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Posts Tagged ‘God’s love’

“You are loved” says my title. Do you believe that? Do you know that?

I do, and here’s how I know: http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2013-07-06. <– Read this first and then find my corresponding blog post by clicking on “Devotional Home” up at the top, and then look for “You Are Loved” underneath “Daily Devotional Blog.”

Whoever and wherever you are today, no matter what you’ve done or who you’ve been, you are loved more than you could ever possibly imagine.

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2012 was an entire year of trial for me. It was probably one of the toughest years of my life I have ever had to face.

But it was also one of the most beautiful.

It was one of the most beautiful because the I AM was with me-in the very middle of my suffering, sin, and fear.

IV%20BAG%20wgif[1]He was there with me in a dark hospital room when I longed for a daddy’s eyes to acknowledge his daughter again. When the doctors were shaking their heads saying, “I don’t know.” When the nurses were whispering, “His fever’s back up.”

He was awake and He was there when everyone else around me was sleeping. When a father was literally unable to keep his eyes open, when a mother was sleeping from the stress, when a city lay warm and cozy beneath their beds, and when a desperate daughter cried, “God, please. I just want to hear his voice again.”

He was there squeezing my shoulder, smiling, looking me in the eye and saying, “You will.”

He was there giving her a vision of the future-peaceful dreams as nurses went in and out, drawing blood and asking questions. In the dream, her dad was fine and he was packing a suitcase and getting ready to go home. And a week later, it came to pass.

He was there when the girl took her book project to a place called Manitou Springs for the eyes of authors to scrutinize, criticize, and refine. He was there when the girl couldn’t find the words to say, and she felt as though her dreams were slipping and scattering away from her like pearls on a string. He was there when her heart felt torn and tormented, wondering whether she should stay with a family who needed her or give up on her own dream.

He was there on the car ride over when her heart felt sick and her stomach queasy as she thought about giving a speech that night in front of twelve expectant faces. In front of bestselling authors and fabulous speakers and writers who knew what they were doing. What did she have to offer when her chapter had been written in the very middle of hospital visits, beeping machines, IVs, and phone calls at 3:00 in the morning that said, “Dad has the chills and is blacking out”?

She was so unprepared.

He was there and He told her, “Just think of me standing right beside you before you have to speak.”

He was there as her knees knocked together, her heart beat faster, her stomach revolted, and she waited for her turn. He was there as she swallowed, as the eyes turned her way, and the panic set in. But then, the peace. He’s right beside me. He is with me. He will not leave me.

He was there as the girl stood, confidently making eye contact with everyone in the room and holding her head high. He was there as she remembered every word, enunciated each one clearly, and felt no fear or worry. He was there as she said “Thank you,” resumed her place, and everyone in the room clapped. He was there when one of those authors leaned over and said, “Well done!” And the girl just shook her head, trying to understand how she went from almost losing her supper to standing poised and confident, a speaker all her life. It was because He stood beside me.

He was there on a night in December when a girl who longed to remember a time when things went right cried out to God with tears streaming down her face, “I’m done, God. For the first time in my life, I just want to give up. And what if I did? What if I gave up my dream of being an author and stopped trying so hard? What if I walked away right now? It would be a lot easier. What if I stopped trying to meet everyone’s expectations? I don’t want to feel this way, God, but I’m done with prayers for right now. Nothing happens when I do. I’m done with saying, ‘thank you,’ for circumstances I don’t like. I just don’t know, God. I really don’t know anymore. Do dreams come true? Was I just a silly, naive girl to ever think that? Am I to be poor, broken, penniless in pocket and spirit for the rest of my life? I don’t have hope or faith anymore, God, and that’s the honest truth.”

He was there when the girl walked into church that last Sunday of December with arms crossed over her chest, trying to keep the world from seeing her bitter, angry, and hurting heart. What was 2012 but a year of failure and lost dreams? It was one thing after another. Family members who chose to hang out with the wrong crowd of people and go down a path that would ultimately lead to their own destruction. A godly man who spent his entire life doing nothing but be a good man, and here he was, a hard worker struggling to find work and spending half a year in the hospital? First for critically low sodium, then for a gall bladder attack, then for an infection from having his gall bladder removed, then to have brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, then this, then that.

Writer’s block. Not a single thing written for six months-my blog languishing, my schoolwork suffering, my book nonexistent. This was not how it was supposed to be.

My sister breaks off the side mirror of my car after her brush with a semi, and the night before Thanksgiving my niece ends up in the hospital with pneumonia.

Hospitals. Bills. Tears. Will it ever end?

Despite my prayers, despite my belief in miracles, despite my dreams-one thing after another is taken away. Money, health, peace.

Is this all there is to life, then? Constant struggle? Do you even see us anymore, God?

Does anyone? Does anyone see me? Who in the six months this has been going on has called me? Who has asked me how I’m doing and really meant it? Who would listen or care if I told them? And what right do I have to expect that of them? Who sees my pain? Who cares?

In the middle of the girl’s listing of grievances, in the very middle of her complaining, ranting, and railing, the presence of God stops all words.

(C) Arnold Friberg.

(C) Arnold Friberg.

Her breath is stolen from her, tongue turned stone, thoughts evaporated, and she is Moses, staring at the holy, fiery presence of God as the preacher’s words finally filter through as he reads God’s words,

“Then the LORD told him, ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…” (Ex. 3:7-8.)

I have seen you. I see your pain. I have seen your suffering, and I will deliver you.

You ask, is this all there is to life? No. No, for I have many plans for you. No-because I AM the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6.) There is plenty more to life, because there is plenty more of me. An eternal, endless kind of more. I AM and will always be. Unchanging. As I delivered then, I deliver now. As I was always more than enough then, I AM always more than enough now.

Peace, I AM.

Joy, I AM.

Love, I AM.

Your answer, I AM.

Your provider, I AM.

Your salvation, I AM.

Your healer, I AM.

Your deliverer, I AM.

All objections are blown away from my lips. All doubts and fears and anger gone.

I can do nothing but bow my head, the tears streaming down my face. We are in the second row and the pastor startles and looks at me, as if asking, “What did I do?”

I’m embarrassed and wish I could hide, but I can’t help it. What else am I to do?

The taking down of the strong “I’m fine,” mask is like the taking off of Moses’s sandles. It is vulnerable and exposing and uncomfortable, but what else to do in the presence of holy? In the presence of truth? I am in awe.

Because the I AM- Moses’s I AM-is here. And He says He’s seen me and is aware of my suffering.

The only emotion I can name or a put a finger to is that I feel seen. And it is such a wonderful feeling.

Like Moses, the presence of God came so unexpectedly. I was doing everything I could to push God away for the moment. I was done praying and asking for help. I wasn’t seeking Him or His presence. I was too busy blocking Him from my heart and saying I didn’t care about the pain there. I was angry and bitter and ungrateful.

It was into the middle of that that God came. In the very middle of my angry diatribe. In the very middle of my pointing the accusing finger of Martha asking, “Why didn’t you show up? If you had only been here…” (Paraphrased, John 11:21.)

And God replied, “I AM here.” (Paraphrased, John 11:25.)

The presence of God so strong and so sweet, my breath is stolen away, my head drops in bowed reverence, and the tears sting my eyes and run down my chin until I’m a slobbery mess.

I feel His love. His love.

Why would He give me love when all I’ve given Him are accusations?

He should be the one accusing me. “Why have you been so ungrateful? Why have you not had faith? Why do you think so little of me? Why do you daily insult my character by calling me uncaring, incapable? How can you think I’ve not seen you? You’re my child. Do you think so little of your Father as that?”

There’s a twinge of shame-but for right now, in this moment with his arms wrapping ’round me, telling of forgiveness and mercy-I feel only gratitude.

“Thank you,” I whisper, “Oh, God-thank you. Thank you for coming into my mess, time and time again. Thank you for meeting me here. For blessing me with your presence when all I was trying to do was run away from it. For seeing me in a world that does not see. Not like you do. For holding me, for healing me, for being here. For loving me-me, the one who bit into the apple of envy, of selfishness, of anger, of ingratitude, all the while hearing your voice in the back of my head warning me not to. For loving the me who pounds those nails into your hands, crying, ‘I don’t need your saving grace! I don’t believe you love like you say you do! I don’t believe you give like they say you do! Your love is not the kind of love I want. The kind that lets fathers struggle and dreams die and joy get stolen. I don’t need the kind of love that doesn’t see me! And you always, forever replying, ‘Father, forgive her, for she knows not what she does.'” (Paraphrased, Luke 23:34.)

But it’s here, now-in the presence of I AM, and in the presence of the truth-where I do see truth.

His love is the kind of love that looks over to thief hanging on cross beside-in torment Himself-and says, “I see you. Today you will be with me in paradise.”

His love is the kind of love that turns to look in a crowd full of people singing His praises, clamoring for His attention, asking for help, and asks, “Who touched me?”

His is the kind of love whose gentle glance takes in the woman all bent in shame and fear and sin and asks, “Who will cast the first stone?”

His is the kind of love that detours to meet a Samaritan woman at the well.

The kind of love that says, “Let the children come to me.”

The kind that meets a murderer on the road and says, “Why do you persecute me? Instead, come and follow me.”

Time and again. Over and over, and now I see: I was never unseen. I was never alone. He has always loved me. He does not come to lie, and cheat, and steal from me. Where in His word does it say that? When has He ever shown that, in Scripture or in my own personal life?

In fact, who was it the Scriptures said did come to do that? “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10: 10, emphasis added.)

I am a fool to have listened to that wily serpent for so long.

And I bow the head again. “Thank you.”

Was it not just last night I said I was done saying, “Thank you”? And yet, here I am today.

I also told God I was done dreaming. Done trying. Done hoping and having faith. Done praying.

But if I was wrong about saying thank you, maybe I was wrong about some other things, too. Okay, I was. Really wrong. Shamefully wrong.

Father, forgive me.

And His love whispers, I see you. Your sins have been forgiven you.

And it’s here in the presence of the I AM that a new whisper settles into the wind, “Your faith has healed you.”

I am healed, restored, loved, peace-filled. Forgiven.

Was it more I was asking for? A miracle?

I think I might just have been given one.

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My Facebook status the day after my dad woke up and began speaking again in the hospital:

This is going to sound melodramatic, but do me a favor: give your dad a huge, long squeeze. Tell him you love him. Have a long conversation with him, just to hear his voice. Today I’m crying and grateful because my dad couldn’t stay awake even a minute yesterday, and couldn’t say anything more than two words. I went to sleep praying that God would just allow me the opportunity to have a conversation with Him today. He answered that prayer. Things are getting better, so thank you for all the prayers! But if this has taught me anything, it’s that life is fragile. The little things-like hearing your dad speak-are the big things.”

 Life can change in a heartbeat. In a late night call or a down economy. In a ferocious storm or a devastating diagnosis. In a divorce, a death, or even in the very midst of our every-day lives.

So many times in life tragedy hits our blind spot, and we never realize it’s coming until we hear the crunch of metal and recognize we’ve collided with it.

It’s then we learn the fragility of life. But it’s also when we learn to treasure time as well.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve written and re-written this blog post. I feel as though the message is such an important one, and it’s been burning in my heart to share for quite a while now. I can never say it the right way, so I finally decided to share it anyway. This may be messy and not the most well-written piece, but maybe that’s sort of fortuitous. Because life is sometimes messy, and it doesn’t always look good or make sense on paper either.

Some of it started with the wildfires. As I watched the wildfires in Colorado take in a matter of minutes what others had spent years building, the injustice of it all shot through my heart like an arrow.

Fire doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care how greatly we treasure something, nor how closely we guard it. I heard the phrase over and over again as I watched the news, “You never think it’ll happen to you.”

I really began to learn the lesson when my dad went into the hospital. The day before my dad landed in the back of an ambulance, I could have never imagined him unable to stay awake for even a full minute or say more than two words.

But here’s the thing: none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We’re only given today.

It’s a terrifying feeling when you realize just how fragile life really is, am I right? Suddenly the whole world feels about as safe as an abandoned alleyway.

It’s one of the most painful lessons to learn. Fire burns mercilessly and leaves scars. But it also teaches us a very important lesson we wouldn’t learn any other way.

Though we may consider something as sacred and untouchable, nothing in this life is truly sacred and untouchable except for the Lord Almighty.

That’s not necessarily a comforting thought. It may not seem like the price we pay to receive that revelation is worth it. But there is deep comfort in knowing the truth: though life can change on a whim, the Bible tells us the unfailing love of God never changes.

Maybe you know what it feels like to have something burn. Or maybe you live in fear of a coming fire. Either way, if we stare into the fire too long, it can begin to look hopeless. It stings the eyes and scorches the soul.

But dear one, listen to me: our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in Him.

He came to deliver and rescue you from the fire. Not only that, loved one-He came to walk with you through the fire: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2.)

Whoever or wherever you are today, please know I am praying for you. Please know I care for you and whatever fiery trial you may be going through.

But also know this: you can meet with the Savior today. In the very middle of your pain. In the very middle of the fire. And when you do, He will have healing for your hurts. Peace for your pain. And He will have love to wash over your fear.

How do I know? Because like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He was with me in the fire, too:

So touched by God’s abundant love, mercy, and grace. A week ago today my dad couldn’t even get a straw to his mouth, let alone stay awake for a few seconds. Circumstances said he should have died, gone into a coma, had a seizure, or suffered brain damage. But God said otherwise. Today he defied the odds and walked into church to praise his God, raising the same hands that could barely move last week. The same voice that couldn’t say more than two words, and the mind that kept shutting down. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a miracle to me. He is all deserving of praise!

(My Facebook status a week after the first.)

I Hear Ya: Please share how I can pray for you today, or about a time when God delivered you from a fiery trial, and let’s lift up and encourage one another today!

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who was afraid to reach out to others. Out of that fear, she wrote a farewell letter in her heart:

Dear Compassion,

I’m afraid it’s time for me to move on. You see, I have too much to do to waste any time with you. I can’t slow down to listen to you if I want to get any work done. Besides, listening to you only brings me more misery. I have enough pain of my own, and you want me to add even more to my burdens by taking on others’ hurt? It’s much more productive to focus on my own worries and troubles.

How do I know these people even want my help? I’d probably only make things worse. What if I say the wrong thing? Reach out to them only to have them reject me in return? Or worse, draw them away from God?

No, no. I think everyone would be far better off if I just said goodbye to you, Compassion. You take me out of my comfort zone, and you make me feel things that I can do nothing about. Not everyone can make a difference. I certainly can’t. The only thing you bring me is more pain-pain that I can’t fix. It’s time for me to protect my heart.

Farewell, Compassion. I hope you understand-it’s easier on everyone this way.

 

But God wasn’t ready to give up on the girl. One day, He spoke to her through a song:

After listening to the song, the tears flowed down her face. With shame, she realized just how hard her heart had become, and she wrote a prayer pleading with God to bring compassion back into her life:

 

Help me see tragedy, and

Break me out of complacency,

So I can help the poor and needy.

 

Take away the umbrella,

So I can feel the rain,

And take away the soul’s ibuprofen,

So I can feel the pain.

 

Give me arms to hug and heal,

Give me knees that bend and kneel.

Give me a heart sensitive to your Word,

Help me set the captives free as a bird.

Give me calloused hands and skinned knees,

Oh, Father, please!

Give me tears that cry for change,

Put room in my heart, rearrange,

Break me, pour me out;

Oh, love’s what life’s about.

 

Put me in the ICU with the mom holding her son’s hand,

And place me in the impoverished land.

Let me feel the burning hunger of another,

And taste the stinging tears of my fellow brother.

Put me in the trench where the fear and blood is thick,

And in the child whose body is so sick.

Give me a heart tender and compassionate,

Oh, Lord, I want to be sent.

 

Jesus placed his feet on sinner’s land,

Accepted our hurt with an open hand.

Got his hands dirty and made a stand,

Touched and healed the leper’s hand.

Took on our sickness and pain,

Washed us anew in Heaven’s rain.

Walked into our darkness and gave us the light,

Took on our blindness and gave us sight.

Took our wounds and healed our souls,

Became broken so we became whole.

 

Became a prisoner so we could be free,

Walked through the fire with me.

Left heaven’s throne,

So I would never be alone.

 

‘Twas love that led him up to Calvary,

And ’tis love that says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

My eyes, once blind, now see-

With perfect love comes bravery.

 

God honored that girl’s prayer, and for the first time in a long while she noticed the starving children on her television, and felt the tears stream down her cheeks. She noticed the sadness hiding behind her friend’s eyes, and remembered there were many who lived in darkness, just longing for the light. Light she could share with them.

The girl began to pray more, speak out more, and even cry more. But instead of adding to her burdens, it made her feel alive and free-as if a part of her had been re-awakened. And things around her began to change.

She has more purpose in her step now, more joy within her heart. For she realized that when you are loving is when you’re truly living. And she realized what the devil had been lying to her about for years, and it was this: that she could make a difference.

Now she lives in the truth, and the truth has set her free.

Once upon a time there was a girl, and that girl was me.

 

 

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As I held the small angel ornaments in my hands, ready to purchase them, tears came to my eyes even as a smile touched my lips. I fingered the pretty white lace, and breathed in the words the angels held in their embrace: love, and joy. Yes, I had love. And I had joy, for I was loved.

But let me rewind a little bit. One morning last December in my prayer time I felt as if God were asking me to focus on “love” and “joy.” Love and joy? I thought, crinkling my brow. Could you be more specific, God? That’s kind of general.

If only I knew then how specific He could get.

A few days after that, I came across a blog post about the widespread phenomenon of the “one word for 2012” campaign. Basically, instead of concentrating on a huge resolutions list for the new year, participants were asked to consider focusing on just one word for 2012. They could do this through prayer, journaling, and just by asking God how He would have them apply that word throughout daily life.

The idea intrigued me, and I decided I, too, would focus on one word for 2012. As I mulled on it, my conversation with God a few days earlier came back to me. Focus on love and joy. Could those be the words God wanted me to concentrate on for 2012? I hoped not. They were two very broad terms. Besides, they were just that: two. I needed one word.

A week later found my mom and I at a craft fair. In the first room we entered, a woman selling lace angel ornaments caught our eye. As we ventured nearer, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit to pay attention. Curious, I tried to listen closely to what God was trying to tell me. But instead of my ears, it was my eyes God used.

Looking up, one angel stood out from among the many. Love, I read. That would have been enough to make me wonder, but then I felt another gentle urging to keep looking. I swept my gaze to the side, and immediately recognized what I was supposed to see: joy, said another angel. I couldn’t believe it.

That was at least two months ago, but the words “love” and “joy” have kept resurfacing everywhere I go. And I’m not a bit surprised.

You see, I serve a God who takes joy out of the little things. Who never overlooks the smallest detail or tiniest trouble. Who orders and plans and organizes our steps. He is a God of greatness, yes-but He is also a God of the still, the small, the silent.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT.)

Every detail? Yes. Even the smallest: a single tear wetting the pillow; a snowflake drifting from the skies of heaven; the lace in an angel’s skirt.

No one is ever too insignificant for Him to notice. No problem too small for Him to care. Knowing He delights in and takes care of every little detail in our lives, we can rest easy and without fear.

I love that God delights in the details and in the small things. But even more-I love that God finds delight in the details of my small life.

I Hear Ya: In what small ways has God shown that He delights in the details of your life recently or in the past? What one word would you choose for 2012?

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As most of you know, on Monday I took the dreaded driver’s test. I had a little trouble going to sleep the night before going through all the possible scenarios, trying to remember the course, and mentally taking note of all the things I needed to do to pass.

The day of I made sure to pray with both my mom and dad, read some of Grace Fox’s book Moving From Fear to Freedom (which helped), re-read Isaiah 43 and Psalm 91 to remember God’s truth (which also really helped), and took some homeopathic chamomile which helps with nerves. After all that, I felt mostly prepared.

We drove down there, and went through the route one more time. Then we parked and waited. I tapped my finger on the steering wheel, and popped a piece of gum in my mouth to keep from biting my lip.

Soon the driving instructor arrived, and I sucked in a breath-sending up one last hasty prayer asking for help. She got in the car, and almost immediately set me at ease. Almost.

Having heard several horror stories from my friends about driving instructors who were stern and silent, I was expecting the same with this lady. However, she surprised me by being both friendly and talkative. Before we ever left she was asking me about what I was going to do for Halloween, what I was doing now for school, etc. This definitely helped set me at ease, but I showed my nervousness when she told me to pull out from the parking lot. I struggled to switch gears for a few seconds, wondering why nothing was happening.

Then I remembered. I hadn’t started my car yet.

Sheepishly, I turned the key and looked at her askance. “I forgot I turned off my car.”

Oh, nice save Lizzie. “I forgot I turned off my car”? Brilliant.

At this moment, I think the instructor realized I was pretty nervous (yeah, ya think?), and reassured me by saying, “A lot of people get nervous because it’s a test. But I’m probably the most laid back instructor you’ll ever have.”

If you were inside my head at this moment when she said that, you would have heard the hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. If anyone ever needed a laid back instructor, I did.

After I actually started the car, the drive went incredibly smooth. The instructor took the exact same route my sister had helped me practice on, so I knew every move before she gave them. By the way, I have to take just a moment and congratulate myself on my acting skills: I don’t think the instructor knew for a moment that I already knew the route. I’m tellin’ you-an Oscar is in order for that one!

It was about a fifteen minute drive (it was supposed to be ten, but I was being insanely cautious and going a little below the speed limit), and then we were back. I put it in park and anxiously awaited her verdict.

She looked down at her paper and wrote something as she spoke. “You did a really good job…”

Yes, yes?

“You looked over your shoulder when you changed lanes, stopped at the appropriate places…”

Yeeeessss…?

“You did make a couple of wide right turns, and when we went through the Thru Street you should have looked down it to see if anyone was coming…”

Gulp. Yeees?

“But everyone does that. You’re allowed twenty points before you fail, and you only got four. I think you’re ready. You passed.”

YES!

Oh, the happy jig that started in my heart with just those two little words! I had prayed to get no points whatsoever, but I could deal with four out of twenty. Besides, the goal was to pass. And I’d passed!

She signed the document for me to take to the DMV, and we both stepped out of the car so my dad could pay her for the test. As the three of us stood there, we all caught sight of the same thing at the same moment. After a few seconds of silence the driving instructor said, “Well, good thing I don’t give points for parking, huh, dad?”

I had parked my car sideways across two parking spots.

Really, Lizzie? Really?

It was embarrassing at the time, but I think it’s hilarious now. That’s me, all right! Starting with a good impression, and ending on a positive note!

My dad, sister, and I went to the DMV as soon as my test was over, so I now officially have my license! I couldn’t stop grinning all day yesterday. I had that song from My Fair Lady on replay in my head with some amendments: “I did it, I did it, I did it, I said that I would do it, and indeed I did! I thought that I would rue it-I doubted I’d do it- but now I must admit it that succeed I did.”

I also went driving for my first time alone yesterday. Some friends invited me to go have coffee last minute, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gone driving alone for a little while yet. There’s still some things I feel I need to learn (like parking), and had my friends not called I probably would have waited. But once they called, I agreed hesitantly to meet them. After all, I was on a roll. I’d already taken on one challenge that day. Why not take up another? I couldn’t very well tell them no the day I’d gotten my license. What would be the point of that? Besides, it seemed like a God-thing. It was like He was giving me another opportunity to reach my full potential.

The drive went very well, and I even parked successfully at Starbucks!

It was just an amazing, surreal feeling. I got my license. I drove by myself to meet friends for coffee, and I didn’t have to rely on my parents to get there when I wanted to leave. I just did it!

There’s still a few skills I need to refine (like parking), and there’s still a bit of nerves remaining, but I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I passed the driver’s test which means I am at least capable. The lady said she thought I was ready. I drove by myself and didn’t do anything dumb. Most of all, I know now more than ever that I am not alone. The Great I Am goes with me.

My God showed up for me on Monday in a mighty way, as He always does. I beat this fear through the strength and peace that Christ alone can give. The only reason I felt confident enough to drive alone was because I knew I wasn’t going alone. The Lord would be with me watching over me, as well as guiding and directing me.

I know it was because of your prayers I was so calm. Normally, my nerves would have gotten the best of me. While the nerves didn’t go completely away, I was calm when it mattered. I didn’t get sick to my stomach, and I passed.

Thank you to every single one of you for going on this journey with me, for praying for me, and for leaving your sweet, encouraging comments. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

When I first started blogging about this fear, I was very afraid of being judged and rejected. I thought people wouldn’t understand, and I was very worried of what others would think of me. But what I found was something entirely different.

I found people who were what real friends ought to be: encouraging, supportive, and there to cheer me onward, not to drag me down. I had one friend who sent me a key chain to encourage me. Another who sent me a visor clip decorated with a mustard seed and cross. For, “Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.” (Matthew 17:20.) People were praying for me, and lifting me up when I was down. You’re more than just my readers now: you’re my friends. I cannot thank you enough for how you showed the body of Christ to me, even if just over the internet. Thank you so, so much. I hope one day to pass along the same love you gave to me.

At the beginning of this year, I prayed and asked God to help me have a year free of fear. I asked Him to help me conquer my fear of driving, and I wanted to be free of it in 2011. Honestly, a lot of times I doubted it would happen, as you all well know. You’ve been on this journey with me. You know I had my ups and downs. But God is so gracious and faithful. He keeps His promises, and He answered my prayer. He gave me the peace that surpasses all understanding. He rescued me when I felt as if I were drowning. Who can I thank but God that my little sister knew the route and could remember it so I could practice? Without it, I think I would have been ten times more tense and less able to do a good job. Who was it that brought me such great friends through you, my readers?

Through this experience, I learned this truth again: that even when I have given up on myself, God has not given up on me.

Going by the title of this post, you may think it’s only been thirteen days that I’ve worked to overcome this fear. In reality, it’s been more like four years I’ve struggled with it. To be free of it now-to have my license and to be driving-is a surreal feeling! But here’s what I want you to know: the same can be true for you. You are not alone in your fear, whatever it is. If you’ve been afraid of sharing it, afraid of people not understanding or rejecting you because of it, know there is freedom in the light and in the truth. You have God and me on your side. You are never alone. You may have been struggling with the fear of trying to overcome your drug addiction, of facing your eating disorder, or your fear of others thinking you’re a bad mom or dad because you struggle with your temper. Maybe you’ve struggled with it for years. You may think it’s too late-that there’s no hope and that it’s impossible.

But if I can do it, you can, too. I thought the same with my fear of driving. It was very hard for me to see the end. But I’m here to tell you that through God’s power: I made it! What was once impossible was made possible through His grace in my weakness. Don’t give up. You may have still have a bit of a struggle before you, but you can overcome. No matter how many years your fear has been tormenting you: you can overcome through Him who gives you the strength, and I’m witness to that. Forever and always, I’ll testify to His unfailing love. After all, I’ve seen it in action.

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Those who are righteous will long be remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” (Psalm 112:4-8.)

My heart thudded in my chest as I held onto the ten-foot-high deck railing for dear life. My little four-year-old hands gripped as tightly as they could, but I felt the bars slipping from my sweaty grasp. For a brief moment, I considered calling out to my parents.But I couldn’t call them. I’d disobeyed them by going out on the deck in the first place.

Suddenly, I knew exactly what to do. I’d just pray for God to help me! He could save me. My parents and Sunday School teachers told me that God answered prayers, so I knew he’d rescue me. I sent a calm plea upward and waited.

One hand broke free, and with alarm, I realized the second hand was getting slick. I clung on tightly, but suddenly it slipped free and it was a stomach fluttering fall followed by a sickening smack. The bone of my arm pushed through my skin at an awkward angle, and I remember staring up at the night sky thinking only one thing: God, why did you let me fall?

Maybe you know what that feeling is like. Maybe it wasn’t a deck you fell off of, but a leap you took trusting in God, and He let you fall flat on your face. Or maybe it wasn’t an arm you found broken, but a relationship. Maybe it was a dream you spent years praying about and building, only to have both hands slip away right when you thought you had it.

You might feel as if God let you down. And if I knew your story, I wouldn’t blame you. Having something like that happen strains our relationship with God and severely hurts our willingness to trust Him.

The truth is, God does sometimes allow bad things to happen to us. If you’ll look at the verse I began with, you’ll notice it doesn’t say, “They do not fear bad news; it won’t happen to them,” but, “They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them.”

Do you confidently trust the LORD to care for you no matter what happens? Another way to ask this question might be: do you believe God is trustworthy? Please take just a moment to stop and honestly answer that question before continuing to read. Don’t be afraid to ask it. God already knows the answer. It might help if you do, too. Don’t answer flippantly, but really search your soul and ask yourself: do I trust God? Do I trust His character? Do I trust him in my every day life, with every day things, and not just for my salvation? Do I trust that His plans for me are good ones, meant to prosper me and not to harm me, even when they’re painful? Take a moment to think on that, and then come on back.

I know it’s a tough question, but that’s why I’m asking it. How you treat God and interact with Him depends on your answer to that question. If you don’t trust God, you will always be keeping Him at arms’ length, and your relationship with Him cannot grow. Before you beat yourself up too much over that, are you curious as to what my answer to this question was? If you’re wondering, it wasn’t a wholehearted “yes.”

Searching the depths of my own soul, I was shocked and ashamed to admit that,

despite everything God has done for me to prove His love over the years, I found I still withhold some things from Him.

I share some things that weigh heavy on my heart, but not the heaviest. I rely on Him for some things, but rely on myself for more.

We have learned through life to protect ourselves and in the process save a lot of time and energy. We’ve learned not even our closest friends or family can be completely trusted, and all those experiences color how we treat our relationship with God. If we believe no one can be trusted, then is God any different?

It’s easy to let our pain prejudice what we believe about God and His character.

Is God trustworthy? That’s a question I could answer for you scripturally and theologically, but in the end, I think it’s a question you have to ask God yourself. The only way for you to know for yourself if God is trustworthy is to get to know Him intimately and well. If you know His character, you’ll know if He is the type of God that Jeremiah 29:11 speaks about. A God whose plans are to prosper you, and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.

Right here, right now, you can meet with God. Whether you’re angry, grieving, or terrified, God already knows. Whatever is in your past, present, or future, He knows. But I also believe He cares.

You know what was most remarkable on the night I broke my arm? It wasn’t that I wholeheartedly believed that my God would save me. Oh, no. Instead, it was this: that I still believed He loved me even after he let me fall.

Wow. Back then, I had enough faith to make Mother Teresa jealous. I still trusted in a God who sometimes let me fall. Now, I’m not sure I’d be so willing. I’ve had too many people hurt me. But if I look past the pain… I can also see a loving Father with arms outstretched, just waiting to take me into His arms.

The choice is always ours: we can choose to hold back because of our pain, or we can let Him hold us in our pain.

What about you? Can you still believe that God loves you? Is He trustworthy? And if He is, can you trust Him with whatever situation you’re in right now? No matter how impossible, painful, or tragic?

I know you’d probably like me to answer that question for you, but I know someone who could answer better. Someone whose reach far extends my own, whose insight far outweighs mine, and whose love for you will last for all time.

Right here, right now, you can meet with God. If you’d like, I can make the introduction for you:

God, I’m hurting and wondering why. I’m scared, and I need you to help me with some things. I need to know: can I trust you, and do you still love me?

Go ahead, loved one. It’s just you and God now. Seize the moment, and I’ll leave you two to it.

Your miracle may be just around the corner.

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