A Calm in the Eye of the Storm

I warned you that it might get quiet around the ToG blog for awhile…and indeed my attention has been elsewhere the past couple of months! The Garibaldi family is in the midst of a season of chaos. Crazy times, I tell you!

Those of you who know me, know I like to have my ducks in a row. It’s not a wonder where my son gets it! At age one he was sorting cereal on his highchair tray by category. This is a true snapshot of how he leaves the shower every day:

ducks in a row

Literally…ducks in a row!

My ducks are currently anything but in a row! It feels like they’ve been blown out of the bathtub!

Since I last posted to this blog two months ago, here is a *somewhat* brief synopsis of what’s happened in our lives:

* My husband and I (pretty much out of the blue), felt led to take a step of faith and put our home of the last 8 ½ years up for sale. Then, in the span of 5 days , we met with a realtor, prepared the house, got it photographed, and had our first open house.

* With just a few days notice (and with the house newly on the market!), I left my husband and kids and jetted off to Utah with my sister and her family for 8 days to help with the adoption of my beautiful niece Georgia.

Calm in the Eye of the Storm 2(Couldn’t resist the urge to include a photo!)

* Due to the adoption trip conflicting with the annual big Throne of Grace trip to the Believe Boutique, we had to cancel Throne of Grace’s plans to travel to Arizona. The Believe Boutique is usually one of our top-selling boutiques of the year. Instead, my resourceful sister, Emmy, hosted an “Instasale” on her Instagram account and in a matter of about 2 hours, sold more than 45 sets of prayer cards and about 15 prayer journals!! Praise God for his incredible provisions! Thankfully, He also provided the help of some dear friends upon my return to invoice, package, and ship all those orders!

* After just a couple weeks on the market, our house sold and we put an offer in on another home in our same town on the same day, hours before heading to Northern California to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. Our offer was immediately accepted but then 5 days later we learned that the home we were in escrow on had to be taken off the market due to the fact that the sellers had fallen out of escrow on the home they were purchasing. (Did you follow that? One of those chain reaction things…)

* We ended the Thanksgiving vacation with a trip to urgent care (after I had endured horrible, unexplained foot pain for several days) and then a sudden and violent onset of the stomach flu that wiped out the whole family for a week!

* The past several weeks have been spent pounding the pavement looking for a future home for the Garibaldis – to no avail! We finally came to the point of deciding a small apartment would be the best bet to give us more time to scrimp and save and keep us “free” to jump on just the right house when it becomes available. Yet, finding an affordable apartment that offers short-term leasing options has proved to be extremely difficult as well!

So now you are up to speed! Here we are, attempting to pack but not really knowing if we are packing for a new home, packing for an apartment, packing for storage…wondering why we ever brought this on ourselves! We’ve been waiting for the neon signs from the Lord pointing us in the direction we should go and they aren’t coming! Yet, the Lord has given us confirmation that He is asking us to let go of this home we have loved and enjoyed and that we need to trust Him to provide in His perfect timing.

God has given me several seasons of life like this one. Thankfully, I can count them on my fingers! But each time He does I find Him whispering the same eternal truth and each time He does, the reality of this truth sinks just a little bit deeper.

“Be still…and know that I am GOD.”
(Psalm 46:10a NIV)

You see, just about anyone can experience peace next to a quiet fire with loved ones gathered ‘round while familiar Christmas carols play in the background and a soft snow falls outside (being an Orange County girl, it is interesting that this is the picture of peace that comes to mind!). Just about anyone can experience peace walking barefoot along an empty beach at sunset, listening to the waves lap along the shore. (Better?) 🙂

But the real challenge, the real calling we have as Christians is to experience peace in the midst of the chaos.

In the midst of boxes.

In the midst of mess.

In the midst of family strife.

In the midst of devastating diagnoses.

In the midst of marital strain.

In the midst of unpaid bills.

In the midst of over-packed schedules.

It’s when the storms of life are swirling around us, and yet we have a treasured inner calm, that we can really see the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s nothing short of supernatural! And you know what excites me even more? It’s when the storms of life are swirling around us, and yet we have a treasured inner calm, that OTHERS can really see the work of the Holy Spirit! That’s when we give the Lord the opportunity to really get the glory for what only He can do!

Life is chaos around me but by the grace of God, as I abide in Him, He promises me His unexplainable peace! Admittedly, my mind and my heart waver almost daily between walking in faith and swirling with anxiety right now. But I’m clinging to that promise!

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
(John 15:4-6 NIV)

Oh how I want that! Yes, I want to experience His calm and His peace! Desperately! But even more, I want to bear fruit as I go through this challenging season. Don’t let it go to waste, Lord!

My garage is piled high with boxes that have yet-to-be packed.

Calm in the Eye of the Storm 1

Escrow closes on my home in a couple weeks and we’ve currently got no place to go. Plans A, B, and C have all fallen through to this point! But our foundation is firm.

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
(Matthew 7:25 NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, help us to keep You at the center of all the chaos! Let us not forget that You are the foundation of this house. Thank you for the reminder that even as the storms blow around us, You will not let it fall. May we look back in the months and years to come, may our children look back, may those watching our witness look back, and glorify our Lord because of what You have done!

Thank you, dear friends, for your faithfulness to the ministry of Throne of Grace even as we have been out-of-touch!

We would certainly love your prayers and would be especially blessed if you have a few moments to share your stories of God’s provisions of peace in the midst of seasons of chaos. Leave us a comment below!

If you, too, are finding yourself in the middle of a storm right now, seeking HIS calm, we’d love to be praying with you! Leave us a comment, or contact us by email so we can do that!

By His Grace and for His Glory,molly

Blessed Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Hello Throne of Grace friends! Our blog has been hijacked today by my super fun, super godly, super real friend and sister-in-Christ, Amanda. I’m going to give her a quick introduction and then let you get to know Amanda for yourself! I know you’ll love her!

Amanda and I go WAAAY back to the elementary school days…well, maybe even before that! We grew up in the same little church in southern California and have fun memories of church musicals and vacation Bible school. Then we ended up getting to be roommates in college for two years. I love that we had that time together as young adults as we were both so challenged in our faith and grew so much in those days. Here is a photo of Amanda and I and our other 2 college roomates – Josie and Becky. Amanda is the one on the far right:

photo of LSM roommates

Amanda calls herself an “Amateur Woman”, as opposed to a “Professional Woman”, which I love. It perfectly describes the way she lives life without pretenses for the love of life itself! Amanda has married to her college sweetheart – yes, I got to witness the relationship from its inception! – for the past 13 years. They live in Irvine, California with their two sweet and beautiful daughters, ages 9 1/2 and 6. Amanda is a solid Bible teacher, freelance writer, former MOPS coordinator, creative seamstress, fantastic cook, and has recently added encouraging speaker to women’s groups to her long list of useful skills. I could keep going but I’d better let Amanda take over…Enjoy!

Blessed Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The place on earth where I am happiest is a shallow stretch of the Big Sur river adjacent to river site 127. I lie in my inflatable boat in 12 inches of slowly-flowing water, a damp paperback in my hand, a cold drink tucked against one corner of the boat. The sycamores and redwoods are my walls and archways. The water on the stones is my music. The blue sky is my roof.

On our annual late-summer camping trip, I make it a point to get into my boat and find a sunny spot on the river as soon as we have camp set up. Sometimes the kids play around me. Sometimes they take off with their daddy for the rapids up the gorge, and float past me, bound for adventures downstream.

DSC05623

A few weeks ago, you could have found me in my boat in the late afternoon, drifting slowly; no need to tie my boat to a tree as in year’s former, because the drought has lowered the water level. Late in the day, sunshine is scarce on the river, so I cherish the moments when I drift into a warm place, and hope I stick. One afternoon, after feeling a bit shivery as I floated through the shadows, I ran aground in just such a place. I took care to hold very still so as not to dislodge myself. I was happy, but a precarious kind of happiness, knowing all the time that one false move could send me downriver.
Five minutes into this delicate bliss, my band of merry boaters came loudly toward me: Jeff, our two girls, and our 10-year old friend Oceana. Oce was ahead of the others.

“Don’t touch me!” I called out. “Nobody come near me! I am finally in the perfect sunny spot and I don’t want to move.” Oce looked at my curiously. Then came Sophia, my eldest. “Don’t touch me! Don’t dislodge me,” I screeched as she held out her hands to me. Again, a curious look, slightly wounded. Down went the rest of the family. Peace was again restored to the river.

About 15 minutes later, the sun shifted and I began to shiver. So I lifted my head to get up and realized something. I was totally and completely wedged in my spot. On the downriver side of my raft, I was hemmed in by a rock and two big logs, forming a triangle-shaped dam. No matter how I had wiggled, no matter which of the kids had bumped into me, I wasn’t going anywhere. No wonder the kids were looking at me funny.

Had I ever so much as lifted my head out of the bottom of the boat, I would have seen this, and felt secure. And I would have received the disruption of my family with open arms.

What a fascinating metaphor. How often do I become reactive and irrational because I let fear or insecurity rule over me?

* My husband makes a thoughtless remark (simply because he’s distracted, trying to be funny, or just being, well, male), and I allow myself to question his affection and devotion.

* A friend fails to return a phone call and I imagine ill will on her behalf and fear the loss of the friendship.

* A week of high demands from my kids and I begin to imagine myself a slave, a drudge, a woman with no sense of self, no life of her own. The classic martyr.

* A flash of doubt runs through my mind and I fear the loss of my faith, and disqualification from my life work and ministry.

Were I to lift my head in any of these situations — look at my Father, see the Big Picture of my life — I would see that I am wedged tightly in a dam of goodness. It is built of solid stones and strong timbers.

My husband chose me and will keep his vows.  I have solid friendships with safe women, not perfect, but built on the wise principles of the Bible, the best relationship manual there is. I am a competent, not perfect, mother, and my life is full and rich with mission and purpose both in the walls of my house and outside of them. And running under all of it is the strength of the faith handed to me by generations, which I’ve embraced since I was a little child. And under that, the love of God, which was mine before I breathed my first breath. He has promised nothing will shake it. He is the Rock I am blessed to be standing on, hemmed in by His love, goodness, and wisdom.

How much less reactive, how much kinder and happier I would be if I remembered how secure I truly am, and stopped treating small disruptions like earthquakes. This morning, I am tired. We are home from vacation and there is no more river to lie in. My girls had a sleepover last night during which the favored game was Musical Beds. There will be a lot of demands today, probably tears, definitely reactivity. I hope I manage it well.

So I lift my head today and look up. I say “Thank you, Father, for making me secure. Hem me in on all sides.”

Wow! Thanks, Amanda! I definitely needed to hear that today! I hope you all were as blessed as I was. Let’s pray together that the Lord will give us His eyes to see the places where we feel precarious, and instead see how we are “stuck” in Him!

If you enjoyed Amanda’s devotion today, you can find her blog, Scraps of Soul, HERE. If you have the time, be sure to check out one of my very favorite posts she’s written, called In Defense of Martha, where Amanda brings a fresh perspective on the Mary and Martha story from Luke, chapter 10.

As I mentioned, she also does speaking engagements in the southern California area. She might be perfect for your next MOPS or women’s event. You can contact Amanda through her blog, or contact me if you’d like a list of her Fall speaking dates.

Blessings,molly

Say What, Lord?

Have you ever wanted desperately to hear from the Lord but it seems you get nothing but silence? Or perhaps you’ve experienced the opposite – messages coming at you from every direction but you don’t know how to weed out the voices of the world from the call of the Lord?

Seeking a message from God is a desire that spans all eras, all races, and all religions, really! We all feel a longing to hear the voice of God. In fact, we were created to be in relationship with our Creator! He has designed us with a God-sized hole that only He can fill.

Hearing God’s voice is a challenge, even for the most devout followers of Christ. Now, maybe I should clarify that most often, we aren’t talking about hearing an actual, audible voice from God. God speaks to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives our hearts impressions, through thoughts that pop into our minds that we know were not our own, and of course, through Scripture, our pastors, and other biblical teaching we receive.

Sometimes I think about how nice it must have been to live in the days of Abraham or Moses, when God visibly and audibly made His presence known! But even then, our Bible heroes still questioned God’s voice and failed to heed His call at times. When God gave Moses his call, Moses responded with far more “But, Lord!”s than “Yes Lord!”s.

“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh…?”
(Exodus 3:11)

“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
(Exodus 3:13)

“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
(Exodus 4:1)

“O Lord,…I am slow of speech and tongue.”
(Exodus 4:10)

“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
(Exodus 4:13)

 

I think this reveals the true fact of the matter that, much of the time, (as much as I don’t want to admit it!), the challenge lies not in hearing God’s voice, but in obeying God’s voice.

I recently began an online Bible study through Proverbs 31 Ministries. During the school year I’m involved in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and my husband and I also attend a weekly couples’ small group through our church. But while both Bible studies are taking a summer break, I wanted something to keep me accountable to being in God’s Word each day.

OBSBlogButton

I came across this online Bible study that is going through the book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst.

What Happens When Women

The book happens to be from one of my favorite authors and a book I read and was really challenged by last summer. It is all about hearing God’s voice and pursuing obedience to His call at all costs! I have given the book to family members and saw the online Bible study as a great opportunity to encourage them to read it and give us a chance to study God’s Word together – even though we live hundreds of miles apart! It’s a great example of using technology for God’s glory!

This week we’ve been in the 2nd chapter of the book, “Hearing God’s Voice”, where Lysa TerKeurst shares what she called the Five Question Filter. She gives 5 key questions to ask ourselves as we seek to determine if the messages we are receiving are from God, or not.

5 Question Filter

The idea is to go through the questions, in order, one at a time, to help discern God’s will. As you can see, the first question requires us to be familiar with Scripture. If the message we are receiving contradicts Scripture, there is no need to go any further down the list of questions – God NEVER contradicts Himself, so He won’t ask you to do something that goes against His Word.

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
(2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
(Numbers 23:19 ESV)

 

Like the first question, the second question requires us to know God’s character. The more we dig into God’s Word, the more we will come to know Him and His character. We can then compare what we are hearing and reading in our quiet times with the messages we are hearing at church, or getting from other biblical teachers we respect. Once you’ve made it through questions 1-3, the last two kind of naturally follow. You’ll have to read What Happens When Women Say Yes to God to get the rest of the good stuff from Lysa!

If you are struggling, as I often do, to recognize, hear, or obey God’s voice, the best place to start is with the Bible! September is around the corner and Fall is a great time to get connected in a Bible study if you aren’t already. There are so many options!

• Get involved in a small group at church

• Start a Bible study in your neighborhood or with coworkers (you might be surprised who would be interested in participating!)

• Check out the online Bible studies offered through Proverbs 31 (What Happens When Women Say Yes to God continues through September 14th and it’s not too late to join…or take a look at the next study beginning on October 9th, A Confident Heart)

• Visit a Bible Study Fellowship class – with more than 1,000 classes in 38 countries, odds are there is one near you! This year’s study is the book of Matthew – a great place to begin!

Lysa always says you have to “get into God’s Word and let God’s Word get into you!” Being in Bible study with other believers gives us the accountability we need to move beyond just hearing God’s voice to applying His Word and obeying His call.

Are you ready to say, “Yes, Lord!”? I am!

Share your stories with us! Tell us about a time you heard God’s call. What was the result? Or maybe you are seeking to hear God’s voice regarding a current situation in your life. Let us know how we can pray for you and encourage you as you seek to follow His will.

 

If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study Blog Hop that this post is a part of by clicking on the button below:

OBSBlogHop

By His Grace and for His Glory,molly