said stop homeschooling I thought I would die.  When He said move your family to Mexico we were scared and our family thought WE were crazy! But in all of these instances, no matter how scared I was, no matter how crazy I thought God was, or people thought I was...
I could smell rain!
It's one of those times in my life when, it's not raining yet, but I'm going public with my "ark"!  Many years ago God put a desire in my heart, a burden for the orphan.  He and I have had an ongoing conversation about it for several years now.  More than once I've been ready to jump in head first and He has held me back.  We've been sitting on the shore together and He has been teaching me things.  I've learned things I didn't even know I needed to learn.  I've learned things I didn't want to learn.  I've given up my will for His.  I've gained even more trust in Him.  I've run off without Him and came back to find Him patiently waiting for me.  I've told Him my plans and how I want this whole thing to work out.  He has patiently listened and lovingly shown me His plan! 
Now, the construction begins.  It's out in the open.  People are becoming aware.  I'm thrilled to death and scared to death at the same time!  He hasn't given me the full blueprint.  He reveals it just a little at a time.  I step out in faith and He reveals the next step.  I have no idea what the finished project will look like, but
I can smell rain!!
I covet your prayers!  Please pray for our family as we emb"ark" (oh that's cheesy!!) on this new adventure.  Pray that we would continue to be led by God and not step out on our own.  Pray for the child/children that He will eventually bring into our home.  Pray for God to be glorified in EVERYTHING we do.

Friday, August 12, 2011

ME of little faith!

"Jesus responded, 'Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!'..." Matthew 8:26

Jesus had to have a little sit-down with me this morning.  He had to give me a little pep talk, a gentle reminding. 
"Ann-Marie, look at Me!"
If our family were to have our own reality show the editors would never need to use the "bleep" button, but one phrase they would probably hear from me continually is,
"Look at me!"
When I'm talking to my children, or anyone for that matter, I want to know that they are listening.  To me, listening requires eye contact.  Therefore, like a broken record, I repeat my mantra over and over to the rolling of my childrens' eyes, and their obligatory "yes ma'ams".
So, imagine my surprise when I found myself on the receiving end of my favorite phrase!
"Ann-Marie, look at Me!  You've lost your focus.  You're concentrating on the winds and the waves.  Nothing about Me has changed.  I haven't moved.  I haven't missed a single detail of your life. But you've taken two steps back.  You've thrown out panicky prayers of desperation.  You've reverted to depending on your own understanding, when you should be leaning fully on Me.  Where is your confidence in Me?  Come back to the refuge of My protective wings.  Rest in the confidence that I am in control and I love you."
Oh the sting of disappointment when you realize you've let The Father down!  When I could have been hearing "Well done, child!", instead I needed chastising.  It's a bittersweet moment.  On one hand I am regretful over the missed opportunity to bring Him joy.  On the other hand, I am thankful!   Thank you, Father for loving me enough to remind me when I am missing the mark.  Thank you for holding no grudges!  Thank you for encouraging me and giving me hope that overcomes my feelings of regret and disappointment. 
The journey of faith is very seldom travelled on a smooth, flat road.  It is wrought with the highest of peaks and the lowest of valleys.  But, by the grace of our loving Father, we learn to remain confident no matter what; not confident in our circumstances, not confident in each other, not confident in ourselves, confident in the only One who NEVER CHANGES!

"Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:7


Friday, July 8, 2011

Wisdom

"I love all who love me.  Those who search will surely find me.  I have riches and honor as well as enduring wealth and justice.  My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver!  I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice.  Those who love me inherit wealth.  I will fill their treasures."
Proverbs 8:17-21

One of my greatest desires of God is wisdom.  Looking back over years of prayer journals, that is the one request most often seen.  Today He reminded me that He hears that prayer.  All I have to do is ask and He is prepared to pour it out like water in the desert. 

This week I purchased the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It's already changed my quiet time with the Lord!  The premise of this book is that Sarah has recorded her conversations with God over a period of time, specifically what He has said to her.  It is written as if Jesus is speaking.  Awesome! 

I've always struggled with my prayer time being one sided, me doing all the talking.  No comments from the peanut gallery here!  What I've realized through this book is that I can still write and be listening.  After I read whatever He leads me to that day, I then record what He is telling me through that particular passage or verse.  I begin with "Dear Ann-Marie" as if He is writing me a letter.  Wow!!  

God is ALWAYS speaking.  I am NOT always listening!   But thankfully, He is a generous and loving Father, ready, willing, and able to give me wisdom.  The means of blessing are as varied as His creation.  This week He used a book, an author, to bestow me with a bit more wisdom and I am so very grateful.  

FYI, this is what He said to me today:
Dear Ann-Marie,
The desire you have for wisdom will bring you blessings beyond measure.  You will gain more knowledge, insight, and understanding.  As you focus on Me and our relationship, you will experience peace in every aspect of your life.  Even in the trials and the difficulties ...Peace!!  You will SEE blessings that you would miss otherwise.
Seek Me and you WILL find Me! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"We don't know..."

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father, who knows all hearts, knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will."  Romans 8:26-27

I never cease to be amazed at the way God can bring a "fresh word".  You've read and heard a certain verse or passage countless times and you think you've gotten its message.  Then you read it for the hundred and first time and BAM!!... God hits you with something all new!!  This passage from Romans is one of those familiar ones.  I've turned to it many times when I was so distraught that I just didn't have words to pray.  I have taken comfort in the fact that the Spirit was speaking on my behalf when I just couldn't muster the words.  When I went through my "dark years" of depression I am certain that His Spirit did most of the praying for me.

But then this morning my devotion led me yet again to Romans and it was like I was reading it for the first time.  One of my constant prayers is "not my will Father, but Yours".  I know that as much as I love the Lord and I want to glorify Him in my life,  I cannot escape the fact that I am human and, therefore, selfish.  I can very easily convince myself that whatever I'm asking for in prayer is according to His will.  Knowing that, I feel the need to end any request with a quick, "if it's your will, Lord".  Today it was as if He said, "Child, don't worry!  I've got you covered."  He revealed to me that not only is this passage referring to the times when we can't muster a prayer.  It also assures us that when we do pray, the Holy Spirit acts as a sort of filter.  I know that really sounds holy!!  What I mean is that because God knows our hearts and knows that "we don't know what to pray for" He has assigned His Holy Spirit the task of making sure our prayers are "in harmony with God's own will."  Pheww!!  What a load off my shoulders that is!  All this time I've been worried that I would ask for things that were out of His will and He had my back the whole time.

Thank you Father!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feeling His Pain

I've got a new notch in my "Mom Belt".  My youngest son underwent major surgery last week. 
Nothing could prepare me for the emotions a mother feels when watching her child endure pain.
Many of my mom friends offered their advice and words of wisdom from their own experiences.  But, like so many other trials of life,
no one can tell you!
You just have to go through it to understand it. 
As hard as it has been seeing Jackson in such a vunerable state, there has been a blessing in it.
God has opened my eyes to what other parents and children are going through everyday!
Oh, what I have taken for granted!
I pray that this will forever change my family and me.
Thank you, Father, for healthy children.
Thank you for graciously giving me a wake-up call.
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