Saturday, February 18, 2012

In the Land of My Suffering

I love the stories of the Bible.  I love that they don't sugar coat anything. It is difficult for me to read in places, because they could be so screwed up, but I love that we see the history of our faith, warts and all.  Because we aren't perfect.  We know we screw things up - and in some twisted way, it's encouraging to see that they did too.

One of my favorite stories is the life of Joseph.

Brief synopsis if you're not familiar:

He was a son of Jacob, the favorite son of Jacob, actually.  Jacob made the mistake of treating him with favor in front of his other brothers.  Joseph was perhaps a little arrogant about his place in the family as well.  Brothers got tired of it and one day, while they are all out far from home, they sell him to a group of traveling slave traders, and tell his father that he was killed by wild animals.  (See, lots of families are far from functional).

You would think this would be enough, but no.  Joseph is sold as a slave to Potiphar.  So, just to clarify - he has moved from favorite son to a slave in the blink of an eye.  But eventually God blesses him there, until he is head of the whole household of slaves.  He is rockin' along doing his job fabulously - everyone loves him.  And then, Potiphar's wife tries to seduce him.  When he runs, as any honorable man should, she accuses him of trying to rape her.  Potiphar believes her and throws him in jail.

Enough already?  Not quite yet.

He spends several years in this prison - so now he's a slave AND a convict.  It just keeps getting better and better!  But, over time, God again blesses and he is placed above all other slaves in their work in the prison.  He interprets some dreams accurately and eventually (very eventually - years, actually), word gets to Pharoah, who has had some bad dreams.  He calls for Joseph, who interprets them accurately when no one else can, advises Pharoah on the best way to deal with the coming feast and famine that the dreams predicted.  Again, God blesses and Pharoah puts Joseph over all. of. Egypt.

Finally...Joseph gets the pay off for all the hell he has lived through.  I love what he says.  After he has been placed in this lofty position, he marries and starts his family.  When his second son was born, he says, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."  I love that.  "In the land of my suffering."  God still did not remove him, but He made him fruitful right there in the middle of it.  And Joseph was thankful.

I fail so much at this, and am so encouraged by Joseph.  When I face difficulties, all I can think about, pray about, work towards, is when God will deliver me.  Joseph had to have had those days, because he was human, but it seems he trusted that God would be faithful - and He was.  Just not in a way that Joseph probably ever dreamed it would happen.  That is one of my prayers - that I will trust that God has a better plan, and if that means blessing me "in the land of my suffering", that I will trust that His plan is best.

Here's my other favorite part.  Joseph seems to think at this point that it's done.  He can see the reason for all that he's gone through.  God is delivering millions of people from starvation through his leadership, he is delivered from slavery - the reasons are becoming clear - he knows why he had to suffer through all of this past junk.  God's done, right?

Not yet. :)

Out of the dregs of his history, God brings back all those sorry brothers.  They show up, hats in hand, needing help and not even realizing that they are bowing down before the brother they were sure was dead and gone, at their hands.

Joseph does not seek revenge.  He has all the authority of Egypt at his disposal.  The power of life and death is in his hands.  He is facing brothers that do not even realize who he is.  And he forgives.  Through a series of events that he orchestrates, he sees that their hearts are changed.  He forgives.  He brings them into his "land of suffering" and cares for them, feeds them,  loves them.

The story ends with Joseph encouraging the brothers that had made his life such a living hell for so many years.  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  Don't be afraid."

So, even in his healing, God surprised him with even more - the chance to forgive and be restored.

My prayer is that I will be faithful to wait for God to work, in the midst of my suffering, trusting that He has a reason.  I don't believe God orchestrates our suffering - the evil of Joseph's brothers brought this on him, not God.  But I do believe that God will use whatever evil men bring our way to make us stronger, to bring about good.  He is big enough, kind enough, strong enough.  Man's evil will not thwart His plans.  But I pray that I will trust that in my suffering, not just when I read of others'.

I love how strong and good God is.  I love that He surprises us with more than we could ask or imagine.

So, how has God surprised you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

These Are My People

Brian's teaching this past week was on transformation - living lives of transformation.  One of his main points was from Romans 12:2.  If we're going to be different, we must first think different.  Then he brought out one of my all time favorite verses - Phillipians 4:8 - and talked about the importance of what we allow ourselves to think on.  What is true?  What is honorable?  What is right?  What is praise worthy?  I've been thinking on that a lot this week.

One of the things God has brought to me over and over are the people that He has placed in our lives to help mold, make, change who we are.  He's good at bringing just exactly who we need at just exactly the right time.

So today, I'd like to share a few of those people with you.  Because they have changed me and I love them for it.  These people just won't go away.

I have known some of these people my entire life.  Some for what just seems like my entire life.  But they have all changed me.  The women, especially, have helped to make me who I am today.  (Though they may not want to take responsibility for the current product.)

We have fellowshipped (spell-check says that isn't a word, but I'm using it anyway - it works for me) together, played together, vacationed together, raised our kids together, laughed, wept, rejoiced, mourned, loved, vented, and laughed some more.  Their kids are some of my kids' best friends.  They are my best friends.  I cannot imagine life without them.

We have gone through events that, as young people, we never imagined we would face, but we did.  We have celebrated milestones, rejoiced in the growing and maturing of our children, wept when life just became way too hard.

The list of people that God has used to mold me is endless.  He has been so faithful.  I vividly remember when we were early married, in a new town, new jobs, new church.  I was so lonely for the friendship of women.  God used that time of loneliness to teach me that He is sufficient.  And then He blessed me with some of the best friends I have ever had.  The first held my hand through the births of all my children.  Though I don't see her much anymore, she forever changed who I am and I love her.

Some God has brought in for a season and the fellowship was sweet.  Life eventually took us to different places, different states even, but when we are able to see each other again, it feels like it never ended.  One of our favorite parts of our Christmas mission trip is that we get to see some of those people every year, again - and remember how much they have molded who we are.  What they have taught us.

These people have shown me sides of our God that I can see in them when I am unable to see it in myself.  His patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, sense of humor.  They have been honest with me when I needed someone brave enough to be honest.  They have been my confidants when I needed to vent and say things that perhaps no one should ever say, but I needed a safe place to say them.  I am safe with them.  I am loved with them.

We have also managed to hurt one another through the years as well, but in that we've learned forgiveness, and the worth of persevering in relationships even when they are hard.

As I think through the list of people that have made me who I am, who continue to make me who I am, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I think about my husband, my kids, my parents, my sister and her family, my brother and his family, churches we have been in, pastors, youth leaders, friends - and I am overwhelmed.

So today, I rejoice in friendships.  God is so good to us.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rantings of a Crazy Woman

Words from someone I know:

I am so incredibly proud of the adults my kids are becoming.  I just want to stand back/hands off and watch what God is going to do with them.

I am so fearful of the future and want to control every decision my children make.  I am sure they are incapable of making a better decision that I would make.

I love the Body of Christ and the community God has placed me in.  The fellowship with them is absolutely what gets me through many, many days.

I am so tired of people and their idiosyncrasies.  I'd be much happier removed from all of this.

I love my family, my kids, my husband.

These people are making me absolutely crazy.  I could live on a mountain top all by myself, and everyone would be much better off.

I'm so excited for my daughter's wedding - it is going to be a beautiful celebration of what God has done.  Can't wait to celebrate this occasion with family and friends.

I'm so freaked about this wedding.  We will never get things done right - and Oh. My. Gosh. My baby girl is getting married!  Some man is stepping in and taking over my job!

I feel pretty level-headed, clear-thinking.  Ready to make some life decisions, pursue some new passions, really live out what God has called me to.

I am absolutely out of my mind.  Memory is shot.  Emotions are off the charts.  No one should trust me to make a decision.  Ever.

I feel better physcially that I did 10 years ago - I can do this getting older thing.

I'm going to be in a Home, being fed with a spoon within the next five years - I'm sure of it.

                                                     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Can you imagine living with this woman?  

Worse yet, can you imagine living in the head of this woman?

That's where I am.

Haven't written much lately because I feel like no one would want to hear the rantings of a crazy woman.  

No one told me that middle-age would feel like this.  That letting go of your children would be this hard.  That your emotions can have so much control over your thinking processes as you approach "that age".  That life can feel like such a roller coaster ride.  

My life verse right now:

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." II Cor. 10:3-5

I spend much of my life right now trying to think outside of my own head.  Listen for truth rather than listening to what my crazy head is telling me.  Pray that I will allow God to be bigger than the insanity.  Remind myself that God created me and He knows that I'm a nut job right now and that it is just a season.  And I run.   I'm sure God is using that right now to work out much of the stress and give me time to pray and process.

So for those of you that don't have the good fortune to just read what I say occasionally, but have to actually live around me - I'm sorry.  They tell me this will pass.