Strengthen My Hands

After three months of resting, waiting, and making lots of excuses, I finally pulled out my post-baby workout DVD. Ugh. I was determined to make it through one of the twenty-minute sessions. Everything started well enough. My daughter was entertained for the moment, a miracle in itself. But about halfway through the workout, I began to doubt my plan. The perky mom on the screen was very encouraging as she demonstrated the set of 15 push-ups we were to attempt. I’ll be honest; the push-ups were a disaster. It felt like I had never done a push-up in my life. I immediately considered turning off the DVD. I thought to myself, “This is way too hard. I just want to be done. Can’t I just get the results without doing this work? UGH!”

And then I remembered Nehemiah.

I know. Odd line of thinking, but I’ll connect the dots. My Thursday morning Bible Study is walking through Kelly Minter’s Nehemiah: a heart that can break. Nehemiah is the central figure in the story of the Israelites rebuilding the dilapidated walls of Jerusalem. He wasn’t an engineer or a military leader. As an exiled Israelite in Babylon, he had served as cupbearer to the king. And yet, the Lord stirred in Nehemiah’s heart to see Jerusalem restored to its former glory. Even though he had limited leadership and building experience, Nehemiah responded in obedience. (If you haven’t spent time in the book, I highly recommend you pull it out soon.)

Fast-forward in the story and we discover that after a mere 52 days of building, the walls are almost completed and the opposition from enemies is in full swing. Nehemiah can’t seem to catch a break from these enemies, but his passion never wavers. In chapter six we read,

“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’

But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9, NIV)

That one short prayer teaches me so much about Nehemiah’s resolve. Had I been in Nehemiah’s shoes, my prayer would have probably looked a lot different. “God, this is way too hard. Can you just take away the opposition and everything that makes this difficult so we can just be done?” (Sound familiar?)

All too often I just want the Lord to make my problems instantly disappear. I don’t want anything difficult to cross my path.

God cares deeply about my struggles, His Word promises that. But I also believe that the Lord wants to teach us through the challenges. Nehemiah reminds me to ask for strength in the middle of trials, to persevere, and to pursue God’s will.

My workout DVD is in no way a trial, but I’m thankful for the small ways that the Lord continues to remind me of His word and His promises.

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Whatever you are facing this month, know that God is walking with you. He has not abandoned you. May we have the courage to pray with Nehemiah, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Happy Friday!

Following,
Ginger

Cost

Don’t you sometimes wish Romans 8:28 read this way, “And we know that in all things God works for the ease of those who love him”?

98% of the time I desire comfort, safety, and ease more than anything else… at times even more than God. Comfort(and not just the kind that involves good food and a soft bed) can quickly become my idol. I like feeling safe, cared for, and worry free. I want everyone I love to make the best choices that lead to the greatest level of peace and harmony. Let’s shut down conflict, stay in the air conditioning, volunteer when it’s convenient, give when asked, sleep when we’re tired, purchase when and what we want to, and above all else: let’s take it easy.

None of those items are bad or wrong in and of themselves… but anything that takes the place of the Lord is a big-bold-red-flag-neon warning sign. The end goal was never ease or even heaven. The goal has always been more of Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29, NIV

I don’t know about you, but I know that my greatest spiritual growth has occurred during some of the hardest times in my life. Seasons full of transitions, loneliness, conflict, and especially sacrifice have led me to drink deeply from the Living Water of God- His presence and His Word. During those times He caused His good to come out of seemingly bad situations. He walked with me through pain to make me more like His Son.

I know that God honors obedience and dependence upon Him. My read through the Old Testament this year finally brought me to Hosea, Joel, and Amos this past week. All three are short books that pack a powerful punch. God is faithful to use His Word to remind me of the abundance and blessing that have filled my life with joy and ease for almost two years. He has been so good to me. But rather than using this time to serve and sacrifice, I have grown inward, convincing myself that what I needed was to fill up my schedule with personal items and receive little to no input from the Lord.

“But I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” Hosea 13:4-6

This verse in Hosea convicted me to my core. While the passage speaks of the history of the Israelites, I could sense the Spirit telling me that I was behaving just like God’s people!

The summer and fall of 2009 found me in an emotional desert- discouraged, opportunities removed, and with loneliness entering the picture in a very real and palpable way. I turned my hands out to the Lord and asked like the Israelites, “Have you brought us to the desert to die?” And yet, when I turned out my hands to the Lord He fed me, and I was satisfied. He led me gently and lovingly into a time of contentment.

But I let that contentment and ease become my idol. I confess it freely and openly. I’m selfish.

But I want to be like David when he cried out…
“I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24, NIV)

Sacrifice

1. A surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable

Sacrifice from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

“Have you been holding back from a risky, costly course to which you know in your heart God has called you? Hold back no longer. Your God is faithful to you, and adequate for you. You will never need more than He can supply, and what He supplies, both materially and spiritually, will always be enough for the present.” -James I (J. I.) Packer

Following and learning,
Ginger

Getting Ready

trust quote

Does anyone else find anxious thoughts to be a default mode when it comes to the unknown future? Anyone else feeling nervous about a coming transition?

Had you asked me  a month ago to identify my nerves on a scale of 1-10 (1 being totally calm, “ain’t no thing” and 10 being “I can’t fall asleep at night/these thoughts consume me”), I would have likely said a 6 or maybe even a 7. The more books on pregnancy, delivery, and child rearing that I read, the more fears I seemed to add to my list.

But in the last week I’ve felt and watched that worry level drop all the way down to a 3… and at times even a 1. I KNOW. It’s been amazing.

Although you aren’t likely in the exact same situation of anticipating the birth of your first child while finalizing the manuscript of your first book, I believe that the tools for combatting worry are the same regardless of the extenuating circumstances. These points carry over the various question marks in our lives.

1. LIST IT AND MATCH IT.

Once I’m able to take those circular thoughts that keep racing around my head and put them on paper, they seem to lose at least a portion of their strength. Often the list is shorter than expected. If it’s something stealing peace in your day then make sure you write it out, even if you feel like it’s silly. Sometimes seeing how silly a worry looks when written is all that it takes before I’m able to cross through it.

For example:

  • We still don’t have everything we need for a newborn baby.
  • My face might be swollen in our first pics together as a family.
  • Labor could be far more painful than I’d ever imagined.
  • I don’t get to eat while in labor. (I am the worst case of hungry [hungry + angry] you’ve ever seen.)
  • Embarrassing moments will happen at every turn in the hospital.
  • I will have to fight for my preferences in the hospital.
  • I will never finish the manuscript.
  • AND ON AND ON.

Once I captured every worried thought, I jotted down two Bible verses on the top of the list.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3

So how do I take those thoughts captive and keep my mind steadfast, trusting in God?

I identify each fear and assign a truth match. Something like this…

Even if labor is more painful than I’d ever imagined… He will be with me, strengthen me, and help me.Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Even if I have a gazillion embarrassing moments in the hospital… it really ain’t no thing in the grand scheme. I have to remind myself that the medical staff have all seen CRAZY things during their career. This part of life is beautiful AND messy. At the end of the day… I can cast all that anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares about my worries and fears.Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

2. CARRY THE TRUTH.

Once we’ve identified the problems and set out to get rid of all that anxiety, I believe we have to make the choice to actively walk in that truth. So after you’ve matched your fears with God’s Word, jot it down on notecards and keep it at your side! Memorize the verses. Choose to take God at His Word.

“Beloved, belief is not a feeling. It’s a choice. We may live many days when we don’t feel loved or lovely; but in spite of our emotions, we can choose to take God at His Word.” – Beth Moore, Breaking Free

3. TALK THROUGH IT.

I’d recommend that you talk through the whoppers on your list with someone who has walked a similar path, a specialist, or someone who is spiritually mature in this area. I have been asking specific questions of my doctor. I’ve talked through my specific fears with my husband and he and I talked about ways he could encourage me during labor and delivery. Sometimes keeping yourself in the dark can produce way more fears than you need. Vocalize what’s keeping you up at night to someone you trust. 

4. PRAY THROUGH IT.

Life up your fears and requests to the Lord throughout the day. Share any remaining fears with a prayer partner. I love when someone asks me to pray specifically for a need. As much as I enjoy writing out a long list of names, I am always challenged to pray more when I know what to ask my Heavenly Father for.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13

5. GIVE OUTWARD.

Sometimes I just need to get out of my head and concern myself with something other than MYSELF. Loving others is a great way to shift our focus outward. A laundry list of worries can keep us self-focused and isolated. Call your friend. Send a card. Pick up your neighbor’s paper. Hold the door open. Volunteer with the refugee family. You get the idea. When I start giving my capacity to worry decreases immensely.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

Regardless of the date my daughter arrives or how prepared I feel, this transition is going to happen.

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  • You will start college in the fall.
  • You will find the job you’ve been hunting.
  • The move will happen.
  • The unexpected will occur.
  • Your friend might transfer to another school.
  • Your plans might have to change at the drop of a hat.

Transitions are coming. We can’t control much of the circumstances but we can choose to control our thought patterns.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather spend these weeks in joyful expectation rather than anxious trepidation. Life is too short and our God too loving for us to spend it walking on eggshells.

“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. Dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip or dance, but do not tiptoe.” –Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution

Following more and worrying less,
Ginger