Heart Stuff

  • Never Beyond His Reach

    There are times in my life when I get super busy and days will go by before I realize that I have forgotten to take time to acknowledge God in my busyness. I remember this was especially true when my kids were babies and toddlers. I was so exhausted all the time. A few minutes of time to myself was a rare commodity, let alone time to spend reading the Bible and praying.

    We all have seasons in our lives when it is harder than others to draw near to God. Sometimes it’s seasons of busyness, while other times its a seasons crisis or grief. What I learned during these times, is that even when I forget to draw near to God, He draws near to me and is already here with me in whatever I’m facing that day. God isn’t someplace where I have to go find him, but rather He is with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. In the diaper changing, He is there. In the driving from one appointment to another, He is there. In busy work day or in the exhaustion from an illness, He is there.

    King David knew this and wrote this down in the Psalms for us to remember as well:

    You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

    Psalm 139:5, 7-9

    Even though David was a King, he faced many hardships over the course of his life. Many times he was running for his life and other times he was running from God. Despite all this, he was still known as a man after God’s own heart. David recognized that there was nowhere that he could go and nothing he could do that could remove God’s loving presence from his life. Even if he went to the far reaches of the earth, up into the heavens or down into the depths of the ocean, God will still be there with him. He believed that God created him and loved him beyond measure. This truth allowed him to weather the toughest of circumstances and helped him lead a nation. Even when he ran from God or sinned against God, he knew he could always return to the one who calls him His.

    We too can turn to God in everything. Even in those times when you reach your darkest hour or those times you have run in your own direction, God is still here with you. When you are going a million miles a minute and haven’t stopped for three days because life has run away with you, God is still here with you. He goes before you and follows you; He lays His hand of blessing upon you, to guide you and hold you fast.

    Take heart, dear friend, God is with you in whatever your day brings you today. Reach out your hand and God will firmly grab hold. His love for you is beyond measure.

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  • Fear Overwhelming You?

    “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:1-3

    I must admit, lately I have been struggling with fear. Not the healthy kind of fear, but the horrible kind that can immobilize you and keep you from living life to its fullest. The kind that can get a grip around you and make you worry about the worst case scenarios. The problem is that I start to make decisions based out of this fear. Fear changes how I see the world, myself, and others.

    During a time of prayer this week, God brought the verse above to mind. At first, I wasn’t sure why, but as I read over the words I realized something: the opposite of fear is trust.

    In the verse above we see that God starts the verse with “fear not”. As we keep reading we see that he says that we don’t need to fear because He has a firm hold on us; we belong to him and he will protect us. As I read this, it makes me think of how a parent would comfort a child who is afraid. When my daughter is in bed at night and fearful of the monsters lurking in her closet or under her bed, I come alongside her and hold her. I tell her that she does not need to be afraid because I am there and I will protect her. More importantly, I tell her that God is with her and He is bigger than any monster. 🙂

    Our fears may not be imaginary like the monster under the bed. You may be facing some real fears such as not having enough work to make ends meet or of the future or of being alone. But God still draws near and whispers in our ear, “Fear not, I am here. I am the Lord your God and you are mine. I am mighty to save.” Something amazing happens to our hearts and minds when we choose to trust. In trusting, we are no longer giving power to our fears. We lay each fear into the hands of God and that trust will bring us peace.

    So whatever fear you are currently facing, God is bigger than them all. Trust in Him. As the river of fears this week attempt to overwhelm you or the flames of your worries rise up, remember that God is with you. He can calm the waters and douse the flames as we lean into him, trusting him to be who he says he is—The Holy One of Israel, our Savior!

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  • Every scrape upon my heart

    “…Every scrape upon my heart, tells the story of your grace.”– Ryan Kennedy from Letting Go

    I first heard this lyric at the Gospel Music Associations’ Immerse Conference last year. Ryan was performing it live and it moved me then as it does even now.

    When I was eight, I slipped and fell on the sidewalk while running through the sprinklers. I scraped up my knee and it was the first time I would need stitches in my life. It took only two stitches, and a place for my poor mother to lie down before she fainted, to repair the wound. It left a pretty good scar, one I still have and when I see it, I remember the story vividly. The same way the scar on my knee tells a story, the scrapes on my heart tell one too.

    They tell of unrequited love, misguided efforts, disappointed hopes, loss and grief. My little heart has been put back together again and again, by the One who created it. I couldn’t ask for a better physician and friend. And while the scrapes on my heart hurt for a little while (some longer than others), they tell a story of God’s grace. Of His tender hand guiding me, healing me and setting me on my feet again. They tell a story of victory.

    I hope you enjoy my friend Ryan’s song. Catch him on iTunes and YouTube for the latest tracks.

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  • To the heart that is hurting

    The first year my husband and I were married brought all sorts of growing experiences. We laughed harder than ever, and argued more than I imagined (I actually threw a package of Tums antacids at him!) We also grew closer together through one of the most painful and difficult experiences we’ve endured to date, the loss of our first child during pregnancy.  I firmly believe God redeems pain for purpose by allowing us to walk alongside others in their heartache and grief. In this way God reminds us all that we are not alone, and we are able to point one another back to Him, the source of hope, healing, peace and joy. If you or someone you know is going through a tough time, I pray my story could be an encouragement and beacon of hope.  

    I am sharing with you because I have walked where you now stand, feeling alone, like you are drowning in a sea of overwhelming grief.  I have been acquainted with the kind of hurt that keeps you awake at night and makes your heart pound in your chest. I learned the dull ache of my loss being the last thing I thought about at night, and the first thing I thought about in the morning. I experienced the frustration of having my emotions rule me and feeling powerless to bend them to my will. I remember watching myself from the outside thinking “Summer, you have to pull yourself together!” Then, lamenting in the same breath, “But, I can’t!”

    I remember friends saying that things would be ok and God was with me in my grief. While I could acknowledge that truth in my mind, my heart still couldn’t feel it. I found it difficult to even pray since tragedy had struck our family. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to say to God.

    One evening I had curled up on my bed after a long cry; out of obedience, I picked up my Bible. My eyes roved over the delicate pages in earnest hope that God would show himself. And there, wrapped in my bathrobe and surrounded by kleenex, my tired eyes fixed upon these words:

    “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:8-10 (NIV)

    I was especially moved by how the Message summed it up. Something about the phrasing grabbed my attention and soothed my tender heart:

    “You’re Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham. I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’ Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:8-10 (MSG)

    These are some of my most treasured words from God. They broke through my darkness when I doubted His goodness and had questioned His sovereignty and His power in our world.

    “I pulled you in…called you in from every dark corner of the earth…” Boy was my corner dark. Initially, I couldn’t see anything beyond my own grief and pain. I wasn’t being intentionally selfish, everything else just seemed so small compared to the magnitude of my grief. God reached down and scooped me up like a loving dad carrying his daughter to tuck her safely into bed. He reminded me who I am. “You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you.” Even when my heart pushed Him away, I was not his enemy.  

    “I haven’t dropped you. Don’t panic. I’m with you.” I needed this reassurance most. I couldn’t see how God was working in my situation. My world felt like it had been turned upside down and I was hanging precariously on the edge of it. My ears strained to hear His voice. I longed for Him to anchor me in my chaos.

    “There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”  The Lord bade me to stop running, be still and let the wave of grief wash over me. He would not leave me to tumble about in the wake. He would keep a firm grip on me. As I continued to read these promises, they began to stir in my heart with little flutters of hope. As each wave of grief washed over me, I emerged, sputtering, but standing, His hand tightly on mine. With each passing day, I saw God’s hand holding on to me. I began to accept the loss I had suffered and started to feel peace. God cared for me through family and friends that brought me meals, listened to me and encouraged me. I could whisper faintly in faith that God was still God, and He was still good. That whisper grew as my heart healed and I can now boldly proclaim in full assurance that God is present in your circumstances and will see you through.

    My prayer is that if you are in the middle of a storm right now, that you will not despair, but hold on to a glimpse of hope. You are not alone. This season does not stretch on indefinitely. Do not give up. Even in your dark corner, God is there. You are His and He loves you more than you can see. And when you get to the other side of this, you will know victory. You will know strength. You will know peace. You will see God redeem your pain for purpose as you walk alongside someone else in their storm. And you look back and see God’s hand at work, more than you ever thought you could.

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