Monday, July 9, 2018

Pruning


A couple of weeks ago we had four trees trimmed. It needed to be done. They were hanging low, touching the fence and getting a little too personal with our neighbor’s vehicles. But, the pruning was done aggressively, taking more than we expected, or wanted.

A range of emotions followed in my home—sadness because I felt like my trees were ruined, surprise over how sad I was, annoyance because it wasn’t what we wanted, anger because the bill still had to be paid…and finally, in time, acceptance.

As we worked through at our own pace, I thought about the pruning God does in us and how we might experience the same emotions.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

The pruning process is not easy for us. God wants to draw us close to Him, and as He changes us from the inside out, He knows what isn’t producing fruit. From our perspective though, this looks like having to give up things, interests, behavior, or ways of life that we like or we’re used to. It means laying down our will for His.

The more we know God, the greater the desire to make these changes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and downright painful. {Tweet this}

While God’s pruning is always what’s best for us, it doesn’t feel that way when the work is being done. It may feel like He’s pruning too aggressively, taking more than we expect, or want to give up.

There might be sadness because what we’ve always known is no longer what’s normal. It may mean a change in who we associate with or where we go, and making those changes can be hard, and even lonely. No matter how much we do want our lives to be different, there are still pieces or memories that we don’t want to give up completely. And that may surprise us.

There might be annoyance at what God is asking of us. We’ve worked and worked to move forward, but it’s still not enough. He’s still snipping and cutting, even from where we’ve made progress, and we want to shout, Stop! Enough trimming. You’re taking too much and it’s just too hard. We didn’t agree to this much pruning.

We might be angry. This isn’t what we asked for. The years of hardship. The loss. The sudden and drastic changes in our lives that don’t make sense to us. Years later we may see how He drew us close and we learned to trust Him in every way. But, right now, when it feels like we’re getting hit with one thing after another and we don’t understand why He’s letting it happen, it’s difficult to see how we can grow from it.

We want some explanation and to know how this will work out. We want our questions answered—How long? Why? When? But, when our questions don’t get answered, we have to wait and trust that the One pruning knows what He’s doing.

At some point, when the new becomes more familiar and comfortable, there is acceptance. We’ve become used to the changes—both the good and the bad, and it’s not as difficult to function. It’s no longer a constant struggle to get through each day because there’s been new growth. Instead of only seeing what’s missing, we see how God has blessed us. There is still grief and mourning, but there is also thankfulness and new beginnings.

Our trees were trimmed with the best of intentions and we received a credit when I kindly expressed how disappointed we were. God prunes us for His purpose and His glory, and when we turn to Him with our disappointment, exhaustion, sadness, and even our anger, He comforts us with love and compassion. {Tweet this}

God’s work will still be done, but He never cuts and walks away. He stays with us through the pain and the setbacks. He encourages us as we get back on our feet. And He rejoices with us as we begin to see the growth through His pruning.

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]

Monday, July 2, 2018

What If?


Last night, we got into a What if? conversation. Not the kind that causes worry, but rather wonder.

What if my husband and I hadn’t gone out the night we met? What if we’d each chosen to do something else that night…would we have met each other at a different time? It seems unlikely.

Which means everything since then wouldn’t have happened. Or would have occurred in completely different ways.

It made me keep thinking and wondering about how we live our days and how any given decision can affect the future…

What if we focused on the positive instead of the negative?

What if we spent less time worried or angry?

What if we were less offended by all the things that offend us?

What if we decide to choose joy despite circumstances?

How would everything be different? Better?

Think about it.

How much time do we waste stewing about the past or worried about the future? {Tweet this}

Every day, we have the choice to spend our time holding on to anger and unforgiveness…or letting it go.

We have the choice to turn to God, to walk closer to Him, and to receive and grow in His love and forgiveness. Or we can choose not to.

What if we wonder (not worry) and let the what ifs help us make better daily choices?

In Christ,
Laura
  

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Road Ahead


Roads. Some are short with a definite destination. Others are long and winding, with a scenic view.

Like me, you might find yourself on a road you didn’t know you were on, but when you look back you can see where it started and where it’s taken you, even if you still can’t see the end clearly.

And then there are the somewhat defined roads. You know where they start—the moment your life changed—but you don’t know where it ends. What you do know is you don’t like the look of the road. You stand at the threshold knowing it will be hard, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and there is no way around it.

Maybe that road is the diagnosis, unemployment, the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or one of so many other defining moments that feel dark and depressing.

Instead of things that can be done, there are things that have to be done. Instead possibilities, life looks full of impossibilities.

And yet, we are not alone on this oppressive road. We have a traveling companion who has promised to never leave us despite the rocky, uphill climb. God promises to go before us, walk beside us, and follow behind us, giving us what we need along the way. {Tweet this}

Jesus is the Light that will break through the darkness.

Some days along the road are filled with a dark fog blocking the light. There is sadness and exhaustion. Bad news that causes us to grieve and wonder if the sun will shine again. But, no matter how hopeless we feel, the darkness can never extinguish the light of Jesus.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

When we can’t feel it, we have to know it—remember it—Jesus is the Light that shines through the darkness. When we can’t see the light, He’s still there, and the fog won’t block the light forever.

God is at work no matter what we can or can’t see.

Especially during difficult times, we have to remember that God is at work behind the scenes. Sometimes, He’ll give us a glimpse of what He’s working on, but often we just have to trust that His plans are good.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.

It’s not easy to trust when we can’t understand why, or how, or when, but I’ve found that the more I try to trust Him, the more I want to trust Him, and with practice I don’t have to try as hard. Trusting Him feels comfortable and becomes more natural.

He is the One who holds us up when we can barely move on our own.

There will be days when we don’t want to get out of bed. If our feet don’t touch the floor, maybe we won’t have to face anything. It’s too hard to hold ourselves up, much less be there to support others. But, whether we stay in bed or trudge through the day, we are not alone.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

There have been many times when I reflected back on my day and didn’t know how I made it through. It was a blur of difficulty that I didn’t have the strength for. 

The only answer was God. 

I know He was holding me up when I could barely stand on my own. He was there in the hard conversations and the actions I didn’t want to take. He was there to pull me up when the feeling of hopelessness was too great.

No matter what the road ahead of us looks like, God is with us and He won’t leave us. {Tweet this} The days will be hard and some will feel as dark as night…but we are not alone and the sun will shine again.

Lord Jesus, we know that in this life we will have trouble, but You have promised to never leave us. You have promised us peace in the midst of the storms. May we believe Your promises are for us and cling to Your presence in our lives. Amen.

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]


Monday, June 11, 2018

Called to Remember God’s Promises


I don't know what your days look like right now. Perhaps life feels like it's out of control and you're praying for the strength to see your way through. Or maybe, everything is calm right now and you're thankful for the time to catch your breath. 

Whether you're struggling and worn out, relaxed and feeling good, or anywhere in between, God's Word is full of life-giving promises to us. {Tweet this}

Here are a few I'm reminding myself of. Maybe you can use a reminder as well.


We are called to remember God's promises...

You are His.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.  O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 NLT
Nothing is impossible for God.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIV
His love for you is endless.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 NLT
He calls us to life.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT
God forgives.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34 NIV
He sees us differently than the world does.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT
He walks with us.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
God can be trusted.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:23 NLT
God changes lives.
This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. Colossians 1:6 NLT
He is our hope and our strength.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV
He is our peace.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]

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