Letting Go of the Old to Grab the New

A good cup of coffee … alone time with God … deep conversations with a close friend (complete with a few tears, of course) … a day date with my husband … these are a few of my favorite things.  And today was the perfect storm of a few of my favorite things.  😉

A few days ago, the word “New” began to stir in my heart.  I’ve recently begun taking guitar lessons and have also been feeling the pull toward photography … all new things to me.  But let me back up for a minute …

Sixteen years ago, when my Great Grandma passed away … she left my sister and I a small amount of money (which was actually a huge amount because it was much the same as the widow’s mite ♥).  So we decided to buy guitars because we wanted to spend the money on something that would last … a way to carry on her legacy.  After I bought the guitar, I bought a few “How to Play Guitar for Dummies” type books, but was never able to learn and eventually busy-ness took over and the guitar went to the closet … and then to the basement.

This past year, I felt the Lord telling me to “be more present” … I cut back work hours and eventually began homeschooling – which I assumed was why I had felt the Lord calling me to cut back. I knew that the season of parenting that I am in is a very short season … and wouldn’t last forever.

But because we can only ever see a very small part of the completed puzzle … I am seeing glimpses of new pieces being put into place.  First … the cutting back on work hours … then the homeschooling … and now the “New”.  Now I have the time to explore the “new” that He is bringing to my life.  And sixteen years later I am fulfilling a deep longing to worship the Lord with music…and learning to play that guitar.  There is such an excitement for the “New”!

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However, because the Lord is always multi-faceted … always challenging us to grow … there is another side to the “New”. There’s also a scary – leave the comfortable – step out into the unknown – feeling.  One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 43:19 – “For I am about to do something new. See I have already begun!…”  (NLT version).

As I was studying that verse … I looked up the Message version and here’s what it says –

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out!…”

Brand New

And there’s the challenge. Leave the old … stop doing the familiar. In order to have time for the new … we must let go of the old. Letting go to grab a hold …

So here I stand … on the edge of the old … reaching for the new … knowing that God is holding my hand and leading my heart to all that He has. And I’m pretty sure when I look back on the year … I’ll see another piece of this beautiful puzzle firmly in place … and maybe even catch a glimpse of the next puzzle piece. ♥

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When You Can’t See the End of the Path

This new school year is bringing in some big changes for the “O” clan.  A couple of months ago, we made the decision to homeschool!  However … let me just start by saying, A) – this post is more about listening to the still small voice (even when you can’t see where it’s leading you) than it is about homeschooling and B) – we are SO. EXCITED. (like jumping up and down on the soapbox-excited) about this new adventure.

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Several months ago, I began to feel the familiar nudge to spend some time with God and listen for His leading in my life.  There were some things happening that pointed to a possible change of seasons.  Change is never easy for me so I knew I needed to begin to lean in and hear my Father’s voice … His leading.  And sometimes that still small voice leads us into the unknown…asking us to walk a winding path that we can’t see the end of.  It’s in this place where we have to choose to trust Him with the journey and take a step forward … or simply stay where we are.

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Within a few weeks, I knew that He was calling me to cut back on my work hours but I didn’t know why.  It wasn’t just cutting back “work hours” though … it was stepping back from a ministry that I dearly loved … that had been an enormous part of my life for close to ten years. I had listened to several podcasts and read devotionals that all seemed to point toward spending more time at home and just being “present” in every moment.

One of the scriptures that stuck with me during that time was from Luke 19.  It’s the story about the nobleman who had to go away, but asked some of his servants to invest his money while he was gone.  Two of them invested the money, but the third just hid the money and did not invest it.  To this, the king said – “…to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given.  But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”  (Luke 19:26).  Immediately, I heard the Lord say to me – “Use well the gifts that I’ve given you.”  And within that same week, I heard a Steven Furtick podcast that still rings in my ears.  He said – “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.” 

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“Lord, you’ve blessed me with so much … I don’t know what this means!”.   So I mentally made a list of the richest, most precious gifts He’s given me.  At the top of the list is a restored and redeemed marriage, and a miracle child … that I didn’t know was a miracle until we tried to have more.  Every. Single. Day. I am undone by the fact that I get to be a mom.

As I marinated in that verse … and the reminder to use well what God has given me … and the fact that the “opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity”, I realized that God was calling me to focus on being a Mom.  It’s a well known fact that the life of a child goes by in the blink of an eye.  This opportunity to spend time with him has an expiration date…and oh how I don’t want to miss one moment … I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that the opportunity is gone.

However … this was only one piece in the puzzle. I wrestled with God for weeks about what I should be doing next.  Ok God … I did what you asked and stepped back from the ministry that I love … so what NOW?!

A couple more months went by … more listening and leaning … and the seed was planted to homeschool.  The seed had always been there … somewhere.  But it had been buried for years.  As I was having lunch with a friend and she confided that she was definitely taking this leap into homeschooling, I knew that the Lord was speaking to my heart.  As soon as the words left her mouth, I started to cry.  I knew in my heart that God was calling me to this, but I was scared and unsure.  And in my heart … I was wrestling with God.

After a couple of days of quiet conversations with God, I broached the subject with my husband.  He was, almost immediately, ready to do it.  And so after ONE week of talking about it and praying about it, we felt so much peace that it wasn’t even a question of whether to do it or not.  We knew that this was what God was calling us to.

We agreed that the influence of friends in our son’s life had begun to outweigh our influence.  We felt that our influence should be the biggest part the equation… after all … WE are the people God chose to raise this child … to teach and lead this child.  We have seen the years fly by and know that every moment counts in these years while our son is under our roof.  As the parents of an only child … every “first” has the stinging sensation of being the “last”.  We don’t want to miss any ‘firsts’ and surely want to savor every ‘last’.

What a blessing … a preparation … it had been to follow God’s leading to step back from those hours of ministry to pour into the most important ministry I’ll ever have.

Although there were weeks and even months where I didn’t understand why God was asking me to do this, I am so very thankful that I followed His lead.

When my son was a baby and into his preschool years, I remember snuggling him extra close every year on the first day of school.  As I would hear the bus coming down our street, I would whisper, “thank you Lord, that it’s not our turn yet”.  And this year, as the bus comes down our street for the first day of school … I will snuggle my 10 (almost 11) year old and whisper, “thank you Lord for these extra moments with my miracle boy”.

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I don’t know what steps God is asking you to walk right now … but I just want to encourage you to listen for His voice.  Take the step in the direction He is leading … even if you can’t see what’s ahead on the path.  He sees.  He knows what’s ahead.  And He’s promised it’s good. ♥

One Tiny Seed

 

Abide in me

Earlier this year, I decided to plant cucumber seeds in one of those city garden boxes and put it on my deck.  Those cucumber seeds are tiny!!  So, I carved out little tiny trenches and scattered a bunch of those tiny seeds … covered them up with dirt … watered them … and waited.  Exactly 56 days later … those once tiny seeds are now giant 5 foot vines loaded with pretty yellow flowers and lots and lots of cucumbers!  (seriously … my neighbors will not have to buy another cucumber for the rest of the summer!!)

Yesterday morning as I was reading my Bible on my deck, I read this verse –

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God. – 1 John 3:9

“God’s seed remains in him …”  This phrase literally jumped off the page to me.  We have the seed of God in us!

The amplified Bible says: “God’s nature abides in him” … and the Message Bible says: “God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are“. We have the seed of His power … His strength … His love … buried inside of us!

As my little cucumber seeds have proven … when a seed is continually nurtured with water and food … it grows exponentially and eventually produces a harvest.

When we feed and nourish that seed of God that remains in us … it grows and eventually produces a harvest of all that God is.

A quick google search listed these attributes of God – wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.  I would also add unconditional love, patience and compassion. The reminder that His seed that holds all of that and more … is in ME … and YOU … changes my perspective.

As I watch my once tiny cucumber seeds bursting forth in a glorious harvest of 5 foot vines loaded with cucumbers … I am reminded of what can happen with God’s seed in me, as I continue to water and care for it. These cucumbers will produce nourishment for my family and friends … my neighbors. I literally cannot contain the harvest that has come from one tiny seed. And so it is with God’s seed in me. And in you. ♥

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Mended Beyond Belief

Mended Beyond BeliefWhen I think about the last year of my marriage … this song lyric says it all – “When you see broken beyond repair, I see mended beyond belief.” ~Matthew West

Today we are celebrating our 11th year of marriage.  And it’s an incredibly joyous – nothing short of miraculous – celebration.  Because last year … on this day … we didn’t know what was going to happen or if we’d ever celebrate another year together.  It is truly astonishing what God can do with “broken”.  Broken hearts … broken people … broken circumstances.

As we were talking the other night about this past year … and all that God has taught us … we wondered aloud if there is a “formula” to save a marriage.  I don’t think that there is a “one size fits all” formula … but I know that this is the formula that saved ours.

“Search me God and know my heart, see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24

  • When two people are honest, open and humble enough to pray that prayer … search me God … show me my offensive ways … lead me … the enemy of marriage loses all power.  It allows God to move mightily in two people.

These are the top 3 things that we’ve learned this year …

  1.  Let God be the One you lean on.  Find His promises and stand on them.  Declare them.  Let the enemy know that he has no right to you, your spouse, or your marriage.  Saying it out loud also has a way of reminding you that your spouse isn’t the enemy.

Pray for your spouse.  Whether you feel like it or not … whether you think they deserve your prayers or not.  Regardless of their behavior, they are loved deeply by your Father … and your prayers are powerful.  There is no other person on earth who knows them as intimately as you do.

Spend time with God together and alone.  Pray together and alone. God speaks the loudest when we are quiet and spending time with Him. The only way for anyone to give 100% of themselves is to give 100% of themselves to Jesus. Some of our best conversations have been sharing with one another what God is speaking to us.

2. Marriage counseling is where it’s at!!  For some crazy reason, our culture looks at marriage counseling as a last resort … the place you go when all else fails and you’ve pretty much thrown in the towel.  Why?!  Is there really anyone who has already learned the art of living 24/7/365  and understanding someone of the opposite sex in a perfectly peaceful and harmonious manner before they’re married?!

Marriage counseling took the thought of making our marriage a priority…and put it into action.  It’s a solid hour (or more) – weekly, bi-weekly, every day…(whatever it takes) of focusing on what’s happening and how to make it better.  How to understand each other better…what to work on and how to change the things that need to be changed.  How can that be a bad thing?

3. Friends who surround you … pray for you … encourage you … are like life jackets in the middle of an angry storm.  Having a friend or two is important … having a friend or two who you can trust with your heart is life giving.  

Choose wisely who you confide in … who you take marital advice from.  It is so important, in a world where marriage is disposable … to choose carefully who we listen to when it comes to our marriages…who we surround ourselves with.  Marriage isn’t about two people giving 50/50.  It’s about two people submitting to God and giving 100/100.

I am convinced that a marriage of two people who are consistently asking God to search their hearts … being vulnerable to Him to speak to them … who are seeking Godly wisdom and who are making their marriage a priority will not fail.

More than anything, I am thankful that what we saw as broken beyond repair, God saw as mended beyond belief.  ♥

A Beautiful Ending

Beautiful EndingI have often wondered if my story is … shareable.  Is it an encouraging story … a true “testimony” if the very thing that I’ve prayed for for years seems out of reach? Is it only encouraging if there is a happy ending?  Or at least the ending that I think it should have?

Perhaps it is just as much a testimony of the goodness and grace of God if … after years of waiting … we’re still able to say – “He is good”.  “He loves me”.  I know that He loves me because He’s seen me at my worst … heard me at my deepest level of despair … and yet still chooses to speak to me.

He still paints the sky the most glorious golds and pinks and oranges for me.  He still whispers His love to me through the warm summer breeze that blows through early in the morning when it’s just the two of us on my deck.  And my heart still skips a beat when He causes His words to jump off the page and into my very soul.

Yes … He has given me a beautiful story.  A story of knowing His absolute, unconditional love … no matter what my circumstances look like.  And He is still writing my story … and yours … and if His authorship is anything like His artistry … we can be confident that this story is going to have a beautiful ending.

A Lesson in Weeding

Lesson in Weeding

The weather finally hit the 60 degree mark today and so out I went to begin the process of getting the gardens ready for a fresh spring planting.  I grabbed my gloves, a rake and a special weeding tool that I absolutely love for those deep and stubborn weed roots.

As any good gardener knows, the only way to truly get the weeds out of your garden for more than a couple of weeks is to pull them out by the root.  Entirely.  Because any tiny piece of root that is left behind is sure to spread like wild fire until the garden is overtaken again.

As I began pulling the weeds out one by one … digging deep to make sure that I had all of the roots … the Lord began to show me how similarly, the weeds in my life need to be pulled out by the roots and not just plucked away at the surface.  Those negative thoughts … the insecurities … the hurts and the lies that have been blown into my garden of life … they all need to be plucked at the root.

Like the weeds in my garden, if left untouched, will take over and crowd out out any flowers that are making their way up through the soil … so it is with the negative thoughts in my mind.  If I am not careful to pull them out by the root, they’ll take up all the space and become so ingrained that the truth will get crowded out.

As I moved on to another garden and began plucking, I spotted the mother of all weeds.  It looked like a huge cactus … ugly and prickly and hiding behind a rock.  And since I was having so much fun with my conversation with the Lord I thought – “Oh!  What are you showing me with this one?!”.

And because He is always speaking … I got my answer right away.  I took my tool, shoved it into the plant to get to the root, and then grabbed the weed to get it out…just as about 50 of those little prickers jammed themselves into my fingers.  Ouch.

If I am not careful, the weeds in my life (negative thoughts … comments that I absorb and hold onto … hurts that I can’t let go of) will go seemingly unnoticed until, suddenly they get so big and prickly that they begin to not only hurt me, but hurt the people around me.  The longer those weeds are allowed to grow, the deeper the root goes and the harder it becomes to remove it.

And so I had to ask the question … “God, how do I make sure that I’m not letting these weeds grow in my life?”  He immediatley brought to mind a verse that I pray often … especially when I realize that my thoughts are not what they should be …

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  -Psalm 139:23-24

I love praying this verse.  It’s me opening my heart to God and giving Him permission to see everything.  Even the weeds.  And then it’s asking Him to show me … show me what needs to be plucked at the root.   Knowing that if I allow Him access, He’ll remove the weeds so that His beauty can grow in my life.  ♥

Close Calls & Every Day Miracles

Every Day MiraclesI pulled up to the green light – just like I do every day on my way to pick up my son from school … and debated for a second whether to make the left turn or not.  In a split second, I decided I could make it and floored it … and at that moment, time stood still.  My car hesitated … in the middle of the intersection … and the car coming at me seemed to speed up.  My car lunged forward and I heard tires squeal as my car veered through the intersection.  I literally had to double-check that I had actually made it through and hadn’t been hit head on.  It. Was. A. Miracle.

It happened several weeks ago, but every time I think about that moment … I remember literally feeling Jesus in the car with me.  I think that must be how it feels when Jesus calls us home.  There was this feeling of calm … and peace … and I almost felt like I was looking at the whole thing from outside my body.  I know.  Weird.

The Bible says that “our battle is not against flesh and blood… but against the spiritual forces in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12)  I wonder what was going on that day in the unseen world around me.  Whatever the battle was … I am 100% sure that God Himself was fighting for me and that I was the recipient of a bona-fide miracle.

If you know me … or have read a couple of my blog posts … you know that I have been waiting on a miracle for a lot of years.  It’s a big one.  Like … Abraham and Sarah big.  And I believe in miracles.  Big and small.  But sometimes, when you’re waiting on a big one … you overlook the ordinary … every day miracles that are happening all around us.

Last week I was grocery shopping with my nine-year old.  As I finished loading groceries into the back of our SUV, the thought crossed my mind that I should let my son push the shopping cart over to the cart corral a few parking spots away.  (one of those … ok – he’s growing up … I should give him more responsibility, right? moments…)  But, at the last minute, something in me said … no – you better not.  So I told him to get into the car, while I grabbed the cart to take it to the corral.  I must have been in the blind spot of the car next to us, and the car next to us must have been in a hurry … because just as I began to push the cart, he backed out. Fast. With a purpose.  Thankfully, I saw the car in time and was able to jump out of the way.

However, I know that if Zachary had been the one pushing that cart, he wouldn’t have been paying any attention to the car parked beside us.  And I am fairly certain that he would’ve been hit by that car.  Another huge miracle.

Every day there are miracles happening all around us.  There is an unseen battle going on.  Every day there is an opportunity to see our life from our perspective or from heaven’s perspective.  I am thankful for the reminder to shift my focus from the miracle that I am waiting for … to the miracles that are happening all around me.   ♥