Even When It Hurts: The Refining Process of Suffering

Even When It Hurts

Diamonds- they are precious and they are rare. They require time and intense conditions to form. There was a purification process.

The Natural History Museum states: “Diamonds are crystals of pure carbon that form under crushing pressures and intense heat.”  It didn’t happen overnight. Pressure, heat, and waiting years for someone to unearth them. Of course, when found they are in their rough form. An ordinary rock with sharp, dirty edges; unremarkable on the outside but filled with extraordinary significance on the inside.

Crushing pressure and intense heat.

This process required miserable conditions in an extreme environment to transform a worthless piece of carbon into a brilliant, flawless, priceless gem.

And just like the refining process of the beautiful diamond, our lives are often met with seasons of miserable conditions. Life is ripe with struggles.  They can come in many forms and with varying intensities. They may hit us square on, or silently pull at us when someone we love is navigating through their own rough waters of crisis. Finances, a terminal illness, a child wrestling with depression, or a marriage hanging by a thread. We are tempted to shake our fist at heaven while our hearts whisper in pain: “Unfair”; “Unbearable”; “Where is God?”.

Crushing pressures and intense heat.

On Failing Well- Confessions of a First Time Small Business Owner

On Failing Well

I had big dreams with my little clothing shop. Designing tees for women to remind them of who they are in Christ. Love notes in the form of comfy tees speaking truth. I envisioned this shop to be a place where dear sisters in Christ would buy shirts to remind their friends, family members, co-workers that they were loved. Scripture-based messages to share with a hurting world.

Saying No to Busyness this Year

 

Saying No to Busyness

As I sit here on my bed early in the morning, the kids are downstairs watching TV and my husband off to work in the Urgent Care Clinic, I am alone in my quiet thoughts for the first time in several weeks. I usually spend the last few days of  December in soulful searching of what I hope to change or work on for the upcoming new year, but this time, I couldn’t muster up the energy. I just couldn’t do it. Choosing to spend my time tidying up after Christmas, sitting with my kids, and simply avoiding the tugging urge to plan out my 2016.

I am proud to say that I didn’t give in.

Un-Rushing Christmas This Year

 

setting my schedule aside to silence my heart and make room for the Christ Child

The Christmas season stirs up a bustling, joyful busyness into our lives more than any time of the year. From Christmas programs at school to holiday menu planning and prepping for out-of-town guests, it’s so easy to miss the point. In the rush of it all, we effortlessly zip through December with our to-do list clutched tightly in one hand and our minds buzzing with anxiety and chaos. And sadly, we miss out on the true purpose of Advent.

Finding Intimacy with God When Life is Busy

 

My alarm was clueless this morning. It obviously did not get the memo that I wanted to sleep in for fifteen more minutes. Pounding the clock to punish it for ignoring my need for sleep, I adjusted my tired eyes to the streaming morning light. Today was going to be a hard day-- I could feel it in my weary body. I poured out my heart before the Lord, asking for help to face my day. With a deep sigh and an “amen,” I stumbled out of my bed and head first into another schedule-packed day. In the rush of getting all four kids ready for school, I was struck by how ragged my patience seemed. How quickly I jumped to correct and react rather than come alongside and encourage. The gentle conviction of the Lord humbled me as I drove off. I had been coasting on fumes. My tank was empty, and I was ignoring the flashing warning light of my weary soul, desperate to be filled in God’s presence Exhausted by my growing mental “to-do” list, I find myself often forgetting to walk in step with my Heavenly Father. Buzzing from activity to activity, I drown out the sound of my yearning soul’s gasp for rest in His presence. In my flesh, I would rather cling to my schedule than His strength, expecting Him to meet me in the noise and clamor I stir up like dust as I rush through life. But in the midst of my chaos, He sweetly hands me an invitation. He lovingly leads me away from it all, beckoning me to step away for just a moment and breathe in the grace of his goodness as the restlessness and churning settles. It is only here where true peace is found: to be still and know him more. I have to choose to slow down. I have to put the brakes on and purposefully choose to surrender my agenda and ultimately sacrifice all other pressing needs to align my heart with the Lord. For it is in the quiet, the stillness of my searching soul, where I will meet and commune with God. It is beyond the rushing, the chaos, and busyness. I need to cast off the distractions and the constant need for connecting with everything and everyone. “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14 The Lord loves us as a groom loves His bride. A deep, intimate love that is strengthened when invested in. He draws near to us when we draw near to him. Just like a wife and a husband need date nights to reconnect and reaffirm their commitment to each other, the same is true with our Lord God. His sweet presence alone speaks to the deepest corners of our souls. His direction and clarity revives our understanding of his purpose for our lives. His love emboldens and renews as He aligns our hearts with His. I am learning that I need time with the Lord daily like water, like the air I breathe. I can work to change myself into the woman I feel looks best before the Lord. I can go to church, I can serve and volunteer, but if I do it all on my own strength,it doesn’t give God glory, and it doesn’t draw me closer to him. I need to look at the Bible and my time reading it as a way for me to understand the heartbeat of God. If I only spend time with the Lord to place that elusive check in the box of completion, I miss the exhilaration and expectancy of God’s voice speaking directly to my heart. Oh, how much more of the Lord we would know if we came before him with hands wide open to receive! “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.” John 15:4-6 MSG Our lives have to take residence in his presence. As a branch roots firmly to the nourishment and support that the vine can provide, we too need to connect ourselves fully to the Lord.We cannot bear the fruit of patience, kindness, self-control, or peace if we are a visitor that sporadically arrives when our schedule allows. We draw from him sustaining life that strengthens and grows our faith in him. But what does this practically look like? How can we develop a more intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father when our lives are full? What can developing intimate memorable moments with God look like when we barely have time for ourselves? Here are a few ways to practice remaining connected with the Lord: 1. Schedule. Most of us hold our life calendars in our hands for the majority of the day. Set aside pockets of time with the Lord. Block them out and hold firmly to protect that time like you would with a best friend. Keep it sacred and safe. 2. Pray. It is so important to slow your heart and mind down before meeting with God. Pray that He would help focus your throughs on Him during your “date time.” 3. Develop a reading plan in the Bible. We are so blessed with smart-phone apps that make our lives simpler and easy. There are a number of apps that can help us develop a consistent, deep study of the Word. She Reads Truth, First 5 from Proverbs 31, and the Bible app are wonderful examples of apps that are specifically created to draw us deeper into God’s word. 4. Worship music. Sometimes life happens. We may not have a day where it affords time specifically for the Lord. Turn on worship music that is scripture based. Sing your praise to a receiving God. He loves when we praise Him through music. “For the word of God is living and active.” Hebrews 4:12 God’s word is alive with his presence. Like a rain storm in the desert, the Bible floods our parched souls. Cupping our hands with expectancy, we receive the living water that satisfies, renews, and restores. True intimacy with our Heavenly Father each day transforms us more into his likeness. Just like when Moses met God on the mountain and came down radiantly shining of God’s glory, we too will be transformed when we meet regularly with him. Our countenance changes. Our lives brimming with the fruit of the spirit, as we radiate the glory of God at work in our lives. People will see in us the transforming power of a loving and present God. The more we know of him, the more we will become like him. “Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 MSG

My alarm was clueless this morning. It obviously did not get the memo that I wanted to sleep in for fifteen more minutes. Pounding the clock to punish it for ignoring my need for sleep, I adjusted my tired eyes to the streaming morning light. Today was going to be a hard day– I could feel it in my weary body. I poured out my heart before the Lord, asking for help to face my day. With a deep sigh and an “amen,” I stumbled out of my bed and head first into another schedule-packed day.

The Perfect Storm

 

Monday mornings are tough here at the Campbell house. Today was especially rough. All four kids were finally coming down from their three-day sugar binge. Throw in the time change, and we had the perfect storm converge in our little kitchen this morning. Grumpy, moody, candy hung-over children vying for school gear, homework, and backpacks. Feelings were hurt, nerves were frayed, and patience was paper thin. I swear my coffee pot decided to brew slower than usual, but I knew that no amount of coffee would be able to help me through this crazy morning.