Parting the Clouds of Your Soul

Photographer: Jay Brazel

I’ve been feeling so blue for the past few months. It has been an unexpectedly hard year. I suppose most hard times are unexpected. We’ve dealt with serious illness, lost income, ministry challenges, car accidents, injury, etc. Stuff that everyone deals with. It’s just that we haven’t had a break and it started to really get to me. It was getting to my mind, my thoughts, my outlook on life, confidence in myself and my daily attitude. I was frustrated because I generally do struggle with feeling down alot and I didn’t need these extra stressors in my life.

A few weeks ago I just broke down. I couldn’t take the stress. I’ll admit. I threw a HUGE pity party! Attendance: me. Games: BYOT (Bring your own Tissue)

That Sunday when we woke up late for church and decided to head to our sister church’s service instead since we could make that one relatively on time. Boy was it a blessing! I felt like the message was for me. The pastor spoke about dealing with the twin realities of God’s goodness and life’s troubles. Ever struggle with that one?

What I learned was that I was focusing too much on my circumstances and less on who God is. I KNEW that we’re not supposed to do that. I KNEW that God is good not matter what… but why was it so hard in the midst of these trials to trust Him? I have to admit I was asking God “why this was happening?” a lot. Along with the good ole’ “What was He trying to teach me?”. I happen to think that it’s okay to ask God “why” as long as you really want to learn from the answer.

Here’s the thing I learned:

1. Who God is IS NOT DEFINED by Life’s Circumstances

in other words…

2. God is who He says He is, not who we think He is
3. We can bless God in the midst of challenges because we are enthralled with the beauty of who God is and not because of what is happening around us. He never changes.

So I got my answer and I’m thus (yes I said thus) grateful for these past challenges. It showed me that even though the rainstorm and the clouds hover over us, the secret to keeping Sonshine in our hearts is to bless God for who He is and not not focus on the ever changing circumstances of life.

I still have to remind myself every day (every hour of the day) to bless God when my feelings dip, but it is freeing to know I can coax a lighter heart into my chest by refocusing on who God is.

Here is the link to that sermon.

God Bless

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It’s not all peachy…yet

For a few weeks my family has been going through a really really tough time. My husband began having some major health issues that caused him several visits to the ER and consequently have not allowed him to work for several weeks. Things have begun to calm down but he still is unable to work and the future looks very unclear in terms of income. We have a mortgage, utilities, a car payment, medical bills, and three kids to feed and clothe. Not too mention that I was in the middle of rehearsals for opening our show Sweatpants and High Heels at the diva fest this past weekend. I should be losing my mind right now.

I’ve shed tears and spent many nights in prayer asking God for direction and strength. I asked the question “why” to God but I quickly changed it to “what are we supposed to learn?” When you’ve been around the block a few times you learn that “why?” really doesn’t get you far. But opening your heart to hear what God is saying through the circumstances moves you forward. However I have learned that sometimes God is merciful in allowing adversity to come into our lives. I feel as though God forced us to stop and think about the direction we were going in terms of work. He caused us to regroup about our relationship and family. He guided us back to what is important in life rather than what we as humans deem as important. Most importantly I’ve learned that going through adversity and seeing lack in finances gives you a chance to see God provide your needs. Seriously. I’m grateful now because I’ve had a chance to see Jesus in our families, church family, in our friends as they have reached out with kind words, visits, phone calls, groceries and even monetary gifts to help us get through this period. I’m overwhelmed at the love of God shown through those around me. I feel cradled in His arms of love. I know it  sounds cheesy and unreal but it is really happening to my family. I’m not saying all is peachy but I’ve seen what walking by faith and not by sight really means now. We talked about me going back to work and right now I felt that working would have added stress to my family. I was needed to drive, cook, take care of the kids and continue rehearsing. While praying I felt that God was saying wait. I still looked online for work and thought about what I could do at home to bring in income but I didn’t have any peace. Peace came when I submitted. But little did I know that God had provisions waiting for us. To date we have been blessed with gifts that have filled the gap for this month! I think of how God provided for the Israelites in the desert each day with manna from heaven. It takes faith to live day by day leaning on God to supply your needs. But He said He would and so He must because He cannot lie.

To witness God work in your life is an amazing thing. To have Him touch your life through others is such a blessing and encouragement in dark times. God is real and right now we are making it only because of Him.

I hope that you are encouraged by me sharing this. May God bless you and give you faith to lean on Him for your needs.

Something New

Have your life dreams changed over the years? Mine have. Growing up my only desire was to be an actress. A famous, academy award winning actress traveling the world and going on short term mission trips in between films. But God has shown me that there is so much more that He has planted in me than what I thought. In college I had an opportunity to do some directing after I saw undergrads losing out on acting opportunities during the graduate students thesis year. I wanted to do something about it so I wrote a proposal for a show and directed a series of one acts by David Ives called Mere Mortals.

After college I was given a chance to write, direct, act and produce an original play called A Song for Peace which went on for almost 5 years. I HAD NO IDEA I could accomplish this!  I have to give all glory to God because He is the one that provided for us and gave it success. During these years I had to be changed from a snobby theater kid who was given everything at college to a broken woman who had to trust God to put on the show. In college it was like this: Costumes? Sure! Hang a left at the theater and go to the shop where custom costumes are right now being designed and made for you. Need a set? Oh, well we have stage hands, technical designers, and sound designers working on that! Set will be ready 4 weeks before the show! Publicity? Covered! Script? How many do you need?

Everything was done for me. When I hit the real world of missionary theater (that’s what I’ll call it for now) nothing was just given to me. No theater with lights, only a loving inner city church with a stage and AV capabilities. Costumes? Goodwill baby! Actors? You’ll have to teach them how, Dija. Publicity? Donated. Set? Donated. Budget? A grant from my mother in law’s mission. Sanity? Barely made it since I was 5 months pregnant with a toddler and my lead had a stroke 2 weeks before the show and I had to take the part of a 60 year old grandmother!

I’m saying all this not to complain but to GIVE GOD GLORY! I didn’t know it at the time but God was putting me through His school of inner city missionary field work in the arts! He was showing me that I had so much more in me than just acting. I learned to write, produce, and be a leader. Over the years my burden for the youth has grown. And even more my burden to tell people about the good news of Jesus. Today I’ve realized that what makes me happy is not the constant auditioning for commercials and the one lone film but creating work that is meaningful and encouraging to people. I used to be a slave to a childhood dream. Now I’m a slave to Jesus. And believe me His yoke is much lighter!

If you have a dream in your heart that’s been sitting there for years. Turn it over to Jesus. He will make it bigger and better than you can imagine. Know that right now you are right where He wants you. You never know but you might be in the middle of His personal tutoring for your future life!

God Bless. Please feel free to share what God has taught you over the years. It could be encouraging to someone else.