Friday, February 26, 2010

Here is Love... Vast as the Ocean

Last weekend was so amazing... for several reasons. Actually, for one: God is FAITHFUL. And He proved it BIG TIME!!! : ) Before the whole story, though, I (of course) have to give you a little background!
Way back in 2007 when we were working on our adoption paperwork, Lowell's sister and bro-in-law were doing the same thing over in Thailand (where they've lived since 2001). We were all so excited God had been leading both of our families to adopt and that our kids would have a Thai adopted cousin to share their experiences with. In 2008 when we were matched and preparing to travel, they got word that their file/adoption was 95% complete and they couldn't wait to bring home whatever little princess they were matched with - soon! They and their 2 boys (and the grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins!), however, kept waiting and praying and waiting and praying... for over another year before they were FINALLY matched with an adorable little girl just before this last Thanksgiving. They thought they just might be able to bring her home before Christmas!!! They were so excited! (In case you're wondering, they are adopting directly through the Thai social system, so it's very different than our process was.)
Well, Christmas came and went. So did New Year's. And with every week, the anticipation and anguish and excitement and agony grew. Because they live less than an hour away from Bangkok, they were actually able to go visit their little princess at the orphanage where she has been so lovingly cared for. It was so good for them to get to go see her several times... but so SO hard to keep saying goodbye! After waiting for SO long, the wait just kept going and at times it felt like it would go on forever.
Friday morning a week ago we woke up to a message on our machine from Lowell's sister saying they were going to get to bring her home that day. HOME.
I was SO HAPPY. Literally dancing with joy! After so long, to finally know she was going home... it was just too much joy and relief to bear quietly. : ) And it was the perfect way to start off my weekend. Just a few hours later I was on my way up the foothills to our church's 4th annual women's retreat where this year I was leading worship. I just couldn't wait to get up there and praise God for His faithfulness!!! I also couldn't wait to see how He was going to meet with us and speak to each of us there. Our theme was "Heart to Heart" and our theme verse was "Love never fails." One of the songs we were singing was "Here Is Love". These are the lyrics to the first stanza:
Here is love, vast as the ocean
Lovingkindness as the flood
When the Prince of Life, our ransom
Shed for us His precious blood
It's a beautiful old hymn that I was looking forward to teaching the ladies at the end of our session Friday night. As our speaker was talking, I was thinking back on the day and my joy about my niece finally going home with her family when it hit me. I love that little girl so much... and I have since I knew she was "ours." If she's on the other side of the ocean, then the love I have for her is "as vast as the ocean" even though I've never touched her and she's never heard my voice... And the love I have for her is NOTHING in comparison to the love that God has for each one of us.
(Isn't she CUTE?????!!!!!)
God was also SO faithful to meet us last weekend. His Presence with us was at times breath-taking. He did stuff in our hearts that needed to be done. He wove our hearts together. He filled us with ridiculous joy. : ) And He reminded me of how much He loved me.
God told me this once... and if you listen, I believe He'll say it to you, too...
I love you wider than the ocean.
Deeper than the grandest canyon.
Higher than the stars that shine up in the sky.
And I love you as long as eternity!
There is no place in the depths where He can lose us. No place in the cosmos where He would not love us. No stretch of eternity when He has not loved us or will not love us. When He has not or will not love me.
Thank You Father, for Your love for me that is as vast as the ocean... I don't know what else to say. (Except that I love you back.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Your Word (2010 Memory Verse #4)

As recommended by Beth Moore, I use a spiral bound set of note cards to keep track of my memory verses. I keep it on the window sill above my kitchen sink. It's a hazardous spot, (often splashed and once last year it got knocked into a sink full of mop water!) but I spend lots of time there when my hands are busy but my mind is relatively free, so there it stays.
A few days after coming home from Texas, I was doing the dishes and reading the first verses I had chosen for 2010:
Psalm 119:135 & 147 "Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees." "I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word."
I couldn't help but notice that the second verse there was all of a sudden forming a melody in my heart. Within the next few days, I had written a song composed entirely (except for maybe 2 words) of verses from Psalm 119. I have it basically memorized already, but want to keep letting it sink deeper into my heart. And I need to work a little more on the other verses I've been working on this year. I'll try to get the song posted one of these days... but for now, I'll just share the words.
Yes, it's a long song... but Psalm 119 is a long psalm! : )
(What are you memorizing???)

YOUR WORD (Psalm 119)

Your word, O LORD, is eternal

It stands firm in the heavens (89)

Your faithfulness continues

Through all generations (90)

Save me, for I am yours

I will search out your precepts (94)

You are my portion, O LORD (57)

Your hands made me and formed me

Give me understanding

To learn your commands (73)

Your decrees are the theme of my song (54)

Do not let me stray from your commands (10)

Preserve my life according to your word (25)

With all my heart I will seek You (10)

I rise before dawn and cry for help

I have put my hope in your word (147)

Make your face shine upon your servant

And teach me your decrees (135)

I have hidden your Word inside my heart

That I might not sin against You (11)

May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD

Your salvation according to your promise (41)

I call with all my heart; answer me O LORD

I will obey (145)

I am a stranger on earth

Do not hide your commands from me (19)

Open my eyes that I may see

Wonderful things in your law (18)

Do good to your servant, and I will live

I will obey your word (17)

You are my refuge and shield (114)

Your word is a lamp to my feet

And a light for my path (105)

My flesh trembles in fear of You

I stand in awe of your laws (120)

Do not let my hopes be dashed (116)

I have chosen the way of truth (30)

I will not neglect your word (16)

For You have set my heart free (32)

How sweet are your Words to my taste,

Sweeter than honey to my mouth! (103)

Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth

For I have put my hope in your laws (43)

Direct me in the path of your commands

For there I find delight (35)

May my lips overflow with praise (171)

May my tongue sing of your righteous Word (172)

And may your laws sustain me

Let me live that I may praise You (175)

I have not forgotten your commands

But I have strayed like a lost sheep

Lord, come and seek, find and save

Lord, come and seek your servant (176)

~Written by Melissa May 1.28.10

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Scripture Memory Celebration - The End!

Alright... it's been 3 weeks since my last day in Texas and I HAVE to get this post written! I'm sorry if you don't want a long post - because this is going to be long. (Again.) (Did you miss Part One, Part Two or Part Three?) Well, Saturday night after a refreshing and renewing and relaxing day, I ended up back at my hotel room knowing I needed to get packed and ready to be up early to catch my 8:55 flight home. I was trying to figure out how to get from the hotel to the freeway and back to the airport. Looked at my maps. Tried google maps and mapquest and was pretty sure neither of them were giving me the best info. Called the front desk and got some partially good advice from the guy there. THANKFULLY I had been driving around that part of Houston enough that weekend to know that when he said "turn left when you leave the hotel" that he really meant "turn right." The rest of what he said was good, but I realized that was another lesson: Be careful who you get advice from! It may or may not be all good! When in doubt, FOLLOW THE MAP!

 Before I tell you about the end of my trip, I want to remind you of something I wrote back in November... You can read the whole post if you want - but I was talking about how I had been feeling like I had been spiritually asleep and thought it was time to wake up. I said, "But I think my winter is almost over. I've started feeling more and more like I'm wrestling out of a cocoon or trying to wake up from a long nap - not fully asleep or fully awake yet. This week I found Ephesians 5 (as if for the first time) where it talks about living as children of light and the light making things visible and it reminded me of what I was praying about (and wrote about here) about Creation and the light and when I read Ephesians 5:14 it was as if God was whispering in my ear "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!" Yesterday I listened over and over to a fairly new song by Matt Maher called "Alive Again". (You can watch/listen to Matt explain the story behind the song HERE or you can listen to the song HERE.) It expresses so well what I'm feeling... or what I'm starting to feel... waking up, coming alive again... the light on the horizon when the sun's about to rise..."

OK. Do you see those words????? Ever since last March when I memorized Genesis 1:1-4, LIGHT has been a symbol of God working some things out in me and bringing order into the chaos there is in my life. I've been praying and working and trusting Him to "let there be light!" more and more in how I manage my days and hours and minutes and my home and my children. (In other words... how I manage ME.) I've been waiting for the sun to rise. And I just needed to explain that so you'll know why everything else I say in this post was such a big deal to me. : ) Here is what I wrote in my journal on the flight home about my drive from the hotel to the airport early Sunday morning...

"... it was so exciting to discover I was going to get to actually see a sunrise this morning!!! Just the anticipation of it made me cry as I was driving down 59... Lord, I love your ways!!! The songs on the radio made for the perfect worship time as I was driving - it was overwhelming. What's funny is that I was a bit concerned about missing the actual sunrise (if I got to the airport first and couldn't see it.) How silly - yet how predictable. :p So as I was driving, wondering if I would get to really see the sunrise or not... all of a sudden I realized why I kept feeling like I was watching a sunset instead of a sunrise. I had my internal directions completely flipped upside down. I KNOW the sun rises in the East. I knew from the map I was supposed to be on the 59 North, but I could not shake the feeling that I was driving South! I knew I had to be going the right way, but it FELT completely wrong. I started sort of desperately looking for a sign that would say 59 North so I'd know I was not only on the right road, but going in the right direction! : ) I was VERY relieved when I saw the signs - so I just kept following the signs and the MAP, even though it FELT COMPLETELY WRONG. I don't know yet what life is going to look like in these next months, but I DO believe Your Word is going to be my MAP even when it doesn't feel right. I'm so grateful that this morning even when I didn't "feel" it, I KNEW I was in the right place and on the right path. So comforting. "

This reminds me of when we were getting ready to go to Thailand to bring home our little guy and I was SO scared. My brain kept saying "THIS IS CRAZY!" But I KNEW we were on the right road... So glad we KNEW. More in the journal:

"So as I got closer to the airport, I started to see even more light starting to shine on the clouds and I listened to You - or felt Your leading more than heard it - almost like a silent usher : ) - to the end of the rental car structure where I had the PERFECT spot to STOP (alone) and watch one of THE MOST glorious sunrises I've ever seen in my life. I just stood there in wonder and cried. After all these words and thoughts about sunrises and the light... I just can hardly stand it. You are just so extravagant Lord. Oh, and for a while when I was driving it also sort of seemed like maybe the sun wasn't ever going to actually rise. Silly and illogical as that was, it actually crossed my mind! But that time You SAID, "the SUN ALWAYS RISES! And the SON always rises!" You can't not rise upon Your children! You can't not shine on Your children because You can't turn Your face away from us! You can't abandon Your own! : ) You will complete what You start. Today is a new day, Lord." I was OVERWHELMED.

And remember the story back in Part 1 about getting lost when I was leaving the airport on my way to the conference? Here's what I wrote about that: "I was a bit baffled by getting lost even when I was trying to follow - but I get it now. You wanted to be sure I know that when I DO miss Your leading, when I do lose my way, You will still be with me and You'll stop me - help me know I'm off track - and You'll lead me back. It might take help from others, but one way or another, You'll find me and lead me home."

I started crying again right now as I read/typed that. I think that was perhaps the most precious lesson of all. Fitting, too, considering that the lessons about Psalm 119 were intended to help us identify with the Psalmist's longings and loves. The whole Psalm is big and triumphant and frustrated and full of commitment to follow and obey God's commands and His pathways. Man, that is my life! Full of commitment to follow, and stumbling along - sometimes victoriously, sometimes NOT... But the Psalm ends on such a different note... "I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands." (verse 176) I've always wanted to follow God's direction - in the big and little things - and have wondered "but what about when I don't hear right? What about when I'm trying to hear You and think I hear You and it turns out I was wrong?" The temptation is to stop trying to listen for fear of not hearing right. But that can't be right. Instead God sweetly reminded me in such an unforgettable way that He will always be with me and when I stray (because I will!) He will still be there and as long as I want Him to, He'll find me and lead me home. 
The End. : )

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Scripture Memory Celebration Trip - Part 3!

(For Part One of this story, start HERE.)
Psalm 119:103 "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
I think I can sum up the whole Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration in one word: SWEET. Every aspect of it was just so sweet – from the time I spent with other Siestas, (that's what the girls that read Beth's blog are called. Started as a typo and stuck as a nickname. J) to the time I spent alone with Jesus, to the incredible sweetness of His Word. It was all so sweet!
Friday evening (after an interesting drive!) I finally arrived at the church and found everyone a couple of minutes after it started. My new friends Bethany & Yvonne (who I hadn't actually met in person yet!) had saved a seat for me in the very front row way over on the side of the room. It was so much fun to be so close to the action! There is something incredibly special (and sweet!) about 500+ women travelling from 48 different states (+ Canada!) all to celebrate memorizing Scripture together! So many of us had travelled alone, but there was an uncanny sense of sisterhood and connection that can only be explained by the fact that we are all part of the same family of God.
The teaching was on Psalm 119, which I will have to admit to you in the past I have not been super excited about. I was a bit like some of the Bible scholars who have said it's really long and an amazing piece of intricate poetry, but it's a bit repetitive. Let me say right now I DO NOT feel that way anymore!!! Now I think it's a lot like the Grand Canyon – and I had been looking at individual verses (there are some in it I have loved for years) like looking at beautiful rocks or trees with a magnifying glass instead of stepping back and marveling the whole amazing, beautiful landscape of it! I've known for years that almost every one of the 176 verses in it referred to God's word and always thought that was the theme of it. I wasn't completely wrong, but missed (again) the point. Beth explained to us that the theme of Psalm 119 is the longing of the Psalmist (who is anonymous, by the way) for God's REVELATION. And not just written! It's about loving and longing for God's word as written AND as spoken to our hearts, His instruction in the Bible and His leading us by His Spirit, His teaching in the Torah and the enlightening that comes when He lets us UNDERSTAND it. So much more than what I had thought before! And as she spoke about the Psalmists feelings, frustrations (with others and himself!), joys, longings, confusions, and rejoicings, we could all see how he was writing about the whole of life as we experience it – the highs, lows and roller coaster loops in between. I felt so inspired to keep seeking God's revelation in my life and in His Word. That night when I couldn't sleep at 3am I read through the whole Psalm TWICE, marking up all sorts of amazing verses I had never noticed before. I think the whole thing is so beautiful now that since I came home I even wrote a song about it using only scripture (except for a couple of words) straight out of Psalm 119. How's that for a change of attitude??? J
After the session Friday night, Beth (sorry… I just can't call her "Beth Moore" anymore b/c it sounds so impersonal) and her daughters and Travis (the worship leader) were all out in the lobby talking to people and taking pictures with people. There was a line to meet Beth, so we skipped it for that night (I was just getting to know Bethany and Yvonne as well!) but I did get to meet her daughter Melissa and I got to meet Travis! And I was standing so close to where Beth was taking pictures with people that I could have reached out and pulled her hair if I'd wanted to. But I think I would have gotten scolded so I didn't.) The whole night was fun. We found out on Saturday that we missed another chance to meet Beth after the Saturday session, but we left b/c we thought she wasn't coming back out that time. Bethany and I decided that God thought it would be better that way… less temptation to make it about her instead of about God. J We ended the whole thing with a loud celebration in song that I keep reliving b/c I downloaded the songs so I can keep remembering the thing. It was so good!
I also have to mention in here somewhere that my sweet, sweet husband had flowers delivered and waiting for me in my room when I checked in on Friday. They were just beautiful!
That afternoon I had my very first Chik-Fil-A sandwich with my new friends and then Bethany and I decided to do a little shopping together for souvenirs for ourselves and others. I was determined to find a new journal b/c I knew the one I was using was going to be full by the time I got home – AND I had asked God for a new journal anyway. (At the conference they gave everyone a weekly planner. Really cute, but my thought all the way until last Monday was "What in the world am I going to do with this?" J Well, God's teaching me. He knew I needed it.) I did find an adorable journal and we just enjoyed the most leisurely, sweet afternoon I've had in a very, very long time. Hard to even explain why, but it was a treasure. I think I so often even make relaxing so hard! I go on retreats and think so much about how to get the most out of my few hours of free time that I miss the FREE part of it!!!
Well, the best part of the afternoon was finding the Williams Water Wall with Bethany. (PLEASE click on this link and watch it for me!!! It's not my video, but I can't remember how to put the video on here and I really want you to see it!!!)
It was so absolutely breathtaking we couldn't wait to bring the other girls back that night after dinner to show it to them. We met up with several others for dinner and ended up all talking for so long that it was too late to go see it. I drove by it on my way back to my hotel, just to see it lit up at night and was amazed to see it wasn't even ON! I was so grateful God was sweet enough to keep us from dragging everyone over there for nothing. J I went back to my hotel that night feeling so satisfied, loved, full and blessed. I packed up my stuff, figured out how to get back to the airport and went to bed, not knowing that God had a grand finale in store for me that was more than I ever would have been able to imagine.
(Sorry to leave you with another cliff-hanger, but nobody else is folding the laundry or making dinner around here!) J