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Growing Pains

As another crazy, yet blessed year comes to a close, I find myself glancing back at what I have accomplished, how far I have come, and how much I have grown. I think it is truly amazing how God uses all things to bring growth and glory in my life, and in the lives of all his children (including you!).

This past year, like so many before it, has seen its share of pain and anguish: the death of my father, my uncle, and a close friend, family chaos and fighting (which often sadly occurs when death comes), broken relationship and a shattered heart, an unexpected move, and financial strain. Yet, oddly enough, this year brought beauty, healing, love, and provision through it all.

You see, despite the pain and suffering, God was in it all, working his will, his plan, his glory through all of it. Pain and suffering is a normal part of life and an integral part of spiritual growth.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Hebrews 5:5-8 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”; just as He says also in another passage, “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.

Jesus Christ Himself was not exempt from the pain and suffering of this world. Pain and suffering in your life is one way that God prunes you, building you up and making you stronger. Much like a great work out at the gym, there is often pain afterward (even during the workout as you push yourself), but the results are wonderful in the long run if you keep working out and building up muscles that increase your strength. Another example is the olive tree. A farmer must cut (or prune) the branches back in order for the tree to produce a more abundant crop the next season. If it is not pruned, it grows unkempt, producing less fruit, and therefore yielding less profit for the farmer.

John 15:1-3 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

You and I are the branches on the tree of life, and if we are not pruned, we tend to not bear the fruit of righteousness, purity, or holiness. We become weak, wild, and unkempt, losing sight of what we are here for–to produce fruit that brings honor and glory to the Lord, bringing others into his kingdom, showing the light of God for all to see.

Pain and suffering in this life are also motivators for growth. When you get stuck in the mundane routines of life–work, family, home, friends, etc., it is easy to get comfortable and not change or stretch outside of your comfort zone. Going back to the workout example, if you keep doing the same exercise routine day in and day out, you will see results, but eventually they will plateau and your workout routine will be only for maintaining, rather than continued strengthening. Even weight loss will fade if the workout routine stays the same. You have to change things up to see continued results, to build more muscle mass, to thin out more, and to tone consistently.

Spiritual growth is similar. If church and scripture become mundane routines, the same thing day in and day out, you will get stuck, your spiritual growth will plateau. God wants your spiritual growth to excel, to continue to grow each and every day. This means that you have to be forced out of your comfort zone sometimes, and often the only way to get you to do that is through pain and suffering. When life is grand, going smoothly, and you have no worries or stress, God tends to be put on the back seat. Ever notice that your prayer life and devotional time picks up a great deal when there is pain, suffering, trials, or tribulations in your life. That is because during those times, your reliance on God is stronger and more evident. You can’t fix things, make them better, or change them, and thus you seek God, seek His will, His discernment and wisdom to handle all that you are facing. You may even reach out to others in your community–church, work, home, neighborhood–for help and guidance.

Often during the most painful times in our lives, we are forced to take responsibility for our failures and learn how to adapt and change so as to not make the same mistakes next time. Other times, we are confronted with requests that take us out of our cushy comfortable place to become a witness and light for God. It may be that you are asked to forgive someone who has hurt or betrayed you. Perhaps you are being called to share your pain with someone in order to show the glory of God as he brings you through it. Maybe the pain in your life is building perseverance, patience, or other spiritual fruits in your own life. Whatever it may by, God is using the pain and suffering to motivate change and growth in your life.

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 5:11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Romans 5:3-5 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

Though I faced my share of pain and suffering in 2014, I can look back on each and every moment and see God’s mighty hand at work through the entire event. Through the deaths that came into my life, I was able to find courage and strength to do what was right midst the chaos and family fighting. Though my heart was broken and a relationship ruined, I was given comfort and wisdom midst the storm, making a few of the toughest decisions of my life, which ultimately brought peace to me and my son. Even through the financial difficulties, God changed my view of budgeting, helping me save more than I have before. In the moments of pain and suffering, I didn’t always see his mighty hand at work, but looking back on the year, it is evident he was with me, guiding, building, refining, and growing me into the woman of God he designed.

So, my friends, fret not when you are facing pain, trials, tribulations, or suffering, for in time, God will produce an abundance of fruit, helping you change the old patterns of life, enabling you to grow spiritually! With that said, I look forward to another year and what may come–the good, the bad, and the ugly! Bring it on, for with God, we can all rest assured that good will come, hope will be renewed, and the future will be bright.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God bless and keep you in the coming year and always! May you rejoice midst the pain and suffering, knowing that God is working all things for your good! He is with you always and forever, and will never leave you nor forsake you, providing all you need to face all that comes your way.

In Christ’s Love ❤

From this World to Glory

Oh, how I long for the days when my son shared everything with me! The times when he would tell me he had to talk to me, but that he didn’t want me to get mad at him and despite his fear, he talked with me anyway. You see, we created a ‘safe zone’ where he could share anything with me without fear of a mom’s wrath coming down on him…we called it our ‘safe zone’. All it consisted of was a particular spot in the living room and the words, “I want to talk in the safe zone.” That meant he could speak and all I could do was listen. NO advice, NO retort, NO reprimand…just listen. I had to wait at least 24 hours before the subject could be brought up again. This allowed him time to speak and get everything off his chest and gave me time to cool down and think about a response that could help him rather than make the situation or his feelings worse. It really was a win win situation.

However, somewhere along the way, as he entered the alien stage of development called teenager, I lost that connection. I don’t know where it went, why it got lost, or what happened that severed the connection. I know he wants more independence, believe me I get it! I know he is stretching his wings and doesn’t want his mom to stifle that, but I miss the connection so deeply it hurts at times. The moments where he just answers yes or no, and ends it there, just frustrate me. I don’t want every detail of his life, I just want to know how things are going and still be a part of his life.

I remember when he was just a young thing about 8 years old and he would tell me how rude and mean teenagers are, and then proceed to tell me he would never be that way! I tried to get that in writing, but that never happened! Now, he argues with me for no apparent reason. He doesn’t do what I ask without several prompts and then proceeds to bite my head off saying I am bugging him about it, when actually if he would have done it the first time, I wouldn’t have to “bug” him about it. Oh my goodness!!! Being a teacher with a minor in child development, I knew this stage would come, but for some crazy reason, I felt my kiddo would be different. He would learn from those around him, like I did. Being the youngest of 4 helped me realize what not to do around our house. He is the oldest, but has grown up with kids older and younger than him since the day he was born. One would think he would have picked up a few cues on what not to do.

I suppose in reality, I know he is becoming a man and my biggest problem is not that he argues or gives me a hard time sometimes. As I have been praying and wondering what to do to help him, it is abundantly clear that my hurt is due more in part to the fact that I feel like somehow I have failed to teach him the beauty of God. I watch him struggle to find his identity in Christ and wonder why it is such a struggle. Did I not teach him well? Did I not lead by example enough? Did I not read or dissect scripture with him enough? Did I not pray with him enough? I have so many questions about what I should or should not have done, and right now, such a broken heart.

I know everyone, my son included, has to make their own mistakes, find their own path. I just weep at the thought that he feels so disconnected from me, from God. He has moments where I jump up and down for joy because he sees the glory of God around him in some way, shape or form, and then there are other times I fear for his future salvation as he speaks about things of this world and acts in such a way that is so opposing to God’s way.

As I was reading through my study this morning, a scripture really stood out to me. After Jesus was discussing with the disciples about his leaving to go to the Father in heaven and the Holy Spirit coming to them in John 16, John 17:1 states, ‘he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify you Son, that your Son may glorify you.’” When I looked up glorify in the dictionary, glorify means to cause to be or treat as being more splendid, excellent than would normally be considered, to honor with praise, admiration, or worship, to make glorious. When something is glorified, it becomes set apart from others. When I glorify God, I praise him, magnifying his name and his way in my life. When I glorify God, his light shines through me and my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly, can all be used to show the world who God is! How marvelous that when we glorify God, he glorifies us through his holiness, righteousness, and beauty!!

As I took the day to ponder this, two thoughts came to mind. First, my son has to accept that the Lord wants to glorify him, that he is worthy of God choosing him, an ordinary young man with sin in his heart, to do big and wondrous things for God’s kingdom. Second, I need to glorify my son. And no, I don’t mean worship him. I mean, I need to show him who he is in the eyes of God. He has heard the Bible stories. He has read and memorized the study verses. He has watched Veggie Tales, the Passion of the Christ, and the Nativity. He has been taught the true meaning of Christmas and Easter. He has been attending church since he was 2 years old and involved in youth group. He has done all those outwardly things to “show” he is a Christian, to help himself believe he is a Christian. NOW it is time for him to inwardly know he is a Christian and choose that path on his own. I need to glorify him in the sense that I remind him how special he is in the eyes of Christ, that he is chosen, set apart to do splendid works, that he is a son of God! I need to embellish his heart with the adornment of God’s love and grace. I need to continue to unveil his eyes to see the truth of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it—Proverbs 22:6

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord—Ephesians 6:4

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them—Deuteronomy 4:9

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up—Deuteronomy 11:19

God has gently reminded me to challenge my son, to continue to teach him, to continue to bring him up in the word and the ways of God, so that he will have that firm foundation to return to when he is lost in the world of chaos and things! Now, all I have to do is trust that the seeds I and fellow Christian brothers and sisters in Christ plant will continue to be nurtured and grow to bloom in his heart, building a future in God that will bring glory to his life and his family to come.

May you trust that God has you, even when you doubt. May you know with a dedicated heart that the seeds planted will grow to produce fruit when they are planted in God’s name. May you hold to the truth that God is in control and all things will work to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
All my love and as I pray for you, please pray for me!!

child bible 2

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it—Proverbs 22:6

From this World to Glory
April 15, 2013

Oh my son
My beautiful, wondrous son
You have grown so much
Becoming the man God created
May you know your worth
Feel God’s love for you
Know that you are forgiven and free
Deny the voices of evil
Lies whispered in your ear
Ignore the thoughts that you’re not good enough
The world will beckon the doors of your heart
Tempt you with things
Bringing only momentary happiness
Taste and drink from the Lord
He will fill you to overflowing
Bring you comfort, joy, peace
His mercy is never-ending
He knows your comings and your goings
He thinks of you more than the grains of sand on earth
He knows every hair on your head
You my son are the apple of his eye
Let not the world deceive you
Do not succumb to its wicked ways
Trust your life to Jesus
Listen to the still small voice
Believe there is more to this life than things
Seek the eternal prize
The gift freely given from such great sacrifice
Salvation and freedom from the bonds of this world
Hope for a future filled with glory
I love you my son
Hold on and fight the good fight
When the world is dark and in despair
Know that God will hold you
He will guide you on the path of righteousness
No matter how far you may stray
He will always be there
With open arms and an overjoyed heart
His love never ends
Your rock and fortress he will be
A shelter from the insanity of life
Walk in his ways my son
You are robed in righteousness
Veiled in holiness
You my child are adorned with gifts yet unknown
Blessed beyond compare
Let God bring glory through you
Be an instrument in his hands
A light unto the world