Monday, November 3, 2014

When the break up breaks your heart

Sweet Friend,  Your heart is breaking from the breaking of a tender relationship in which you had hope and wonder that perhaps you had found the one.   Perhaps you had become connected to the man you had waited for and longed for and wondered about on your knees before a holy God.   You opened your heart up to him and wanted him to meet desires in you and needs that are right and holy.  It is a longing to be known and loved and secure in relationship that God has placed in your heart.  Don't grieve your longing for a husband.  Lay it at the feet of the one who loves you so much that when you were still his enemy he went to a cross for you.

I remember those feelings of my own heart ache and anxiety of when was God going to bring me a husband.  When I was helping to lead a youth group in a local church while I was a college student I used to joke with my students that I was not going to be a youth minister because then I was sure I wouldn't get married until I was 32.   (I married Jeff when I was 32, of course)

I went traipsing around the world, much like you have done, and poured my life out for the lives of teens living in third culture places.  It was amazing and wonderful, and many times, lonely.  Even in the midst of thriving ministry I spent many nights in my bed wrestling with God about my future. I longed for a husband. At one point I thought that I had met him, entered into friendship with him, and proceeded to have him break my heart over and over with an on again, off again pursuit of me.  I finally had to tell this Mr. Wrong who I thought was so right that I couldn't even be his friend on any level.

In the midst of the emotional roller coaster of this man I heard another lover calling me with greater zeal and faithfulness.  I was challenged to read 6 chapters of scripture a day.  I entered into God's word and found that eventhough my heart hurt from rejection, my soul and my spirit were being watered and thriving.  My heart would heal too and before much time passed, and many tears were spilled, God began to more completely take the place in my heart that I was so willing to give away.  My desire for marriage did not leave, it just wasn't controlling me.

Several years later, back in America, I found myself struggling again about when I would be married. I was experiencing stress at the church I was serving and found that the more stress and uncertainty I experienced in ministry the more I just wanted to be married.  I was trying to read God's word one morning and I may as well have been staring at the wall for all I soaked in.  I felt the urge to run.  I put on my running shoes and hit the road on a cold February morning and very clearly heard God assure me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, that this truth is indeed the key to contentment.  I realized my desire for marriage was based in a fear that I was going to fail as a youth minister and I needed a man to rescue me.  Jesus reassured me that in Him I had what I needed and I found a deep contentment.

The next month,  Jeff Webb began to write me poems and the rest is history.

I love you friend.

Father, speak deeply to my friend's heart. Pour your comfort over her and give her your Word to provide a solid place on which to stand.  Father, she needs you.  She needs to know that you hear the cries of her hurting heart and she needs to believe you.  She needs to believe that you are good and everything you do in her life is informed by your goodness and your tenderness and strength toward her.  Heal broken places.  Lead her on paths of truth and righteousness. Give her hope in you today. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A letter to the Broken Hearted

How many of us memorized Jeremiah 29:11 as youth?  I did!   I think I had it written on my softball glove.  I could read it out in the field and make myself think that God had it in mind to make me a great athlete. I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord (YES), plans to prosper you (YES, catch that fly ball, make that home run), plans for a hope and a future (European Championships here we come!).  It wasn't until I went to College and I experienced my own little exile that I began to grasp the context of the events and the people who inspired that promise.  

For me it happened in my Senior year when I spent my last semester living with my Dad because his house was close to the homeless shelter where I would serve my practicum.  I was living far from my college friends in a place I had never lived and in a situation that was tumultuous. I was lonely and weary.  In suffering God showed me the context of my favourite verse.  

Jeremiah 29 is a letter written to broken hearted people who were forced into exile. It is not a pep talk letter to a happy folk who just need a cheerleader on the side lines telling them that God loves them and keep on keeping on. It is a letter written to people who were at once the kings, princes, craftsmen, and prophets of Judah. They were God's chosen people and among that people they were the cream of the crop. They were the ones with the influence, the prestige, the money.  They had everything they could want, once, until they became captives in a strange land to people who served a pagan God.  They wanted to go home.  They couldn't.  Imagine the heartache of being sent into exile, the brutality of being taken from your home, the only place you ever knew, to make the long desert walk to a foreign land. The humility, the desperation, the brokenness.

A modern day exile is found in the leper colony.  These women have leprosy.  I visited their home in India. It was the most hopeful place I experienced in my trip.  They were fully alive because they had hope in Jesus.  Their leprosy did not take away their lives, for many of them their leprosy led them to find real life in Christ. 
Day after day the false prophets of Judah would tell them that the captivity would only be a couple of years. It would all be over soon. God would restore them, and would defeat Babylon.  But day after day they sat there, broken, staring at walls, depressed.

I can relate to staring at walls. I can relate to being so broken and hurting that all I can muster is the strength to stare. The strength to turn on the television to think about any thing else than what has broken my heart. I can feel traces of the pain of utter disappointment in God.  I felt the pain of exile as a college student. I have felt it many times since. 

Jeremiah sends his letter to the exiles and his words to them sound nothing at all like pity.  He tells them:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

These are the children of the lepers in the leper colony.  We stood on a rooftop and sang songs of praise.  There was joy because even in hard times, God is good.
God has sent you into exile.  Live there!  Be all there.  Live your life for the glory of God in the midst of your pain and longing.  Don't give up on life.  Be fully alive.  Your circumstances may be hard but your God is good.  Live.  Invest.  Get up and contribute.  Let the God of the Universe show His glory through all your broken places.  Trust that God is present with you in your exile and know that He has come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.
I bought several table clothes and a purse made by the leper colony residence.  

 From the exiles in Babylon to the lepers in the colony I visited in India we see the same calling to live abundantly.  God is enough. Life is in Him.  Live fully.  Be grateful for life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Journey

Last week I was getting Zack ready to go to Sci Quest for the second time in  3 days.  My boy loves science. When he first walked into sci quest he stood in front of the giant marble run for 15 minutes.  He was mesmerized.  He was figuring it all out.  How the blue balls go through the twists and turns, the red balls move through their maze.  "Look Mom, see how that one jumps, how does it go through the twist part?'
So many questions for an almost 5 year old boy who was cut from the same cloth as his engineering daddy.  So the morning I was helping him get dressed to return to his childhood utopia I told him why we do it... Why we buy him Lego's and marble run and take him to sci quest and the Space and Rocket center... Why we let him build squirrel traps with Daddy's left over wood and we spend time nurturing his creativity. 

It is because God has told us in his word to train up our child in the way he should go.  My Pastor David Thew once taught me and Jeff that passage meant to train him according to his bent. So I knelt in front of my son and lovingly affirmed to him Mommy and Daddy's conviction to nurture his strengths.  Smiles and hugs and off we went.

While I was at Sci Quest I got a message that touched a nerve. I learned a friend was given a gift and I wondered why some folks end up with so many blessings and I seem to be missing out in that specific area.  The area being a bigger family.  Why does God add children to some families and not to mine? I have been totally content with our small family so I didn't understand why I was having a problem.  I was talking to God about it in my head and I had this great sense that God was saying to me "Judy, I am raising you up according to your bent".  Wow! God is raising me up in a way that is intentional to who I am, even at 41!  

We are so often tempted to look at the blessings of others and wonder if God has forgotten us.  We wonder why does God give that person the great job and I'm unemployed.  Why more children to the family that already has 4 and I just have 1.  Why do they get to go to Disney again... Blah blah blah... You know what your struggle is and the answer is always the same.  God is raising you up according to your bent.  Don't compare yourself to others.  God knows what He is doing.  He has you in mind. He knows what is best for you.  Just as we nurture Zack according to his passions and calling so God does with us... Only much better.

Friend,  join me today in saying to God "I trust you with my life and heart.  I trust that you are raising me up according to the way that I should go.  That path looks different from my brother, but it is good and it is uniquely mine and I gladly walk it with you.  Give me the grace to walk it with you!"