Growth Points & Pains Part 4

Sometimes our Pastor gets excited about the message and forgets to give us a title...either that or I missed it. Anyway, part four is about letting go of "me" and letting God transform me. Real life is only life in Him. This is the sermon  that struck me the most. It was also the one that I struggled with the most. I've had a dream all my life, and I knew it was not the route God or my parents wanted me to go. I wasted 10 years of my life wanting something I shouldn't have. But until this sermon opened my eyes, I didn't realize how wrong I was. During the invitation of this sermon, I told God to take my dream. I told Him I was ready for what He wanted.

When I was eight years old I wanted, more than anything, don't laugh now, to be an actress. Not movies, or Broadway, I was too sensible for that- give me some credit here. I thought, my dreams were pretty practical. I wanted to act. I felt I had to. It's sort of an ingrained thing, a part of me. I had to *ahem* let it go. (forcing myself to keep writing and not break into song...) Anyway, singing and acting were my "thing". I was, let's face it, am a bit of a ham and always loved when an opportunity was proffered. So I took part in church skits, formed musical revues at home, and jumped up and down with joy when visiting friends asked us to perform our signature songs of "Plant a Radish" and "Never Say No" from the Fantasticks. (Great play, by the way.)

I distinctly remember when this dream first presented itself. Mom was working in the kitchen of our townhouse, by the stove. I stood next to her a moment and then told her, "Mama, when I grow up, I want to be an actress." She stopped what is was she was working on, She turned to me, and, in that tone that so many know that know my mom, that tone that distinctly says that she understands all the details and knows what's best for you, said "No." Simple as that. She wasn't being cruel. She wasn't crushing me. (For one thing, I'm not one easily crushed.) She was stating fact. You can't be an actress. For years I thought that if I became good at acting, gained experience, practiced a lot, one day I'd be a great actress, and then Mom would see that she was wrong. That was where I was horribly wrong- my Mom is hardly ever wrong. She simply isn't.

When Sam was about 4, I decided that 3 boys and 3 girls was ideal for a family acting troupe. I don't know how that got in my head, but it was fun. We put on a nativity every year for Pa and Mama, we randomly sang and danced, wrote ridiculous club rules and generally forgot the rule about attending meetings after the first 2 months. The Wachter Wagon Grammar School Drama Club was never officially disbanded, but more died.

As I went through my teen years, I hung onto this. Never breathed a word to anyone, though. Dropped hints to my parents. They loved theater, and for a treat, Pa and Mama would take us 'big girls' to a local dinner theater to see a musical. Fantastic theater, by the way, never seen anything there that wasn't done wonderfully. Back to the point.

A few years pass. It's 2010; I'm now 19 years old. This was to be a year of lessons yet to be learned. I was being worn down by some massive changes. My baby brother miscarries. Some massive changes occur in my extended family. I graduate high school and Bible institute. My dear Pastor dies. One would easily be moved to examine their life. Finally, God has worn down my pride enough that I submit to be baptized and become a member of the church.

And that's when things started changing. Drastically. What I wanted was replaced by an earnest call to ask God what He wanted from me. I learned what "follow me" really meant. It meant dropping my dreams, as Peter, Andrew, James and John dropped their nets, the symbol of their livelihoods, and left all to follow Christ into the unknown. I was thrilled to start the new leg of my journey. But didn't know where God wanted me just yet. But it was a start, to drop the complacency in my walk and discontent in my place and position. Pa offered me a job working as Mom's personal assistant, secretary and assistant/substitute teacher. And I love it. I love working at home, I love the jobs I'm called on to do. The variety, the flexibility, even the essence of controlled chaos are all a cherished part of my life. And I never would have seen it. Nearly unfathomable.

Working at home is lovely, but I still felt like there was something that God wanted me to do. Not many ideas presented themselves, or when they did, didn't last long.

The year, 2012; the season, summer. School was now officially out at the WWA, and so my mornings were a bit more my own. Brianna, Emma and I form a morning study group between the three of us, working through Brett and Alex Harris' books Do Hard Things and Start Here. Together, these books opened my eyes to a whole new level of Christian living. The Active Christian. Now, my parents had always demonstrated this, and taught it to me, but it was through these morning times of study and prayer with two of my best friends that made me claim it as my own.

May came up fast and Sister's Day was upon us (you can read about what this is here) , and I'd found a tutorial online for little patchwork wristlets, and made one for each of my sisters and for Mom. They turned out really cute, and Mom suddenly had a stroke of inspiration-she suggested I make them to sell, both pre-made and custom. Everyone there dubbed it a neat idea, and moved on. But a chord had been struck. Some time passed, prayers and planning going into this little idea until June 2012, when A Stitch In Lives was born. When we told some friends about my new business, they jumped on board big time. People started bringing me old patterns they didn't plan on using again. Some donated yard upon yard of fabrics in all styles, weights and prints, cut or uncut. My Aunt Dawn started clearing out shelves at her local Joann's Fabrics and mightily convenient thrift shop for zippers, buttons, trims, patterns, snaps thread, needles, notions, remnants, you-name-its and what-have-yous. Others gave an encouraging word or placed custom orders. Even our local Joann's ran interfacing (of which you use a LOT of in bag design) on sale. My very tech-talented sister set up and designed a website for me. So every single step of the way, the doors were flung wide, the path made clear. This was without doubt where God wants me.

And here I am, dozens of bags and hundreds of Henry Owls later. And excited to see what's in store.

Do I still struggle with contentment? Of course. This is something I'll most likely battle my whole life. But Christ has already won the victory, so I need not live in a spirit of discontentment. Ever again.

What is it that you fight down every day? Anger, resentment, apathy, bitterness, discontentment? It's tough to keep going, to keep the battle raging. Trying to beat it down on your own is tough, and leads to failure over and over again. So discouraging. But get this:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."-Matthew 11:28

Loosely paraphrased, Jesus calls out to the world and says "If you've got something to heavy to carry-DROP IT! Just come to me, and I'll will give you the sweet rest and peace you've been longing for!" (like I said, loosely) Can't you just picture Jesus with his arms outstretched and a welcoming smile for all those he was addressing?

Just lay it down. Don't be the stubborn child holding onto a sharp knife, while wise father asks him to put it down and come to him. Drop it already! Move on from what you think is best and embrace the best of what God has for you.

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."-Matthew 16:24, 25


Growth Points & Pains Part 3- "Follow Me"

"Follow Me".

A simple enough request.


One definition of "follow" is to "accept the authority of". Another says to "conform to". This means  we are to become Christ-like by treading in His footsteps. Have you ever heard the full song of "Good King Wenceslas"? In the song, the servant of the king can't keep up with his master because of the deep snow. But, the king tells him to walk where he walks. The servant then finds that the snow has melted in the good king's footsteps and he can follow easily. When we step out on faith, we'll find it easier to follow. Not that it will be easy- far from it. But never will be find anything more rewarding that moving forward on faith. Think of some of the heroes who gave all to follow. For example, Gladys Aylward, who left her family and a steady job in England to declare the Gospel in China. Or think of Elisabeth Elliot, who forgave the very men who killed her husband, and determined to tell them of Christ. That took some serious following by faith.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." 

 Just so, we are to move. I'm reminded of a song I learned as a very young girl, "Little by Little". The lyrics start so:

Tall mountains tower, rugged and high.
Rise to the challenge, look to the sky.
Trust in the Lord and seek help divine.
Great things are done one step at a time.
Little by little, inch by inch.
By the yard, it's hard-
By the inch, it's a cinch.
Never stare at the stairs,
Just step up the steps.
Little by little, inch by inch.

 And so it is. God has laid out a plan, usually only clear to Him. He holds the map (for most of us) and the GPS (for the younger generation of us). Simple, right? Should be.

The wrench in the plan is us. We are just too darn proud to accept that He knows what He's talking about. Like the stereotypical male-behind-the-wheel, we know where we are going and aren't going to take any backseat nonsense off of those who obviously are inexperienced...and that goes for the passenger seat, too. We can't see the signs that tell us clearly where the road is. And yet can't seem to find our way. And then, when we are eventually desperately lost, we finally stop and ask God what direction we're to go. And never will God give confusing directions: "turn right, then left. go for a mile, turn left again, 3 miles out, pass the old barn that used to be on the left and make a right..."  That would drive us nuts, and once again, we'd try to trust our own way. No. Instead he takes us by the hand, and leads us down the path we need to go on. And then, before we know it, we've reached our next stop. It could be a ministry we're to be in for a while, a person we need to meet or minister to, a problem that needs to be faced. But, rest assured when the journey is ready to resume, He'll be there, waiting for us, in case we decide to follow His leading to the next landmark.

Another song comes to mind. It's one we most likely all learned at church or vbs when we were young. Maybe it's a child's song, or maybe not. But with faith as a child, read with me through these lyrics. But go slow. Our grownup minds are tempted to rush through these things, thereby missing the deeper meaning.

I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
No turning back, no turning back.