Monday, April 27, 2009

"His Eyes are on You"

Made it through Monday of an extremely busy week! With the burden of a pretty major test lifted this morning, I could now turn my focus to the other three looming over my head. After being in the classroom this morning, I was blessed to be able to eat lunch with a few girls from my nursing class. I had hopes of accomplishing much studying this afternoon. So after lunch, I packed up my stuff and headed to a local coffee shop. With a strawberry smoothie in one hand and a never-ending pile of notes in the other…..the study session began. After the first hour, my mind just would not retain any more information. Concentration level….zero. In all honesty, the last place I wanted to be was in a coffee shop studying about trans-cultural nursing. I sat there for about another hour, soaked up what I could, and decided to take a break. I packed up and headed to one of my favorite places in all of Mississippi: my church. It's not a huge building, modest-looking on the outside, out in the country, set on top of a hill. A place that has been dear to my heart for twenty-one years, a place where I've shared special moments with my Lord and today…..I was blessed with another special time with Him.

I arrived at church, grabbed my Bible, and sat down at the piano. I began singing my heart to the Lord. Sunlight strown in the window as my fingers played the keys. The warmth of it reminded me of God's love and hand over my life. These are perhaps some of my favorite times with God. I feel so near to Him. I imagine Him sitting right next to me, listening to my every word, moving every stroke of my fingers.

One song that came into my mind was that of the hymn, "His Eye is on the Sparrow." I found the words in one of our hymnbooks and began to sing them from my heart. I had heard this song before but had never really soaked in the words.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,I sing because I’m free,For His eye is on the sparrow,And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I love that! "Why should I be discouraged?" Jesus is my portion! I also loved the last verse when it says "I lose my doubts and fears; though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;" Praise God that He leads every step I take. Even if I cannot see exactly what He is doing.

It was then that I was reminded of another song. I'd been thinking and singing this song "As the Deer" for a few days now. I had filled in for my mom during Sunday worship last week by playing the piano. Dad and I had considered leading this song, but we decided not to. It "just so happened" that the words were still lying on the piano. And, as I began singing this song that I had grown up singing my whole life, God began to speak to my heart. Even though I knew the words by heart, I had never really taken time to process them. At that piano, I sang: "I want you more than gold or silver, only You can satisfy. You alone are real joy Giver and the apple of my eye."

Wow...thoughts began flooding my mind of the things that I place in my life or desire in my life to "satisfy" and be that giver of joy. But, what I sang this afternoon was that Jesus is the ONLY true joy-Giver and the ONLY One Who can truly satisfy. Singing these words brought tears to my eyes. I began praying, "God what am I putting in place of You to try and satisfy those deep longings within my life? What am I looking to in order to find contentment and joy?"

Let me ask you a question. What is it that you are putting your satisfaction and joy into? What is it that you think you cannot live without and truly be satisfied? I do not know about you, but many things came to my mind. And, as I knelt down at the altar this afternoon, I called out those things that I put so much hope and anticipation and satisfaction in. It was hard to confess those things and lay them down....but, oh the freedom that came. And just as that beautiful hymn said: "I sing because I’m happy,I sing because I’m free; for His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me."

Friends, nothing will satisfy like the Lord Jesus. Yes, He chooses to sometimes give those blessings for which we desire. But, NOTHING….do you hear? NOTHING will satisfy and provide us with true joy except our Savior God. Not that perfect job, beautiful house, fancy car, close friendships, money....not even those children, not a husband, not a wife, not a fiancĂ©, not a boyfriend/girlfriend, not a diploma, not a degree, not a perfect figure….you name it. But here's the exciting news! Get excited, because you have a God that can feel every deep longing of that precious heart of yours. In fact, He knows your heart so well, because He created you and He loves you. Praise Him for filling your heart with all-surpassing, everlasting joy!

After singing that song, I got up from the piano and knelt at the altar. I flipped to Psalm 42, which speaks of desiring God's Word as a deer that desires to quench his thirst. And the words I read….were beautiful. Verse 1: "As the deer pants for water brooks, so pants my soul for God, for the living God." On to verse 5: "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, for the help of His countenance." My heart cried, "AMEN!" I was humbled. Do you see an interesting parallel? The two songs that God burdened within my heart were both patterned after the words of Psalm 42. All I could pray was: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for speaking to my heart." Do we serve a personal God or what? He would choose to reveal Himself to someone like me. I am humbled and honored before Him.

Dear friends, we can have hope because of the God we serve. We can experience true joy and perfect satisfaction from the Giver and Sustainer of our lives: Jesus Christ our Lord. Doesn't that excite you? May you know today that He Who calls you by name, He Who loves you, Who considers you precious is alive and working. He longs that your life be filled with joy, true joy! And those precious things that your heart so desperately desires: know that in His timing and in His will, He will surely fulfill all that He has promised….all that He has planned.

May you rest assured in Him and live in hope both today and the days to come. May your heart be filled with the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank Him for that joy. Thank Him for satisfying even your deepest longings. Thank Him for hope.

Hannah Grace

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Contentment with God's Plan

Perhaps I should have waited to begin this blog until after nursing school was over for the semester. :) I'm finding it so hard to concentrate and study these days. All I want to do is dig deeper into God's Word and learn more from Him. He has renewed that hunger in my life. I remember a few months ago feeling discouraged and at times stagnant spiritually, and I remember praying for a revival in my spirit. God answered that prayer. An excitement floods my spirit when I read His Word. Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed the workings of what could only be from the Lord. I desire to keep learning more and more about Him. I know that I cannot ever spend too much time in God's Word.
Today was such a refreshing day at church. I wanted to share some things that God has been teaching me. Over the past few months, I have had the blessing of being a part of the Ladies Sunday school class. We have been studying the book Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillows. This book has touched my heart many times, especially during this season of my life. Since we are a bit ahead of the men's Sunday school class, we reviewed the first six chapters this morning. The first five chapters were mainly about being content in life: content with circumstances, content to be the person God made you to be, content with your present role, and content with relationships. Such a difficult thing, especially for women, to be content sometimes. A few points really stood out to me within these chapters.
* Content with my role: Sometimes I feel as if I'm not fulfilling the role that I feel God is calling me to. There are desires in my life that I truly feel as if God placed within my heart. Yet, I'm not able to fulfill or act in those desired roles at this time. For instance, anyone that has known me knows that my heart's desire is to one day be a wife and mother. I know it is clique to say: "I've dreamed of being a wife and mother ever since I was a little girl." But, I really have!! It is such a God-given passion of mine. Yet, right now, God in His sovereignty has endowed the gift of singleness and has led me not to be a wife/mother at this time but to be in nursing school. My heart's desire is not be a careerwoman. Yet, God has opened the door for nursing. I know that I must be obedient and follow the calling. My heart says, "Why have You given me this desire, yet I remain single?" In my spirit and through His Word, I feel God saying, "Your joy and fulfillment should not be dependent upon marriage or children. I fulfill Your life. Your contentment should be found in Me." God may one day fulfill that desire in my life, but until then, I am choosing to say: "Amen, Lord. Let it be so."
Another desire and passion that I have is for missions and involvement in the ministry. If you do not know, nursing school demands most every part of your being. There is a lack of time for outside activities. I do enjoy nursing school but also have a heart's desire to involved in the ministry. It appeared that God was opening the door for this desire, as I would be working at a local summer camp as a counselor this summer. Yet, the day before I accepted the position, an acceptance letter to an externship at a local hospital arrived in my mailbox. Due to the fact that it was unlikely that I would be accepted into this externship program, I had sought other opportunities for the summer. I had prayed that if I was supposed to be at the hospital this summer, God would move and allow me to find favor. So, that letter was a definite answer. Thankfulness for the opportunity flooded my heart but disappointment also crept within. I so wanted to be used by God this summer. Then I thought, "Why can't He use me in the hospital....just as He could have used me at camp?"

The crucial concept that I needed to learn was that God has plan. Yes, He does give desires to us. In His time, He brings those desires that He has given to pass. What do we do in the waiting time? We trust. One of the highlights of my week is taking a break from the busy schedule of life and going to my church. I play the piano, sing praises to God, and pray about many things.
A couple of weeks ago, I knelt down at the altar and pleaded with God for a peace, one that "passes all understanding." I prayed for His guidance and His grace for this difficult season of life. I layed all the desires of my heart on that altar before Him. I prayed that even if I never graduated from school, and even if I never had the privilege of having a husband, and even if I never had those precious children, and even if I was called to stand alone for righteousness for the rest of my life, and even if, would not change the reason that I was called upon this earth. It would not change my love for Him. I would always serve Him and praise His name. For, I am not here to reap the benefits and blessings in life. I am here to serve God. I am here to walk by His commands. I am here to tell others about His saving grace. It was difficult laying those things for which I so desperately desired down before Him. Surrendering that control was difficult, but necessary. It is a daily choice to trust Him and know that His ways are best.
A sweet friend sent me a message last week with Psalm 84 referenced. It was reminder of how much the Lord cares for me and desires good within my life. It also reminded me of the presence of God and how being in His presence is what I desire. And as I continue to trust in Him and live within His presence, He will, if it His part of His plan, provide those blessings, those desires, those "good" things....IN HIS PLAN. IN HIS TIME. Psalm 84:11: "For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. O, Lord of Heaven's Armies, what joy for those who trust in you."

What I have been experiencing in these days after I chose to lay those things at His feet is wonderful, all-surpassing joy! Now, I will not discredit that it can sometimes be difficult to always feel that joy. It is, as I said earlier, a daily choice. Just ask some members of my family, and they would tell you that sometimes it is a struggle for me to not worry about how some things will work out. But, what a freedom comes when we let go of those things which burden our hearts and choose to say, "God, I give that to You. You may have that for me in my future, but You may not. And, I know that You will provide the grace for whatever circumstances may come. Whatever Your plan is, I know that it is best for me. I trust in You, dear Father." Easy to pray? Sometimes yes. Hard to live? Many times, yes. Necessary in order to live in that peace and joy that God has called us to? Absolutely, yes!
*Another concept that influenced me within this text was that of God being the "Blessed Controller of all things." I love that! As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I know that what God has planned for me is only meant for my good. Will it always be easy? No. But, I can rest assured that He cares for me. Psalm 37:23: "The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives." Beautiful words, aren't they? Every year.....every minute....every detail....every moment....He delights in these. What a humbling thought. What a love!

Today was such a blessing. Foundational truths from God's Word, encouraging testimonies from other women of God, sweet fellowship with my precious church family, and the blessing of living another day in the hope of my Lord Jesus!
Hannah Grace

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"I Know Your Name"

Today, I finished my last clinical rotation at a local nursing home. For those of you who know me, you know that my passion in the nursing field is with the babies and mostly with the "beginnings of life." I've never really felt the calling to geriatrics. And, while I still do not feel called to work in the nursing home even after this rotation, I knew that God must have placed me there for a reason.

At times, the atmosphere at the nursing home is a depressing one. Room after room is filled with men and women who have experienced many things in life, some of which I cannot even fathom. Many feel lost and long to be in their own homes again. And, many of these precious people cannot even remember a few minutes ago, much less the important events of their lives. Many lie within their beds, unable to communicate and understand what is going on around them. Many times during this rotation I thought to myself, "God, why do they have to be like this? What is Your purpose for keeping them on this earth? It doesn't seem fair." Today, God chose to use a precious woman to show me one of His marvelous attributes and to express His love for me. He allowed me to be a part of a beautiful scene, one that speaks of the kind of God we serve.

As my partner and I began our care for the residents today, we came into the room of an elderly woman. We had been told that she did not like to be bathed, and that it would be a difficult task. As soon as the washcloth touched her skin, she looked at me with terror in her eyes and began to panic. Many would think it silly for someone to be afraid of a bath or even water, but I had no clue what she was feeling inside. I did not know what she was able to understand. All I knew was that her fear was real. When I saw this fear within her eyes, I felt such compassion for her. I know what fear is like. I may have never feared water before, but I have felt the grip of fear at times in my own walk of life. I held her hand, called her by her name, looked directly into her eyes, and said: "It's going to be okay. We are here to help you." She held tightly to my hand and nodded her head up and down. As long as I held her hand tightly and spoke softly to her, she was calm. She needed to feel loved. She needed to know that we cared for her and would not hurt her.

When I arrived home today, I began thinking about this beautiful scene. Isn't it like our own lives? Fear can be such a real thing. It can be paralyzing.....causing us to exchange peace for anxiety. Sometimes, I look back at the things that I used to fear and think how silly it was of me to even give the enemy such a foothold in my life. But, at that point in time, the fear was real. Before walking into the nursing home this morning, my devotions led me to the passage of Isaiah 44. The end of verse 1 states: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine." Verse 4 goes on to say: "Since you were precious in My sight,You have been honored, and I have loved you;" How neat it was that the verses I read this morning correlated with the truth I learned today. Just as I held the hand of a terrified woman this morning, so the mighty Hand of our Father holds our hand in the midst of paralyzing fear and pain. When the grip of fear overtakes you, when it feels more than you are able to bear, when hopelessness looms around you, do you choose to put your hand in His? The sovereign God of universe calls us by our name and takes our hand. I imagine Him by my side in those times of panic, whispering truth within my ears, overshadowing the lies from the enemy. Inspired by the words of Isaiah 44, I imagine God saying: "Fear not, My child. I love you. I am for you. I have called you by your name. I am here to help you. You are precious to me. It's going to be okay." That gives me chills. Oh, the mighty power of our God! That He would desire to comfort me, to love me, and to make His presence known in the midst of that grip of fear. As long as He is the Holder of my hand, fear cannot reign in my life. A calmness follows when I choose to focus on Him, rather than the worries and cares of life.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your promises to never forsake Your children. Thank You that You know us, and You call us by our name. We praise You for never-failing love. We praise You that even in the midst of hard times, we can overcome fear by putting our hand within Yours. It is then that You give the promise of peace, love, and hope for the journey. Amen!

Hannah Grace

Monday, April 13, 2009

WEEK ONE: Brokenhearted

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

This week was such an encouragement to me. The week began with the chapter "Telling Yourself the Truth."

Guthrie writes: "Painful thoughts go through our heads when the hurt is deep. I will never be able to be happy again. My life is over. I will be alone forever. God must not love me. God must be punishing me. I'm such a failure."

When we experience hurt within our lives, it can be so easy to allow the enemy to fill our minds with untruth. He wants us to focus on what we did wrong or what we could have done better. This is a time when the truth of God must overshadow the lies of the enemy. In order to allow that truth to reign, we must spend time in God's Word.

She goes on to say: "Truth soothes our fears, changes our feelings, and shapes our thoughts."

Ahhh, I love that! God's Word gives us a source by which we can draw near to God and learn more about Him. It is through this Word, that our God....the God of the universe, the Lord of our lives, the King of all....chooses to reveal His love and guidance to us. What an honor! Do you consider that an honor?

One statement that stood out to me was: "God does not discount or dismiss your tears. They are precious to Him because you are precious to Him." Isaiah 25:8 says: "The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears." Is that not a precious verse or what? My God, the Lord of the universe, will wipe away my tears. He doesn't "discount" them or ignore the hurt I might be facing. He considers my life precious and is interested in every detail. Is that not humbling? Psalm 56:8 states: "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book." Many times it may feel as if we are alone in our sorrow. But, God "keeps track" of those tears. He considers them precious, because YOU are precious. Psalm 30:5: "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Friends, that joy cannot be determined by circumstances. That joy is lasting, something that can only originate from the Lord, Himself.

Has someone ever said this statement to you: "Don't worry about that stuff. It won't help or change a thing!" Yeah..well....I believe that. I really do. But, it is easier to say, "Oh, I will not worry," than actually not worrying at all. I am at many times worried about worrying. Honestly, now what is that going to do? I must take a step back from the situation and refuse to worry!

Guthrie states: "Peace is a gift from God, but we prepare ourselves to receive this gift as we pray about everything, cultivate gratitude, and refuse to surrender to worry."

A beautiful statement! Did you catch that? "REFUSE to surrender to worry." With the recent changes in my life, I must admit that I struggle with worry....worry about my future. Will I ever get married? Will I ever get that family I dream of? Will I ever be used by God? Will I be a good nurse? Will I ever quit worrying about things? :) Philippians 4:6-7: "Be anxious for nothing but by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Amen, amen, amen. What else is there left to say?

With the broken heart, with the disappointment, with the hurt..bitterness can sometimes follow. Many times and in many lives it is the root of bitterness that destroys. Bitterness takes the focus off of the blessed plans that God has in store and focuses on the past ways we feel like we've been jilted. I mean, isn't that really what bitterness is? But, I know that's easy to say. Sometimes, we really do feel like we've been wronged. It hurts, and we do not understand how a loving God would allow such pain. This chapter led me to the book of Lamentations. Not the most familiar book, but a book containing some powerful words of Truth. Lamentations 3:23 states: "The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly..."

To me, that "wait quietly," means waiting on the Lord even when things do not make sense. He has promised that He has been, is, and will be faithful. Waiting on the Lord means not allowing that root of bitterness to spring forth. Waiting means trusting that God knows what is best, and He sees the future. This chapter also left me with a truth, one that spoke directly to my heart. Lamentations 3:31: "For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever." Thank you, Jesus.

He is the Collector of my tears, my Source of Truth, the Mender of my heart, and a forever faithful God!

May your heart be encouraged today. There is HOPE for your journey.

Hannah Grace

Saturday, April 11, 2009

In the midst of broken hearts, lost dreams, disappointmnts, and unanswered questions, God in His sovereignty chooses to give a gift: His hope. My precious grandma gave me a special gift one week ago: a devotional book entitled, Hope by Nancy Guthrie. I wanted to share this journey of hope with you. In the past few weeks, God has provided hope in the midst of a great loss.
For whatever you may be experiencing, when we are born-again in Christ we can experience hope. Not the kind of hope the world seems to give, but a hope that can only be ordained by our Lord. No matter status, age, rank, intelligence, we all experience loss and disappointments. But, with those losses come a invitation to a deeper walk with God, one that will draw us near to His saving will and grace. It is my desire that as you read this blog, you will join me in digging in God's Word for His promises of hope.

God is still God, He is still in control, His Word never fails, He is faithful and true, and He promises to give hope for the journey. :)