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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Between Egypt and Canaan

Adventures in Pennsylvania this week: 

Took the boat out with my host family this past weekend. It is 75 degrees with a breeze off the water. I wore sweats – they wore swimsuits. The girls begged me to jump in with them. I stuck my toe in the Arctic water and ice formed as soon as I drew it out! Well, maybe not quite, but I have come to the conclusion that these people are part polar bear. Certainly, I am from the desert!

There are many hills here. Again, I am from the flat plains of New Mexico. I do not know how to drive up a hill – especially from a stopped position. After a few instances of whiplash, I think I am getting the hang of it. It is quite comical for other drivers I am sure… Mine is the only bright yellow license plate in the city - CAUTION.


Driving to work in fog has been a new experience for me as well. When I awoke this week to see a blanket of white hiding the normally visible Penn State football stadium from my window, I was filled with excitement at the beautiful, new sight. However, as I backed my car out of the drive and started down the hill, new feelings set in. I had imagined that it would be like driving through a marshmallow cloud… (yes, I live in a fairytale world) but, it was not like that! The farther away I got from home, the denser the fog became. Soon I could only see the haze of the red taillights of the car in front of me.

Now I am uncomfortable… I turned on to University (a mess with construction) and was alone on the road. I could only see about a hundred feet in front of me. The road narrowed and caution signs appeared to notify me of the merging traffic and redirected lanes. Oncoming cars were only visible a couple seconds before they passed me – and that was only if they had their headlights on.

Normally, my drives to school in Texas consisted of sunglasses and the visor down… My fists were clenched and sweaty by the time I pulled in the parking lot of the office, relieved that my driving was done. It was an experience I care not have again, however the locals informed me it will become a daily routine from now until the end of October.

Arriving at the office, my team settled in for a morning of prayer and mediation in the Word. As a ministry and as individuals, all of us are going through a season of change and transition. Led by the Lord, we turned to Numbers 13. (Thank you Dannah and Eileen) 

In this Old Testament account, Moses sent scouts into the Promised Land to explore and check out the land that God was giving to Israel (v2). The land was just what God promised (23-24)! Note the giant grapes – so huge that two men had to carry a cluster on a pole held on their shoulders!! Those were some grapes! The men returned to Moses and declared, “It does flow with milk and honey! Here, look at the size of these grapes!” (HMB paraphrase 27). The promise of God had not only been fulfilled, it had been exceeded – the grapes were a bonus, a sign of His goodness and His promise to provide.

Verse 28 – That awful word is used here by some of the scouts… but the people are very large, but the walls are too thick, but it is strongly fortified. What?! Had God not just revealed His exceeding promise and faithfulness to them? Did He not just confirm His leading?!

We need more Caleb’s in this world.  In verse 30 he boldly and confidently ignores their but’s and says, “We need to go take possession of it.” Caleb knew that God had already given the land to the Israelites (v2). He took God at His word and knew there was nothing to be afraid of.

Yet, the people continued to complain and explain why they shouldn’t hold on to what God promised. …but we cant… v31.

I could imagine Caleb’s frustration. He looked upon the other scouts and the people and saw Warriors. Warriors capable of claiming what God promised. But, the people saw themselves as grasshoppers v33.

Chapter 14 is heartbreaking – the Israelites complain and weep to Moses and Aaron – they wished they were back in slavery in Egypt. Wow. I couldn’t imagine. True, in Egypt they had food and shelter, they knew what the future held and ultimately they knew they were protected in Egypt. Now, they were following an old man in circles through the desert. They lived in tents, hit rocks for water, lacked for food (enter manna), struggled for direction and longed for the “good old days.” At night I am sure through the thin walls of the tent they could hear the snoring of the fat guy next door and the incessant crying of a baby down the way. They were not living in the lap of luxury… they were living in limbo between Egypt and the Promised Land.

That’s where I am. Often, I am tempted to look back to Egypt: I was loved, beautiful, a bride, a teacher, the future was blossoming… But then catastrophe! (I know I still am those things in Him, but I would be lying if I said my confidence did not just take a direct hit) God said, “Heather, I want to use your pain to develop a ministry in which other girls will find healing.” Selfishly, I don’t want to help other girls find healing right now!! I want to have MY heart pieced back together, I want MY healing. The Lord is working out my selfish, toddler-like attitude... I am in time out a lot!  I am “living in a tent” between Egypt and my Promise, aware that I need to be careful about not looking back with longing for Egypt when God clearly took me out of there. 

I think sometimes God enjoys watching us in limbo! We seems to say "Daddy.." much more.

Back to my foggy car ride to work… sometimes God allows the fog of uncertainty to cloud our view. When objects are hidden from our sight, our faith (Hebrews 11) has an opportunity to grow. The Lord is in the car in front of us, promising to safely lead us to our destination in the land of Canaan. You may have to slow down a bit in the fog and keep extra watch on that oh-so-important yellow line, but you will be safe. Sometimes the “caution” signs that appear out of nowhere, are placed there by the enemy to scare or distract us… If God is driving the car in front of you, why bother look to the sides?

Rather than drive the car following His, sometimes it would be easier to just get out and lock myself in HIS trunk… but, then I have refused myself the opportunity to grow and to learn – and to be taught by God. Yes, Jesus could have wiped out all of giants in the land and allowed the Israelites to stroll on through, picking daises on the way. But, then we would not have the story of Caleb. The Lord wanted them to chose faith – to trust – to fight for the promises of God – to wait – to grow – to heal.

So, I will remain in my red sonata… slowly navigating through the fog of life. I will trust that God is driving the car in front of me, knowing that when the Son comes out, the haze will dissipate and I will be living in the fullness of the promise of God.

If you are driving in a cloud and it’s not quite the marshmallow fantasy you dreamed it would be, I pray for you the courage of Caleb. The fog always lifts (although some days I wonder)! Slow down, don’t be overwhelmed by the lack of visibility; God may be shielding your eyes from something dangerous or hurtful. Keep your eyes locked on His red taillights. This is where you have the great privilege of developing the faith.

May you and I both be able to say, “We should go take possession of the promise.” 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Do "Thankful"

Well, I am in Pennsylvania!  What a journey it has been! Never in a million years would I have imagined myself here! I have hit the ground running and am developing even more of a passion for this ministry. There have been a million new things I have already experienced! It is GREEN;  there is water everywhere you look; I saw a firefly; the thunder comes in gentle rolls across the hills; you can see the humidity here; I need a jacket; people have odd accents... and God is so GOOD. 

While I am here, I am living with a host family. Without a doubt, they are a precious, divine appointment. In addition to a mom and dad, I have acquired three little siblings: girls ages 6 and 4, and Bugga - 6 months. They are precious and love on me constantly. The noise level at 7am, however, is not yet something I am accustom to! 

Each night before the little ones go to bed, we do "Thankful." It is a quiet, reflective time where Mom and Dad say why they are thankful for one another and for the kids. Sisters give a specific reason why they are thankful for each another, and I get to pick anyone and declare my thankfulness for them! The evening concludes with Dad's prayer.  It is a blessing to watch the love and connectedness of this family, and the deep understanding and appreciation the girls have for one another. They bless my heart and have caused me to consider more deeply the things which I am thankful for: 

I am thankful to God for steering my ship with ease through what I perceived to be the most violent storm my little boat has ever experienced! 

I am thankful to the man who was in my life for a season; that he was honest with me prior to our wedding day, and that he respected my stand for purity. 

Mom and Dad, thank you for being my anchor, keeping me grounded in the Lord's promises and lifting my eyes Heavenward. 

Ky, I am thankful for your protection and fierce loyalty as well as your jovial spirit and heart of gold. 

My Pastors and church family…. I am overwhelmed by your love, support, encouragement and admonition. Thank you! 

Friends, I am thankful that you have forced me to get up and move forward and for the millions of times you willingly sang "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger…" 

Dannah and Pure Freedom - I am overwhelmed by the opportunity to be a part of what you do. Thank you for bringing me along side of you. 

Jackson puppy, thank you for licking my face and holding me close. I don't know what I would do without you little buddy… WOOF! 

My list could ramble on forever (and in my journal it does) but I will spare you! 

Have you heard the quote, ""What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?" Convicting! We have been blessed with so very much. I know that I do not thank the Father near as much as I should and I often take things for granted.

<My four year old sister just came out to the deck to inform me that it is time for "Thankful"... excuse me for a moment> 

Anything from His daily dose of undeserved mercy to the sweet old lady who gave me a discount at the coffee shop, I seem to breeze over these blessings without a thought as if I am entitled. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

Psalm 107:1 - Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His steadfast love endures forever

My new little sister's understanding of being thankful might even surpass my own. I challenge you, just as I have challenged myself, to pause and consider a day of Thanksgiving (minus the turkey and Dallas Cowboys). How it warms my heart to hear others enjoy and appreciate a gift I have given them! How much more is the heart of the Father warmed when we spend a day noticing and thanking Him for the blessings in our life? 

This week, do "Thankful." 

Friday, August 10, 2012

At This Moment

Normally I would be writing from my room in a quaint town in New Mexico with my dog curled up next to me. At this moment, I write to you from downtown Charleston, West Virginia as the hotel air conditioner drowns out the neighbors next door.

I planned on snuggling up with the man I love more than my own life to watch a movie as some chocolate chip cookies baked in the oven. But, at this moment I am lying in a hotel room listening to my father's rhythmic snoring.

I envisioned a long day at the school; the final touches on my classroom, memorizing student's names, making sure everything was perfect for my sweet little babies to walk into third grade, ready to start my first year as a teacher. Instead, I continued the 1800 mile road trip with my parents through the rolling hills of Kentucky into West Virginia. I have been envious as I watch my friends post pictures of their perfectly decorated classrooms and tell me of their lessons. Never before has it been painful to walk past the school supply aisle - until now.

Even one year ago, when people would ask me, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I never would have seen this.

I have been dealt some difficult cards in my lifetime; from serious medical issues, to life-altering surgery, to tragedy, to deaths... but honestly, nothing has been harder than walking through the fire in which I find myself right now. My heart remains shattered, but at this moment, the Lord is working on gluing the pieces back together.

Yes, at this moment God is dragging me (kicking and screaming at times) to the East Coast. No family, no friends, no church, no healing comfort of the familiar. Just me and the Lord.

At this moment, I am struggling with feelings of fear and insecurity as well as being alone. At this moment I wrestle with anger at the one who stripped my dreams and my career  as well as his love from my unsuspecting hands. I resent that I am here rather than preparing for my first week of teaching. At this moment, I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD IS DOING!!!

My human nature aside, I am nervously excited about this new page of the journey. He ordained it long before I even took one breath of air. At this moment, the Lord is purifying my heart, adjusting my attitude, and teaching me how to forgive as well as walk in total trust and surrender.

At this moment, Jesus is carrying me - His footprints leaving a trail in the sand; although for a while there was a loooonnnngggg groove. (Let Him carry you... trust me, it is much more comfortable than flopping on the ground like a toddler and having him drag you!)

You may not be able to see the peak of the mountain in front of you... take a deep breath and keep walking. Position your heart to move forward, even if your feet are a bit sluggish. At this very moment, ask the Lord to be your strength, your peace, your protection, your confidence, your surety.... whatever you are needing - At this moment - He desires to be that for you.

At this moment, I am getting stronger. At this moment, GOD IS GOOD.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Becoming an Astronaut

     God amazes me as He continues to open doors in my life. This new door He flew open despite all my attempts to become an astronaut. Yes, an astronaut. 
     About one month after my heart was shattered, I was distraught and without a plan. Mind you, I am a planner extraordinaire! I not only always have a plan, I have ten back-ups to that plan! Needless to say, my plan of being married to my best friend, teaching and living happily ever after was suddenly demolished. Being single with no job and no where to go had never crossed my plan radar. 
     This particular day I was having a very difficult time. Wise counsel of others advised me to not begin teaching quite yet. They suggested that I take a year to get my emotions and life back in order. I had no earthly clue what I was going to do. That's when it hit me - DUH!!! I AM GOING TO BECOME AN ASTRONAUT! 
     Those of you who know me well are aware that I have a tendency to be dramatic, especially when I am in my "pit of despair!" But, in my mind, this was a brilliant plan. Quite literally I was looking at the NASA website when my best friend, Chelsea, called me. I answered quite excitedly! "CHELS! I have decided to become an astronaut!!!" "Oh dear… I'm coming over," she replied. 
     By the time she arrived I was lying in a ball on the floor with tears streaming down my face as I realized that NASA wasn't quite an option and that my world had just really fallen apart. 
     Chelsea is very honest and is one of the few people on this planet who can get through my thick skull. She sat on the floor speaking God's promises over me and stroked my hair until my tears had dried. "Chels, what am I going to do?" I pleaded with her. Matter-of-factly, she said "Why don't you apply for an internship somewhere?" She continued to explain that it would be temporary and I would have the opportunity to minister to others and ultimately that would contribute to my broken heart's healing.     Together we Googled Christian woman internships. Dannah Gresh's Pure Freedom internship was the first search result. 
     I was so excited! Dannah is the author of one of my favorite books, And The Bride Wore White.          (I highly recommend this book for all young girls!) When I was a freshman in high school, I had read the book and participated in a Pure Freedom Bible study led by one of my Giants in the Faith, Shelly Coll. Being a part of that experience is what helped me solidify my decision to remain pure until my wedding night. 
     Dannah essentially helped me save that part of my life as she obeyed the voice of the Father and wrote. To me, she is famous - the thought of working for her team overwhelmed me. 
     Chelsea and I researched a bit more and discovered the website we were looking at was outdated by two years… they were looking for interns for 2010. My heart sunk. Prodding a bit more, Chelsea encouraged me to send an email anyway. "You really have nothing else to lose, Heth!" Reluctantly I did and fully expected to hear nothing. 
In April, I was surprised to receive an email back. They were looking for interns and asked me to send my resume and application to them! Overwhelmed, I tried to contain my hope and excitement. But, another month passed and I heard nothing. I graduated from Lubbock Christian University in May with no plan whatsoever following commencement. 
     Two weeks later, my phone finally rang… the number I did not recognize but I answered anyway. "Hi Heather, this is Eileen from Pure Freedom…" Bless her heart, I tried not to scream into the phone! Sitting in my bath robe on the floor of my bedroom, we conducted a 30 minute phone interview which ended with a beautiful prayer. "We will hopefully notify you of a decision by the first part of June." My hopes were higher than ever. "Please God…" I begged. "I have nothing else…" 
     I had prayed that the Lord would open some kind of door before what was to be my wedding day on June 2nd. "God, if I just had a glimpse of what you were doing it would make that day so much easier to get through…" But, the week of the wedding arrived and there was still no word. 
     My Dad had taken the family to Las Vegas for the week. He has business out there every summer but decided that we all needed to get out of town. Two days before my wedding day, I decided to go skydiving… I have the greatest Daddy in the world. He was not thrilled, but he went with me! It was the most amazing experience of my life!!!!   
     On cloud nine, we went and picked up the rest of the family for an afternoon of shopping. Walking through a mall, my phone rang - PA, USA. I froze hardly able to answer. "Hello?" "Heather, we would love for you to come work for us at Pure Freedom." Remember that I said I was dramatic? Well, it was warranted this time! I let out a squeal and began to cry. Skydiving and a job in the same day!!! 
     I can not doubt that God has opened this door and used my sweet and precious friend Chelsea to help scoop me off the floor. Moving to Pennsylvania is one of the last things I would ever do! But here I go! 
     About a year ago, I prayed that the Lord would help me with my fear; I knew I was consumed by it. I feared losing loved ones - I lost all of my grandparents within six months of one another. It hurt - but I was ok. I lived in fear of losing my fiancĂ©. I lost him, and I am ok. I lived in fear of being alone. I have really been alone for about a year now, and guess what? I am ok. The last fear that I was clinging to was of change and moving far from home. Pennsylvania, here I come! And, I know I will be ok. God's perfect love casts out all fear - 1 John 4:18 

     God has allowed me to keep just a little bit of my astronaut dream. In my spirit for the last month I have been hearing, "Heather, are you ready to be launched?" "Ummmm, no Lord. Can we not just gently take off or ascend? Launching sounds scary." I was quite bothered by the theme of being launched. At a women's Bible study, I had another faith giant who is a prayer warrior state, "God is going to launch you…" Eeek!! The following week at church I had a loving couple tell me that they had a vision of me in a slingshot that was pulled back very tightly. Oh dear! 
     As I have begun to pack and prepare for my cross-country road trip, I have of course begun to battle fear. Being on my own in a new place scares me to pieces. I have had a few melt downs and shed many tears. But, God has continued to teach me about this launching process. In order to launch correctly and in order to lift straight up, I can not be holding on to anything that is meant to stay on the ground. Those things would become extra weight that would limit my altitude and could potentially cause me to launch crooked or drift off-course or even worse, crash and burn. I have to completely let go of the things I so desperately want to cling to; the love for my ex-fiancĂ©, the comfort of my family, the familiarity of my friends, and the what-should-have-beens in order to fly. 
     I don't know where God is launching me, but I am confident that as long as He goes with me, His perfect will will be done. In Exodus 33 Moses inquires of God how he is supposed to carry out the daunting task ahead of him. In verse 14, the Lord states, "My presence will go with you. I'll see the journey to the end." Praise God for that promise! That's what I am taking with me! 
     Revelation 3:8 talks about doors being opened and closed by God alone. This lesson has been hard for me to learn as well. The door that I thought was opening to me suddenly and without warning slammed shut almost pinching my fingers in the process. This new door has flown open but truth be told, I am terrified to go through it. Imagine a small child clinging to the door jam because they refuse to go - that's me! The Lord may have to drop-kick me through this one! Be careful: God says He opens doors and closes them. He does not just leave them cracked… if any door in your life requires force on your part to open or shut, I encourage you to check your heart. (I am speaking from painful experience here!) When you ask the Lord to clearly show you a door, I pray that your eyes will be opened and you will be obedient, even if you don't understand. There is nothing more stingingly painful than a pinky finger smashed in a door! 

     I am not the only one being launched. God wants to launch you as well. Whether that is as the leader of your household, through the doors of your workplace or from behind your desk in the classroom, or into outer space! Even if you don't know where you are going, what you're doing, or how in the blue blazes you are going to conquer the mountain that lies in front of you, know without a doubt that the Lord will go with you - He promised! 

     Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and support as I begin this new leg of my journey. Love you family and friends!