Saturday, June 28, 2008

Laying Down My Isaac

     I feel the waters of my soul stirring tonight.  Papa has asked me to lay something down that I have carried for a long time and I feel the weight of letting go.  It's not a circumstance, it's something inside me, a place that I have carried on my own.  

     Sacrifice is the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.  (Websters)  

      In the midst of giving up I feel the cost of what I am laying down.  What will happen when I let go?  I have carried this place for so long, will it be OK?  What if it falls through the crack? What if it doesn't get better?  What if it emotionally kills me?
    Have you ever really thought through the story of Abraham and Isaac, not just read about it but considered it in your own life?  So many parts of that story speak to me tonight.  I have been here before.  It was a few years ago when I had my first laying down of an Isaac in my life.  As the tears poured forth I knew I had no other choice but to surrender.  As long as I held on, I was in control, holding myself back from God's move.  

     Surrender is the place where God's will meets our need. I knew He was asking me to trust Him.  It came down to one question.  Do I trust Him, even if nothing changes?  Everything comes down to trust.  Do I really believe He has my good in mind?  Do I really believe He will protect me?

    Being here again, I know I'm being invited back to the mountain of sacrifice.  Like Abraham I know I have to go there, but as I make the steps forward I feel the weight of each move.  It has been a place I have fought for and guarded.  I have given much of who I am to it.  What will it look like when I no longer carry the weight of it? 

     Abraham headed for the mountain, knowing God was asking him to lay down the fulfillment of his desires.  He knew he would never have another chance at having a son.  This was his one and only chance.  And God was asking him to give it up.  I believe he felt the weight of each footstep up that mountain.  He didn't know the outcome but somehow he trusted.  Did he look at his son as he placed him up on the altar and bound him?  Did he have to look away?  As the knife was raised to kill him, did their eyes meet?  What went on in the seconds, minutes and hours of his surrender?

     He couldn't fix it, or change it.  He was brought  to a dependence on the only one who had the answers.  He still believed.  That's what sacrifice does.  You let it all go and trust in the one you leave it with.  No longer dependent on yourself or another your face is turned towards God to fill your every need because you believe.  You believe He moves mountains, raises the dead and parts the sea.  You lay it all down because you believe in who He is.

     My holding on has kept me independent.  Unknowingly I have carried it on my own.  I thought what I was doing was good.  But I realize now it wasn't.  I have to let go.  It is my reality.  My emotions hold on, but my hand lets go.  As I wait for Him to catch up my emotions with my choice, I trust.  Though I feel the weight of each step as I move forward, I believe God will provide a ram in the thicket of my life.   I know what He's asking of me.  I know He will come for me as He did Abraham.  I know I will see Him afresh... That's why I choose this day to lay my Isaac down and trust.

     Is there an Isaac in your life that Papa is asking you to lay down?  

     "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me."  Genesis 22:15-18
©copyrighed 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lessons From Life

      The things that go on in a day with our kids are often perfect pictures of  some aspect of walking with God.  Oftentimes I have been too busy to notice the spiritual truths that are right under my nose.  God wants me to know Him so desperately that He uses every facet of life around me to tell me what is true.  On one such day He chose to use a situation with my son.

       On this particular day two of my kids were struggling to get along.  Thankfully my husband had come home for lunch just in time. Otherwise, I might have reacted out of my frustration.  My husband stepped in and began to challenge our teenage son to turn away from his flesh and choose the path of life.  He didn’t go after the behavior, he went after his heart.

     My son’s defense that day was that his sister wouldn’t stop when asked  to so he took matters into his own hands.  He decided he would make her stop.  It wasn’t good.  It never is.  If they would just come to me for help, things would be so much better.  I began to explain to him that it’s not working because he doesn’t use the authority set up for him.  

    To finish this article, visit me at Heart of the Matter Online

©copyrighed 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Saturday, June 21, 2008

She's Back

My daughter's back.  If you want to read where she's been, click here:

     Five long months and she has returned to my embrace.  I cannot begin to tell you what that moment felt like for me.  We waited at the airport for what seemed like an eternity as she exited the plane and went through customs.  Every group that came through, I searched, longing to find her beautiful face.  My full undivided attention was on finding my child in the midst of a crowd full of strangers.  Suddenly, I heard a yell and she came running.

     I know the picture below is blurry, but I have to post it.  If you will look to the far right hand corner you will see her running into my embrace.  The picture just spoke too much, though blurry, it had to be here.  As she rose to the top of the escalator she began waving, and calling out to us and then she began to run...  A picture is worth a thousand words....

     For the first time in 5 months I have all my children under my roof.  Though I know it is possibly the last time for a while, I am savoring the moments.  Life seems to move in warp speed.  It seemed like just yesterday that I was starting my journey into motherhood, now they are preparing to move on, one at a time, slowly but surely.  My daughter plans to return to England and staff the YWAM base at Holmsted, hopefully in September.  It all depends on when her support is raised.  Pray for my Hannah as you read this, please.  On the horizon my 2nd oldest daughter, pictured below, will embark upon her first missions trip to Asia.  She will be gone 3 weeks, her first time flying overseas alone.   Pray for my Courtney too.  And pray for me too.  I have to let them go.

     They all belong to God, but still my heart feels it as each one moves into the things He calls them into.  While I have them close I will hug them tighter and savor the moments we have trusting Papa to prepare me for when they will go. 

      Tonight my heart and my home are full again with the loves of my life. Hug your kids a little tighter passes by in warp speed.  

     Thank you Papa for returning my girl to me. Prepare both my girls for the adventures that you are inviting them into and prepare me to live with an open hand.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Honey Baked Delight

A few years back my husband’s company was empty of business. As we waited on new clients, we scrimped every penny. We didn’t know when the next check would come in. Feeding five children and keeping a roof over our heads felt like an ominous task during this time. It was another opportunity to see Papa show up.

Have you ever had those moments when you remember something you ate years before with fondness? The remembrance is so strong that you can almost taste it. I hadn’t thought of the honey baked turkey since the couple brought it to us when Samuel was born, years before. But one day in the midst of the financial famine, it was fresh on my mind. So fresh I could taste it. If I could just buy one of those turkeys.....

The calculator in my brain started adding up bills. Maybe I would find some leftover change. After all we could eat it for a several days. Though the longing was calling out to me, I just couldn’t reason the twenty-five dollar expense. It was too costly. So after much deliberation, I gave up my desire. I didn’t tell anyone about it, not even God. I just let it go.

A day or two later a friend called to invite me to lunch. Would it be OK if she brought her teenage children to baby-sit mine. How fast could I say yes? After all, life had been pretty hard. Five children 10 and under, and a husband’s business failing was taking it’s toll on us all.

She showed up with her teenagers and home made cookie dough. Her children wanted to treat my kids while she treated me. As we drove down the road she mentioned that she had left dinner in the refrigerator for me. Could the day get any better?

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch where she listened to my heart allowing me to reveal my weariness. She understood. Her husband had been in medical school for years, working odd jobs, to keep their family of 6 afloat. Having the opportunity to talk to someone who understood was just what my heart needed.

Time passes too quickly in those getaway moments. Before you knew it lunch was over and we were headed back home to my reality of small children and tight finances. She gathered up her teens, gave me a final hug and headed out the door. I headed to the refrigerator to see what we were having for dinner. As I opened the door, there it stood. You know what it was, don’t you? A honey baked turkey.

I had no words, only tears. How did she know that just days before I had longed for just one piece? She didn’t know, Papa did. He lavished His love on me in a way that rocked my world. It was a moment that is still ripe in my mind, now ten years later. I savored every bite, delighting in the revelation of how intimately I was loved.

I didn’t ask Papa for a honey baked turkey. I didn’t pray an eloquent prayer. I didn’t even verbalize my desire. I just longed for it.

I didn’t have to ask. He saw, He knew....He loved. I saw God’s love in a tangible way that day. It changed me for all eternity. I am intimately and deeply loved by my Papa. He bought me a honey baked turkey.

Do you see how much He longs to love you in tangible ways?

Papa, thank you for your beautiful gift to me 10 years ago. I can still remember as though it were yesterday. Thank you that you care so deeply even for the simple things that matter to us. Thank you that you long to give us the desires of our heart. Thank you for your deep, intimate love.

Also posted at: Internet Cafe.

© copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Men I Love....

One of my favorite shots of my dad   James Bond of the Lake....

     Every little girl wants to be found beautiful in the eyes of her dad.  It's in our DNA.  We bear the beauty of God, we were created in beauty, it's natural for us to want to be found beautiful.  Daddy thank you for noticing and seeing the beauty of God in and on me.

    There are 2 specific memories with my dad that stick out in my mind.  They are seared in, holding a permanent place.  One was a few years before I was married.  I lived in an apartment near my parents.  Dad stopped by to bring me something that day.  When he got there he found me in tears.  The tears increased when I saw him.  I just needed a hug.  I was so lonely.  I wanted so desperately to find my husband.  All my friends were finding theirs.  Yet no one had found ME beautiful, or desirable.  I was hurting.  Daddy took me in his arms, held me tight and told me it was going to be OK. The thing that got me was the pain I saw in his eyes.  He was hurting as he saw me hurt.  In that moment Daddy gave me a greater picture of God.  I felt loved and seen.  Not just by my earthly dad, but by my Papa.

       The other memory was from a more recent time.  My husband and I had a rough 4 years.  He had 6 jobs in 4 years all paying thousands less than our living expenses.  Some days it was overwhelming trying to keep our family of 7 in tact, fed, and taken care of.  Some days it was just more than I could bear.  One such day I felt this strong urge to call my daddy.  If he could just "hold me" over the phone, and bear my weight with me....  So I called him.  He heard me crying and asked me what was going on.  I told him and asked him if he would just pray for me.  He immediately began to pray.  His voice soothed me and reminded me that not only did he care, but I had a Papa who cared.

       I am thankful for my daddy today.  Daddy, I honor you.  My heart has always been yours.
Happy Father's Day!
I love you,

Now to the other man I love:
One of my favorite shots of my man........Valiant Warrior for his family

      My dear David,  you have "fathered" your children well.  I love this picture of you  because it is a typical activity.  You are a valiant warrior for your family.  You lost your dad at 13 and did not have the earthly fathering that a boy needs.  I love that Papa came after you and allowed you to find Him as your true Father.  You have not given up when life threw it's punches at you.  You have continued to follow hard after your Papa.  You have sought to be a father to your children when you could have remained lost.  You have never given up.
      I love the way you father our children.  I love that you are present and involved.  I love that your family is prominent in your life.  I love that you love us more than anything else on earth. I love that you will lay down your life and comfort to meet the needs of those that belong to you. I love how you take one of our children out on a weekly date to let them know how much they matter to you.  I love that you make us all laugh.  I love that you fight for our hearts.  I love that you are attentive to the hearts of your children and that you affirm them often.
      What I love the most about you as a father is that you bring the heart of God to our children. You talk to our kids about how dearly they are loved and how deeply they are seen.

       All the years I waited for you are worth it.  You are the man I always dreamed of.  I love you, my heart has always and will always be yours....
Happy Father's Day

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Settling In

I'm not used to stillness.  Being an active child, and performing woman, stillness is not a word that frequented my life. I remember when Papa began to whisper to me, "Be still and know I am God".  To be honest, I didn't like what He was saying.  I was more comfortable in activity than stillness.  One thing I knew was that I wanted to know Him as God.  Unsure of what I was asking, I invited Him to teach me.

I just finished the book,  "Better Than My Dreams" by Paula Rinehart.  This book has really spoken to me.  In the last chapter she says, "For the truth is that this journey you're on is also a dance.  Only it is God who wants to dance with you.  He wants to take you out into life on His arm.  That will pull you from every back alley where you've found life in anything but Him.  But in this dance, you'll come to know Him.  While it takes half a lifetime to grasp this - truly, the prize isn't the fulfillment of our dreams; it's the fellowship with Him.  He is, as the parable claims, the hidden treasure worth selling all we own to possess.  From the ashes of our expectations comes an intimacy with him, an actual pleasure of His company. Letting go of what we thought we needed and entering life as a journey, a dance with God, is a grace-filled rite of passage." *

The journey, thus far, has not looked like I thought it would.  I started out my walk with Him as a performance driven, striving, busy, religious woman.  I wanted to know God, so I studied Him.  My heart was right, my method flawed. Somehow I got the mentality that I needed to do God like I did life...  Work hard, try to do all the right things and maybe you'll become what you're studying.  You know God doesn't waste anything.  He uses even our flawed methods to His advantage.  

The more I saw of Him, the more I wanted Him.  The problem is I was dancing alone.  I see a stunning partner standing on the sidelines, waiting for me to stop dancing.  He walks over and invites me to learn how to dance as a couple with Him as the lead.  He invites, I accept.  The dance begins.

This new found rest is so foreign to me that sometimes it feels like laziness.  Was I being lazy?  My quiet times are no longer disciplined.  My prayer life is no longer a "must do".  My journaling is sporadic, often, there are no words.  It feels so much like disobedience that I it me?

So I ask Him.  And He answers.  "You're settling in."  "You haven't turned to away."  "You're still with me."  "It's OK when you don't have words.  I read your heart, your thoughts."  "This is what stillness feels like."  He gave me a picture of a little girl settling into her Father's arms and resting.  

I am reminded of my own children when they were young.  Exhausted, but unable to let go and rest they would flounder and squirm in my arms, wanting to be free and on their own.  My tight grip would hold them until they settled. Eventually they would stop struggling and surrender to the arms enfolding them.  Soon they settled down to a peaceful rest.  

Papa invited me into the dance of stillness.  I really didn't have a clue what it looked like.  I just knew He had invited me.   Hand in His I allowed Him to move me forward, one step at a time.  Sometimes it was painful and grueling. Oftentimes I felt unsure and lost.  What I didn't see was that in the midst of the dance my heart was coming alive. The more He led me, the more I changed.  He saw me, knowing what was inside me, hidden underneath the striving, performing flesh.  As we  danced, He emptied me of those self-reliant places.   He became God in me.

I am settling into His embrace.  It's not what I do, it's where I am.  In His embrace He does what is necessary through me. Jesus said, "Come follow Me and I will make."  I can cease from my striving and be.  He is God.  Once again He speaks to me, "Jewel, I would rather have you settled into me, putting forth no effort than running about doing things and not settled in and at rest.  It's OK to rest in the embrace."  "Rest, dear one."  "I'll draw you in."

It's it really that simple?  Yes!  As we rest in His embrace, following Him, allowing Him to be God through us, we become all that He meant us to be.  So, I say to you what He says to me,  "Be still, dear one, and know I am God."  

   "Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth"  Psalm 46:10

* "Better Than Your Dreams, Finding What You Long For Where You Might Not Think To Look"  by Paula Rinehart
©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd