God has been doing much pruning in my life lately, which has been painful but good. He is such a gentle gardener. He has given me, through some friends, these two words that describe it so well:
Hymns of John Newton
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
and this from an anonymous author:
“Perhaps you have been asking the Lord for a long time that he will be pleased to use you in such a way as to impart impressions of Himself to others. That prayer is not exactly for the gift of preaching or teaching. It is rather that you might be able in your touch with others, to impart god, the presence of god, the sense of god. You cannot produce such impressions of god upon others without the breaking of everything, even your most precious possessions, at the feel of the Lord Jesus. Once that is reached, God will begin to use you to create a hunger in others. People will scent Christ in you. The least saint in the Body will detect that. He will sense that here is one who has gone with the Lord, one who has suffered, one who has not moved freely, independently, but who has known what it is to let go everything to Him. That kind of life creates impressions, and impressions create hunger, and hunger provokes men to go on seeking until they are brought by divine revelation into fullness of life in Christ. … god sets us here to create in others a hunger for Himself. That is, after all, what prepares the soil for the preaching.”
God has been loosening my grip on things other than him (through the miscarriages, my health issues, Rob being gone so much working on the house, changing churches): letting go of children, husband, ideal situations, my own imagined wisdom and strength–He really has been bringing me to the end of myself and to a complete dependance on Him–showing me my desperate need for Him each moment of the day. I know this is not a finished work, but I am thankful for His work of grace in my life.
Psalm 73:23-26 has become so real to me:
23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength  of my heart and my portion forever.
This past Saturday we had a last minute wedding to attend for a couple in our church. It was actually a remarriage/reconciliation, so it was extra special. We had it at the future church building which is still being remodeled, so there are tools and supplies and construction debris lying everywhere. The ceremony was very simple–just the reciting of vows and exchange of rings, a prayer and announcement of man and wife and the kiss. No music, no candles, no reception! The couple was dressed in work clothes because they had been helping with some of the work on the church beforehand!
As we were gathering around for the ceremony my friend Tammy told me to “Go up there and sing a wedding song!” I told her I didn’t know any wedding songs and I didn’t make any effort to think of one. Then suddenly the Lord put a song (The Lord Bless You and Keep You, from Nahum, as Michael Card sings it) in my mind and I knew it was from Him–so I silently said I would sing it whenever it
became clear it was the right time. My heart was pounding so hard during the ceremony. As soon as it was over I asked our pastor if I could sing a song and he said I could so I started singing–the pounding stopped and the song came out in a very powerful way. It was obviously of the Lord and not me, because I am a timid person normally.
The next day at church, the groom shared with me how blessed he had been by the song and shared that what encouraged him the most was that there we were in an unfinished, less than ideal situation for a wedding, and God chose to work. He mentioned the unfinished state of the building and the resulting “sweet acoustic” that is there because of all the hard surfaces in the room that won’t be there once it is finished. He applied that to our lives and said that God doesn’t need perfect situations to work in powerful ways, and that often He chooses to use less than ideal/perfect situations and people to do His most powerful work.
I agreed with him at the time, but the more I pondered what he said the more I realized that what he said had been a word from God to me–and I realized God had worked through me, blessed this man, and then spoken to me to tell me what He is doing in my life–causing me to let go of my obsession with the “ideal”, causing me to submit to Him leading me through hard things, causing me to expect Him to work powerfully in the daily trials of life as I cling to Him in prayer and dependence on Him and the work of the Spirit in my life.
This past week I experienced another miscarriage and I also gave in to the temptation to complain bitterly against Rob for dragging us through this remodel. I made him cry, and God used that to get my attention. I knew I needed correction in my thinking so I searched for messages on Sovereign Grace Ministries website and found Carolyn Mahaney’s “What To Do About The Things You Can’t Do Anything About”. It was great. Her main point was that all we go through is hand chosen for us by God, using John 21 as her text where Jesus tells Peter that he (Peter) will later die of Crucifixion.
As I listened, the Lord showed me that I was struggling with whether or not it was really God’s will for us to be going through this remodel because the decision to do so had come directly through my husband and not from God (to my human eyes anyway). I can’t blame the miscarriages on Rob but I can blame the difficulty of the remodel on him and second guess his “listening to God” skills. I became so ashamed when I realized that I was being unsubmissive, unloving, untrusting, dishonoring. . . He reminded me that even if Rob does make a sinful or unwise decision I am still supposed to honor him with a gentle and quiet spirit and trust God. He made it clear that Rob is NOT sinning or hearing from Him incorrectly and that He has a purpose for this hard, less than ideal situation. I have repented to God and to Rob, and I am excited for what God has and will do through this time.