I have always loved to read. One of my favorite pastimes as a young girl was being able to escape the real world into the pages of a book. Some of my best friends were Anne, Laura, and many Grace Livingston Hill heroines in the pages of my treasured volumes. I loved being able to see how other girls could rise above their circumstances, find joy in dark places, and see God’s hand bringing all things together by the time I closed the book. I loved happy endings and seeing the various loose ends of life tied up into a pretty bow.
I carried my love of a good story into my choice of my degree in college; you can’t get closer to becoming a bookworm than a high school English teacher! (Well, maybe you can in choosing to be a librarian… another close contender to my choice of studies.) Not only could I indulge in the love of reading for a grade, but I would be able to pass on that excitement and enjoyment to my students! The way to my heart was a well-written sonnet or song lyric set to beautiful music. ( I am also a music teacher and music minister.) It’s amazing how words of beauty and grace can touch our very heart and soul.
Up until recently, I was teaching and thriving in my calling to minister to our youth in the classroom; I’ve been a teacher in a classroom (church or secular) since I was 15 years old! (I won’t tell you how many years that would be total by now…! ) God had also so graciously opened up the doors for me to start teaching and mentoring women in the church through teaching Bible studies and leading prayer meetings. What a humbling experience to know that God can literally speak through you as you share His word and encouragement. I was starting to feel like God was really using me as I gave Him full use of my talents and abilities and I was being blessed as I surrendered my whole life to God’s use to bless others.
There are many things that I feel that the LORD will have me share with you in time on Unwrapping His Grace; God has been teaching me His truths as I have been teaching others of His Grace. I want to share from the start, however, that I am not a woman who has it all together or will claim to be an expert on much. You may even catch this English teacher with a typo or grammar error over time… :-) I will promise you that I will be transparent, encouraging, and honest as I share from my heart about what God is teaching me and what He wants me to share with you. I pray to honor Him in sharing from where He has me right now in my faith-journey today, in this season. I pray you are encouraged if you can relate to what I write, knowing that this is where He may have you too.
I won’t take the time now to go into details in this post, but I am currently dealing with many physical challenges that have made it necessary for me to pull back from many things I have enjoyed doing for so many years. I am being brought to a place of simplifying my life commitments and “my” schedule to regain my health and strength. Many days now I am faced with a new normal of not knowing what I will be able to “do” anymore – - – and, boy, that has been a hard adjustment. To say otherwise would not be right; being in a new place, a place you haven’t chosen for yourself, can rock your life and faith to it’s very core, and for reasons only He knows, God has chosen this path for me right now.
In taking time to pray about all of the changes in my body over the last year, I have turned my heart and eyes to the LORD in seeking His heart on the matter. So many things that have brought me joy and deep satisfaction “at a job well done for God” I have had to put aside for a season because I can’t physically do them anymore; my energy levels are that low on a daily basis. More than once I have felt like God has shelved me – - – and my heart has been yearning to have Him raise me up again to be what I once was, for Him, and to strengthen me to do His work that He has called me to do. What a hard truth for me to accept that this might be part of His story for me; I cling to the truths that He does bring beauty from ashes and the oil of joy for mourning!
How I define myself is not confined to what I can do or accomplish on a daily basis anymore; I am learning to be a human “be-ing” rather than a human “do-ing”. My to-do list has been pared to the essentials and anything I can get done each day on top of that is a victory! You learn to focus on the simple things and learn so much about contentment when God brings you to a place of stillness. In that stillness, you can hear the very Heartbeat of God. That heartbeat has brought me comfort as I let my Father hold me close to His heart, allowing me to rest in His Grace.
There were two illustrations that He has been impressing upon my heart to remember as I continue to do the daily work of surrendering to His will and to His new place for me. The first one keeps coming to mind and it’s from the story of the disciples and Jesus in the boat as the storm was rocking them and the waves were crashing, threatening to bury them alive at sea.
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27 NIV
I don’t know about you, but when I am faced with a loss, a setback, a trial that threatens my very foundation in life, I literally feel like I am losing ground and the waves of fear, of pain, of isolation feel like they are pulling me underwater, choking the very breath from my life. But, here is the awesome truth: no matter our circumstances, we have a God who knows right where we are and He will carry us through the storm in His capable hands when we let Him pick us up, when we put our head to rest on His shoulder in faith, and when we choose to trust that His feet will bring us to the other side. He may choose to calm the storm as He did in this passage in the Bible, or He may bring us comfort and a deep, abiding peace as He takes our hands in His own as He sits out the storm with us. His Presence is ever near and He is our faithful and trustworthy Lord – - – with Him, there is nothing to fear.
Another mental image comes to mind as I have had the time to sit and meditate on His promises over the last few months, especially in relating to this new Chapter of my life. Many years ago, there was a great book written that was called, “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy. What a tremendous book that encourages us to focus on letting God take the pen of the story of our lives and to write it as He sees best for us. Their book focuses on the importance of letting God choose your spouse and surrendering to His will for us in that area, but I think that the truth of this concept can be applied in other areas of our lives as well. I am able to mentally see God with the pen in hand, looking over the book of my life, turning the pages to this new Chapter. In His eyes are a love that knows no description as He asks me to trust His Heart as He starts to write painful, hard words, and I am left with a decision: I can focus on the story or I can focus on the Author. Each day I am presented the choice to choose trust or control, surrender or striving, peace over turmoil. Do I dictate my will to my Father or do I allow Him to teach me from experience the love that knows no end in letting Him write my story, His story, for me?
I will be gut-wrenchingly honest with you here: I don’t know a single soul that would choose a way of pain, loss, bankruptcy, homelessness, or isolation over the happier times of life. Those of us who have been given the mantle of pain to carry, no matter the cause, sometimes stumble and cry out in anguish to the LORD to ease this burden from our hearts and lives. All of us are faced with the decision to turn and curse God – - – or surrender to the writer of our story, drawing on the truth that our God WILL bring all things to good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). When we surrender to the Author of our Story, His strength becomes our strength, His power lifts us up, and praise, yes, even praise can come from our mouths, even when we wonder how we are going to take another breath.
Isn’t this the paradox of finding victory in the Christian Walk of Hope and Faith? I know that there have been times, now that I can look back, that I can see just how God did indeed bring the twisted, dark, painful times of my life into His perfect, loving, beautiful story of what is my life. Those times have caused deep growth in my spiritual life and in my relationship with my God; when all I had left was my God and HIS love for me, I learned that it was enough, no, more than anything else in the world to me. When I had nobody to love me, His love was a balm to my soul. When I lost my way, He wooed me back to His arms. When I had gotten to the end of my will, I learned to say, Your Will be done in me.
Today, anew, I am surrendering to the Author of my story. I feel like this new Chapter, although some of which I would not have wanted to have as part of my life story, is going to be one where He is honored, glorified, and praised, for He is worthy and I trust Him. I give Him my pen and all of my expectations of how I want all of my loose ends tied up and all of the pieces to come into place to make the picture I would choose for my life.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 KJV
I will take the promises of Hebrews 12:2 as my very own as a reminder to “Look unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of my Faith!”
The amazing truth about the story of my life is this: it isn’t over yet! The best is yet to come – - – and I can rest in the blessing of knowing that He has the pen to write the story as He wills, He is a loving, faithful, and true God, and that my response to the pain, loss, and uncertainty is to praise Him! I have been given the promise that my healing will come through praise – He inhabits the praises of His people! – and His sweet Presence will be my salvation!
Here is a song that has become very real to me during my current Chapter:
“Lord, I come to You today, surrendering anew my pen that I have been using to write the story of my life according to my wishes, dreams, and will. I know that You are a God who will write the story You have chosen for me, and even when I don’t understand, I will choose to trust You. When I am weak, please pick me up and carry me. When I am lonely, you be my comfort. When all my strength is gone, fill me up with Your Grace so that I can take another step, in faith, knowing that You will work all things out for my good because You are my God. In the name of Jesus, Amen!”
Praise to the LORD – HE IS good! His love endures forever!
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ALL because of HIM alone,
Gina Marie joined the Unwrapping His Grace writing team as of November 2012. We are so thrilled to have her as a part of the writing and ministry team.