My favorite Place
When I was a little girl, I spent many a summer's day at my grandparents. Their house was like a mansion to me. It was in the middle of a small town and was enclosed with a black rod iron gate. The house was nestled back off a cul-de-sac, sitting in front of a forest of trees. It had a grand presence and was made of brick, with a big circular driveway that lead you to a covered entrance...which would beckon you inside the double front doors. Once inside, there were treasures everywhere...in each room....as my grandparents were antique dealers....and they loved treasures....treasures with history....that had passed through many hands and graced the presence of many homes......treasures that had lived life and seen pain, joy, heartache and pleasure.
As a little girl, I loved going to my grandparents home. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt whole. And my grandparents, they loved having us there. They would lavish their love upon us grandchildren in many different ways...there was a candy jar in the kitchen (always brimming full with treats...that we never got at home), there were the special bedrooms...the red room and the green room with the tall antique bed, always ready and waiting for us, grandchildren....and when you slept on this bed, you felt like a princess (we all wanted this room). There was the basement which my grandfather filled with games and toys for us children. And then in the backyard, there was the pool....that my grandfather always heated because it had to be just right for us grandchildren.
And outside under the canopy of trees, on the side yard, on the edge of the creek.....my grandfather had hung a hammock. The hammock was a place of rest and solitude. Laying in that hammock, your soul was still. Enclosed around you were the sounds of the creek running over the rocks, the wind blowing through the trees, the birds singing their songs of praise....and my grandfather, thinking of everything, had hung a small rope to a branch on the tree, so that as you laid peacefully in the hammock, you could pull the string and gently rock back and forth...without anyone else needing to push you. Even as a small child, I loved the hammock and all that it represented to me. There wasn't a lot of stillness in my spirit during those years, but in the hammock.....all was quiet and still.
When we moved to the home where we live now (about 6 years ago), our backyard reminded me a little of my grandparents. Our backyard is filled with 150 foot poplar trees. These trees stand tall and very straight and seem to reach the heavens. Our previous home didn't have mature trees....but this home.....they were everywhere....and the arms to hold a time remembered hammock were beckoning.
Nestled between two trees, under the canopy of the trees leaves and branches, we hung our own hammock. When laying peaceful, cradled inside....I would fondly think back to my grandparent's home, to my grandfather who died 12 years ago....and to that feeling of being held and surrounded by God and His beauty. The safety.
I don't make it out to the hammock often, as the busyness and responsibilities of being a wife and a mother consume much of my time....and many of my quiet moments are spent at 5:30 in the morning sitting with my Bible, cup of coffee, pen and journal soaking up the quietness and the treasures that God imparts from His Word.
But there are those days, when the hammock beckons...the home is tended to....and I can just lay and be still. I savor those moments.
God has been doing a work in me this summer and has been teaching me on many fronts....breaking me again. He has been stripping down some walls and some agreements that I have made...agreements that I have set up in my heart like....."If I obey all that God has set forth, then He will love me." But God wants more than just obedience and He loves me know matter what I do. I don't have to DO anything....just submit to Him. Again and again, He reminds me that life....every aspect, is not about me. It is about what He wants to do in and through me, for His purposes and plans. And as I put my mind on Him, His plans become mine.
I have felt drained at times this summer....emotionally drained, as I have been really questioning God and asking for understanding on all that He is showing me. He has been challenging me on belief systems, in relationships and how I portray Him to others (from my legalistic background). As He has revealed His truths to me, through His word, comforted me....healed past relationships....been moving mightily in and around me...I have been comforted and strengthened by Him alone.
In the midst of this all, there is the area of ministry. He has been teaching me this summer about being a servant. A servant to my husband, a servant to my family, a servant to my friends, a servant to my neighbors, a servant to His body.....a servant of HIS. As He has been teaching....He also has been calling me to step out of the boat into an area of ministry that is so intimidating to me.
This calling began about 4+ years ago, as God placed such a burden on my heart for women. And as I was so excited about what laid ahead.....wondering and asking, "God, is now the time you want to use me?" Each time, He said, "No, not now. It isn't the right time. There is more I need to do in you." Doors would close, but my heart, oh, my heart still yearned for His timing to be made complete. Through this time, God continually spoke to my heart that my ministry was in my home. It was to my husband and my children. It was enough. And it was.....but He was planting seeds for things to come. There was so much He needed to teach me.
Well, about a month ago....the yearning became a distinct call. (I can't go into specifics right now, but will when I am able.) In the midst of my quiet time, God told me plainly that the time had come. This time, I fought back. I told God no. I told God that I was too young, too inexperienced, too incapable.....that I didn't know enough as others who appeared more "qualified." I pushed back. Here all along, I was waiting for this time....and as He appointed the time....Satan brought in fear and doubt. I told God that if I was to step out of the boat...into the uncertainty....He would have to make it abundantly clear. (God help me for my unbelief!)
One Saturday morning, in my quiet time, I was crying out to God to speak to me....I was listening. I asked Him to just show me what to read that morning. Open me up to the page He needed me to read in the Bible...the scripture that would answer my cry...that would give me the answer from Him that I so desperately needed. I didn't want to take one step in this calling, without complete assurance that He was in it. That there was nothing in my flesh calling me forth, just HIM.
"Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with HIM." Exodus 34:29
Moses had just spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 commandments from God himself. Moses was God's servant who brought the 10 commandments to God's people. He also received instruction on how to construct God's tabernacle. He was in the presence of the Lord and His face resembled the majesty, the glory of God. He shone.
Moses came down from the mountain and spoke to the children of Israel telling them that God wanted an offering "from among them" for the Tabernacle. This idea of an offering intrigued me? What exactly is an offering. I know in a monetary sense what an offering is...but here in Exodus, what was being asked of the Israelites?
"This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, "Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart." Ex. 35:4-5
An offering to God....it was something they already had that had been given by God. And God wanted it to be given back to Him, willingly. The Israelites didn't need to DO anything....just give back, their best.
"Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord's offering for the work of the tabernacle of meetings, for all its service and for the holy garments." Ex. 35:21
This idea of an offering was seen again in 1 Chronicles 29. David had received instruction from God about building the temple. He had been given all the instructions, but because he was a man of war, he would not be able to construct it. His young son, Solomon, was to become King and build the temple.
God said to David, "Now, my son, may the Lord be with you; and may you prosper, and build the house of the Lord your God, as He has said to you. Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the Lord your God." 1 Chron. 22:11-12
As David is passing the leadership onto his son, he said:
"My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the Lord God. " 1 Chron. 29:1
"Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?" 29:5
To consecrate, to set apart or devote to the service and worship of God, alone. We must offer ourselves to God first, before our treasure, and then offer willingly all that God has given us: our money, our time, our gifts and abilities, our families, our hearts. It all begins in the heart.
"Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart, they had offered willingly to the Lord;" 29:9
I sat in awe this Saturday morning. Here was my heart's cry.......and here God answered speaking directly into my insecurities, my doubt, my fears.
It is my work Stacy. Not yours. And the work is great. It is more than you can handle. YOU don't have enough wisdom, You don't have enough of anything by yourself. I don't want you holding back.
Give me an offering. I've already given you the gift. I will give you wisdom. I will give you understanding. I will give you discernment. I will teach you. Please give back to me willingly. It is all of ME and it is my work. I will do it through you.
I got it.
Well, like any Israelite.....in the later weeks, I doubted. I had bread, and then wanted water. But God is so faithful and continued each time to give me more. He confirmed over and over again.
Then comes the testing.
This week, I was in the testing and it all came to a head on Thursday. I needed to be still before God. I needed comfort. I needed to be held. I needed to be covered....because this child was hurting. I won't go into details, but events took place that shook my faith in God's calling. I was wavering, questioning....and hurting. And like any parent who sees his child hurting.....you stretch out your hands and bring your child into the folds of your embrace to reassure and comfort.
That is what my Father did.
In the afternoon, after spending a bit of time praying and reading and just sitting at God's feet. I felt refreshed.....but drained. Faith was taking a nap, the older boys were up the street playing at the neighbors and Luke and Jed were contently playing in the basement.
The hammock beckoned my name.
I retreated to my favorite place. To lay in the peacefulness, under the canopy of the trees.
You know what happened? It was a moment I will treasure.
I climbed into the hammock, swung my feet around, laid my head back......and the sun beat brilliantly down on my face....and in that instant, I had to turn away, for it shone so brightly...too brightly. The heat warmed my face and as I turned back to look up into the trees....the sun passed behind the next tree. It still shone through, but not like it did in that instant.
It was a moment that I truly felt in God's presence. He shone down on me giving me that reassurance that He has all the details in control. Just rest. Let me do the work. It is His work. You are safely in my embrace. You don't have to understand what is going on around you....just trust me.
Two minutes later, Faith woke up, the boys came running into the back yard and Luke and Jed wandered outside wanting to join me on the hammock.
I asked Ben to run inside and get me the camera so I could capture this moment. What you see in the picture is a glimpse of what God showed me as I looked up through the towering trees.
It was beautiful. Isn't God that way? His love is amazing. His love is real. He is real. And whatever He is calling you to, whatever He is beckoning forth.....trust HIM. Lay your offerings down at His feet, for the work-that is great-that He desires to do. And He will shine so brightly and magnificently upon you-strengthening you, equipping you and growing your faith....and when you walk as His servant, others will see His glory reflected in you.
I am excited to see where God is going to take me......this servant is willingly.....stepping out of the boat. Where you lead, I will follow.
In His Amazing love and grace-Stacy