The Plank In My Eye

This is quite a difficult post to write; I really have no idea where to start. I like to draw people in with something that captures their attention on the outset, but I’ve come up short. It is my heart to write about some of the things God teaches me and it is my hope to encourage other souls who read it.

Here is usually how it goes. First, I struggle; then comes discouragement; soon after I wrestle; followed by anger. I get so low until I can’t possibly pick myself up, and then comes God. Truly He is there the whole time but I would rather push Him away. Now He raises me up and speaks words of grace over me. After I am covered in His grace He speaks words of truth into my soul and my parched soul becomes refreshed.

Glorious God has made himself known to me, through His Spirit, in the midst of my storm. I went from being in the lowest valley to highest mountain peak. Joy is now my middle name.

And then I slowly begin to sink back down. Maybe with some new difficulty that blindsides me, or maybe just the same thing I initially struggled with because I’m just me and not the saint I think I am. I have never made a mistake once and learned from it. I unfortunately seem to make the same mistake over and over.

I have not arrived and every blog post is not written after a victory over sin. It is only just an exhortation and a cheering on. Forgive me for this long introduction. Follow me now to the theme of this post.

I must dispel any kind thoughts of me. Having lived in Indonesia now for 6 months, God is teaching me not to have a critical spirit. I have eagle-eyes in finding faults in others but have blind eyes in finding the blunder in myself. Don’t be surprised, for there are plenty of opportunities here to nurture a spirit of condemnation. At the root of it most times is pride, sometimes selfishness, other times something else just as ugly.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matt 7:3

Here lies the core of my wrestling: how the heck do I get this giant 2×4 out of my face? I’ve determined that the answer is quite simple, even elementary.

Jesus.

Over and over throughout the gospels Jesus always had compassion. Sometimes He was direct, especially with the Pharisees, but never once did He criticize his disciples, not even Judas. To the woman caught in the middle of a repulsive sin He said, “Neither do I condemn you”. To the crowds who relentlessly followed Him for 3 days He was moved to compassion to feed them lest they faint on their way home. To the same crowds He cried out, “Father forgive them” when they willingly crucified Him.

Jesus is the model and grace is His method. We must earnestly pray that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead would dislodge the massive plank of wood from our eye and replace it with grace. Then can compassion abound and grace be demonstrated to each other.

 

 

 

The Blessing of Pressure

Cockroaches. I’m not sure why God joyfully created them except that He’s so gracious. I loathe them. I shudder at the sound of the crunch beneath my shoe. I squeal with disgust at the transference to the toilet. I squirm with guilt at the swish of the flush and the disappearance of the victim forever. Poor awful things will never be wanted.  Lizards I can understand; my mother had an odd affection for them. But the existence of this unfortunately ugly little insect is difficult for me to wrap my mind around.

Pressure. What a abominable word. I inwardly cringe at the mention of it. I don’t handle it well. I wish it were as simple as a cockroach strategically fitting beneath my shoe. Instead I tremble beneath it’s heaviness. My disposition is to fly away and be free of it. My inclination is to attack and prosecute the source. My tendency is to spiral down and throw in the towel. It has always been so difficult for me to function accordingly to it.

Blessing. I don’t easily equate this with pressure, but over these last couple of weeks God has been teaching me what it means to find the benefits of something I thought so detestable.

  • It beseeches us to trust. I can’t grasp the organism of a cockroach, but God created it and said it was good. I can guess and second guess it’s importance but God alone fully knows and is delighted by it. I may not be able to discern the meaning of a particular pressure, but I can trust the One who ordained it, even gifted me with such a time as this.
  • It strengthens our resolve, it stirs up within us a determination. Determination leads to productivity, change, and compensation. If life were easy we’d never be spurred and sparked towards greater things. And in so doing we would never cultivate and advance in our character because easiness is sameness and sameness is monotony and monotony requires nothing untried or unaccustomed.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

If we are resolute in living a life of obedience to God, we will find that God’s Spirit will not only go before us but behind and on either side fighting for us and working with us to fulfill the call God has given to us. Hudson Taylor once said, “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”

I accept the call, I welcome the fight with assurance that God’s on His throne through the night. Whatever may come, whatever may be, Spirit uphold this weak devotee. I long to be faithful with the charge I receive, moving forward with trust in the one I believe.

 

Wrestling With What If

My family has been living in Indonesia for 5 months. It seems so long, but yet so short. I think the hardest thing about being here is the language barrier, and after 4 months of studying I feel only the tiniest inch closer to being able to effectually communicate. For me to think in English and then translate is not beneficial for speaking in Indonesian since the sentence structures are quite different between the two languages.

While I’m in language school my boys are at home with a nanny. If I’m not at school I’m at a coffee shop writing out essays and sentences for my daily homework and wishing with everything in me to be at home playing with my boys. Those thoughts so aggressively wrestle within me that some days I’m a ball of tears as I firmly tell Greg I just wish I could quit. Deep in my heart I am inclined to let my mind roam the possibilities of what if’s. What if I could go back to the States now, would I?

The anchor and only thing that keeps me grounded in a raging sea of transition, adjustment, and emotion is a quote from William Booth,

“‘Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.”

The simple thought of knowing that this people group I live among has no other means of hearing the gospel unless the rocks cry out stirs within me a deep sense of stability and responsibility that no strong wind of disturbance can totter.  C.T.  Studd once said that If Jesus Christ be God and died for me then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.

Each day carries within itself churning, difficulties, and other rumbles, but the surpassing glory of God Almighty grants us great grace to face them as they come.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Whether on your side of the world or mine, may we strive to live a commissioned life unified by the one common calling of every single believer: to make disciples.

Two Sinners Comprise One Marriage

“You’ve got no poker face.” Um, thank you? Should I be encouraged and take that as a compliment or be offended by the insensitivity of the comment? I’ve had many people say that to me so I know there’s possibly legit truth to it. Maybe that’s why I feel more comfortable dropping the pretenses, because I think you can read truth all over my face and countenance. I can generalize this blog post but you’d be able to read between the lines.

So I’ll just be up front about it: this post stems from thoughts and meditations due to marriage. My marriage. The greatest gift God has given me this side of earth. I’ve never met a man more passionate, more real, and more devoted to Jesus. I told a coworker once when I was 18 that I was praying and holding out for a man who was like Billy Graham. He laughed at me and said that was every Christian girl’s wish. But I knew secretly in my heart my prayer would be heard. One of the first things my mother told me after I had gotten engaged was that God had answered that specific prayer. I couldn’t have agreed with her more. Seriously. I’m sitting on the other side of the world writing this to you as I’ve followed my husband who has obediently followed the call of God.

I think the greatest thing marriage has done is open my eyes to my unbecoming selfishness. Marriage is a floodgate that opens up the reality of our depravity. Isn’t it so ironic how we can most easily, and many times willingly, hurt the person we love most? Sin at its finest.

Let me take it one step further and to the core of this post. Two sinners comprise one marriage. Disastrous! I for sure thought I married a saint! That utopian dream was a farce. My offended gasps and finger pointing at the awful sins of my husband started almost directly after the wedding.

Matthew 7:3 has never been more real to me than now that I’m married. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

What I wish would be more real to me is John 8:10, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

That Jesus can see the depths of our dark hearts and yet love us still the same is mind blowing. Every sin of ours is an offense against Him personally yet He does not hold a single one of them against us.

Jesus does not condemn. Pharisee of Pharisees I am if I do!

I am overcome by the thought of this! Lord, overwhelm me afresh with this everyday!

Surely the purpose of marriage is but a reflection of God himself and the love He has for His bride, the church. From one wife to another, I write this and pray with hope that God’s grace upon grace fills your soul through your journey.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Life in Southeast Asia has begun: a brief update

      We packed 10 suitcases, boarded a plane and now my family and I are two months into breathing, seeing, smelling, and living a new culture. ImageLife in Southeast Asia as we know it is, well, I don’t quite even know how to describe it. Beautiful, crazy, exciting, unnerving and just plain scary, especially when you attempt driving here. Imagine a place where traffic rules are just a suggestion…you clearly just imagined our city. I have knocked 4 side view mirrors and counting trying to squeeze between three other cars on a two lane street. We have accidentally backed into a parked car and managed to hit a mo-ped carrying two college students. We have sincerely been experiencing crazy these last two months.

      My husband and I started language school 7 weeks ago. We begin every morning at 8am. The boys stay home and are cared for by two house helpers. ImageFor the time being, actually just one helper since (two weeks ago now) ‘Ibu’ fell and broke her wrist while on a walk with my two older boys Max (3yrs) and Charlie (2yrs). Pray for ‘Ibu’, the sweetest little woman you’d meet here (in the picture holding my little Oliver). I went to visit her at her home last week. She refuses to have surgery to mend her arm; I don’t think she believes in it in light of her religion. Pray that God would heal her arm, but more importantly, I desperately want her to know Jesus. Pray that she would find hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.

Please pray for me. Here are some things that God has clearly shown me here: 

  • my selfishness and man is it ugly specifically in light of my roll as wife and mother
  • my idolatry -I have knowingly and unknowingly placed things upon a throne I’ve created
  • the great joy that is mine when I cheerfully give of myself, my things, my money and anything else. We can NEVER out give God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills
  • my desperate need for Him and the ever present power of the Holy Spirit
  • my lack of courage to speak truth

We are here in this current city for one year: to learn the language. At the end of our year, we will move on to our final destination in a nearby country.

My dear friends, whether in your side of the world or mine, may we be Kingdom minded sent on Kingdom business. “For I am determined not to know anything among you except for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1Cor 2:2

Grace upon grace to you all, Abby

P.S. I would love any recommends on blogs, especially any geared towards women. Please share!

 

 

As Dawn Begins

My almost 3 year old son, Max, went to bed two nights ago with a 102.9* fever. He had woken up at midnight crying hysterically so I got up to check on him. His little body felt on fire. I managed to calm him down with some medicine and his “juicies”. He then got this sweet little look on his face and asked if he could watch his favorite show, Mickey Mouse Club House, on the iPad. Of course he could! I figured that guaranteed sleep for me who is still nursing a 7 week old at night.

I was wrong.

I don’t know how long he stayed up watching Mickey Mouse, but he woke up every 2 hours after that burning up with fever and only settling down with more juicies and Mickey. What’s crazy was that he was up at 7am the next morning, still with fever, but with a smile on his face wishing me a good morning as if he was completely rested. That afternoon he took about a two hour nap, which was not quite long enough because I only managed to sneak in 20 minutes of an episode of Once Upon A Time. Both Max and my 19 month old Charlie were crying their little hearts out from their cribs at 3:45pm and surely you can guess how I calmed them down. Yes indeed, juicies and Mickey Mouse Club House on Mommy’s TV.

That night all I could think about was how quickly each day comes and then goes, and how fast my 3 little boys are growing up. Today is one day closer to eternity. Yesterday is already in the books never to return. Just last week I was 16, then I blinked and now I’m 26. I’ll blink again and my boys will be teenagers, and I’ll blink one more time and Lord willing I’ll be holding beautiful grand babies.

My hubs managed to help me in a matter of two minutes (versus the last 24 hours I spent thinking) to poetically express the purpose of this blog post:

As dawn begins, dusk awaits
Cherish each moment before it’s too late

I know we all are in different seasons of life, but we are all living! Don’t waste your days, friend. Enjoy God’s gracious blessings to you. Let go of any bitterness, frustration, discouragement, or anxiety before they steal away parts of your life. Cling to Christ in hope and trust, and let the joy of the Lord be your strength day by day.

Now don’t just focus only on God’s blessings! Focus on His mission and purpose for you. C.T. Studd wonderfully said,

“Only one life, twill soon be past
Only what’s done for Christ will last”

What is His purpose? To love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What is His mission? “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Christian, do you realize that’s not optional? And do you understand how Christ-centered and others-centered and not self-centered a life that is? And do you know how delightful and gratifying that life is?

Let’s not leave this kind of living to the super Christians and saints. Let’s join them.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a

Content With The Thorns

I find myself doubly emotional these recent days. I’m naturally inclined emotionally to begin with, but I am in the third trimester of my current pregnancy and I do believe my hormones are doing flip flops as the skyrocket upward into infinity and beyond. This logical reasoning at least helps my confused husband somewhat understand why I’m sitting on the floor of our bedroom crying over just having had to discipline our 2 and 1/2 year old son.

It’s on a day like this (silly enough, a beautiful wintery day) that I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, honestly, by disciplining my children, my just plain tiredness, my sin and shortcomings, my lack of peace, and so many other things I’m too embarrassed to confess. I have so many thoughts that run through my mind concerning this:

Why am I so hung up with the same difficulties and challenges?
Why am I struggling with the same sin over and over again?
Why isn’t it getting any easier after so many years of struggling with the same exact thing?
Why am I not running to Christ quickly enough and pressing into Him when I should?
Why is my faith and trust so small?

This morning my husband took our oldest son, Max, for a hike, and I put our 1 year old, Charlie, down for a nap so I managed to steal away outside on the deck of the mountain home we’ve been staying in for the holidays for some quiet time in the Word and prayer. The Spirit had impressed upon my heart the familiar passage of 2 Corinthians 12 so I immediately turned there. “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it,” Oh man, how my pride identifies with that. But I’ll save that blog post for another time and place. Skip down a handful of verses to 7-10,

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I don’t like my weaknesses and being weak; I want to learn to master them and be strong. How can I be content with my weakness? How do I reconcile being tired of my weaknesses and boasting in my weakness? I honestly don’t know! But that’s because I’m thinking on it and considering it through my finite, human terms. I don’t know if it will ever make sense through those terms.

“My grace is sufficient for you.” My grace. GRACE. Our only reconciliation comes from God’s grace and pressing into it! His infinitely, undeserved favor and pardon frees us from all finite, human terms. It frees us not to sin but from from sin. I can exclaim with the angels and the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill toward men!”

Press in, my dear friends! Press into God Almighty’s grace that is more than sufficient for us!