He uses it all and nothing is wasted!

I listened to the swish, swish, swish of my slippers shuffle on the kitchen floor as I opened the microwave to warm up a cup of coffee. I drank a few sips and headed to make the bed. Later, I searched for my coffee mug and spun around a few times looking for it. Oh, found it! By then it was cold again. Yikes! I should just get started. I appeared busy, but I was simply stalling. I didn’t want to face what I had on the docket for the day.

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I then received a text from my cousin Annie. I’d asked her to hold me accountable to blog and organize things so I can start the potentially painful and much-needed process of writing another book.

She’s excellent at reminders, better than any phone app could ever be. She regularly notifies me about each resolve I have declared. Today was no exception. Good morning Sunshine! It’s blogging day! And start making a pile of all the things you’ll need to dig into in a few weeks.

I delayed the inevitable task long enough. Just get moving! I rummaged through a few baskets and boxes for past calendars, my journals and the cards I’d received. I climbed up and down steps repeatedly during my search. I looked in coffee table drawers and on bookshelves as I gathered my journals from the last 4-5 years.

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I opened each one, looked at the handwriting and began to read a few of the sections. Some sentences instantly brought me back to the preserved moment. I noticed the writing was indicative of the condition of my heart. Sometimes I wrote over the pages in all different random directions. It was as if my thoughts couldn’t land in any order on the page. It was chaotic writing, but it was a chaotic time.

It was a difficult time for me and my family. This trial felt like it came out of nowhere and hit me like a MAC truck. Grief related to loss had thrown me off. These points of confusion were now preserved on paper and demonstrated through my own troubled handwriting. Sometimes large scribblings filled the pages. Each notebook contained a mixture of the following:

  • personal journal
  • sermon notes
  • song lyrics
  • my response to Bible passages
  • prayers to God
  • personal reflections
  • questions and confessions.

No, stop reading! Just look for the start and end dates! Then collect them and put them in chronological order. I reached in the kitchen drawer and drew out a black Sharpie marker and began to label each journal with a sticky note near the top.

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I marked them all. Phew! Progress. I read a few of the cards I’d received. Next, I glanced at the calendars where I had recorded something I’ve prayed about each day. I came to a circled date in mid September 2014. This calendar entry noted a phone conversation I had with my daughter Grace.

The conversation occurred while I was speaking at a retreat in northern Michigan. I immediately envisioned the step on which I sat in the sun. I  could feel the breeze on my face. I remember I was outside my cabin when this call came in. This memory was both precious and painful to recollect. I stopped.

I had to stop and cry out to God. The memory was so vivid. It was beautiful and absolutely precious. In the “time warp thing” it felt as if it had just happened yet it seemed extremely distant like it were decades ago.

The pleasure and pain I experienced caused fresh tears to flow. I miss her! I just miss my daughter Grace! God, I know you are good and you are in charge but it still hurts and I don’t know if I can write about it today or anytime soon. 

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I’m not certain how long I sat there crying but eventually I did get up. I was hungry and  needed to eat some lunch and possibly exercise too. I descended the stairs still in my pajamas and slippers. The familiar sound of my slippers shuffling rang in my ears. Okay, it’s no longer breakfast and coffee time. You, my dear, had better make yourself somethin’ to eat.

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As I assembled a salad of fresh greens, beets, olives and chopped celery, I reached for the few remaining salt and pepper cashews I had in a cabinet. Only a handful… Well, that’ll do. Perfect! I wouldn’t want to let these babies go to waste! 

I tugged on the refrigerator door and opened it with a grin. Yay! That yummy zesty dressing I made yesterday is in here. I had a jar of horseradish pickles, which no longer had any pickles in it, just juices, so I spooned out stone ground mustard and added it, whisked both together and poured the mixture through a funnel into a glass dressing bottle.

Fabulous! I chuckled as I exclaimed, “I’ve used whatever is available today to make my lunch and along with yesterday’s concoction, I haven’t wasted anything!” What’s true in the natural is true in the spiritual! I heard my spirit agree with the Spirit of God which said, You know Rachel God doesn’t waste anything either. I mused. Yeah, yesterday I thought, I can’t throw away this pickle juice…it could be used for something!

I believe God doesn’t waste one day of my life, one hard thing in my life, or one tear shed during my life. He uses it all and nothing is wasted.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5 –6

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8(NLT)

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I finished eating my delicious salad. These thoughts came to me. I’m glad I started organizing my journals and looking through things. You know Rachel you aren’t the same person your were when you wrote on the pages of those journals all those years ago. You have been beautifully changed and shaped by God through the hardest of times. THIS IS NOT WASTED IN YOUR LIFE.

As I rose, so did my hope.  You see, I know God:

  • is for me not against me.
  • causes all things to work together for my good. (So, as Kris Vallotton always says,” If it’s not good- it’s not over!”)
  • is with me in hard times.
  • is close to the broken-hearted.
  • saves those who a crushed in spirit.
  • is near.
  • is good.
  • loves me.
  • is a restorer and reconciler.
  • keeps my tears in a bottle.
  • is a way maker.
  • is a rock on which I can stand.
  • has already won the battle. I fight from victory not for victory

I had to remind myself today and now I’ll remind you. No matter what you’re facing, no matter how long your trial or season of difficultly may be, no matter what wilderness you are walking through, remember He uses it all and nothing is wasted!  Not even your tears.

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Dread & Discouragement Lifted-Perfect Peace Prevailed.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV.  I spoke the lasts few days about “Parenting with Perfect Peace.” Not about perfect parenting, that is impossible and I would have been disqualified.

Because I shared about God’s peace and the authority believers have to release peace today the enemy tried to rob my peace. I should have known he’d be up to some devilish tricks. I’ve been warned, have your prayer team pray for you after you speak. (NOTE TO SELF…implement this plan.)

This attack wasn’t… BOOM! right off the bat.  Nope, the enemy waited, sutdied me first as I went about my day. Nevertheless a gloomy FEELING of discouragement crept in like an unplesant odor as he tried to play a “movie trailer” of my future.

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You know what I’m talking about, right? Can you relate? He plays a “movie trailer” of your future for you… These things aren’t real. He manipulates your imagination so you believe these things are CERTAIN to happen. This creates dread.

That was his tactic of choice today, to spread dread and discouragement about the future of my family. He tried to get the best of me. But I resolved discouragement would NOT win. This will not take over! You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. 

I texted a friend. “We need to pray I’m  feeling weary and discouraged.” Sometimes just getting it out is helpful and I know I must take authority of the thoughts and not allow them to ping-pong around inside my head. Thanks God for my friend’s prayer.  I reminded myself… I can’t lose my peace when my mind is stayed on Jesus. I decided to do what I told the audience members to do. “I release peace in Jesus name!” I said aloud.

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Later, I texted a friend.  It was quite warm outside and I wanted to invite her on a walk. You may wonder why I decided to walk when I was feeling attacked and a bit discouraged? Because it is a PERFECT time to take a walk! I know exercise is a big way to lift my spirits, so I do it. Thanks God for my healthy body and the ability to walk and exercise.

While out I reviewed the verse. You will keep in perfect peace… I passed the school yard with active children playing during noon recess. Those wonderful sights and sounds caught my attention. These elementary aged kids yelled and giggled. Their chasing around was a wonderful sign of life. Thank you God for small children, laughter and life!

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It lifted. My emotions were no longer in control and the atmosphere was shifted. I don’t know what you are facing today. Whatever it is, remember…don’t let your emotions and feelings run the show! I heard a pastor, Kris Vallotton say, “Emotions are my slave not my master!” Feelings are not what run my life, remember that!  

If you FEEL like things aren’t going to turn around for you even in 2018, don’t trust your feelings. Trust God! I believe 2018 will turn around and be the exact opposite. It’s called faith:

  • Being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see.
  • God is able to turn things around.
  • What is impossible with man is possible with God.
  • He is always doing something new. (Isaiah 43:19)

Remember we can’t lose our peace when our minds are stayed on him. The outcomes that we experience and the future we possess are based on the word of God not the words floating around in our heads. So we can’t let any nasty thoughts rob our peace or steal our joy. Instead, let’s say, “I release peace. In Jesus name.”

Let’s keep these things looping in our minds:

  • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.
  • Joy is rooted in Jesus and found in His presence.
  • Joy has a companion – thankfulness.
  • God is good. He is for me not against me. He’s a good father.
  • Joy is filled in trusting God and is a promise even in hard times.

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The enemy wants us to suffer in silence, but let’s release peace and soak in the truth of God’s word…

Promise: God will not reject His people. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

Promise: If you persevere under trial, you will be rewarded. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

Promise: God will deliver you from all your troubles.  If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us. 2 Chronicles 20:9

Pregnant With Expectancy

As I drove home from a birthday party, I had a message on my phone. It was from a Marco Island friend. It read:  Just driving by Meadowbrook Road, Aunt Rachel! Sad I couldn’t see you.  
She’s talking about my exit! I wonder how long ago her message came in? What? This means she passed my exit? Now? I’m confused. Is she here in Wisconsin? I was bummed that I had missed my opportunity to connect. RATS! I would love to have seen Autumn. 
I came inside and immediately put on my “stay at ‘home in the cold’ clothes.” You know what I mean. They’re the warm and cozy and loose kind. I pulled on a sweater and grabbed my laptop and began to write a blog post about the party. A few minutes later I heard, DING DONG! Who could that be? Christmas is over so it can’t be a delivery man with a package… 
I descended the stairs and opened the door to find an unexpected surprise!  Autumn stood before me, her bright eyes twinkled and she joyfully beaming.  “I just wanted to say a quick ‘Hi’ and get a hug from you.” She said. “I have my sister and friend in the car so I can’t stay.”
“Can’t stay? Bring them in here!” I protested.” I have to say hello. I promise not to hold you long, but you must at least come in!”
Autumn quickly checked with them. Then, with a scarf over her nose and mouth for protection from the elements, she made a beeline for my front step and flew through my front door followed by her sister Anna and friend Adriane.
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Anna, Autumn and Adrianne!

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I knew they shouldn’t stay too long. They needed to get back on the road as it would soon be dark and the cruddy weather of spitting rain could turn to ice.
“Can you come up for a cup of tea?” I asked.
 I set out tea cups when Anna said, “Mama Inouye, you’ve taken out six cups and there are only four of us! Can’t you count?”
I giggled. Yes, I can, but I wanted you to have a bit of a choice as to which cup you select.”
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“See, I knew as I removed cups from the cabinet that Autumn would choose the silver one!” I stated proudly.
“Yep, this says a lot about the two of us as sisters.” Anna agreed.
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Tea time in my loft area is one of my most treasured times. We talked about:
  • the weather
  • the LORD – His ways, His teaching, His goodness
  •  family

Next, out of my mouth pops this question, “So, what are you each expectant about?”

They looked at me for a moment, thought for a while, pondered then answered. “Well, that’s a good question!” Anna said.

I replied. “Well, we know it’s going to be something good… Cuz He’s good.  We took time to pray together. I prayed we would be “pregnant with expectancy.” 

THE QUESTION STUCK WITH ME.  IT WAS MY OWN QUESTION.  But asking it and praying about it had caused me to resolve more fully to live pregnant with expectancy.

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 I am very aware of how I frame my thoughts. I must ask:

  • Have I let random thoughts of negativity creep in?
  • Who told me that?
  • Where is this thought coming from?
  • Do I grab a hold of my thoughts?
  • Am I living pregnant with expectancy?
  • Am I expecting God to do good things?

When my answers to the last few questions are yes, I find his faithfulness and can record his goodness. I watch as he repeatedly surprises me because I’m expectant. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Instead of writing my goals this year, I’ve just reviewed my dreams. I want to live with expectancy that he will blow me away. How did I come to this conclusion?

I see what he says in his word: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21.  
 I believe God wants us to live in expectancy because he has plans for us. His plans are good. He doesn’t change and he cannot lie so these verses he has given can guide our thoughts about the future. Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19 (I feel like God’s saying, “Go ahead and be excited ahead of time. Be expectant!”)
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6  
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of Justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 30:18 ( I want to wait…Pregnant with expectancy!)
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Do you live pregnant with expectancy? Although unexpected things may throw off a PLAN for the day, the surprise itself can MAKE the day! That was my experience anyway.  Our tea cups were set on my kitchen counter. I left them there for a bit because they were a precious reminder of how God had answered a prayer to surprise me. I looked at the cups, then took these photographs. Hmm? I wonder who will drink from these tea cups next? Who will God send my way? Even then, with that query, I was pregnant with expectancy!