Blessings.

“The great danger of riches is that our affections will be carried away from God to His gifts.”

-John Piper

Blessings. What is a blessing, and how does God bless? These are questions that, living in America and surrounded by the material wealth that we ALL are, we must ask ourselves. According to Wikipedia, the prosperity gospel is, “a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth”. This makes me feel sick to my stomach, as this prosperity gospel is in fact no gospel at all. True, in the Old Testament, God sometimes did send material blessings on His people as a way to show them that He loved them and was with them. There are also times in which His people had to trust Him when things were not tangibly thriving:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior“. (emphasis mine, Habakkuk 3:17-18a)

Through stories like those of Daniel, Esther, and Job, the Lord began to show His people that they could trust God and know they were blessed even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

In the New Testament, there is no instance that I am aware of that discusses material blessing as the way God chooses to bless His people. In fact, it appears that things are the opposite. Jesus Himself did not have a home, and the disciples were called to leave all their possessions in order to find true life. The word blessing is used 44 times in the New Testament, and 31 of those times involve God saying people are blessed due to characteristics or traits of God; 11 of those are based on Christ followers being blessed for the kingdom of God and its promised coming. All that being said, it is clear that spiritual blessing, true, eternal blessing, is based on something much deeper than the “stuff” in our lives. It is also clear that just because we follow Christ, does not mean He will satisfy all our temporary wants. The opposite tends to be more true. God promises to meet all of our needs; but many times following Him calls us to lay down our material and temporary desires for something greater.

I say this all because as you read through this blog, I want to make it clear that I do not think that God is a genie in a bottle who we rub the right way and get what we want from; no. The purpose of this blog is to encourage you that God is in the details and that we serve a God who is constantly working  and is for us in all things.

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It has been a hard year both emotionally and financially for our family. I took this picture last winter; as it depicted so much of how my heart felt: God’s light continuing to shine in the midst of a hard winter. We have been provided for in all of the ways we need, and have had the support of so many, but tough is certainly accurate for where we have been. When we found out we had to move, and that the move was going to need to be in a more expensive part of town, we were trusting but curious as to how things would play out.

For as many things as we have had to wait for recently, the Lord graciously did not make us wait to sell our home. Two days on the market and it had been sold. There are many details that I am leaving out for the sake of length, but the provision given  in the home we found is nothing short of God’s grace.

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Meet our new home. We were fully prepared to live in whatever home we could find, and fully prepared to have less space or less amenities. Through a strain of amazing details, God sent some incredible “for sale by owners” that felt drawn to our family and were determined to sell us their house in whatever way we could make happen. Not only is this home set off in the woods and unbelievably peaceful, it is in the right school district as well. Did I mention it has a bedroom on the main level and a wheelchair ramp in the back? God is in the details, friends.

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Again, I want to make something clear. Is this some crazy mansion with all the things I would ever want in a home and more? No. I am thankful God did not put that at our feet; for I am sure the temptation would be to focus on the gift and not the Giver. It has been, however, a sweet reminder that God is with us, He is for us, and He wants to give us peace and rest. And, as the Israelites were continually reminded that God was the God that brought them out of Egypt and continued to bring them to Himself, I pray this home continues to be just that for us: a reminder that He knows us, loves us, and delights in showing us Himself.

Friends, I have a strong request of you today. Take a trip back, look around you, and see the ways that God has showed you His heart. It is in the form of His Word, His people, His unexpected surprises, His provision in different seasons. And, don’t just look at the happy times or easy things. Look at the hards, too. See the ways that He has given blessing through trials; intimacy with Him through tears. He is constantly blessing us in mysterious ways, and His desire is that we would see Him in it all and bring praise.

It can be hard to view all things in the same light, and I will be the first to say it. It is much easier to see the provision of a peaceful home as a blessing than it is to see the mutation in a gene as a blessing; but easy or not, let it be true in our hearts. With open hands, let’s not be afraid to thank Him for all things. Let’s boast in Him and point to Him as the Giver of all good things, even those things that we fight to see as so. Especially those things.

The unknowns continue to pile up; and I am fighting hard to see Him in it all. This week holds continued testing, continued appointments, continued therapies…blessings. It holds friends to hold our hands along the way and lift us up when we cannot stand…blessings. It holds potential confirmation of answers, potential confirmation of more questions…blessings. It holds laughs, smiles, tears, and frustration…blessings. All blessings when filtered through His loving hands. And, as I sit here in our new home, cartoons playing, coffee in hand, beautiful fall trees in view, I breathe in His mercies to see it all through His eyes. My prayer for you today is that you would be able to see His love for you in whatever He has brought to the table. That you would bow your head and give thanks to the One who is always working and always loving with a never-ending, constantly pursuing, all-powerful love. And, when you cannot find the strength to do so, I pray you would rely on His grace to carry you through. His love knows no boundaries, dear one.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”- 1 Corinthians 15:57

Open Hands.

I have been riding in the same car for about 15 months now. I was thrown in suddenly, given no directions and no destination. There have been detours and obstacles along the way; at points I have been in standstill traffic. This week, we received a probable destination, however the directions remain hidden. It would be as if you were a cab driver and a person hopped into your car and said, “I think I’m going to this particular restaurant; but there’s a possibility I am headed somewhere else.” As the driver, what do you do in that situation? How do you follow one path without knowing with certainty that you are heading the right way? Furthermore, how do you keep driving toward that destination, knowing that you may never know if you are going where you need to go? Jesus.

If this sounds muddy, rest assured it is. I have been so tempted to not share this portion of our journey because it feels just that, vague. This roller coaster of a ride has me dizzy and confused, but this I know: God is not a God of confusion. He is sovereign and He is working. He is in the details. Sometimes, we have to hold fast to the thing we do know in the midst of the things we don’t. And, we must always, always remember that while things may feel uncertain and unknown from this angle, the Lord is driving the cars of each of our lives and He is most aware of the directions. He is writing them. Beyond that, while we may have many stops along at he way, our destination is always Him. So here I stand, open hands.

Open  hands. A vulnerable posture to take on, no matter the situation. When we open our hands to something, we are trusting that whatever is coming is good. At the end of last week, I opened my hands to what we thought was going to be our answer: a form of mitochondrial disease that is neurodegenerative and fatal at a young age. I asked God to do the impossible yet again: unravel my clinched fists and open them up to the plan He had in front of us. As He always does, He did the unthinkable and brought my heart to a position of rest in light of His plans. I was ready to praise Him in this new knowledge. And then, the call.

Genetics is complicated and man is just that, man. After further research on the genetic report, they had determined it was not probable that mitochondrial disease was our answer, yet another mutation was clearly involved. They discussed the findings with me and explained why it had not stood out to them from the get-go: mainly because it is extremely rare and often lethal. Hugh and I are carriers and the girls have the mutations required, so the question is not do they have this syndrome but rather how affected are they and and is this our full answer. More testing, more possible outcomes opened up. Open hands.

The cross. Jesus walked the road to Calvary and willingly opened His hands to God’s plans for Him, knowing that He would bring good. He who opened His arms and nailed Himself to the cross- can I not open my hands to what He brings?

“You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.”- Psalm 145:16

I believe this. I believe this because I have seen Him do this in all circumstances and all seasons thus far. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” Yes. While it may seem muddy to me, may have complicated things in my eyes and the eyes of man, God is a God of order and He is writing this story, yours and mine, intentionally and joyfully. He is not shaken and we do not intend to be either. The God who made man out of dust, who spit in the mud and brought sight to the blind, He is using our mud and muck to magnify His name and show His power. The One who gave us from His hand double blessing for all our sins, (Isaiah 40:2), can we not trust Him even when His doings are beyond our understanding? Even when it seems dark, is that not His hand covering us and protecting us in ways we cannot yet comprehend but will one day understand? (Acts 13:11). He hides us in the cleft of His mercies, and no one can snatch us out of His hand. (John 10:29). So, whether we are receiving that which is known or that which is foreign, we must keep our hands open wide to ALL the gifts He wishes to bestow to us. He can be trusted in all things.

So, our hands remain open. We take these new findings with open arms and hopeful hearts, knowing that His hand is guiding us through it and that we don’t necessarily need directions when we know who is driving the car and we know His plans are good. Friends, I beg of you to open your hands to whatever the Lord has brought you today. I plead with you to see His goodness in it all, even when you cannot understand. He is good and He ravishes His love on us in all things. That which was unexpected to you was planned before the beginning of time by Him that formed you and loved you enough to rescue you from that which you could have never saved yourself from. Let’s seek His strength today as we open our hearts and our hands to His story. He is writing this chapter; yes, even this.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”- Psalm 118:24