Redefining Serendipity for Believers and The Reviving of a Dream

Dictionary.com defines serendipity as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident,” or “good fortune; luck.”  I don’t believe in luck, and I don’t believe in accidents.  I believe in our Creator and His omnipotence.  I also believe that God knows what our hearts need, even if we can’t seem to put our finger on it.  For most of us, what we need isn’t what we think we want.  I believe that what most people see as serendipity, is really an extension, or expression if you will, of God’s grace and love for us.

In the wake of my uncle’s very recent passing, I knew that missing church was not an option if I am to stay on this path.  Plus, I’ve made a commitment to help with the special needs children’s ministry and I felt in my heart that my uncle would want me to follow through with my commitment. He certainly wouldn’t think it was a good idea to skip attending the early service even if I could watch it online later.  So I got up with my alarm clock even though the temptation to stay in bed for another two hours was nearly overwhelming.

Our church is in the middle of a series called Reach the City.  It’s partly inspired by the devotional book, “A Life that Wins” by Christian author, Mike Holt.  During the previous few weeks of this series, I’ve had a few moments where I felt that God was whispering to me about things He felt I needed to take from the sermon.  This week, He didn’t waste time whispering.

I went to church today hoping to glean some wisdom that I could use at some point down the road.  What I didn’t expect was to be sitting there and have almost every word feel like it was tailor-made just for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I know there were many other people in the congregation this morning feeling the same way.  In no way do I think it’s all about me.  But I do believe with all my heart that God sees what my struggles are and that He loves me and wants to guide me through them.

I wrote in one my first posts about my previous separation from my husband.  During my separation, I attempted to finally chase my dream of being a professional photographer. I signed up for classes and attended half-time for just over a year.   It then proved too difficult for me to obtain my degree while working full-time and being a “single” mother, and I failed an important class because I couldn’t keep up.  A lot of other things happened, most of them not so good, all leading up to me quitting school at the end of the following semester after failing said class for the second time in a row.  In all the time since, I’ve been promising myself I would go back “as soon as things got better.”

Lately, I’ve been questioning my decision to follow this dream.  I wondered if it was really in God’s plan for me to start my own photography company that caters mostly to special needs families. I’ve had moments when I feel like there’s no way I can accomplish what I want to.  I’ve even been questioning whether or not it is indeed God’s plan for me to write this blog and share my spiritual journey with complete strangers.  I often feel so exposed, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling for me.  Especially when I know that many of the people reading this will mock me or think I’m completely out of my mind for believing any of what I’m writing about.  Specifically, members of the Atheist movement.  However, I care more about how God sees me than I care about how anyone on this earth sees me.  And I am not alone.  I know all of my Christian brothers and sisters face the same ridicule I do.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:9  NIV

Today’s sermon came from Genesis chapter 37.  Those of you familiar with the Bible know this story well.  It’s the story of Joseph, his dreams, his father’s favoritism and that glorious robe.  It’s also the story of his brothers’ jealousy and hatred and how they came to sell Joseph into slavery.  If you don’t know the story, you can find it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+37&version=NIV

I hadn’t spoken of my doubts in prayer or in conversation with anyone.  Not even my husband, because I really couldn’t make sense of any of it yet.  Though I know God sees my heart, and hears my silent cries, it was still a shock when every word from our pastor this morning, cut through the fog of my mind and my emotions and led me straight to what He wanted me to understand.  If I had to describe the moment God stopped whispering and started shouting, I guess it would be like that scene in a movie where everything and everyone else in the room seems to fade away, and the protagonist zones in on one voice that seems to echo in their mind.  His message was clear:  Keep writing.  Go back to school.  Finish what you started.

I wasn’t expecting an answer to these questions, because I hadn’t yet asked them.  But, God saw my heart.  He saw my struggling with these opposing ideas.  He saw I needed encouragement.  So He used a perfectly normal Sunday sermon to give me exactly what I needed, even if it wasn’t what I thought I wanted. He gave me ears to hear what He wanted me to take away from today’s message.  He told me what I should do.  As a believer, what else can I do but obey Him?

Letting Go

My uncle passed away late last night while surrounded by loved ones and holding the hand of his beloved wife.  The entire family is grieving, each of us in our own way.  It’s been hard for me to describe to my husband the way I am feeling right now.  Bless him, this man who knows me better than I sometimes know myself is all too familiar with my shortcomings in the letting go department.  His quiet concern and calm demeanor is at times surprising to me, knowing him the way I do, but it is a wonderful blessing to see this side of him when I need it most.

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

by: Corrie Ten Boom

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

One of my oldest friends reminded me yesterday that God won’t only help me through this internally, but he will also send others in my path to be his hands and feet.  And he has…people I never knew I had anything in common with have become some of my closest and most beloved friends.  They have helped keep me on the narrow path over the last year.  And my husband has been the most irreplaceable of them all.

Thank you, Father, for my husband, and for all the other wonderful people you have sent to be a part of my life as I walk with you.  Thank you for the time I had with my uncle.  That I even knew him for a moment blessed me immeasurably.  Thank you for the comfort and peace you have given those of us left behind as he has come home to you.  I know you will continue to hold us in your loving arms and comfort us as you carry us through this difficult time.  Thank you for your unfailing love.  Please continue to guide me and draw me closer to you, Lord.  I want to learn all of your wonderful ways so that I can be a light for you in this world, as my uncle was, but in the manner in which you’ve made me able.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”   Matthew 5:4

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23 

“The Lord is near to those who are broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

.

Celebrate Life

Grief as a celebration of life is not something I ever grasped the concept of.  I’ve been horrible at losing people my entire life.  You know those people who suffer loss after loss, and still they are so strong in their faith and resolve? The ones that seem to be a living, breathing example of how we’re supposed to do this?  Let’s just say that whenever they call their weekly meetings, I am not in attendance. My reactions to loss have run the gamut of emotion all the way from a total lack of it to being so overwhelmed with emotion that it cannot be contained or controlled. It’s no wonder that after certain losses in my life, someone said in conversation that they believed I was emotionally unstable.  They had no idea just how true it was, and neither did I.  How can you be emotionally stable when your foundation is built on ever-shifting sand?

Most of my losses took place during my “lost” years.  There’s a certain kind of poetry to that, but I assure you, there is no pentameter with its prose.  Now, I am facing loss once again.  My uncle, a man who once made me feel welcome in a family I was never quite sure I could ever belong to, is dying of lymphoma.  He’s a pastor.  He had to retire some time ago due to his terminal illness, but if he physically could, I know he’d still be at the pulpit every Sunday morning illuminating God’s word for the congregation.  I never got to hear my uncle preach (we always lived too far away to make a weekend trip of it, it seems), but I am sure that God flowed through him in that church as much as He shines through him in his personal life.

My uncle is an amazing man. Still, it is only through the writings of his daughter, my cousin, that I have come to understand what this world is losing and heaven is gaining.  Reading her words always brings a smile before the rivers start flowing.  This loss is different for me for a few reasons.  I have been able to say goodbye and tell my uncle exactly what he’s meant to me while he was still able to reply to me.  Also this is the first loss that has been memorialized before its completion. To have an almost daily account of the last days of my uncle is opening my eyes to the beauty in the midst of the sadness.  In a world where people try to control things that were never meant to be under our control, my uncle has relinquished all control to the Lord.  He is happy to be going home.  I keep trying to think of more scriptures besides the shepherd’s prayer and the only one that comes to mind at this moment is found in First Corinthians, chapter fifteen.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   1 Corinthians 15:54-57

 Sharing my grief with my Christian brothers and sisters yesterday, I was led to this song by the Wailin’ Jennys:

I struggled with whether or not to share this here, because I don’t want to shift focus on to me during this time.  Not everything is about me.  Most things aren’t.  In the end, I decided to obey God and share this with you all, because it really is an important part of my walk with Him; To grieve in a way that honors not only my uncle, but our Heavenly Father.  The latest update says that he is still with us this morning.  His breathing has become shallow, and he is slipping gently away from all of us as he gets closer to the gates of Heaven. My cousin writes of his ever-widening smile as his time gets smaller.  That alone is a comfort.  To see in real life application that being God’s servant means not having to fear death is probably the greatest comfort one could receive.  To know I will see my uncle again warms my sad heart.  I look forward to that day with joyous anticipation.  In the meantime, I will celebrate life.

A Light Unto Me

Anytime you study something, there’s always homework.  Yesterday, I didn’t finish my Bible study homework.  *Gasp* You’re shocked, aren’t you?  I’m not, but I wasn’t going to be shamed by it either. Not this time. I decided I would finish it today.  I’m so glad I did!  It gave me a chance to go back over my notes and read some scripture that I’ve never read before.  That part always excites me.  I love reading God’s word!  The history, the stories; it’s all so captivating!  But it’s more than a novel or a history book.

When I read the bible with an open heart, and ask God to guide me in my reading, it’s amazing how many  A-ha! moments I have just reading about the Samaritan Woman or Potiphar’s wife or even Adam and Eve. I used to read the bible and say, “Well that was a cool story.”  Now, though, when I spend time in God’s word, I feel like I’m walking with him and having a conversation while skipping rocks on a river bank or collecting shells at the beach like one would with their earthly father. I can feel His love for me and it’s like he’s explaining how this story could apply to my life.  I feel like a little girl again, gazing in wild wonder and adoration at her daddy while he answers her every question. My heart swells and a tear escapes to roll down my cheek as an old wound is re-examined under this new light.  If the wound was particularly deep, He knows I need comfort and He leads me to a passage that will soothe the pain.  Even when I’ve messed up again, and I think for sure I’m too broken to love, He lets me know He loves me anyway.   I’m reminded at this moment of this song:

And this one:

“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise, when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.” ~Micah 7:8

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!”  ~Psalm 139:17

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  ~Psalm 119:105

We All Fall Down

With a blog, you’re not supposed to give your readers a list of reasons why you haven’t been posting consistently. That’s what I read on a blog about blogging, anyway. (Am I the only one that is as entertained by the existence of such a thing as she is grateful for it?)  However, when your blog is essentially supposed to give your readers an inside look at your journey as a new or newly revived Christian, I’m not sure following that tip is a good idea.

I won’t make a bunch of excuses about being busy, because they’d all be lies. So, here’s the raw truth about me and my absence: I have trouble finishing what I start. In the beginning, I am fired up and ready to go.  I may keep it going long enough to trick myself into believing I’ve overcome this flaw for once.  Unfortunately, I run out of steam almost immediately after that thought enters my mind. It’s not due to apathy, but rather sinful pride.

I start to believe that I’ve kicked a habit that has plagued me most of my life, and the next thing I know, a voice in my head that sounds like my own, but still very different starts whispering that I don’t need to pray about my post today,  that I’ve got this, and God can take a little break for a change. Then, it tells me I don’t have to post every day.  It’s okay if I miss just one post, because I can easily make up for it with a mind-blowingly awesome post the next day, so surely God won’t mind.  (Does this sound familiar to you?) Now one day has turned into two, and two becomes three, then four and five…and well, writer’s block is back!

Next, the enemy changes his tune. (He knows how I bore quickly with routine)  Recollections of past wrongs I’ve done and had done to me plague my thoughts.  (It’s like the worst moments of your life in a slide show that the enemy pulls out and plays on loop for you with a soundtrack of your favorite sinful songs every time you get together.  Sounds like a fun party, doesn’t it? Remind me again why I swore that last time was the last time?). Hello, shame, regret, self-doubt, fear and my least favorites of all unwelcome guests, anger and jealousy.

There’s a quote that makes the rounds on social media amongst my friends and family.  “When the past comes calling, don’t answer.  It has nothing new to say.”  I don’t know who said it first, but it certainly resonates.  I think it ought to read, “When the enemy comes knocking, bolt the door and lock all the windows.  He’s brought those awful friends of his again.”

Okay, stop.  Rewind a bit.  While I was away, I began attending a bible study group at my church in an attempt to overcome all these negative thoughts and emotions that are affecting several aspects of my life now.  We’re studying Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs.  When bible study sign-ups were open, this one called to me like a siren to a sailor, but in a good way.  So last week, we read about Lot’s wife.  For those of you who don’t know it, you can find the story in Genesis, chapter nineteen, here: http://biblehub.com/context/genesis/19-1.htm

This week we discussed what we learned from the reading of that story.  The moral of the story is basically to let go of the past if you wish to embrace your future.  Jesus warns us in Luke 17:32 to, “Remember Lot’s wife!”   Like Lot’s wife, I’ve escaped my past, but I don’t want to miss my future like she did.  I truly believe that what God has in store for me is so much better than my wildest dreams.  Old habits really do die hard, but I refuse to look back.  You hear me, Devil?  I won’t look back.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  – Ephesians 6:10-18

Lord, I thank you for my family, friends and our church.  I thank you for our pastor, and the ladies leading this bible study.  Father, please help me to remember to put on your armor every day and to fix my eyes on you.  Remind me of who I am when the enemy and the world seem bent on reminding me of who I was. Help me to replace the enemy’s lies with your truth. Father, please help me to always speak and act with kindness and love, and not allow anger and pride to win.  Help me to be the woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend you created me to be.   In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.