I love fall. I love the autumn breeze, spreading a fall scent through the air. I love the cooler weather, the seasons changing. I love that fall makes me bake. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin pies. Breakfast bread. Apple pies. Apple dumplings. Anticipating Thanksgiving menus, Christmas cookies. Seriously, my favorite time of year. I love the colors. The deep burgundy leaves, crisp yellow ones, gorgeous burnt orange crunching underneath my feet. Even the overcast gloomy skies today can't get me down. Summer is over. Life is moving on, and I can't help but feel joy at that thought. I am seriously wishing I could capture the smell that is permeating the air in my house right now. Coffee and warm cinnamon bread, mixed in with two little girls who have done nothing but giggle all morning. It is days like this that I just want to sit back and do nothing but thank God for the things I have, and what He has brought me out of. I love the feeling of a completely peaceful heart, knowing that in spite of difficulties or trials, I will not be left alone or forgotten about.
I was up late last night studying. Not homework, but the book of James. I have read this entire book a few times, but never really comprehended what I was reading. I was raised with the King James Version of the Bible. Don't stray from it, just study harder to understand it. By the time I was 16, I had read the entire Bible from cover to cover. And, sadly, I wasn't a changed person because of it. I gained no revelation. Underlined nothing. Yes, I was 16, but still, nothing? It was as though the words went in, tried to grab hold, and went right back out. Maybe this was typical for a teenager, but I seriously doubt it. As an adult, I have a slightly different view. I love to pick up my Bible and read it, memorizing little bits that just pull at me. I love to switch between several versions, memorizing the scriptures that grab my heart. I do not feel compelled to read the Bible cover to cover again. But, to read key sections, out of order, in ways that completely blow my mind is what I am doing instead.
I have been doing this study at church with a group of women on the book of James. While it hasn't been life changing yet, just reading the first chapter of James several times, in several different versions of the Bible, has really started speaking to me. My ultimate goal is to memorize the book. I have yet to start, because it seems a little overwhelming. As I read more, I realize a lot of the verses I use often are from James. I have this memory that will remember the basics of a verse, then leave me hanging because I can't remember where to find it. Or, I can remember where to find it, but for the life of me, can't remember what that verse was about, rendering me helpless to encourage someone with scripture. This is a source of frustration for me, because there are so many scriptures that have pulled me out of hard times that I know would encourage someone else. Anyway, I find it funny that over the last few months, I have posted several times about lacking courage to just ask God for stuff. Knowing the Bible says so much about asking and receiving, but still doubting God could do it for me. And, yet, the subject has come up again, but this time I am starting to really get it.
Three weeks ago, I was toying with the idea of something I wanted to do for myself and my girls. I came across a stash of records, some of which I researched were worth a small, but decent amount of money. I was excited, because I thought this was the way God was answering my prayer. Mind you, this was a selfish prayer. Something I wanted - not needed - to do. Unnecessary, extravagant, and a total desire. I prayed about it, listed the stuff on eBay, and waited. I sold one. After eBay took their cut, Paypal took their fees, and I shipped the item, I was left with about $1.38. I set it back, knowing that one day, I would need an ice cream sundae, and I would have the money for it. I giggled about three hours of work for such a huge amount of money. I felt slightly silly, but figured it would all be okay. I tried another method and made $6.50. At this point, I realized God was telling me no. And, strangely enough, I was okay with it. Not even disappointed, because I felt like if He were telling me no, there was a good reason for it. Yesterday, this silly desire of mine happened. And, I realized that God will not always answer the way I want. But, if I hadn't asked, how could He have blessed me with this?
This leads me back to the same spot I have been in. I have been hesitant to really ask and release my control over this want that I have. I think I was afraid God's response wouldn't be what I wanted, and that I didn't want to deal with the disappointment. After really getting into this study, I realize when I hold back, He holds back. Not as a way of punishing me for not keeping communication open, but because I have to ask before He can answer. Last night, I crawled into bed, and for the first time in a long time, prayed out loud. I hate praying out loud, especially laying in the dark, alone in my bed. I feel silly (ha, and now I really feel silly for admitting that thought in a public place...) for talking when no one is visibly present to listen to me. Anyway, last night, I prayed out loud. However, when it came to the part when I told God what this deepest desire really is, I stumbled. I couldn't seem to bring myself to verbally open up and just ask God for this thing. I started to, more than once, but in the end, went around the subject. It was almost like I was ashamed to have this want. I was ashamed to ask for something specific, as if I should just be thankful for what I do have. Granted, I was not about to ask for a second anything. Just one something... :) Several times in the middle of the night, Jess woke me up. Then, I had to try to shut down again and go back to sleep. And, the most crazy thing kept happening. I kept asking myself why? Why is it that my deepest longing is so difficult to utter out loud? Why do I find myself stumbling, never able to fully lay it down for God to have full control over? Every time I think about it today, I am thankful that I am seeing my struggle. I am thankful that I see it as what it is - a hindrance, a stronghold, a barrier. And, it is coming between me and God, not in a "walking away from God" sort of way, but instead, in a way that is causing me to not grow any further. And, that isn't what I want.
So, then, my mind starts setting the scene for my heart. The humor in me comes out, imagining God behind this massive wrecking ball, ready to come after me, knocking down this barrier that is preventing his love from pouring out over me, granting me the desires I have. And, it was about then that I realized my concerns, those little issues that I am struggling with in this whole "asking" issue.
What if God is who He says He is? What if God is so big and powerful that He actually gives me that desire? What if it causes me a little bit of hurt or pain? What if I totally mess it all up? What, then? Will it have been worth it?
Last night, part of our homework involved a simple idea. It asked us to list three different ways we could handle something we are involved in right now. Let me just tell you, this hit me hard. I wrote down what I thought I was already doing, realizing I wasn't doing it at all. I wrote down two other thoughts about how I could do this differently, then realized that my way really sucks. Really. The only way I can see this working is if God's hand is over it, blessing it. And, how can He do that for me when I can't seem to really allow Him control? How do I trust someone fully with something that I want so badly, knowing He might not answer the way I want Him to? Or, even crazier, answer in ways I cannot possibly comprehend or imagine right now?
This morning, I woke up 11 different times between 5:45 and 7:00. How do I know this? Because that is how many times I hit snooze and fell back asleep. And, almost every single time that stupid alarm went off, my brain asked me, "But, what if He does?" This silly thing came after me all night last night, and has been on my mind all morning. James 1:6-8 is such a vital part of our Christian journey. It hit me last night that in all of my worrying and wondering, I was really seriously doing myself a horrible thing. It says, "But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do." Let me just say, this felt like a punch to my stomach. I read it again today, and still feel so ashamed of myself.
You see, I do not see myself as someone with divided loyalty. I know without a doubt that regardless of my circumstances, I am gonna go to church. I am gonna serve God however He asks me to. I refuse to walk away from the One who has done so much for me. I'm going to lift my hands and worship despite the worries or struggles I face. But, I am seeing that when I can't ask, trust and believe, God doesn't see me with the same view. He sees me as being tossed in the wind, an unstable being, torn between His ways and mine. And, my friends, that is so not where I want to be. I want Him to know where my loyalty lies, that I know I can trust Him with my heart and my future. Funny thing is, my mind knows I can. Without a doubt. But, my heart just struggles with the fear of more pain, more loss. And, if I can post about it on a blog, I should seriously have no problems talking to God, who loves me regardless, about it. Baby steps... :)
I have a feeling this is only the first of many things that are going to be revealed to me in this study. I mean, this was only the first 8 verses! I cannot wait to dig in just a little more. I have a funny feeling this study is going to be world-shaking, life-changing for me. So thankful to be a part of it.