ATTENTION: FOLLOWERS…I’ve lost you…and I moved…

Hi friends,

So, a brief note to say that if you don’t follow me by email, but by wordpress(55 of you)….I’VE LOST YOU. In other words, wordpress is no longer my host and this website no longer links to my current blog. Please, I’d love to see you subscribe over at www.refrainsofgrace.com. :)

For those of you who are my email subscribers, I’m going to manually move you over soon. :) So please, when you get the email saying whether or not you want to follow me, do confirm you do as you already are. I just have to help you over there. ;) If you do not confirm, you will no longer receive updates.

Sweet blessings to all….

With love,

Melanie

Five Minute Friday: Truth

 

(I haven’t done this in a while, but it came to mind tonight and I wanted to try. Yes, I admit, I fixed a few typos–for tonight hands fumbled over keys and words switched in my mind two words after I wrote them.  But really, this is my initial thoughts in five minutes on this word, this evening.)

Truth.

In a world where truth is what you think, what you want, what you feel, how do I know?

How do I find the reality in all the imaginary worlds people live in where they define who they are, what they do, etc.

Tonight, as I sat on the floor with my journal, the lyrics floated through my room. “My heart and my flesh may fail me, but I know this truth will remain: God, You are the strength of my heart, and my portion, forever.” This, I know is truth. My heart and my flesh do fail me. And yet the truth that resounds over and over in this life I live, with grace and glory and ache and tears is that God does not change…yesterday, today, or in forever. Never. My rock, my identity–the very meaning of my existence, I have found in the only One I have in heaven–Christ. My heart can cry “Whom have I in heaven but You?” Because I have none. No one who has proved faithful as He has. No one who has proved constant as He has. I have found truth in the reality of life that God made me for Himself, and I truly will not, cannot find meaning and purpose outside of Him. I will not, cannot find strength for existence in this world without Him.

Truth is that Christ died for sinful humanity, yes. But truth is also that Christ died for me. Aching, sinful, despicable me.

And truth is I’m called “Daughter” by the God of the universe. It’s not some euphorisitc (is that  word?) term. It’s my reality.

And I know–yes, I know…this is truth.

This November

photo-9

“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.” -L. M. Montgomery

It has been an autumn of busyness, memories, and things that stir the heart. I’ve been learning what it means to have a trust without borders, and how the King desires that in each of us.

Oh sweet fall, where trees turn color and autumn crunches under your feet and crisp breezes whip your hair. Leaves float on wind and create blankets on the ground, or bluster across the roads as you drive past.

Pumpkin coffee has been a dear friend to me this fall, on early morning commitments or drives to school…I cannot wait for the season of scarves and gloves and seeing my breath as I slip into a car amidst a frosty world. October is gone with scattered memories made, like senior pictures with my brother and frozen noses and wet toes from frosty grass melted on boots. Laughter, coffee, music. Can he really be this old? We were 11 and 9 just yesterday, weren’t we? Where does time go?

And grace echoes over God-desires, soul struggles, silent ponderings of the heart, unknown futures and todays’ tasks. Music plays often as I drive.  To worship, always worship. To dwell, abide–be purposeful in directing my heart and thoughts back to Him.

Just this morning my brother sees me in kitchen…”Oh wait! You live here.” It has been a season of being gone much, and yet a season of much grace filled with seeking to follow the Lord’s leading as He tenderly holds my hand. This year has been one of seeing myself as Yahweh’s daughter. One whom He loves dearly, and disciplines/refines with firm compassion and determination. He desires nothing unholy to remain in His beloved, and I know He will not stop short of purifying me.

So I live fall this year, soaking in the colors and the season that seemed to come in its fullness Thursday. I’m thinking I may be out of state next fall and how many TN falls will I know after this? Oh! Perhaps many, perhaps none, and yet there is a sweetness in being present here. I don’t want to just live motions of the routine of daily life. I need to learn to be diligent–and yet I also want to learn to stop short, breathe deep, and worship. Take a moment to drink in that there is still grace in this world, that amidst the hate, the brokenness, the ache, the searching, Christ is the answer–the one who was before all and in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17), and the one who died to make us His own.

So I want to live this November of my life with a deeper learning, a greater intimacy, and sweeter walk with my Jesus. And I want to enjoy the season–this season of brisk weather and warm colors and candles and hot drinks.

Because just as quickly as the seasons change, so the seasons of my life change, and I’ll never be right here again.

I Have Christ

 

Give me Christ, my sin o’erwhelming
Bound by old man Flesh’s lies
Royalty, He’s set me free
From condemned life and deceived mind.

Give me Christ, my one petition
I bring nothing in self-worth
I am worthless, He is all things
Called me by name upon my birth.

I have Christ–the old man’s left me
I’ve put on Christ, because of grace
Me in Him, and Him within me
A constant looking to His face.

I have Christ, this Holy Spirit
Which enables me to walk
Consecrated, holy, blameless
In every action, every thought.

I have Christ, O Glorious Gospel!
That gives me hope for each new day
Ever forward, onward, upward
Into frontiers of His grace.

I have Christ! This is the difference
Between me and all the world
Changed behavior, because my Savior
Spared me from Almighty’s sword.

Ah, I have Christ! I am His daughter
Let me be known under His name
Yes, I have Christ; I call Him Savior
Worthy is the Lamb who for me was slain!

To Know

“True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie” (Tozer).

Abba,

I want to behold You tonight.

I want to know you as my Beloved again, and find an always increasing delight within my heart in who You are.

I was reminded in a devotional Sunday, that I can’t place unwavering faith in One whose character I do not know. A known character that warrants my confident trust.

So tonight….Abba, help me dwell.

He is…

My glory (Psalm 3:3).

My righteousness (Psalm 4:1).

My King (Psalm 5:2).

My God (Psalm 5:2).

In just the first five Psalms David cries out “my God.” Not the “Israelites God” or “the God,” but “my God.”

I want to know Him as my God. My Beloved One. 

Who is this God?

One who knows the ways of the righteous (Psalm 1:6).

One who scoffs at arrogance (Psalm 2:4).

One whose fury is terrifying (Psalm 2:5).

One who owns the nations and the earth (Psalm 2:8).

One who blesses all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2:12).

One who is my shield (Psalm 3:3).

One who is my glory (Psalm 3:3).

One who lifts my head when I am weighed down (Psalm 3:3).

One who answers my aching cry (Psalm 3:4).

One who is Holy (Psalm 3:4).

One who sustains me (Psalm 3:5).

One who banishes my fear (Psalm 3:6).

One who saves (Psalm 3:7).

One who destroys my enemy (Psalm 3:7).

One to whom salvation belongs (Psalm 3:8).

One who blesses me (Psalm 3:8).

One who is my righteousness (Psalm 4:1).

One who gives me relief when I am distressed* (Psalm 4:1). (*The Hebrew here seems to indicate as though one was pressed in on all sides in a closed space. How He knows how our souls feel at times!)

One who is gracious to me (Psalm 4:1).

One who hears my prayers (Psalm 4:1).

One who sets me apart for Himself, by His grace (Psalm 4:3).

One who hears when I call to Him (Psalm 4:3).

One in whom I can trust (Psalm 4:5).

One who lifts up the light of His face upon me (Psalm 4:6).

One who gives me exceeding joy (Psalm 4:7).

One who gives me peace (Psalm 4:8).

One who causes me to dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).

One who hears my words (Psalm 5:1).

One who hears and considers my groanings (Psalm 5:1).

One who gives attention to the sound of my cry (Psalm 5:1). I cannot help but think of how a mother is so quick to notice her baby’s cry–to assess the reason, to do what she believes is best for the situation to care for her little one–to cuddle it close, or let it continue. Does not our Father know us in such a way?

One who hears my cry in the morning (Psalm 5:3).

One who does not delight in wickedness (Psalm 5:4).

One who not just will not, but cannot dwell with evil (Psalm 5:4).

One who will not look upon the boastful (Psalm 5:5).

One who hates all evildoers (Psalm 5:5).

One who destroys liars (Psalm 5:6).

One who abhors bloodthirsty men (Psalm 5:6).

One who abhors deceitful men (Psalm 5:6).

One who gives me steadfast love (Psalm 5:7).

One who allows me to enter His house because of His love (Psalm 5:7).

One whom I bow before in fear (Psalm 5:7). I am compelled to a holy fear as I consider His nature. He is altogether pure, and oh! Apart from Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf I would not even be able to enter His house, for I too would be counted an evildoer, a liar, a bloodthirsty man!

One who is righteous (Psalm 5:8).

One who makes His way straight before me (Psalm 5:8).

One who fills with joy those who take refuge in Him (Psalm 5:11).

One who fills me with so much joy I cannot help but sing (Psalm 5:11).

One who spreads His protection over me (Psalm 5:11).

One whose name I may exult (Psalm 5:11).

One who blesses me, by His grace (Psalm 5:12).

One who covers me with favor as a shield (Psalm 5:12).

Because of Christ, He is all these things to me (Ephesians 1:4-5). I have done nothing to merit this. Any of this.

And yet in just five Psalms I can get a list this long of what is just a tiny, tiny glimpse of who my God is.

Oh! That I might know Him.

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).

Persevering Faith.

Kendahl

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come’ (Matthew 14:22-29).”

~

I heard You say it, I know You did

You called me out into the waves and wind

And for a moment I was brave and strong

But now everything is going wrong…

-Lindsay McCaul-

Christ calls His children to His purposes. How quickly are we at times, in the initial moment to echo Peter, ” ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water'” (Matthew 14:28). And when Christ says “Come” we jump to follow….

But I am realizing that real faith takes perseverance. Really believing the truths of God takes a real, down-to-earth faith that is willing to believe it’s God regardless of what things look like around us. When real faith doubts the natural realm, it remains steady in the God who rules the natural realm.

It seems easy to have faith when we can so vividly see the Lord at work in our lives, or in circumstances. But what about when sight and hearing and feeling all disappear and we’re left with nothing but aching emotion and raw circumstance? I believe this is when the trust test of exercising faith comes…Christ Himself says real faith becomes the evidence of things not seen. This statement itself clarifies we will not always see in the natural realm circumstances or situations that will naturally cause us to believe. But faith becomes real when we don’t see and yet turn to the promises of God and say yes, these are all “amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Sight is not faith, and hearing is not faith, neither is feeling faith; but believing when we neither see, hear, nor feel is faith; and everywhere the Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore we must believe before we feel, and often against our feelings, if we would honor God by our faith.

-Hannah Whitall Smith-

We honor Christ by our faith, because when we live faith we are saying, “Yes God, Your word is true. Yes God, you cannot lie.”

Where do we find the strength to trust, and have faith, when our world begin to crumble around us?

In Christ.

How weary our hearts can be, and how He knows this and longs to hear those deepest struggles and trials. There was a quote that I read years ago that came to mind recently:

“Trust me, my child,” He says.

“Trust me with a fuller abandon than you ever have before.

Trust me, as minute succeeds minute,

every day of your life, for as long as you live.

If you become conscious of anything hindering our relationship,

 do not hurt me by turning away from me.

 Draw all the closer to me, come, run to me.

Allow me to hide you, to protect you, even from yourself.

Tell me your deepest cares, your every trouble.

Trust me to keep my hand upon you. I will never leave you.

I will shape you, mold you and perfect you.

Do not fear, O child of my love, do not fear.

I love you.”

-Amy Carmichael-

I think, as young women, we often over analyze things, grow anxious, and become tied in knots in our hearts via our emotions. I think one of the simplest things we can learn, and that I am learning, is to take each burden before the Lord in prayer, one by one. There is such a peace that comes over my soul even after just a little time of heartfelt prayer before my God.

Prayer is exercising faith.

Faith that God exists, and faith that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

We cannot “be still,” unless we “know that He is God.”

We were saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We cannot accept grace if we do not believe it exists. We cannot trust God if we do not believe He is who He says He is.

Neither can we accept the promises of God in His word as true, if we are unwilling to believe that when He says something, He means it.

We have these truths from His word:

God, our Abba, has blessed us in Christ with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places–even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. He chose us to what purpose? That in Christ, we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Christ, we have redemption….forgiveness…according to the riches of His grace, which He has lavished upon us. He set forth His eternal purpose and His will in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1).

How can we doubt this God who has given us so much?

God has given us His promises…and they are to be claimed by faith, through Christ. I am utterly amazed at the simplicity of it all, as I have experienced in my own life when I have claimed a promise by faith–faith given by my King–and faith that enables me to believe.

Faith that He’ll give me trust.

Faith that He is sovereign.

Faith that His Gospel is true everyday.

If I lose sight of the Gospel, I lose sight of a reason to live. But He is my reason to live.

By faith in Christ, I have found life, and life abundant.

Sisters, let’s approach Him with faith. We call God a liar too much through our doubt….we can read over and over in Scripture that He calls us to faith. But not just faith…persevering faith. A faith that is made real because of a Son who died that we might be so lavishly blessed by our God.  A faith that really believes in the promises of God.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 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 5:5-

~

“So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:29-33).

Blog Name Change: From Forever His Servant to….

Crisp fall air began to creep in my open window as the sun set this evening. Here on my desktop, I’ve been sorting through over 600 pictures from a Senior photo shoot I did yesterday. I’m down to under 200 now.

But that said, I wanted to let you all  know that yes, I’m changing the name of my blog. Over the next bit, the changes may be rough, as I sort out getting a link to match etc. But really, this new name has been laid on my heart for a while now, and I’m ready.

Forever His Servant, though a name I will always treasure, is one that I chose years ago and is one that remained through season I will never forget. I can’t even remember how I came up with it. But it worked, and it worked well..I loved the message and idea behind it.

And yes, I know there are some bumps in changing a blog name. People who read and know the name Forever His Servant most likely won’t find my blog when they search for that in the future (though I am seeking to have my old blog address map to the new one). I know the friends God wants to lead here–old and new–will be led here, and I don’t have to worry about it. :)

I was  going to wait and change the name when I had a new blog design and new pages and new etc. to go with it. But I think that will be a little while as other things are taking priority right now.

So…

Forever His Servant, will now be….

Refrains of Grace.

Why? Because there are two things that are incredibly precious to me, wrapped up in this title. Christ, and Music. Christ is my life, and music is part of me. I don’t know how to word it, really.

In songs, you will have verses, the part of the song that has different lyrics each time. However, particularly in old hymns, there is often also a section that you always come back to and repeat. This is called the refrain. What I’ve been realizing is that the end of every dark trial, the end of every valley, the end of every struggle, the end of every night filled with crying, the end of every precious memory, the end of every question, the end of every joy, the end of every season……

…..is a refrain of Grace.

God’s fingerprints are over every story and His goodness does not end.  No matter how dark the night, joy comes in the morning. The principle of every season ending with a refrain of grace was impressed upon me in particular this summer, and furthermore as I have looked back over the seasons He has led me through thus far. The refrain of this song of my life is always grace…for He works all for good to those who love Him, and to a believer, every day is the Gospel….Grace…to be meditated upon, to be lived, to be believed, to be treasured, to be proclaimed. The end of every story for His children is a refrain of grace.

So all that to say, welcome. Welcome to merely a new title that holds precious meaning to me, and a truth I hope to rest in more and more as I grow in grace. I’m still the same girl…but learning to live every story in light of the truth that every season’s script ends in a refrain of grace. Glorious truth. Glorious King.

Beggars Sharing Gifted Bread

As I read Evangelism Is…it’s interesting that pictures of people come to mind. Who are those I have seen live this out? Who are those whom I’ve seen forget the crowd for the one? Who are those who have truly tasted and seen that the Lord is good and can’t help but share?

I remember this summer, walking down unknown streets filled with people…people heading to the baseball game, people heading to the bars to drink, people fellowshipping with family.

I remember the impression of one friend because I saw Jesus in them. No person could talk to them without hearing of the Gospel somehow; if there was a noted non-Christian in the group, like glue and water you’d be sure to see them together. Scripture, Gospel, joy…in seriousness, love, compassion, and obedience, truth would be spoken, and though perhaps not believed, heard. I remember wanting that same passion, wanting to love the Gospel that much.

I remember clutching my sack dinner as we waded through the crowds, trying to keep track with the other two leaders of the  8 or so younger girls. I remember walking past him. The stench…of the sore and the swollen infection and most likely the lack of a shower for weeks…how can one’s heart ache and be repulsed at the same time? My conscience seared me as I kept walking, as amidst the business of the streets everything froze in my mind to the scene behind me slowly fading farther and farther as the distance lengthened between us. I must have gotten Jess’ attention somehow, because I told her I had to go back for something. She could wait or come. I found myself dropping a track in my sack dinner.
 I spun around and walked quickly, as if somehow walking faster would blur my mind from thinking twice or reconsidering.

I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how long it took. But I handed him the bag and it was done. He had the Gospel and food in that sack. (However squished it was from hours of being in the sack, poor man).

Should I have stayed and talked with him? I don’t know. But what I do know is that evangelization can begin with the little steps. God has been opening my timid heart to be bold in spoken word. I can write it without fear, fine. But it is in the speaking I confess with my lips whom my Savior is and who I am in Him. (“That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” [Philemon 1:6]).

Or door to door evangelizing, when your heart wells in your throat and you struggle to speak the words. But He grants grace and quiet peace steals over your heart and you find words to speak. The first time I went I came home ashamed at the crippling affect I allowed fear to have. The second time I came home overwhelmed by grace.

Sharing of the Gospel must stem from a love for the Gospel. A man once said that evangelism is merely “one beggar telling another where to find bread.“ Gifted bread, I might add, for as the great preacher Peter Marshall said, with a strong Scottish accent “Religion is not for sale, it is given away” (A Man Called Peter). The Gospel is given as bread from one beggar to another. Yet how can one who has not realized a need for bread share with any real passion or persuasion the beautiful truth that he has found the free gift of bread?

We who have recognized our need, tasted, and been filled are called to share the Gospel. Oh! We need to ponder what this means for us moment by moment–whether through servant evangelism that presents the Gospel in visible ways, to speaking the words of truth. God alone brings the increase, but oh that by His grace we might plow and plant so that He can bring rain! He does not need us, but He chooses to use us, and it is through the Spirit in us that the Word goes forth with power to save. I think often times we hesitate to evangelize because we don’t think we can convince, convict, or persuade someone of the Gospel. Frankly, we’re not called to. We’re called to share the truth. The Spirit does the convicting, convincing, and persuading in the heart however He may choose to do so.

This fall, the way things worked out, I am taking online classes and going to a community college. I’m planning on transferring the community college classes into Liberty University Online. And earlier this year as I looked toward the fall semester, I dreaded it…was scared, uncertain, unsure, and far from ready.

And yet through a series of events this summer—through the week I shared a glimpse of above, or through my time at the Ranch etc, the Lord renewed and stirred afresh a deeper affection for the truths of the Gospel in my heart. I was suddenly eager for school and a chance to try and share light in a dark place. As I met a new set of strangers who turned friends in a week, every week up at the Ranch, I realized that each person I see daily is merely a human, just like me. People don’t intimidate me so much anymore. Walking on my college campus, I can make eye contact, smile, talk. What can man do to me? And what does it hurt to smile? How I long to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Why do we care so what people think, particularly when it comes to sharing the Gospel? If we are doing so biblically…in love and humility…and people reject us, have we not done our part? Have you ever regretted saying yes to God or going the extra mile to serve and honor Him? Oh! May God bring us from the point of doing the bare minimum…not so that we do more, as if to be found more righteous, but oh! That our hearts might have an affection for the Savior that compels us to run towards Him past the mere bar of “right.” That truly causes us to lay down our lives in the sharing of the Gospel. We are to be His witnesses. We are called to evangelize, sisters. We are called to share good news. That’s why we’re here. To bring Him glory as we delight in Him, and share of the treasure that has been given to us.

To share bread….with those who are dying of hunger.
To share bread…to those who have not tasted.
To share bread…and watch it multiply to feed 5 thousand and 10 thousand and more and more…and our King is lifted high as the sheep fold increases only by His Spirit’s power at work.
To share bread…that as we have received the gift, others may too.

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).

Not waiting for tomorrow.

blackandwhite

Wow. Two full months later and yet it feels like a lifetime. July 6th I left for Texas and a week later I flew to a Christian Dude Ranch in the Rocky Mountains where I spent a month, and now life finds me back home, two days away from most of my classes starting for this semester, and just a little bit older.

I think often times as young women, we live in tomorrow without realizing it.

We live in the tomorrow of marriage, maybe some more than others. But dreams of what “may be” and dreams of “what I want to be” keep us from seeking to live and be those things today.

Something God has been teaching me, sisters, and something I want to share with you who are nearing or walking in the college season, is that we can’t put acts of grace on hold until marriage.  I’ve known that, but God is starting to teach me to live the learning now. I was going to stop and pick up homeless people in my car–when I had a husband with me,  I was going to be so hospitable–when I was married, serve in various capacities–when I was married, invest in these opportunities etc.–when I was married.

Up at the Ranch, I had the opportunity to spend a quiet afternoon in a little coffee shop I love, and on the full bookshelf of treasures in the cafe I found Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest For Love for about $3. I read it years ago, but reading it now, a few years later, a few years older, a few years wiser, I find the Lord teaching me lessons through it I did not see that first time through.

Elisabeth Elliot quotes one young man: “The Lord taught me that preparing for marriage is ‘not so much a matter of finding the right person as it is becoming the right person.'”

Just as much as God is preparing our future husbands to be the men we “need” them to be, He is preparing us as young women to be the specific wives they “need” us to be for the glory of His kingdom. In His grace the Lord has been showing me specific areas I have the opportunity to grow in right now that will not just better serve my husband when and if the Lord brings that commitment, but also enable me to serve the Lord more fully.

But most of all, what I am learning is that God desires to take each one of us and bring us to a point where we can look at life and say “He is enough”. I was riding in the back seat of my former Ellerslie classmate’s car from the Ranch to the airport on the first leg of my trip home when I heard her say it.  She was sharing that she is content being single right now and how she has been realizing in what a literal sense the Lord is her husband and bridegroom– her Provider, her Sustainer, her Lover.

And I was standing out near the coral, with laughter echoing in the background and the sun setting when a dear sister and fellow staff member was gently sharing with me. She’s in a courtship now and looking back on how she lived her single years, she’s able to say she has no regrets, and she was exhorting me to seek to live in such a way that I’ll be able to say the same someday. She lived them fully, and I believe she lived them fully for her King.

With no regrets. I want to look back on my single years and be able to say the same. That I don’t regret how I spent them; how they were lived. With two of my dearest childhood girlfriends getting engaged in the past couple of months, perhaps I’ve been thinking about this more of late than I have in a while. This season, this time of life. I don’t know what the future will hold, and yet for one of the first times, I really can say I don’t need or want to.

Girls, live free from an consuming desire of marriage and fully in what God has set before you today. That doesn’t mean stuff desires down, pretending like they don’t exist. Rather, take those desires before the Lord, lay them there, and move forward. Don’t wait to be the person of grace you hope to be when your married, until your married. Sure, there are certain things one will only learn and only be able to do in marriage, but I was realizing that many of the things I was unconsciously putting on hold were things I could do today. Because what if marriage never comes? I don’t think my Lord will take my good intentions of “but Lord, I was waiting to do that when I was married” as a valid excuse.

Growing up, I slowly gathered my list of morals, and I had the standards of a “set-apart lifestyle.” But what was lacking was a true relationship with Christ. This turned into a legalism that was a cycle for me of seeking to please Christ through what I could do to honor Him. Even though I had head knowledge that I did not have to “earn” His favor, it did not click in my heart until my later high school years. When I realized that my standards were not to earn God’s favor, but were rather to be an outflow of love and thankfulness in seeking to honor Him, my whole perspective changed. I still had many of the same standards, however, the Lord began to teach me what it meant for those to stem from an adoration and love for my Savior.

Absolute surrender is a lesson He’s been teaching me over the past couple of year specifically, and yet I think as I grow older the depth and truth of it hits me in new ways in each season He highlights it in. A couple years ago, I wrote about absolute surrender on this blog. And yet, I am now learning that lesson in a much more real way, because it wasn’t until after that season that I believe I reckoned God’s grace as really true in my heart. I’m realizing that God is–in not just a figurative sense, but a literal sense–calling us to death. He’s calling us to a relationship and a commitment to follow Him that stems from a love and trust that cannot help but say “yes,” even when it is a cry of “though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.” We’re meant to count the costs. And oh! May we always give a resounding “yes”…because of the riches of the fullness of Christ and what He has done and continues to do for us.

“You cannot possibly be more useful to God than by walking in obedience” (Rebekah Scheiman). I want to walk in obedience in the here and now. My life isn’t on hold because I am walking with my Savior today. He is the reason I live, the reason I am living today, in this circumstance, with these people, with this trial or joy. I’m not more useful to God by planning on being more useful tomorrow and waiting to be useful in those specific ways until then. God is able to use me as a vessel of Himself  when I surrender today. When I yield, sensitive to His voice and leading in the specific situations I’m facing, today. When I say yes, today. When I seek to delight in Him fully, today.

So I enter my Junior year of college and see the next two very full semesters. I know it is going to be a busy season, and yet a full and beautiful busy season because I’m walking with the Savior today.

I’m not waiting for tomorrow.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

From a daughter to her Father

girls

My Dear Jehovah Abba,

I’ll never be able to quite capture both your holiness and yet role as Father in my life…how I long to balance both, and today I find myself lifting my eyes to the hills where I see both my Abba, and my God.

As Father’s Day dawned this morning, I realized that wait, it was Father’s Day…how it snuck up this year as summer camp was this past week, and how over the past three or so weeks, one thing I’ve been realizing is that you know what will bless me and what I need more than I do and have been giving me gifts I have not merited and that have blessed me beyond words. I’ve been realizing that you truly are my Father and treat me as such. 

Daddy? I just want to say “thank you.” If I could write you one letter today, I would want it to be a letter of thanksgiving and praise–for You are so worthy of both.

My heart is freshly amazed and stirred in affection towards the Gospel after this past week. Thank you, thank you, that the truth of life is that you are a Holy God who is utterly set apart from us. Thank you that you are absolutely holy and call us to a standard we are in our own strength and ability incapable of reaching when you say “you shall be holy as I am holy.” And yet, thank you, that in your justice, you did not leave us condemned to die. For you are love…”Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Thank you that I was lost in my sin–that I was a wretch–for if I had not been, I would not have known amazing grace. Yes, I was numbered with the sinners…yes, if no one else had lived, Christ still would have had to go to the cross….for me. I was earning the wages of sin–my own death (Romans 6:23), yes, I was rejecting God and heading to eternal damnation (Matthew 10:28). And this sin? It separated me entirely from you. The thing I now fear most was then a reality.

Thank you that I was a sinner, for I was a sinner. J. C. Ryle wrote in his book Holiness, “the slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God’s revealed will and character constitues a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God’s sight” (2). “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). This was me, for oh yes, Daddy, do you remember how often I failed? Even my best tries at good works fell short. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8; Isaiah 64:6).

Thank you that you didn’t leave me there condemned to die, but that you provided a way for my saving.  Thank you for sending Jesus Christ as one who was both fully man and yet fully God, as one who lived a sinless, perfect life, and as the perfect sacrifice in our place for sins. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Thank you for pouring out your wrath on Him, and not me. Thank you for showing the epitome of love…in laying down your life that I might live. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

He loved me even while I yet spurned Him. What love is this? The Spirit penned through Paul in Romans 5 the following words: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

He died on the Cross at Calvary for my sins, taking upon Him the wrath of God that I, the guilty one might go free–Jesus, my Savior, thank you.
Thank you, because it didn’t end there….but after three days you rose from the dead, conquering death, and yes…my Savior? You live today. Oh glory.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Abba? I am reminded of the privilege I have in calling you that. Thank you for stirring in my heart a desire for You and the Gospel. “I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love” (Spurgeon).

Thank you for stirring a desire for repentance and turning from my sin–for if all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), I know I have also–in my heart that led me to the Gospel. For I had grieved many a time over my sin in wordly grief, but it was your grace that brought me to repentance. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Thank you that as I turned to you and confessed my sin before you, you were faithful and just to forgive me of my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Thank you for being the bridge over the chasm–for eliminating the chasm–that separated me from God. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18). Thank you for helping me not just hear that you died for me, but believe and place my very confidence and faith in the fact that you died in my place, rose from the dead (Romans 10:9), are Lord, that I must follow You, and that You are truly the only way to real life (John 14:6).

Thank you that I know you cannot lie and thus I also know Your word that says “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) is true. Thank you that even though I had come to you many a time before and walked away not truly placing my faith in you (Matthew 7:21), that by Your grace I did eventually respond by placing my faith in Christ Jesus. Thank you that, in Christ, I no longer stand condemned (Romans 8:1).

Thank you for stirring a burning desire to walk in your commandments. Thank you for renewing that desire when it has grown faint. Thank you that though I am faithless, You remain faithful and unchanging. Thank you for  giving me a love for Your word, a desire to obey, a love for Your people, and by Your grace, fruit of the Spirit in my life. Thank you for sealing me with Your Holy Spirit; I would be so lost without the strength, help, and comfort of the Spirit in me! (Colossians 1:27). “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Gospel is no longer a Bible Story I once colored pictures of, or a prayer I prayed so I wouldn’t go to hell. It’s no longer felt figures or Children’s Bible Stories or just words I heard, but rather a living, precious reality in my life. Oh, thank you, Abba, that I have truly been “crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). I live by faith, and I know that my confidence is not in vain for He who has promised is faithful.

Abba, thank you for adopting me as Your daughter. I can’t imagine having any other Father. I’m just in awe; tears of thanksgiving fill my eyes. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).

I was a slave, standing up in shame on a sales platform. And yet you came–do you remember?–and bought me and set me free…you asked of me nothing but to come and follow You…to follow the example you had set–and you welcomed me into your home as your daughter. You clothed me in a garment white as snow, and gave me an eternal inheritance. I was not just bought as a slave to come work in your house. I was bought and given the title of daughter–of princess. That the King of kings would come and purchase a beggar who had scorned and spit upon Him…I am in awe and I am so thankful.

Abba, thank you for being faithful time and time again. As a daughter who has been learning what it means to know you as her Father, I find myself in awe of what a Father’s love looks like. You’ve disciplined me, been patient with me, listened when I doubted and should have just read and rested in Your word. You’ve tried to warn me before I’ve made mistakes and I haven’t listened, and yet you’ve helped me back on my feet. You yearn for me to be holy as You are holy and it’s for that reason that you are training me and don’t just let me go my own way. You didn’t give up on me and you brought me into a knowledge of the Gospel. Thank you; words cannot express my thanks.

Abba? If ANY father deserves honor today, it’s you. I’ve given you my life–I have nothing more to give–but oh, may that life–that small life, be an anthem of worship and praise to a God who is so worthy of my everything. I have no second thoughts; I am so happy as Your daughter…I am thankful.

Happy Father’s Day, Abba. I love you.

Because of You,

Melanie

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood” ~Frances J. Crosby