Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What God is Teaching Us Through the Process of Minimizing, & 8th Update on Kristen

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Matthew 6:19-21
(KJV)

First, I want to say "thank you" again and again for all of the love and support you are continuing to show my family and me in the midst of our current trials.
Foremost on our minds, each and every day, is concern for my dear niece, Kristen.
As you know, she is expecting her first baby, and she has had one scary issue after another.
For those who may not know, she developed a blood clot in her arm that traveled to her lung, 
had to be hospitalized for a time, was put on the wrong type of medication at first,
then released from the hospital and sent home with instructions to give herself two shots a day of an alternate, slower-working medicine.
Needless to say, that whole process has been very difficult and terrifying for her,
and now she has developed tachycardia.
This explains the chest pain, shortness of breath, racing heart rate, and heart palpitations.
Several other things have happened that have heaped more fear and anxiety,
and we would surely appreciate your continued prayers for her and her unborn baby boy.
Each day is a real struggle for her, bless her dear heart.

It is hard to see the reason behind such trials, isn't it?

We take comfort in the words of our Lord Jesus found in John 16:33,
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

There is a beginning and an end to every trial in this life.
While it is hard to find sense in the midst of the worry and concern,
I believe with all my heart that God will heal Kristen and bring her through this,
and my constant prayer for her is that God will give her a healthy baby and allow her to live to raise
that boy to full adulthood.
We can't ask too much of our God, and regardless how dark the path ahead may look for her,
we walk by faith and not by sight.
We dare not take our focus off God and fixate on the problems at hand.

I keep hearing the dear Lord say,
"According to your faith be it unto you."
Matthew 9:29

In times like these, I begin to ponder...how much faith do we have?
How much of that faith will we choose to exercise in this current situation?

I have often mentioned what Papaw used to say,
"God will be everything to us that our faith will take Him for."

Will we limit God?
Will we allow the "what ifs?" and "might happens" of this life to overpower our perception of what our God can do?

I choose to believe.
If I will get exactly what my faith takes God for, 
I choose to "take Him for" all of the good He has promised.
I choose to "take Him" at His Word.
I choose, like Abraham, to live life fully persuaded that, what He has promised, He is able also to perform.  (Romans 4:21)
He has demonstrated countless times that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, so why would He do anything different now?
His track record is impeccable.
He is worthy of our trust...even now.


Another beautiful picture and caption by my dear, faithful friend, Gentle Joy

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Moving on to our minimizing efforts, I wanted to share some lessons God is teaching.

1.  Anything God asks me to get rid of that I refuse to surrender and insist upon keeping becomes an idol, because I am choosing to serve it, instead of Him.
Idols can take on the strangest, most unlikely forms.
Anything that we put ahead of God in our lives becomes an idol.
If God says, "turn it loose" or "let it go" or "stop doing that", and we stubbornly refuse,
we are choosing to cling to that...whatever or however improbable that is...than to follow Him.
That thing impedes our progress, and we cannot move forward with Him.
We are making the choice, however unconscious of this we may be,
to serve the idol, instead of serving God.
Jesus said not to lay up treasures on the earth.
Treasures on earth become more precious than God to our hearts,
and they absolutely compete with Him being first in our lives.
Excess possessions vie for our time, energy, affections, and effort, 
and oftentimes, we are so busy pouring ourselves into maintaining and bowing down to them,
that there is nothing left of us to give to the One we should love and honor most.
God is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)
He wants to be our all in all...the One our soul craves...the One we hunger for more than all else.

2.  I will make no further progress if I keep insisting upon not doing things that hurt too much.
I must stop refusing to do what He is asking me to do just because it is hard.
Doing the right thing in order to follow Jesus and be faithful to Him often goes completely against the easiest path, but without being willing to give up what He asks us to, we will never be His disciple.
"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple."
Luke 14:33
Following Jesus is sometimes going to hurt.
It will usually go against the grain of what "self" wants in our lives.
"Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Mark 8:34

3.  The past can never be relived, even if I hold on to the baby clothes.
Yes, our dear, miracle-baby, boy is now 16 years old.
And, no, your eyes do not deceive you.
We still have a lot of his baby clothes.
You won't believe how many of his clothes we have passed along to others through the years,
but, there were just somecertain, okay, a lot of...special things...that I have insisted upon keeping.
As if holding on to those clothes will make him a baby again,
as if clinging to them with all my might would somehow cause a time machine to appear that would transport us back...to those baby days.
Zach is growing up.
He is much more a man, than a boy, now.
He is wise beyond his years...always has been that,
and he will never be an infant, toddler, or child again.
I cry over this more than I care to admit.
Oh, in this mama's heart and mind, he will always be my baby.
My perception/illusion of that will never change.
But, the reality that he is now more grown than not slaps me in the face each time I have to look up at him to look him in the eye.
So, I am finally allowing my sentimental mind to grasp the concept that regardless how many onesies, pacifiers (yes, I know), cute little hats, overalls, and Pooh outfits I squeeze on to,
not one of those precious things possess the power to ever be able to take us back to those growing up, carefree days of childhood and cause him to be able to squeeze again into those clothes.
Those days are gone.
They have been lived.
And lived exceedingly well...all glory to Jesus.
Regardless how many meltdowns I experience while sitting on the living room floor,
baby clothes scattered all around me, each one bringing back its own, special memories like a flood,
the fact of the matter is, Zach is 16.
From this moment, he will only get older, progress forward, and continue growing into the man of God he was created and born and designed to be.

4.  God is the God of ALL comfort.
That includes when I grieve for what used to be but can never be again.
It includes when I have to let things go that tear at the very heart of me.
It includes when what I am grieving over seems absurd.
He understands, and His ability to comfort is all-encompassing and enshrouds every, single, possible, potential hurt of the human condition, including the hurt of letting go.

5.  In this season of our lives, it is His will for us to do whatever it takes to minimize.
This is not just a whim.
It is not some fad we are following after.
This is God's Divine calling upon our lives in this season.
It is why we feel such a drawing to continually pursue the letting go of what is not necessary,
even when what we are doing does not make sense or conform to "the norm",
and even when it is so difficult all three of us break down and cry.

6.  We are not walking this minimizing journey alone.
He is with us, just as He has always been.
He is there, even in the moments of tears and separation-anxiety,
to soothe, console, ease, and bring a sense of peace.
He makes our obedience doable.
As I look back over my life, I realize one consistency.
God has never asked me to do anything that He was not willing to do with me.
Isaiah 41:10 has been my life verse.
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
I will never forget the day He first gave me that Scripture.
I was 14 years old, sitting on a stool in the basement of this little house, scared-stiff, terrified to face the next day.

You can read about that here.

I was getting ready to change schools for the umpteenth time...
this time, it was at the very end of the school year, with only one month to go.
As I sat there, with God's Word open in front of me, my eyes fell upon 
that precious, life-changing verse, Isaiah 41:10.
I adopted it then and there, and it has sustained me through more than I can even remember.

7. God will lead us on this journey, but we have to allow Him to and remain willing to surrender to His prompts.
I have never considered myself a controlling person, but I declare, this whole process has really opened my eyes and revealed things I never saw before.
Too many times I have dug in my heels, and I have hindered God from doing what He knew was best,
just because I did not want "self" to be inconvenienced.
I didn't want to surrender, because the process was going to require so much effort...
so much difficulty...so much hurt.
So, I stayed when God said to move,
and I got ahead of Him when He said to stay.
Over the past few years, He has taught me so many lessons from Joshua 3:3-4.
"When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore." (Emphasis added.)
To stay right at that perfectly, fine-tuned spot...that exact "two thousand cubits behind the Ark" is a challenge.
It is going to require a constant awareness of what God is doing and an intentional focus on making sure we can hear His still, small voice.
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant is a type of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We cannot afford to take our eyes off Jesus, our "Ark", for one split second.
We have to stay in tune with His stirrings that happen deep within our spirit,
just as Joshua had to remain continually focused on the ark of the covenant.
When a stirring started and it began to move, he knew it was time for him and the people to follow,
in that perfectly-spaced position and lockstep rhythm.
You can read more on my past thoughts about this here.

8.  When Jesus left home to begin His full-time ministry, He had to leave people and things He dearly loved behind.
He had to walk away from His past and life as He knew it and everything in it.
He could afford no distractions.
He could not live out His mission weighted down with possessions of this life.
He needed to remain completely engaged in the purpose God sent Him here to fulfill.
Don't you know it must have hurt Him to leave what He knew as familiar?
He was 100% God, but He was also 100% human.
He felt hurt just as keenly as we do.
Yet, He did not allow His human hurts to deter Him from His Divine mission.

9.  "Lovest thou Me more than these?"
John 21:15
If Jesus asks us to drop something, give something away, stop doing something, bless someone with something we own, etc., and we insist upon clinging to it and refuse to let it go, it not only becomes an idol to us, but it proves where our heart really is.
"...where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Who/what do we love more?
Who/what do we love most?
Who/what is more most precious to us?
Who/what are we bowing down to and do we most want to please?
Remember the letter the Lord dictated to the church at Ephesus?
After complimenting them on their works, labor, patience, abhorrence for evil, ability to recognize false/impostor apostles, high level of tolerance, perseverance, endurance, and refusal to give in to weariness, He said,
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."
Revelation 2:4
This process of minimizing and letting go is showing me where my heart really is,
and I am continually being forced to make choices.
Obey or rebel?
Do I love Him more than what He is asking me to let go of?
Is He still, as at the beginning of our journey together, my first love?
The question is EVER before me.
There is a cost to love Jesus "more than these".
Am I willing to pay it?
What will the cost be if I don't?
What/who will suffer if I do not mind God?
Following Jesus is not without great personal cost, 
but we must remember that it is also not without great reward...
not only in the next life, but in this life, also.
"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."
Mark 10:29-30

10.  God has a way of orchestrating our circumstances to reveal what lies beneath and forcing us to make hard choices.
For years, we lived in a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, with a huge, oversized 2 car garage.
The house was not big, but it had plenty of excess space considering there were only three of us living there.
There were all kinds of nooks and crannies, closets, cupboards, and shelves for what-nots and treasures,
all kinds of wall space for lots of wall hangings and pictures, 
and plenty of floor space for all sorts of furniture and the primitive decor I love so much.
The garage was not too much smaller than the house, which meant we had tons of storage.
Rather than deal with things that hurt, I became very proficient at boxing it up and either asking Kevin to put it in the attic or walking it out to the huge garage that was attached to our house.
I never had to deal with anything that had to do with whether I should keep something or let it go.
There was no need.
Minimizing was the farthest thing from my mind.
Excess space provided a way for me to cling to the past, with no guilt for doing so.
Fast forward to now.
God has led us to a living situation with less square footage, a small outside storage area, no attic space, no attached garage, smaller rooms, fewer closets, and filled with someone else's furniture.
Do you see how He is working?
As you know, He started us on this journey long before we ever made a long-distance move,
and we thought we had made major strides in reaching our minimizing destination before we loaded the moving truck.
After the Lord led us to where we are, we realized that we had merely skimmed the surface...
we had only shaved off the "superficial".
Now, we are dealing with all that lies beneath.
I am having to face hard truths and answer difficult, incriminating questions...
like, why did I keep all of this stuff, in the first place?
What drove me to cling to every single homeschool workbook Zach has ever written in?
What made me refuse to let go of his baby stuff?
Why do I still hold on to Dad's sweater?
Now, we get to the real issues and my refusal to let go of the past.
God is forcing this.
And, I thank Him for it.
It needs to happen.
He is showing Kevin, Zach, and me that we need to scale down to what will fit in our current living arrangement and that in order to do that, we must let go of what used to be in order to live life going forward, not looking back.
It is wasteful to continue to pay for monthly off-site storage and goes against everything He is teaching us about frugality and being good stewards.
It is not that we do not have enough space here.
It is that we still have too much stuff.
If we pare down to what will fit here, the excess monthly storage bill will be eliminated,
that money can be put to much better use,
and, we will come yet closer to aligning ourselves with the minimal, unattached-to-the-things-of-this- world lifestyle Jesus, our Example, lived.
He is not asking us to give up everything dear to our hearts.
He is just asking us to give up what won't fit here.
He is allowing us to keep certain things that we need to keep in order to remember precious parts of our past, because He knows how important that is to us, but He is freeing us from trying to continue to live in that past.
As we seek Him and walk in obedience to all He is asking of us,
we trust Him fully to lead us away from doing things we will later regret.
Our part is to simply do what He tells us to do...even when it hurts.
It is not about us; it is about Him.
It is not about this life; it is about eternity.
His grace is all-sufficient, and He is faithfully sending the healing that we need.

To read past posts about our minimizing journey, click the following links:

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And now, for those who are still with me and who persevered to read to the end of this very long post, I want to invite you to click over to our FREE STUFF page!!
I added a few books to give away!
Happy Shopping, and God bless you all!