Friday, June 24, 2011

My Season of Thistles

 If I were to describe the last few years of my life, it would be the photo that you see here, a thistle.  I know that sounds really strange, but let me explain.

There was a time when I thought I knew how my life would be.  I had found the man that I am madly in love with, we have a nice home, and I had the career of my dreams.  I was an elementary teacher, and to be perfectly honest, I loved every moment of it.  In a strange turn of events, I left teaching due to burnout and feeling hopeless that I could accomplish the things that I truly wanted.  With that, I encountered my first of what would turn out to be many thorns and snags along the path,

As time marched on, my husband lost his job, which was working for our former church. So not only did we face unemployment, we also faced searching for a new church home, and finding a new group of friends--since most of our friends centered around our former church. To top it all off, it happened the day after my grandmother passed away.   I began to experience a hurt deep in my soul that I had never really felt before, and in my eyes it was not fair.  I encountered a whole new batch of thorns and sticker bushes.

Three years later, I look back on that period in my life as my "Season of Thistles."  It was hard.  It was dry.  It was full of pitfalls, uncertainty and most of all hurt.  The funny thing is, God used that season to do some great things in my life.

First of all, He led us to the most amazing church.  Our church is outwardly motivated.  It seeks how it can help others--(and here is the best part)--with no strings attached.  It has been a place for us to grow and heal.  There, I have made some amazing friends who are some of the sweetest people that I know.  I am talking about friends that I can call and they will drop whatever they are doing to be there for us, to pray, whatever we need. We also discovered how deep friendships that we had at our former church were.  Those friends reached out to us, and encouraged us in more ways than they will ever know. My friends are literally a walking Bible, because they spread the love of Jesus everywhere they go.

Second, God used this time to make us stronger.  I can honestly say that through this I have a respect and love for my husband that I may have never known had we not walked through those dark days together. He handled himself with such character and he always does.  I am blessed to have a husband of that caliber to spend the rest of my life with.

He also grew my faith and made me step out of my comfort zone a few times. To be honest, this was needed way more than I will ever know.  I stepped out by taking on new jobs, and learning new things.  I even joined a few ministries that I would have never had the courage to do, without the time spent in my "Season of Thistles".

God also brought new careers and opportunities our way that we would not have been able to have taken advantage of if we had remained tied to the way we thought life was supposed to be.  I am learning that when God allows you to be tested, you never really lose just gain something much better than you ever had before.  You just have to be patient and look for the blessing.

When I took these photos tonight I realized that life is much like thistles.  It can be hard, and prickly, but there is beauty in it.  Just look at that gorgeous shade of pink in the flower of the thistle.  Being in the middle of all of the thorns, the flower has the sweetest fragrance.  When we allow God to shape us in our toughest trials, we will have a sweet and tender fragrance to the world, and others are drawn in.

And finally, when it is all said and done, We go to seed, and scatter out the softest and most delicate seeds to those all around, so that they can find Christ, find hope, or whatever they need because we endured, and are still standing ready to help others as they go through their "Season of Thistles".

Life seldom turns out like you plan.  When God is in the middle of those plans, it turns out even better.  If he can make beauty out of a sticker bush, then surely he can take our hurts, our trials, and our messes and make them into something that will ultimately bring us joy, and bring him glory.  If you are in the middle of a "Season of Thistles,"  just know that this too shall pass, and you will be all the better for enduring it.  Trust me, if God made it happen for me, he will do the same for you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

I grew up in a small town in middle tennessee called Watertown.  Our house was at the end of a dead end street, so I would ride  bikes, rollerskate in the middle of the road.  My grandmother had a beauty shop on the square--about 2 or 3 blocks from where we lived.  I would ride my bike or walk there, get a coke and hang out with my grandmother there.

My Granny Agnew lived on the other side of town, probably about a mile away from our house.  I would love going to her house.  In the summer she would always have a garden.  When I was little, she would plant strawberries.  We would take the garden hose and walk to the garden and pick and wash off the ripe strawberries and eat them under a little hackberry tree that was planted at the edge of the garden.

At 4:30 Granny and I would wait in the driveway for Granddaddy to get home from work.  When the car pulled up, I would run out to give him a hug. Granny would usually have supper ready when Granddaddy would come home....I really miss her homemade green beans---there was nothing else like them in the entire world!

My mom was a stay at home mom until I was in high school.  She was very hands on, and we were always so close.  I remember the time I was in Vanderbilt Hospital sick from where a doctor had given me an overdose of codine when I was 6 years old.  There is not much that I remember about that time....but Momma was always beside my bed.  In the years that followed, I found out that the doctors did not know if I would have make it through being so severely overdosed.  I don't know how mom stayed by my bed day in and day out like she did, because I mostly slept.

My mom was also a big reader.  I remember her constantly reading to me. She actually taught me to read long before I went to kindergarten--which drove Mrs. Bettancourt crazy, because I would be the first one done with everything and she did not know what to do with me.

Daddy always had a truck.  We would go out for rides in the country looking for deer.  On special occasions we would take out our cane fishing poles and fish on the creekbank.  I always enjoyed those times...maybe because daddy put the worm on the hook and if we caught anything he would take the fish off of mine and momma's line.

Many nights after supper, daddy and I would go outside and shoot basketball together.  He would do his coaching to help me get a little better at it.  I was not ever coordinated enough to be really good at sports, but dad's coaching at least helped me hang in with the rest of the girls in PE class when it came to playing basketball.

Sometimes I wonder if kids today will have those kind of memories of their families.  People are so busy, and to be honest I think alot of priorities are out of line.  You are only given one chance to have a childhood and make memories with your family.  Those memories are the events that shape who I became as an adult and shaped the way I put my priorities in order as an adult.I am just thankful that God gave me a family where making memories and spending time together was a priority.

Expecting a Miracle

miracle of life

**This is something I had written a little while back, and am just getting around to posting it.  If you are going through a tough patch, I hope you can find encouragement in this--because God still provides miracles for his childern.

Miracles can only happen in impossible situations.  I think all of us from time to time would love for God to work a miracle in our lives.  We pray for them.  We hope for them, but none of us want to be placed in that uncomfortable spot where we are no longer in control, and we are totally helpless.  That is where miracles take place.

I believe God still works miracles.  I also believe that God wants us to expect Him to work miracles in our lives when we have difficult situations. I am also beginning to think that God brings us to difficult spots in our lives so that He can show us how He can work miracles in impossible circumstances in our lives.  I think sometimes we don't see those miracles--because we are too busy looking at our problems and obstacles instead of looking at our God.

Right now, we are in the middle of a tough stretch.  We have been stretched to obey.  We have been stretched to keep our hope alive.  We have been stretched to honestly look at the situation, and hand it over to God, because realistically, there was nothing that we could do in our own power to fix it.

Yet, amid all of that stretching, God has taught me alot (which as stubborn as I am could be seen as a miracle in itself).  He has provided money when we have needed it.  He gave us  encouragement when we were running low on hope.  He gave us a glimpse of how He was working in our lives--when we thought we had lost all sense of usefulness and purpose.

I may not have been looking for it before, but right now, I am expecting a miracle--and right now I believe God loves us all enough to give us one.  Our job is to just take the time to look to see God working and acknowlege it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Growth--A Little List of Things I have Learned

Plant being protected by mans hands new growth

I love the spring and summer, because it is a time of growth and renewal.  Life seems to awaken from the cold, dreary winter...and to me, that brings a certain excitement and anticipation into the air.  The past few years have been a time of sudden changes.  We have experienced job loss, finding a new church home, new careers, and we are learning to live in an economy that seems so uncertain.  Amid all of these changes, new growth has occured in the life of my family.  In reality this has been a tough season filled with growth, God fulfilling his promises, and even a little adventure.  Here are some of the things God has shown me through our journey through this season.

  • No matter how I cry out to God, he is faithful to hear me when I call.  The past couple of years have  been filled with uncertainty amid career changes, job loss, and a tough economy for  our family.  I have cried out to God in desperation, in anger, and in pure amazement at how he has provided.  No matter how I cry out to God, He is faithful to hear me when I call.  He understands.  He comforts.  He provides.  Sometimes I wish that I could orchestrate how everything is going to work out....but fortunately, that is not God's way.

  • I think God is a God full  of suprises.  He loves surprising his children with unexpected blessings and gives unsupassable peace and joy, if we will just rest in his loving hands and trust him completely.  Over the years, I am learning that God is more concerned with my relationship with him than his expectations of me.  Don't get me wrong, I think it pains God when we stumble and fall...just like it is difficult for a parent to watch their child stumble.  However, as our creator, He knows who and what we are...imperfect, and is just looking for ways to take those mistakes, missteps, and sins into something that will bring him honor and glory.

  • God is good all the time.  Even when we are in the middle of the storm, God is there providing guidance, love and support to His children.  In the middle of all of the stuff that life seemed to throw at us, it was so funny that God provided the right scripture, the right person to come across my path, or just seemed to provide exactly what I needed at the very moment that I needed it.  God is so amazing and so good to his children.

  • It is good for women to get together and share about their life and faith.  This past winter, I had the priveledge of hosting a Ladies Bible Study in my house.  I do not know if any of the ladies who attended got anything out of it, but I know I did.  The fellowship and experiencing the wisdom the other ladies brought to the table was just so uplifting.  A year ago, I would have never imagined that I would have ever committed to such an undertaking...but now, I can not wait to start up a new study this fall!

  • Finally, do something that you never imagined that you would ever do....and do it for God! You will never know just how fun and exciting this will be until you just do it.  Whether it is starting a Bible Study, making a quilt for someone who is sick, or running in a marathon...try something new and give God the glory when you complete it.  You never know, you just might find a new gift that you were destined to share with the rest of the world...if you just give whatever it is a  try!
What have you done to get new growth in your life?  I would love to hear your stories about things you have learned and new adventures you are having as you discover what God is creating you to be!