Monday, April 28, 2014

Part of a Bigger Story

I gathered with a group of about 20 women on Saturday to share the chronicles of our lives. The attendance of each woman thrilled my soul because I passionately believe that our stories, together, are better. God writes our narratives and wants to overlap them, blend them and fuse together the details to point us simultaneously to Him. And while I was excited to discuss our personal histories, stories swirled in my heart and mind of my Grandfather. He was going to meet Jesus any moment.

Yesterday, I gathered with family and friends to share stories about my Grandpa. I stood up to speak first at his funeral service because I was encouraged to. More than that though, it's because I believe there is power in the sharing of our stories. It was a glimpse of how this short, little Italian man of God impacted my life.

Then I sat and listened to account after account of how Joseph A. Grimaldi's story bettered the lives of those he encountered. I could have stayed in conversation forever. It never ceases to completely amaze me the way God works. Every tale gave a deeper view into who Grandpa Joe was. His story became bigger as each person spoke.

Us grandkids with Grandpa & Grandma

You see, I knew how Grandpa Grimaldi impacted my life. I lived it. However, it was in the sharing that I saw how Grandpa's life influenced everyone he knew. He and my Grandma were intentional in their relationships. They knew how God loved them and they lived that out in the way they interacted with everyone around them. It was evident.

Reminiscing confirmed in my heart that without the stories of others intermingled with mine, the plot is incomplete. We don't know the full story. That's why each person needs to being sharing their story. Every person's story is only a chapter of a greater story: God's story.

I always thought God's work in my life was enough. And it is... in a way. Knowing Jesus truly is more than enough. My life is richer because of Him. But it isn't fully complete. As Ann Voskamp said, "The answer to everything is relationship." God created us for relationship. With Him. With others. Because together, we're better.

Just as my Grandpa's story became clearer with each testimony, God's story works the same. We have to share God's working in our lives if we want to see the beautiful tapestry of His ultimate story unfold. We are told the beginning in Genesis and the ending has been revealed. Our lives fill in the rest of His story. You are part of it and you need to share it.

As you allow God to write His story on your heart, won't you be bold and share? Others need to hear it. It is in the sharing of our stories, we see a more complete picture of our God. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I'll See You Again One Day, Grandpa... God Willing

Grandpa's 90th Birthday Celebration 2/14

He would come to visit with a bag of black licorice in his hands. It was the delicious, old-fashioned kind that he hasn't been able to find in a store for quite some time. Little treats were common to expect from him. Even a stick of gum tucked inside a letter addressed to me comes to mind as I reminisce. (Grandma has told me that he tried to trick me by disguising money as a stick of gum.) Either way, it was the simple actions of my Grandpa that spoke love to me.

I remember Grandpa showing up in the early morning hours to take my brother, Trent, fishing. Every now and then, he would allow me to tag along. I wasn't a nuisance to him. It was easy to cherish Grandpa because he always cherished me.

The smell of Ivory soap will forever trigger memories of my Grandpa. Funny how the senses can tug on one's heart string that way. Very recently, we identified the smell of Lysol as an aroma that transports my thoughts back to Grandpa and Grandma's house: a place that was simple and plain but filled with love and acceptance for us.

The hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, will always connect me to him. I treasured the times the song played introducing the clay animation show of Davey and Goliath. He didn't necessarily remember, but if I catch a glimpse of that show while flipping through the channels, it will forever cause me to pause and picture myself as a little girl watching television with my Grandpa.

I cherish the fact that Grandpa spent quality time with me. The smile that he could not contain on his face when he was ready to go out concealed in the final round of the card game, Books and Runs, will forever be etched in my mind.

Grandpa always said that he planned to live until 120... God willing. This phrase will always mark my Grandpa's life in my mind. Apparently, God wasn't willing that Grandpa should live more than 90 years. But during those 90 years, God was willing to give Grandpa the abundant life he promised. And God willing, which I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is, we will see each other again. Because 1 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not willing that any should perish (meaning He doesn't want anyone to spend eternity in hell) but that all should come to repentance (to spend eternity in Heaven with Him forever).

We'll all be together again one day, God willing.

Family Picture at "The Farm"

Friday, April 18, 2014

When "I don't wanna"

I woke up with expectations. There was an agenda I could jump into. And then there were the things I knew I should do but didn't necessarily want to because they conflicted with my ideal day I had created in my mind.

My morning was not greeted with silence to sort through my thoughts as I had longed for. Our 5-year-old came down the stairs right on my heels. I could feel the tension building inside me and I knew what I needed to do. I sat down in an attempt to quiet my soul.

"Mom, I want to watch a movie." Perfect! Setting her up in front of a movie will allow me the peace and quiet I had counted on... until her movie of choice is one I have to inform her has been donated to charity...

Forget exchanging whispers with God before the shouts of the world! I decide to take the technology route myself as I cannot focus on reading anything of depth. Days off school bring with it some freedom from the calendar but also heighten the conflict between my desires.

"Mom, I want something to eat and drink." Deep breath. More footsteps indicate the entire household is waking up. Soon, my husband is attempting to discuss the day's agenda with me. Any other day I would embrace his attempt to get us all on the same page as a display of love and consideration... but today there is a war within my soul.

I arm myself with Bible and notebook and lock myself in the only sanctuary I can find: the master bathroom. My heart pours out to God through ink on paper and the tears begin to fall. There is pain I continue to try to bury and it's been weeks since I allowed God to speak Truth into my heart.

The Word of God stir thoughts and passions in my soul and the cracks in my heart begin to mend. Jesus asked that the cup be taken away. He didn't feel all warm and fuzzy about what he was saying "yes" to in the garden.  But, thankfully, He knew God's will was greater than that of our human hearts. It was because he lived to do the will of God above all else that we now have hope.

I may not be happy all the time about what I'm asked to do but knowing my purpose is what brings fulfillment in the end. There's comfort in knowing Jesus didn't leap for joy to obey God as He went to the cross... because it reminds me that my feelings can't dictate my decisions.

This Friday, as we remember the price Jesus paid on the cross for us, may we also allow it to impact the choices we make. When "I don't wanna"... I can remember Jesus didn't either but He did it out of love for God and love for us. That should be the driving factors in my decisions as well.

"Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives." - (Read more of Romans 6 here.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In the Wilderness Season

(Today is the Third Thursday of the month. Time for the Hearts at Home Home Blog Hop! This month's topic: Love Your Struggles. Head over to Jill's blog to see what other women have to say on the topic.)

I listened as my pastor read the words of Luke 4:1. "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil." My heart was attentive to the thought that our human minds usually think of the Spirit leading us in good things. Yet the Bible is clear that "Jesus wed led by the Spirit... into the wilderness... to be tempted... by the devil."

Hmmm... That was going to require some mulling over. And I have pondered it. Deeply. Mainly because I've felt forced into a wilderness myself. And it's been lonely... because I haven't looked to the one who understands my weaknesses.

The point of the Sunday morning message was more from Hebrews 4:15. "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." Jesus welcomed the wilderness because He knew we needed the words of this Scripture. He knew that we would each be led into the wilderness ourselves and that we needed an example of how to resist and endure and come out on the other side stronger than when we entered it.

I listened as we were instructed to resist temptation like Jesus resisted. Honestly, resisting the wilderness all together was more the message I was living. While I know I should be looking for ways to allow God to mold me, I have allowed the coldness of winter to settle into my heart instead.

When the storm clouds roll in, we hunker down and do our best to wait it out... until another storm beckons the horizon on its heels. When it's one storm after another after another, a soul grows weary. Will Spring ever come again? Will we ever see signs of life and growth or will it always be dark, dreary, cold and lifeless?

Everywhere we turn, people are complaining about the weather. It's been a stretch of long, cold, bitter months and it's taken a toll on life. The natives are growing restless. Even children moan when snowflakes fall.  The consensus seems to be the same. It's time to be able to get out and enjoy the days again. People are tired of feeling trapped. And honestly, I am too. Yet my imprisonment has less to do with the forecast and more to do with my soul. I'm left hesitant to hope.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick" Proverbs reads. My soul has been a living example of that saying these days. It's not the pattern I want my life modeled after. But when sadness wants to make a home in your heart and you use only sheer will to fight against it, depression will win. For no amount of human strength can fight against a lack of hope.

That's why I've been losing this battle. I've been resisting the wilderness instead of embracing the growth I can experience there. Instantly, God captured my attention with the words of my pastor. "The wilderness is an essential place in every spiritual journey." Deep inside the depths of my being, I know this. Yet the knowledge alone hasn't done a thing to help me resist.
I cannot continue to put life on hold until I believe better things are on their way. Right here, in the wilderness, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection". It is only through this power that I can get through the wilderness. And I want that illustrated in my life. Because I have hope. And this Easter I'm reminded once again just how much hope I have... even in the wilderness.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." - Romans 5:3-5

I cannot set my goals in life on comfort and ease and then ask God to let me know the power of His resurrection. "To know Christ and the power of His resurrection isn't complete without  "suffer[ing] with him [and] sharing in his death." We are reminded this week of the discomfort, pain, isolation, sorrow and anguish Jesus endured so we could know.

It's time for me to embrace the wilderness season. I must get my eyes off of my problems and place them on Him. Then I can "know Christ and the power of His resurrection" and "this hope will not lead to disappointment" because I am loved... constantly reminded every time I see a cross... of the ultimate love displayed by a risen Savior!

Yes, I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection no matter what. Whether it is a wilderness season or a cold, bitter winter that appears endless. Because "everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!"

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up." - Hebrews 12

Are you currently in a wilderness season that you need to embrace?