Yesterday, we said farewell to our Pastor, Paul Mills, and wished him well as he and his family begin the next chapter in their journey. As I prepared for the service, I placed a travel pack of tissue in my pocket, and went easy of the application of my mascara. I assumed that there would be lots of tears as Pastor Paul spoke his “Last Words” (his final sermon series for us). I pictured a sorrowful service with tears and memories of the past 8 1/2 years of service. What I got instead was far different. I knew as the worship team started the first song that this service was not going to be about a sad farewell, but rather it was going to be a celebration. NOT celebrating the fact that we were losing (or getting rid of) our beloved Pastor. Celebrating all that God had done through him for our church family. Worship started with an upbeat song that was loud and happy…and it included the entire congregation jumping! It was an amazing display of God’s people jumping for joy and happiness. I was simply blown away by such joyful worship. The remaining worship was powerful (for lack of the right adjective to describe it). It was during this time of worship that, for me, the tears came. Not sad tears…but tears of peace and comfort. Tears that come from begin overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was incredibly moving. Worship truly speaks to me. Seeing a room packed full of people with hands raised to God fills me with peace. Hearing voices of all ages singing praises to our God fills my soul. Being so filled with the presence of God became so overwhelming to me that the emotions came out in the form of tears. And then – as if that were not enough for one day – Pastor Paul delivered a beautifully spoken message about love. His words were heart-felt, but not weepy. For a farewell sermon, I thought it was just wonderful. He combined some memories from the past with wishes and thoughts of our future with a new pastor. It made my heart happy to be there and to be a part of such a special service. It made me joyful to be a part of a church home. I am so thankful that I serve such a loving God who knows our needs so intimately, and fulfills them as he knows we can accept them and truly appreciate them. Brian and I had prayed for such a long time to find a church home. Not just a place to attend church…but a church home complete with a church family. After such an amazing service, I was overwhelmed with joy to belong to such a loving home, and a welcoming family. I am thankful to God for giving us somewhere we belong, and I am confident that God will guide our future as a church family as we welcome a new pastor.
I sit here staring at the computer screen…trying to get my thoughts from my spinning head to this post. It’s not that I don’t have anything to share. It’s that I have so much to share that I am having a hard time sorting through it all so that it will come out making at least a little bit of sense. I have so many emotions channeling through me at this very moment that I am not even sure I can form a coherent post at all. I so desperately want to express and share this day. I think that all that I have to say is too much for even one post…which may be why I am struggling. It’s a really good “problem” to have I guess. To have so much “goodness” to shout about that I can’t contain it! So rather than cram it into on mega post that ends up a screen full of joy-induced ramblings, I will use this post as a warm-up – kind of an opener – for the two or three posts that I will work on. Let me just say that I am overwhelmed with God’s blessings. I understand joy. I am so filled with peace and contentment from my heavenly father. I often hear people say that “God showed up…” I understand what people are trying to say – and honestly I was typing that very phrase when it hit me that God didn’t just show up today and make life amazing. God has been here with me all the time – working on me, guiding me, straightening me out, talking to me, molding me, and preparing me for today’s events. He has been waiting and watching as I found my way to this place. He didn’t just show up for me. He’s been gently nudging me to find this path to peace. And he is here with me now that I have broken a huge chain that has held me down for way too long. He shares in my joy today. He is here in my tears of relief. His presence envelops me in my freedom. I cannot find the words to express the peace that God has covered me in today. I am excited to share, more specifically, the many many ways that God has transformed my life…he’s just been waiting for me to “show up” and let him work on me.
There are a lot of things that are hard about being human. Life is messy. Sometimes it’s hard. And at times it just sucks. I think that the hardest thing about being human is emotions. Emotions are powerful! They can be debilitating. Sometimes they can’t be contained. Now before I go any further I will acknowledge that there are plenty of good, positive emotions that arty the same attributes as the bad ones. For example, pure joy can overflow and cause tears of happiness. But there are also plenty of “negative” emotions that are just as strong, if not stronger. One of these is anger. It can be ugly. It will control the mind and the tongue, causing thoughts and words that are not truly reflective of the person speaking them. Sadness, hurt, pain and loneliness kind of all wrap up into one big pile of messiness that can weigh down and smother ones spirit. I think that one of the hardest feelings I have dealing with is when someone I love is experiencing sadness or pain. This feeling should really have a name of its own. I have learned how to cope with (perhaps not in the best way) my own emotions…but for me to watch someone I love suffer through anger or sadness is nearly overwhelming. But the flip side is even sweeter too. The joy of watching someone you love be at peace and filled with their own joy is amazing (sorry that word is so overused). So I’m not really sure what my point is (if there is one at all) Exocet that I am truly fascinated with the ability to feel things the way we do as humans. It makes me wonder how Jesus dealt with his array of emotions while he was human. The Bible talks about his anger. And sorrow. And grief. And yet we know he never once sinned even as he dealt with those emotions. I’m fascinated by his mind and his thoughts. And it brings me comfort to know that since he did walk the earth as a human that he felt the same things I do. He understand my prayers when I ask for help dealing with my human emotions.
Recently I heard the song “Ocean” by Hillsong United. There is a line in the bridge of this song that has resonated with me so deeply. It has been playing in my mind since I heard it. The words are “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…” It’s one of those lines that as a writer myself I wish I had written. The image conveyed by these words is so powerful and meaningful to me. But I think that’s really just one reason that the words have been with me for days.
I earnestly believe that God reveals things to us as He feels we are ready for them or as He sees that we need them. Most mornings, before I jump into my daily walk in the word, I pray and thank God for His blessings, and I ask for guidance and wisdom as I open His word. For the past several mornings I have found myself reading and studying in the Holy Spirit. I believe that I personally do not rely nearly enough on the Spirit in my every day life. I know what the Bible says about the Spirit in us, but in my day to day life I’m not sure that I allow it to work in me. But I continue to study and grow in that aspect of my Christian walk. I think that just the words “Spirit lead me…” really spoke to me. I can’t ask the Spirit to follow me…or tell the Spirit which way I would like things to go…or guide myself. It has to be “Spirit lead me.” That is God’s plan. His perfect plan. He sent us the Spirit to dwell in us. Somehow it’s very comforting to think that if I honestly allow that to happen in my life then I don’t have to be the one trying to find my way, because I have the Spirit to lead. We are told in Romans 5 that the Spirit will also fill our hearts with love. The Holy Spirit we are told will also help us in our weakness, and plead for us in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8).the power of the Spirit is best exemplified in the following verse from Galatians. “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” What an amazing God we serve who loved us so much that He sent his son to die for us while we were still sinners…and then He blessed us with the Spirit to keep us In his care. I know that I have barely tapped into fully understanding what a gift the Holy Spirit is, but I do know that I will continue to study and learn and to follow the Spirit’s lead.
The second part of this beautiful phrase is probably my favorite but of figurative language ever. Trust is difficult for many of us. Very few people could honestly say that they trust anything or anyone completely, fully without reservation. But even if we did speak of that kind of trust, there is something about the image of “without borders”. Picture that…endless, infinite, open, ongoing, without borders. Nothing restraining or confining it. That is such a beautiful picture of what trust should be. I love the thought of trusting without borders when it comes to people.. Unfortunately there are very few people out there in our Iives that we could truly say that about. I am so blessed to have a husband in whom I can put that kind of trust. It is such a feeling of peace and contentment to trust without borders in the mate that God chose for me. And as much of a blessing that that is, trusting God without borders is even more of a blessing. God has a plan for my life and though sometimes I try to control it (okay…even obsess) I trust in His word and His plan for my life. He proves His love for us in endless ways every day of our lives. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us in each stage of His plan. Our part of the deal is that we allow ourselves to be led and that we trust in our God as He provides for us. But not with the kind of trust that we as mere humans are only capable of…but with the kind of trust that the Holy Spirit can instill in us. Trust without borders.
By the way, the rest of this song is beautiful in its language, imagery and message. I thank God for revealing those words to me in His timing, and I pray that I will keep them with me and allow them to remind me echo day that the God I serve loves me…without borders.
This morning one of my co-workers said something to me that has resonated in my head all day long. She was telling me about her break and how nice it was to be off, but that she had had some things on her mind and she couldn’t shake them. She said that she felt those worries and issues had robbed her of much of her time and of her peace. Those words painted a strong mental image for me. And they hit very close to home. How often have I let worries rob me? How many times have my insecurities stolen from me? When was the last time I allowed my fears free reign over my time? That one simple sentence made me really stop and think. It’s not like I wasn’t aware of my fears or my worries. I know they are there, and there are times when they are worse than other times. I had just never thought of the fact that I was allowing those feelings of doubt to take away precious time. I really did some soul searching, and I’m sad to say that I have lost countless hours of my life and my precious time worrying, stressing, and being fearful. Its not rare to hear people say that there’s just not enough time in the day…or if I only had more time. Time is precious. Time is a gift. Time should not be wasted – or stolen – by worries for tomorrow. I’m so thankful for those simple words spoken by my friend. As I strive to be the best version of myself in 2012 and to be authentically me, I will no longer allow myself to be robbed by fears and doubts. Rather, I will focus on being present in each moment I am given.
I have never been the type of person to believe that if I live my life a certain way that all things would be rainbows and sunshine all the time. That’s just not how life works. I am not perfect…but I try to live the way that I know I should. I try each day to become a better version of myself (thank you Matthew Kelly). And living life in a way that I remain true to myself and my beliefs feels good. I like myself a lot better when I’m serving others, speaking kind words, just overall content and at peace. But life is still not rosey all of the time. Life is not problem free. There are still bills to pay, family issues to deal with, work/school stuff to get through. That is called life. If I’m not careful, I could let the “life” stuff get in the way of my living. I have been guilty of that on plenty of occasions (even within the last week). I could get discouraged and scared and all those other emotions that like to try and steal peace and contentment…but why? Life is going to happen…and sometimes its not going to be pretty. If we know these emotions are coming, why try to fight the downs? I read recently that we should not fight the things we feel, but rather embrace and own our emotions for what they are. I truly believe this shifted my thinking. Instead of fighting the worry or fears, I have learned to accept it for what it is and go on with my day. It makes it a whole lot easier to get back to “the good stuff.” I used to be one to feel sorry for myself and my problems. It seems I was often hosting self-pity parties. I look back now and realize that I wasted those times trying to fight real emotions…when I could have just accepted them, and then moved on – with them – and kept on going. This change of thinking allows me to own my feelings, but not wallow in them. I have learned that I can carry those feelings around, but not let them weigh me down. I can be thoughtful about the way I’m feeling, as yet still find reasons to laugh. Have I mastered it….? No way. However, I have truly grown and come to a better understanding of myself and my life. Each day I become a better me.