Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Year Thus Far

I obviously don't blog a lot. In fact, my last post was in 2011, but this year I have felt the tug to write some of these thoughts down. I have a had a hard year. Quite truthfully one of the toughest years I've ever had, and I've had some difficult years. It's not something that I've advertised or said, "Hey, my name is Bethany and this year has been terrible and let me tell you all the reasons why." It's as if a determined sadness has settled in my heart making a home for itself. 

This sadness has been a challenging one to grapple with. I'm prone to the melancholy, but this has been something I've never experienced before. I have learned to give it a name and it's called grief. My 12 year old cousin, Taylor, went to be with Jesus January 5th. She was taken quickly by illness, and shocked us all. When one says cousin, must people think of someone that they may or may not associate with distantly, but this girl was like my sister. I watched her grow, we read the same books (yes, I was more than twice her age), we constantly would send each other pins on Pinterest, and she challenged me in my own walk with the Lord. She was so grown up for her age, and I loved that little girl. I have known many people to die, but never anything that has shaken me like her death did. When I would think of Taylor, I would think about how she was going to change the world. 

Amazingly enough she did create a lot of change all over the world. My quirky little cousin who didn't even have her braces off changed the world. There has been story after story of those that were touched by her devotion to Jesus, and in turn came back to the Lord. Those that had never heard the name of Jesus was being proclaimed by the most unlikely missionary. Talk about humbling. 

Things happened so quickly, and I felt like I had to be strong for my other family that it wasn't until some weeks later that I began to fall apart. I had turned 25, broken up with a boyfriend, and then the flood gates were open. I'm talking about ugly crying. See exhibit A
If you still are not satisfied or can not understand see exhibit B:

Saying that to say that was me for every day for at least 6 months. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but one minute I would be fine, and the next minute I felt like I was plummeting out of control in my own emotions. Yes, I thought I was losing it, and yes, I did seek some help for it, and that is when I learned about the affects of grief. I have seen the worst parts of myself things that I thought myself incapable of, and somehow persevered.  

All in all I feel like I've been super-glued to a roller coaster for the last 10 months begging to get off. Thankfully, there have been those moments where my grief doesn't feel like it's smothering me.
My sadness lifts when I wake up to sunshine, drink coffee on my back porch, or feel wanted by the people around me. 

My sister got married in August. At her wedding, during worship I felt like the Lord touching me and speaking to me. He brought to mind how Pharaoh's heart was hardened until the death of his son, but when his son died, for a brief moment, Pharaoh's heart was made soft. He allowed Israel out of captivity so that they could go to the land God had promised. I wasn't thinking about death at the time, but it hit me that sometimes our hearts are ripped up and laid bare so God can change us, so he can make us soft, so he can plant a seed in certain ground that may have been unyielding before.  

There is much more to say, but for today this is the end. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

God's Timing is Perfect

God's timing is perfect. This is a phrase I have heard my entire life. Suffice it to say that I am not the most patient person in the world and I have this uncanny ability to jump the gun on many things. Thankfully I have grown a lot in this area...especially recently. My mother has always said to me, "Bethany, don't rob yourself of a blessing by trying to unrighteously fulfill your desires and goals." (This is also the part where I would respond with a sigh and an eye roll.) Even though I thought my mom didn't have a clue about how I felt or what she was talking about I can say with full assurance that she knew exactly how I felt and what she was talking about.

I was drifting off to sleep last night and I was thinking about this particular concept of timing and if things didn't happen the way they have I would be a lot worse off. For example, for the last six months I've been getting to know someone what lives a thousand miles a way and let me just say that long distance is hard. He had made at least three attempts to come visit and each one of them didn't work out. I'm sure you could imagine how frustrated we both were, yet everyone in my life kept saying over and over again, "Just be patient. God's timing is perfect." (Which of course I replied with a sigh and an eye roll.) With much waiting, he finally came! Not to mention we had a pretty fantastic week! He's gone now, and I'm waiting once again. I've been waiting for what seems like an eternity, and it's only been like two weeks. The best part is that he will be coming back in a week and half, and will hopefully stay a bit longer. Anyway, I was thinking about what if he had come to visit in November when he wanted to come the first time? It would have been pure torture for me to wait that long for him to move here! Again, I'm not the most patient person in the world. I am so thankful that God is who he is and he's got my life under control even when I feel like I'm going to go crazy.

Now, I'm not saying that I won't ever get impatient again, but I think I really do have a slightly better perspective on waiting. I think waiting is something God uses to help me die to my flesh. A good friend of my family always says, "It takes two to crucify you. You can get your feet and one arm by yourself, but it takes another person drive the last nail into the other hand." This statement is so true. God puts people and situations in our life to cause us to die to self and in turn grow abundantly. I'm praying for growth!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Revelation of Death

My great grandmother of 95 years old, passed away this afternoon. We all new it was coming, and I for one had spent a lot of time preparing for this day. When my Granny Ree was about 90 she said, "The Lord told me I was going to live until I'm 95 years old. So that's what I'm going to do." She had her 95th birthday a week and half ago, and we celebrated her birthday along with all the February birthdays in my family last night. In my lifetime I have experienced quite a few people die, but all of them were relatively quick deaths. They were loved ones that developed illnesses and within a few month were gone, fatal car accidents, or even some that overdosed on drugs. I've never seen anyone have a prolonged death. System after system shutting down; function after function finally completely cease.

Friday my mom called me and told me that I needed to visit Ree because she could go any time so I went over there after I got off work. I walked into the room and in that instant I wanted to walk right back out. She really looked deceased. Head turned to the side, mouth wide open, eyes half open, and not making a sound. I nearly instantly broke into tears because I had no idea what was happening. She inhaled and exhaled and for what seemed like an eternity she finally inhaled again. It was almost frightening to watch because I really did think that she was going to pass in to glory with me sitting there talking to her. My cousin Taylor read her some of the Bible and then I sung (very poorly might I add) Amazing Grace (one of her favorite songs). I left and cried all the way home because I was so struck by what was happening. It was like she was suspended between heaven and earth, between life and real was like she was at the door of a great adventure and not yet allowed to enter, and it was painful to watch.

Today as I was in a youth leader's meeting my mom texted me to let me know that she had passed. Of course I hurried over and my mom met me and asked me if I wanted to see her, and I said no because she wasn't there; her body was there, but my great grandmother wasn't there. She had shuffled off her mortal coil as Shakespeare put it. Before she passed on, my grandmother said to her, "Mom, it's time to go. When you see Jesus, I want you to smile really big for me." A few minutes later she breathed her last breath, and as my grandmother turned her head, my great grandmother's mouth broke into the biggest smile. She finally was allowed to enter into eternal life with perfect vision, and perfect hearing! She was exposed to the beauty of all God is and beheld his glory in a way that you and me probably couldn't stand. She ran the race and finished it well. I wish I could see her now. I wish I could see her completely 100% whole. She inherited the promise. I just know that she heard the Lord say to her, "Well done good and faithful servant."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Trouble In Mediocrity

A few days ago, I had a friend, who is a believer tell me that they liked to “go out” because it made them feel more normal. This has statement has bothered me for several days and I honestly don’t believe it has had anything to do with the fact that this person likes to “go out,” but more so because they want to be normal. I think all of us have our own idea of what normal is, and in my own life I recall wanting to be “normal.”

In times past when I have felt the strong urge to just be normal it has always been in times when I let myself become dull, numb, or just plain ol’ mediocre in my relationship with Jesus. The war against mediocrity is something fierce and cunning, yet gives the impression that it doesn’t care either way you decide. It is a trap, trick, snare, and deception to say that mediocrity is apathetic. Though mediocrity in itself is not apathetic, it cultivates a spirit of apathy. It makes us bored, and easily comfortable. Satan hates our guts, and it is his desire to make us apathetic and fear rejection. If we are afraid or distracted often times we don’t hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit and are not moved to action. He does this by convincing us that it is necessary for us to be “normal” to avoid being rejected or ostracized, and that it really isn’t worth it to live outside of our proverbial box or “American Dream.”  When we decide we just want to be normal, the majority of the time we end up forsaking the calling that God has placed on our lives. We decide that this race isn’t worth it after all. We decide that dying to ourselves isn’t worth it after all, because it is not what normal people do. Normal people aren’t required to give everything they have. They are not required to be selfless. They are their own boss. And ultimately “normal” people lose their vision, and choose not to do anything extraordinary, much less change the world.

I think that apathy in many ways is more dangerous, than outward rebellion. And honestly, I think what lead me to outward rebellion was my choice to be apathetic. It was the longing in my own heart to be normal, to not stand out, and to be just like everyone else that made me walk away from God. I wanted to fit in when I was made to stand out. My apathy turned to rebellion, and my rebellion festered into bitterness, and my bitterness began to eat me alive. The Proverbs weren’t kidding when it says, “…bitterness rots the bones.” Anyway, I digress... Many people believed that I was a lost cause. I left a wake of destruction wherever I went, but I constantly came up against opposition. My opposition were the people that saw through the haze, that loved me, and knew that I was called to be something more than who I decided I was at the time.

When I allowed myself to fall away, I fell asleep spiritually. I learned many life lessons at this point, many of them I hope never to repeat. However, I did walk away with a realization, the longer I stayed asleep; the more difficult it became to wake myself up. Normality presents itself as something desirable and that any other option is wrong. If you aren’t normal then you are weird, and if you’re weird then you are ultimately rejected. The sting of rejection is a definite advocate for mediocrity. It says, “Hey, just blend in and you won’t have to deal with me ever again.” Unfortunately, this is a rather inaccurate statement. When we choose to follow Jesus, he marks as his own, and I’m not saying he just sticks a number on our forehead and says, “Alright, just add Bethany to the great multitude, and we’ll wait until her life on earth is over so that way she can join me up here and fulfill her purpose.” Contrary to popular belief, he is JEALOUS for us and has a plan for our lives. When we yes to Jesus, it changes us forever. We become wholly his, and we are forever set apart. See the dilemma in trying to fit in? It becomes nearly impossible. Even when we walk away, God pursues us. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Hosea the prophet is commanded by God to marry the prostitute Gomer. Gomer has a really hard time staying faithful to put it lightly. She constantly returns to prostitution and Hosea continues to bring her back into his house. He pursues her with the same love that God has for each one of us. And he will stop at nothing until he has us back in his arms again. I am living proof of this reality. I did everything I could do to walk away from the love of God so I could be “normal,” only to find my path was hedged in with thorns and then later found myself stuck in a desert place where it was just me and him. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no friends by my side, it was just me and him. That, ladies and gents, is a scary place to be; face to face with a God that is jealous for you when you have spent all your time trying to run away. In that place when I expected the worse, he wooed me. It was painful, but so full of life that I really had no choice but to stop what I was doing and follow him.

These are just some thoughts that I have been pondering a while. We are created to give glory to the One who is Worthy, and how can we do that if we are ashamed to be different, if we are ashamed to stand out, or if we are ashamed to be marked eternally by the God of all creation. My encouragement to each person that comes across this is to be who you are meant to be and allow God to help you step into very fullness of everything he has for you! It makes me laugh when people ask me, “Why can’t you just be normal?” Often times my response is, “I was never meant to be…”