Numbers

I don’t know about you, but I love when the Lord connects numbers for me.  Now, that may sound ridiculous or you may have no clue what I’m talking about, but don’t worry, I’ll do my best to explain myself.

Today I have 40 days until my wedding.

40 is a big number.  If you look in the Bible, the number 40 pops up A LOT!  It rained on Noah and the Ark for 40 days and nights when God flooded the earth.  Moses and the Israelites had to wander the desert for 40 years after they were freed from Egypt.  After Jesus was baptized, He went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days, during which time He was also tempted before He started His ministry.  Jesus also appeared to His disciples and other people for 40 days after His resurrection.

Those are all that I can think of off the top of my head right now, but there are more.

The number 40 is typically linked to a time when someone or a group of people are going through a test or trial.  It’s used during Lent, the 40 days before Easter, as a time of fasting and prayer as well.  But my interest is not in numerology.  I just like the idea that the Lord has used 40 multiple times in His Word, which I think means that 40 is an important time frame.

I think these last 40 days before our wedding are going to hold many things for Brandon and me.  There will definitely be tests and trials galore, but I also think that there will be blessings galore as well.  Besides, James said that we should “consider it pure joy when [we] face trials of many kinds because [we] know that the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance” (James 1:1).  So any trials we face during this time will not only be used to help build our faith and perseverance, but also to mold us into the man and woman that God has created us to be so that we can do the things that He has created us to do.

I’m going to use these last 40 days as a specific time of prayer over our entire marriage.  Not just the wedding day and all of the things surrounding that.  I’m praying for our marriage.  The thing that lasts long after the flowers die and flower girls grow up.  I’m praying over the life we will have together and the years we will share with one another.  I’m praying over the trials we have not yet faced and the joys we do not yet know.  I’m praying over the people we influence and the people we allow to influence us.  I’m praying over the gifts and talents the Lord has blessed us with and will grow or develop within us as His perfect timing works itself out.  I’m praying over the love that we share and the lives that we impact with that love, given by the Lord.  And so much more.

*          *          *          *          *

As much as I like the 40 days until our wedding, there’s another number related thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately too: When Brandon and I get married, we will have been together for almost 6 whole years.

Now I know that 6 isn’t really a big deal in the Bible, but I like to think of it in relation to when God created the heavens and the earth.  He worked and created for 6 days, but on the 7th day, He rested.

That’s how I see my relationship with Brandon.  We have been working for almost 6 whole years.  We’ve been living life apart and dealing with a long distance relationship for a long time now.  We have and still are putting in a lot of work, cultivating our relationship and helping it to grow over all of this time.

But praise the Lord, this time of separation and distance is close to an end!  The 6 years are almost over!  The work that we have been putting in is not necessarily about to end, because marriages take work, but it will definitely change.  This season of our lives is ending after 6 years.  And what is to come?

The 7th year.  Rest.

During our 7th year together, we will finally be able to live together and be a part of each other’s every day life, rather than spending a weekend together once a month.  All of the work that we have put in the past 6 years will be completed and we will no longer be working towards marriage.  We will finally be able to rest in our marriage.  We will be able to rest in our union and covenant.  We will no longer be two separates striving toward each other, rather, we will finally be one and we can rest in that unity.

Oh how I look forward to that rest…

Oh how I pray that we rejoice and revel in that rest, rather than allowing the difficulty and negativity to pull our joy and rest away from us.

Many people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest.  I believe them.  Wholeheartedly.  It won’t be easy.  It won’t be pretty.  It will be chaotic and hectic and we won’t have anything figured out.  It will be absolute insanity and we will likely drive each other crazy with the little things we used to think were cute and indeering.  Words will be said and understood in ways they weren’t intended.  Feelings will be hurt and balloons will burst.  Negativity and frustration will likely win out over joy and peace some days.  Days will grow long and tempers will grow short.

But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I will be there for Brandon and he will be there for me.  We will be a united front against the enemy’s schemes to steal our joy and rob us of peace.  We will be an unbreakable team forged in the refining fires of the Almighty’s Hand.

It certainly won’t be perfect, but we will be together.  Finally.

So here’s to 40 more days and a 7th year of rest amidst the chaos.

Gentry Bass

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Conviction

Let me just start by praying:

Lord God, You are Holy and Almighty.  You are Sovereign over my life and there is no one I desire above You.  You created me and You know my deepest, most heartfelt desires.  You have planned a life for me that I can live to the full, if only I obey Your Word and follow Your will.  You have given me talents and abilities that I am to use for Your glorification, not my own.  You have granted me grace, mercy, love, and favor that I do not deserve and have done nothing worthy of earning; yet, You bestow it all upon me simply because You love me and I am Your child.  Thank You, Father God, for Your abundant love and for Your plan for my life.  Because You are sovereignly in control, I don’t have to worry or fret about what I am to do next, where I am to go, or what I am to do when I get there.  Thank You, Lord, that You know all things and that You hold me within Your hands, guarding me against anything that You have not allowed to enter my life.  Thank You for molding me and shaping me into the woman that I have become, but thank You even more, Holy Father, that You continue to chip away my pride and negativity, ever perfecting and ever transforming me.  Thank You for the plans You have for me and for the ways in which You are preparing me for Your plans.  Thank You for walking with me through the refiner’s fire, the darkest valley, and the steepest mountain.  You are so Good.  You continue to amaze and astound me, Lord!  Thank You for Your trials and for the ways in which You teach me to be a better follower after Your heart and lover of Your people.  May You never cease to work in, through, and all around me.  May Your name be proclaimed by every thought, word, and action that spills forth from me.  May Your will be done, Your way, in Your timing, and for Your glorification.

Lord, allow the people who read this to hear Your voice, not mine.  Let them know Your Words, not my own.  Use me here to write honestly and humbly.  Lord, I ask that You would speak to each one as You see fit.  Thank You, Holy Father, for speaking to each of us differently and for convicting us all differently.  Help us not to judge one another simply because we have different struggles than another or perhaps someone else is at a different place in their walk with You and You have not yet revealed to them the things that You have revealed to us.  Help us all to put aside our prejudices and feelings of entitlement.  Help us to listen only to You and to praise Your Name when You speak to us and when You are silent.  May Your will be accomplished.  May Your voice be heard.  May Your people grow and return Your blessings with praise.  Thank You, Lord God, for all of the incredible things You allow us to experience each and every day.  You are Holy and we praise Your name.  Amen.

The Lord has recently been showing me my ugly side…  It isn’t super fun when He does that, but it is definitely something I need Him to do so that I don’t continue living in my sin or continue living a lie.

Now, let me preface all of this by saying that this is how the Lord has convicted ME about MY feelings and attitudes about MY wedding.  There is a high possibility that absolutely nothing that I write will have much meaning to you because you are not me.

First, let’s talk about a word I’m about to use a lot: convict (other forms include- convicts, convicted, conviction, convicting, etc).  When I use this term, I’m talking about the way the Lord points out something in your life that you are doing wrong, or that you aren’t doing and should be doing, and He brings it to your attention in a way that you know that something needs to change.  For instance: ‘the Lord convicted me of my sin’ means that God showed me that something I was doing was sinful and I needed to stop it and be obedient to Him instead of continuing to sin.

The Lord speaks to each of us differently and He will convict each of us of different things at different times.  That is one very important reason why you can’t go around life expecting that everyone else in the world has been convicted of the exact same things that you have.  In fact, they probably haven’t because their walk with Christ is completely different than yours.  Other people have other stumbling blocks and other sins that the Lord has to work out with them.  That means that the Lord may convict them of some things that He never convicts you of because He has already worked that out in You.  We all need God to speak to us in specific ways so that we can better understand Him.  We all require different levels of support.  And praise be to God, He knows what we need and He will meet us there!

Recently the Lord met me on my couch, as I was praying about my wedding coming up in May.  It’s getting very close now, so all of the little things are starting to sneak up on me.  I thought everything was going just fine and I had everything under control.  But that was my biggest problem…

I had gotten to a place in my wedding planning where I believed that I had everything under control.  Did you read that right?  I was in control.  Not the Lord.  I was.

And that was my pride-driven downfall.

I thought I could handle planning a wedding and doing a full time externship and working and packing up and planning to move and getting things ready for an apartment and all of the expenses that come along with all of those things stacked on top of things I would describe as “my normal life” stuff.  I thought I could do it all on my own…

I actually did for a hot second…

Then I started drowning.  All of the things I thought I had under control were suddenly far too much for me to grasp.  My grip failed.  I started sinking beneath the weight of everything I knew I could never handle on my own…

Then the Lord reached down to me, just as He did to Peter when he tried to walk on the water, and said “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” (Mat. 14:31)

Everything that was overwhelming me and pulling me under had been in perfect order when I had given it all to the Lord and relinquished control to Him.  God gracefully holds every single one of my burdens far better than I could ever dream to, and yet I pridefully thought that I could do it all myself…

You’d think that by now I would know better, but I am apparently a prideful person.  I hate admitting that because I desire so much to be humble.  I want to be a humble servant and a servant leader, but I have this pride within me that rises up and takes over if I am not diligent in prayerfully crushing it back down and relinquishing all praise to the Lord.

So the Lord convicted me of that pride.  He convicted me of a lot of pride I didn’t realize I had let settle into my heart and overflow into my actions.  He showed me how entitled I was and I hated it!  I hated to see myself through the truth that He was giving me…

I felt entitled to have a perfect wedding.  Everyone is, right!?  Or at least that’s what everyone says!  Even before I got engaged, I had people telling me, “it’s YOUR day YOU do whatever YOU want.”

Yeah, sure, it may partly be my day, but it’s also my husband’s day.  It’s also a day to say thank you to all of the people who helped us get to where we are now.

From the beginning, I wanted my wedding to be a celebration with the people that have supported us and helped us get to where we are now.  I wanted it to be a huge thank you to everyone who came and to those who couldn’t.  Yes, I want to celebrate my love with Brandon and the long awaited conclusion of long distance and separation.  I want to celebrate the journey that God has led us on and walked us through.  I want to celebrate the unity and holy matrimony that Brandon and I will finally be able to be a part of.  But I also want to celebrate and thank those people around us that the Lord has used to help us become who we are today.

I lost sight of that.

All I could see was how imperfect my wedding was going to be when compared to the other weddings I’ve been to or those that are being planned.  All I could see was how unfair it was that everyone else got to have a perfect day but I couldn’t because of this, that, and the other.  All I could see was the anger that I had toward myself mostly because I wasn’t good enough or organized enough or pretty enough or friendly enough or *insert any other negative comment here*.

That was it.  All I noticed was the negative.

And the Lord called me out on it.

I had been blessed with more than countless others; how prideful and arrogant I was to pity myself and feel entitled to even more.  I had been surrounded by so many praises and blessings; how blind and foolish I was to only focus on the very few negative things.

Now let me just tell you, when the Lord convicted me of those two big things (pride and negativity), it was not a pretty sight.  It was like being pushed out into the freezing cold with shorts and a tank-top on.  It was a shock to my system to realize that I had been living a lie and had so easily allowed myself to be tricked into believing it.  It was painful when the Lord ripped off my blinders and shone the truth right in my eyes.  It was uncomfortable.  Honestly, it still is.

Being convicted is like being brought into the light or being told the truth.  You can’t just go back to living like you were.  I mean, you can, but it’s terrible because now you know the truth and it will eat you alive to know that you are living a lie constantly.  You have to change something.  You have to consciously and actively decide to make a change and act on the truth that you now know.

I now know that I was being far too prideful (about many things, not just my wedding) and overly negative (again, about many things, not just my wedding).  Now I have to decide what my next step is going to be.  Do I continue living in sin and lies?  Or do I ask for forgiveness, change my attitude, and allow the Lord to help me live a humble, positive life?

I’m personally choosing the latter of the two.

Now, am I good at this?  No.  Not at all.  But the Lord is working on me through it and I have faith that He will help me get where He wants me to be so that I can do the good works He has already prepared for me to do there.

It will be a long, tiring journey and Satan will do his best to throw me off and cast me back into pride and negativity.  But I know Who holds my future and I know Who holds me.  The Lord will walk with me through each and every step of this journey toward humility and positivity in every aspect of my life.  And I know for certain that He won’t let me down.

The question is: when the Lord convicts you, what will your choice be?  Will you continue to live in the darkness or the lie, even though you know the truth?  Or will you step into the light to let the Lord wash you clean and help you live in the truth?

The choice is coming, but the choice is yours.  Choose wisely, my friend.

Gentry Bass

Jump

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about faith.  Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  The Google dictionary says that faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”

I have my own picture of faith that I have developed over the years:

I am standing on a stone just barely big enough for my two feet to fit on.  It’s like an old stepping stone you might find in a garden, but it is suspended in the air over an incomprehensible abyss.  I can’t see anything but the stepping stone barely visible under my feet.  I turn back and see nothing behind me.  I look forward and see more of the same.  Above, below, and all around me there is nothing but darkness.  I am in the only pool of light in existence and yet the light seems to have no source.

So there I stand on my little stone.  Unable to move forward, step back, or go anywhere at all.

Then I hear a voice.

The voice says to me, “Jump.”

In that moment I have two choices: either I obey the voice I know to be the Lord’s and literally take a leap of faith into the black unknown, or I ignore the obvious voice of the Lord and stay on my little stepping stone with the only light I can see.  The choice should be obvious, right?  I should take the leap and trust that the Lord will be there when I need Him to be.  But the choice isn’t always that easy…

Sometimes the stepping stone feels comfortable and I am able to forget that I’m suspended in the abyss surrounding me.  Sometimes I can close my eyes and imagine that I have everything under control myself because I’m firmly planted on my stepping stone.  Somehow I trick myself into thinking that I’m the one who placed me on this stepping stone, pridefully disregarding the Lord’s sovereignty…

What a mess I am…

Sometimes it takes me a little longer than it should, but the Lord knows how to communicate with me because we’ve discussed many a thing on many an occasion.  I know when I know that the Lord is speaking and I need to shut up and listen.  And I also know that when I hear the Lord say, “Jump” I respond by saying, “Yes, Lord” and leaping into the unknown.

So, I jump.

I take a deep breath, make sure that I get a good push off of my little perch, and leap as high and as far as I am able.

The nothingness of the surrounding abyss immediately engulfs me and I am plunged into a darkness so thick that I can no longer make out my flailing limbs as I fall through the empty, silent space.

Sometimes the fall lasts a moment.  Sometimes the fall seems to last an eternity.  But no matter the length of time I spend in the nothingness, I always know that when I get to the place I need to be, there will be another stepping stone waiting for me.

Just when I think nothing will catch my fall, I see another stepping stone rise into view, perfectly fitted beneath my feet.  As I land, I am reminded that the Lord knew where this stepping stone was in the darkness, even though I could not see it.  I am reminded that I am called to live by faith, not by sight.  I am reminded that my own understanding is nowhere near enough for me to rely on.  I am reminded that what I know is nothing when compared to the Omniscience and Sovereignty of Almighty God.

That is my faith.  Leaping into the darkness, knowing that the Lord will provide the next step.

Faith is jumping into the unknown and knowing with certainty that the Lord has a plan for all of it.  Faith is trusting the Lord to provide the next step, the next payment, the next friend, the next job, the next home.  Faith is leaving what you know and believing that the Lord can take what you don’t know and use it for His glory.  Faith is trusting that God knows, especially when you don’t.  Faith is believing that the darkness and the chaos and the turmoil all have a God-given purpose to mold you into the person He needs you to be so that you can do the things He has already planned for you to do.  Faith is understanding that when you can’t, God can.

So, the question is: when the Lord speaks, what will you do?

Jump.  I dare you.

Gentry Bass

Broken

You know how sometimes you just break?

You’re sitting there in life, minding your own business, and then out of nowhere everything is suddenly crashing down all around you.  It’s crazy!

If you had asked me thirty minutes ago how I was, I would have said, “I’m okay.”  I’m not great right now if I’m being honest; I have a ton of stuff going on, but I’m still okay.  Nothing is wrong.  I am not overwhelmed.  I am simply okay and content where I am.

Or at least I was…

Literally not even ten minutes ago I broke…

Today hasn’t been an overly stressful day or anything, it’s just that so many different things have been brought up throughout the day that the combination of thinking of all of it at the same time overwhelmed me to the point of a breakdown.  Yes.  A sobbing, uncontrollable breakdown.  Complete will mascara streams and snot bubbles.

Why the heck did I decide to go from “okay” to “broken”?  Well, my friend, it wasn’t my decision.  It just happened.

Throughout the day, many things have been brought to my immediate attention.  Not in a way that lends itself to expressing a thought or idea and then dismissing it and moving on.  It’s one of those things where as soon as you say it, you realize how real that thing is and you start to think on it even more.  Here are some of the things that have been brought to my immediate attention just within the past 14 hours:

  1. My fiancé still lives four hours away and we still have a 5 week break between our trips in March.
  2. My wedding is only 94 days away.  (So far, right?  Wrong!  IT’S SO CLOSE!! AAAAHHHHH!!!!)
  3. I still have a lot to pay for in different areas for my wedding (and I’m trusting the Lord to work all of that out for me, because otherwise I don’t got this…)
  4. I graduate in 72 days. (Hallelujah!)
  5. I still have a lot of stuff to do just to be ready to graduate (such as paperwork, a potential teaching certificate, documentation in order, reviews and surveys completed, and so many other things my mind just doesn’t even want to consider right now).
  6. I still don’t have a job…. (some of you may think, “That’s completely normal, you won’t graduate until May and everything will change by then.  There’s plenty of time.”  ………… May I just say to you, that I completely agreed with you until 15 minutes ago….  And now all of a sudden I’m freaking out over something that is still months away…  Lord, help me!)
  7. Because I’m getting married, that also means that I am moving.  Four hours away.
  8. There are no openings for jobs in the area I am looking.  As in none.  Not a single pediatric setting.  At all….
  9. That means that everywhere I am applying to is foreign to me since I don’t have any connections in that area. (I know people do this all the time, but this is new to me)
  10. This also means that my fiancé and I are looking at apartments/homes.  (if that isn’t enough to stress someone out to the max on it’s own, I don’t know what is)

And do you know what just tops it all off?  Finances.  It’s always the finances!  If I don’t have a job secured before I graduate and get married, then we won’t have any way of knowing where we need to live or how much we can/need to spend on a home.  If I don’t have a job, what in the world am I going to do with my days?  If we don’t have my income, how are we going to pay all of the bills?  I mean, I have a full-time job right now and all, but that is going to end the week before my wedding because I am moving four hours away and I won’t be able to make that kind of commute every day….

All of these things, and many others as well, have been brought to the forefront today.  Yes, they have been living in the back of my mind for a long time now and it’s not like any of this stuff is new, but it was like it all decided to jump me at the exact same time and I just couldn’t handle it!  So I broke.

Thirty minutes ago, all of these things were still there.  Nothing about my circumstances changed.  What changed was my perspective of them.

You see, thirty minutes ago the Lord was holding everything in His Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Capable, Sovereign Hands and I was contentedly trusting Him to handle each of my issues.  Ten minutes ago, I decided to try to hold all of that in my minuscule, incapable, weak hands.  My perspective changed from “I have a lot that needs to happen and I have too much for me to worry about, so I am going to continually give it to the Lord and allow Him to direct my steps and lead me where I need to be, when I need to be there” to “Holy crap I can’t do all of this stuff!  There’s no time!  I don’t make enough money!  I’ll never get a job!  How in the world am I going to do all of this stuff with life still happening all around me?”

Like I said, nothing about my circumstances changed.  What changed was my perspective.

That shift in how I perceived my circumstances took me from being peacefully content and relying on the Lord to take care of each of those things, to me worrying about stuff I could never change or impact at all by letting it overwhelm me.

I broke.

My sanity and peace were gone for 10 whole minutes.  My worry shot through the roof and my anxiety skyrocketed.  My peace disappeared and my assurance melted away in an instant.  My contentedness flew out the window and waved goodbye as my faith alone sat rooted to the foundation of my being.

That’s when I found it.

In the middle of the chaos and turmoil within my spirit, I cried out to the Lord for help.  “I believe!  Help me with my unbelief!  Please!  Help me!  Help me with my unbelief!  Help me believe again!  Give me a home.  Give me a job.  Please!  Help my unbelief.”

In the middle of that storm of emotions that shook my very being, faith remained rooted to the firm foundation of God’s Spirit within me and the Lord used that faith to draw me back to Him.  Even with everything raging out of control, that prayer was heard: “Help me with my unbelief.”  Because even in that turmoil, I believed.  Even though I couldn’t quite find that peace that surpassed all understanding, I knew it would be there on the other side.  Even in the midst of every anxious thought and fearful dread, I had that faith.  I knew that the Lord was still there and all I had to do was surrender the insanity to the Lord and He would turn it into a journey with Him that would teach me wisdom, build my character, help me persevere/endure, and strengthen my faith.

I let my shield of faith fall for a moment, but the Lord helped me tighten my armor and pull my shield back up.  He helped me surrender my cares and worries and dreams and desires into His hands so that He can orchestrate them in a way that glorifies Him and grows me.  He took my scattered, broken pieces and put me back together again in a matter of minutes.

If you asked me thirty minutes ago how I was, I would have said “I’m okay.”

If you would have asked me ten minutes ago how I was, I would have said, “I’m broken.”

If you were to ask me now how I am, I would say, “I am blessed and content.”  Still broken.  But blessed and content just the same.

So tell me, friend, how are you?

Gentry Bass

Mirror

Something happened to me the other day as I was washing my hands.

I looked up into the mirror and I realized something. The face I saw staring back at me was no longer a child.

Who I beheld in the mirror was a wise, discerning woman.  Gone were the soft edges of childhood and the wild eyes of adolescence.

The eyes that stared back at me held knowledge and wisdom gained by a short lifetime of experiences.  The angles of the face were crafted by countless struggles and unending perseverance.  The expression on the woman’s face was one that conveyed strength, joy, and a determination to overcome the mountains placed before her.

As I regarded the woman in the mirror, she began to smile as I did.  The laugh lines etched deep into her young skin told stories of laughter through the pain, and joy in the midst of sorrow.  Our smile grew as the realization dawned on me: I am that woman.

I am strong.  I am wise.  I am joyous and determined.  I have overcome trials and persevered through hardships.  I have grown immensely and lived boldly.  I have made it my mission to love God’s people and prayerfully follow His leading in my life.  I have failed and I have been victorious.  But above all, I have lived and I have loved and I have learned from it all.

I smiled at the woman in the mirror one last time as I dried my hands, curiously wondering who I would see there in the coming years and expectantly awaiting the experiences and growth that would further shape who that woman becomes.

Who I become.

Gentry Bass

The Goodbye

I look at my watch.  Again.  Five minutes.  I only have five more minutes until he has to leave.  Again…

This happens every single time.  He comes to visit for a weekend and it’s absolutely wonderful.  But at some point the weekend ends.  At some point our time runs out.  At some point he has to leave.  Again…

I wrap my arms around his waist and lean close into his chest.  I’ve learned that if I grit my teeth and look away, I’m less likely to cry…  He wraps his arms around my back and leans his cheek against the top of my head.  I grit my teeth harder and will the tears farther back.

It’s silent.

This is how it always ends.

This is how every goodbye begins.

Standing beside his car, still trying not to cry, I decide that talking might help me change my pattern of thinking.  If I can get my mind off of the inevitable goodbye, off of the negative time between, and onto the next visit, the next time I’ll see him, maybe I can get through this with a little more grace than I typically do.

“It’s only three weeks this time until I get to see you again!” I say in what I hope is a light, happy tone.  Of course, in my head I’m thinking, Three weeks.  Three weeks of long distance.  Three weeks of feeling like half of me is missing.  Three weeks…  “That’s only 21 days and that’s shorter than our normal four weeks apart.”  Sigh.  21 days is so short until it’s the 21 days he’s not here…

“I know,” he responds as he hugs me tighter.

He’s always so much more positive than I am.  It’s like I have this root of negativity in my mind that pops up whenever it pleases, which is often.  I’ve been praying about it…

“I’m gonna miss you, Brandon.  A whole heck of a lot.”  There they are.  I feel the tears stinging the backs of my eyes, begging to be loosed.  Deep breath.

“I’m gonna miss you too.  A whole, whole heck of a lot.”  He pulls away and looks at me.  He’s so serious, but a smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.

I smile up at him as a tear finally falls down my cheek.  How swiftly he wipes it away and another follows.  Dang it.  I was going to be good this time.  I wasn’t going to cry!  I think to myself.  Granted, I think those things to myself every time.  It only rarely works.

“I love you,” I say, trying to smile and keep the wobble out of my voice.

The answering gleam in his eyes is enough to pull me over the edge.  I tuck my head back into his shoulder and squeeze tight.  “I’ll see you in three weeks.  Not long at all.  You’ll be back before we know it.”  Even I’m not convinced… The wobble in my voice gives me away even when my face is hidden.

I look at my watch.  Again.  Two minutes…

“You need to go,” I say against his chest.

“I don’t want to leave.”  He squeezes tighter again.

“I know.  I don’t want you to leave either but we’ll be together again soon.  And one day I’m not gonna have to miss you so much.  One day you won’t have to leave me and I won’t have to leave you.”  Please let that day come soon, I silently pray.

He pulls my chin up and forces me to look at him as he says, “236 days.”

“236 days,” I echo.  “Then I’ll be your wife.  Then I’ll be able to see you everyday.  Then when we say ‘goodbye’ it’ll just mean that I’ll see you later that day.  I can’t wait to marry you.  236 days.”  So. Far. Away…

“I can’t wait to marry you either,” he says as he puts a hand on my cheek and wipes away the tears that are quickly replaced by new ones.  “I have to go.”  His words are so at odds with what I can see so plainly in his eyes: I want to stay.  He kisses me one last time and pulls away.  “I love you.”

It’s strange.  The moment he pulls away it truly feels as if a piece of me is left there, with him.  “I love you too,” I whisper as he turns away for the millionth time to get into his car to drive away for the millionth time.  I wipe at my tears.

I’ve endured five years of this.  Five years of waiting a month to see him for a weekend.  Five years of making the most of the time we have together and trying not to fall to pieces when we’re apart.  Five years filled with so many goodbyes…

I hate goodbyes.  Hate them.  Especially when they happen so often.  Especially when they are filled with so much emotion that you can’t even think straight.  Especially when they mean so much.

He turns his car on, rolls his window down, and tells me again that he loves me and will see me soon.  I return the sentiment and give him one last kiss before he pulls out of the driveway.

I stand on the porch, tears streaming down my face, as I watch him back away.  Just before he leaves, he holds up the “I love you” sign and smiles through his window.  I sign and smile back through my tears as he drives forward…  Away from me…  Again…

Every single time he leaves, I watch until I can’t see him anymore.  Until he rounds a corner or gets too far for me to see.  Sometimes I wait there for a while.  Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer.  Most times there are tears.  Most times the tears come more quickly and forcefully after he is out of sight…  But there’s something about watching him leave me.  Again.  And again.  And again…

Sometimes I catch myself thinking, This isn’t fair!  What did I do wrong?  Why does everyone around me get to enjoy their relationship all the time and I only get monthly visits?  Why do we have to suffer this over and over again?  For years!  Why didn’t my friends have to wait this long?  Why do they get to love each other so easily while we suffer again and again?

No!  I would NEVER wish this on anyone.  It sucks.  A lot.  Knowing that someone is your husband and knowing that you have to keep waiting and keep being apart is awful.  I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through this.  I’m thrilled my friends didn’t have to wait 6 years like I will.  I’m so happy that they are able to love their people as often as they can.  And I know that I also have friends who haven’t yet found their person and I know that is extremely difficult: to watch everyone else experience what you are dreaming or praying or hoping for while you still can’t or aren’t.  And I know that there are so many other people out there waiting longer and traveling farther.  No, it isn’t fair, but as a wise woman once told me, “Life isn’t fair. Fair only comes once a year.”  

No one’s life is easy.  No one’s life is perfect.  If you think that it is, you’re either wrong or blind to the imperfections in your own life.  Sometimes it’s just harder than others…

I have to remind myself each time Brandon leaves that God has a plan for us.  And not only does God have a plan for us, but that this is His plan for US, not other people.  That God wants us to be in this exact situation at this exact moment for this exact amount of time.  I have to remind myself that the Lord is the only one who can help me get through the negativity, and the depression that comes with it if I don’t surrender my negativity to the Lord, when we are apart.  That may sound dramatic, but it’s the honest truth.  When we are apart, Satan uses any bit of negativity and turns it into something I fixate on if I am not careful to keep my eyes on God.  It is in those moments that I have to remember that regardless of what I want or think I need, God knows best and He has it all under control.

So, here’s to 230 days until our monthly goodbyes become a thing of the past and something we thank the Lord for teaching and guiding us through.  Here’s to 230 more days of learning through the distance and loving across the miles.

Gentry Bass

Amen!

Remember that post I just did on surrender?  If you don’t, you can read it here.  Basically, it was about me struggle bussing to surrender my plans and desires and life to the Lord even though I know that He is definitely the one who should be directing my life.  Not me.

Well, yesterday the Lord blew me away.

Not only did He heal my shoulder miraculously, he also provided something I have been praying a very long time for.

Let’s start with the shoulder.

I have had pain in my right arm/shoulder for eleven weeks now.  Yes.  Eleven.  That’s almost three months.  I can’t tell you what in the world happened to injure it, especially to injure it for a full eleven weeks and counting; I just woke up one morning with sharp pain in my neck (which is nothing new to me considering that neck pain is a chronic, daily reminder of my life with VEDS) as well as my shoulder, which was very new.  The strangest part was the decreased range of motion in my right arm/shoulder.  I couldn’t lift my arm to the side past a 45 degree angle and I really couldn’t shrug my right shoulder either.

This pain and reduced range of motion, as well as some surging/traveling pain down the entirety of my right arm, have been consistent for eleven weeks now.  The surging comes and goes, but the limitation of movement and pain has been a consistent companion.  Many people had mentioned that it sounded like a rotator cuff injury, so after putting it off for so long, I made an appointment with my doctor.  He did some x-rays and decided that he thinks it is a problem with the vertebrae in my neck, not my shoulder.  So, an MRI of my neck was ordered and I am still waiting for them to contact me to schedule it.

That night, I went to the Monday night prayer meeting at my church, like I always do.  I told the ladies about the persistent pain and what the doctor had said.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve brought physical pain to prayer.  In fact, I bring that with me almost every week.  Those ladies are always faithful to pray for whatever new pain exists or the lingering pains that cling to my muscles or joints and refuse to be released.  They prayed for me, as they had done many times before, and we all went home.

That night I couldn’t sleep.  My whole body ached all night and when I woke up yesterday morning, my neck was so tight that my right shoulder was one to two inches higher than my left shoulder at rest.

I tested out my arm to see how badly the neck pain and tension was affecting it.

It went passed the 45 degree mark all the way above my head.  I tried it again.  And again.  I just did it again now.  It still pops and my neck hurts some, but my range of motion is back!

I shrugged my shoulders to test the movement there.  It went passed the typical stopping point.  Although my neck still hurts and I don’t have full range of motion back, it is definitely a God thing!

You can’t look me in the face and tell me that going to the doctor and getting proof of an injury and then waking up the next day with the evidence almost completely gone is just a coincidence.  That, my friends, is some divine healing!  A touch from the Lord’s hand!  Can I get a hallelujah!?

So, needless to say, yesterday was already shaping up to be a phenomenal day.  However, that was just the beginning.

Yesterday I also received a letter containing a check that pretty much covers the rest of my graduate school tuition.  Read that again.  And again.  Now, that may not be impressive to some people, but that is a direct answer to my prayers followed by an overflow of blessing on top.

I have been praying fiercely that the Lord would provide the money that I need for my tuition each semester, which is no small sum.  I asked Him to surprise me and I have have no doubt in my mind that He would provide in one way or another.  The past three semesters, God has provided my tuition in a myriad of ways and on a timeline that I could never understand, but He has never delayed and He has never let me down.  He has been more than just faithful.  He has been…  Wow.  There aren’t words.  There is no way that I could contain how good and perfect and absolutely, miraculously, indescribably incredible the Lord has been to me.  There just aren’t words.  He cannot be contained in a paragraph or a phrase.  He cannot be described with the meager words of my unremarkable language.  He has certainly surprised me more than once just in how He has provided for this one particular area of need and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will continue to surprise me and He will continue to be the Almighty, Sovereign God that I know Him to be.  I know that He will continue to defy the odds and do the impossible.  He is good.  All the time.  And all the time.  God IS good.

So.  Yesterday was an absolutely phenomenal day.  I saw the Lord answer not one, but two major prayers in my life right now.  I had been praying for another $4,000 just to get through the coming Fall semester.  The Lord did one better and provided enough for this semester and the next!  Thank You, Lord!  Thank You, Lord!  Thank You, Lord!

And thank YOU!  Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and with me.  Thank you for believing and trusting that the Lord would answer.  Thank you for encouraging me in prayer and in person.  Y’all are awesome and I pray the Lord blesses your socks off and reveals Himself to you in new and awe-inspiring ways.

God is good!  Can I get an Amen!?

Gentry Bass

Surrender

Surrender: (sur·ren·der / səˈrendər). verb.  1) Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.  2) Give up or hand over (a person, right, or possession), typically on compulsion or demand.  3) Abandon oneself entirely to (a powerful emotion or influence); give in to.

Definition credit: Google search engine.

If you ask 20 different people what surrender means to them specifically, you will probably get 20 different answers.  For instance, if I were to ask you to define a moment in your life in which you felt as though you had surrendered or were surrendering something or someone, your answer would differ from mine.

That, my friends, is called perspective.

I have a totally different perspective on the verb “surrender” than you probably do.  And in all honesty, I’m sure that my viewpoint on that ever so complex word will likely change within the next year.  Why?  Because I am going to face a magnificent moment of surrender sooner rather than later.

Allow me to explain.

This word, surrender, has been coming up frequently in my life.  It was the topic of a weekend camp that I attended and since then it has refused to leave.  In fact, it has decided to swirl amongst the inner workings of my mind and drive me mad.  Or, more likely, the madness I am currently experiencing secondary to the swirling surrender will draw me out of the bondage within me that holds me prisoner and will free me to be a much better me.  I’m hoping for the latter of the two.

You see, the word “surrender” isn’t really a pleasant one.  It entails leaving something behind or giving something up, usually for good.  As in, when you surrender it, you don’t get it back.  Ever.

Well, sometimes we do get surrendered things back.  And sometimes when we get them back, they are better than before; or maybe we are just better than before.  Maybe we had to go through the time of surrender to better understand what we had so that we could appreciate it all the more once it was given back to us again.  Or maybe, just maybe, we have to surrender something that we perceive as being the best for us so that we have open hands to receive what truly is the best for us.

The problem is: when you surrender something, you can’t just expect to get it back.  That’s not the point.  The point of surrendering something, especially when you are surrendering something to the Lord, is to humble yourself enough to say, “I don’t have control over this anymore; it’s all Yours.”

Easier said than done, right?

My Sunday school teacher has a lovely saying: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.”

Can I get an Amen??

I mean, seriously.  We sit there and say, “Oh, Lord, You are so good!  You created all things and You know all things.  You are working everything out for good and I know that You are sovereign and You are in control.  I am relinquishing control of (*insert whatever you are surrendering here*) to You.  Thank You for taking my burdens and giving me Your peace that surpasses all understanding.”  Then what do we do?  We pick up the thing we just laid down in surrender and we walk away carrying it as if we know better than God!  I know I do it.  I lay down my worries and anxieties and then I come back later that day and pick them up again!  It’s a never ending cycle.  I’m just thankful that the Lord puts up with me and loves me and gives me more grace than I could ever deserve!

So… surrender…

How do I surrender?  How do I take my life and every single thing in it and give it up?  How do I take my worries about the future and lay them on the altar of sacrifice?  How do I take my plans and desires and relinquish control of them?  How do I surrender all that I am and all that I have?

It should be easy, right?  My mind should be able to grasp the concept that God is more than able to handle my life and all of its relatively minuscule facets.  I should be able to accept the fact (not theory or assumption, but fact) that God is far more qualified to run my life than I am.

Let me try to use an example:  Me trying to control my own life and refusing to surrender it is like me trying to fly an airplane or spaceship with no prior knowledge on the subject.  I look at the innumerable controls that I know nothing about and think that I’m qualified to not only operate but control it all.  In the meantime, I am refusing the help of the wise and knowing pilot who is sitting back, just waiting for me to ask him for help (the Lord is our pilot, He is the one who directs our paths and teaches us where to go).  I am also refusing to even attempt to read the manual that tells me how to fly the aircraft (the Bible, which is like our manual for life) because I can totally do it on my own.  Oh yeah, and I have no clue where in the world I am supposed to be flying the plane or spaceship, so I’m basically just wandering around and acting like I have it all under control and I know what’s best for me…  All the while, I am gracelessly flying myself into oblivion; ignoring every warning sign that passes me by; ignoring every flashing light warning me of my imminent demise…  And the worst part is, I think I’m better off like that.  I think I’m better off with me in control, rather than removing myself from the driver’s seat and surrendering control to the pilot, who knows where we are going and knows the best route to get us there with the least amount of turbulence…

One day I hope I learn how to keep myself on that altar.  I pray that the Lord helps me to be a living sacrifice, completely surrender.  I pray that I obediently go where He leads me and surrender the things that I need to relinquish control of.  I pray that God teaches me how to walk away from the altar without picking everything back up.  I pray that I humble myself enough to walk in obedience and servitude all the days of my life.

He’s getting me there.  One day at a time.  Very slowly, but surely, He is getting me there.

So here’s to tomorrow: a fresh start and a new day.  A new opportunity to surrender what needs to be released and leave it there.  I’m willing to try.  Are you?

Gentry Bass

Trust Me Yet?

Have you ever been in one of those situations? The kind that you have to trust God to take care of you and get you through the insanity that is being presented to you?  The kind that you could literally never get through on your own, even on your best day?

I have.  In fact, I’m in the middle of one of those situations right now.

This year is only barely halfway through, and yet this year has been filled with so many moments I didn’t see coming.  I never thought I would be paying for grad school out of pocket.  Sure, I knew if I needed to get my Master’s degree then I would have to pay for it; I just assumed I would pay it back, not pay it up front.  And let me just tell you, this one thing has caused so much stress and strain, but it has also tested my faith.

Don’t get me wrong!  I’m beyond blessed to have made it through an entire year of graduate school with zero debt from it.  Literally only the Lord could be responsible for how He has orchestrated that.  Literally.  Only the Lord.  And I praise Him every day for helping me get this far.

I never thought I would be planning a wedding during a long distance engagement, while I was in grad school.  Now, I know this was all my idea and I’m the dumb one who did this to myself.  I take FULL responsibility.  Well, half.  I’ll take half of the responsibility.  I’ll put the other half on Brandon.  …Poor guy…  Anyway, that has a whole other set of craziness that I will not delve into at the moment.

I never thought I would be living more than just paycheck to paycheck.  I don’t even currently make enough to support the expenses I have right now.  Not to mention that the Lord has called me to step down from one of my jobs, so I will have even less money coming in each month.  Yes, this is kind of my fault, but I think it’s more God’s plan than anything else.

I never thought I would be letting go of so many things I held dear…

Remember how I said that the Lord told me to step down from one of my current jobs?  Yeah… In my head, that wasn’t supposed to happen until I moved and got married and all that jazz in May of 2018.  However, as I have often found in life, God had a different plan.

So, here I am.

Tomorrow is technically my last Sunday on staff at the most incredible little church.  I loved being a part of this church family even before they somehow decided that I was the person they wanted to work with their kids.  After I took the job as children’s ministry director, my life changed forever.  Literally.

Each child in that ministry is like one of my own.  They have taught me and continue to teach me so much more than I ever knew I needed to know.  They showed me such unconditional love, such agape love.  They accepted me so fully and allowed me to be a part of their lives.  They have a piece of my heart and I pray that I did right by them.  I pray that they saw me as a servant and vessel of the Lord, not as a woman seeking praise or favor.  I pray that they learned something and felt God’s love in a way that they will never forget.  I pray that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are valuable, chosen, loved, and prayed for extensively.  I hope I was able to light up their world just a little bit with the love of Christ.  I just hope they know that they are loved so thoroughly by so many different people and by a God who died to know their name and carry their burdens.

I hope…  I pray…

I have been thoroughly blessed by the people in my church.  They have supported me when I literally had no clue what in the world I was doing.  They encouraged me when all I could see were my flaws and failures.  They have kept me positive when all I knew was the negative.  They are literally the best people on the planet.  I thank God for them every single time I remember them.  I know the Lord put them in my life to help me not only survive, but thrive in my growth and experience while working with the kids in my church.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  And that’s the honest truth.  Thank you for everything.

The number of people who volunteered time and time again to help me serve the kids is astounding.  All of the volunteers I worked with had a heart of gold and the love of Christ shining from within them.  They have served beautifully and relentlessly.  They blessed me beyond anything I had ever known.  Children’s ministry isn’t for everyone, but those who serve the little ones are such a blessing.  They have taught me so much about loving on God’s precious little children.  Thank you for your time and heart.  I pray the Lord blesses your socks off!

My friends and family who have supported me through each and every crazy, insane, chaotic step of this journey…  You.  Are.  Phenomenal.  Thank you for not giving up on me and walking away from my waves of negativity or tornadoes of chaos.  Thank you for supporting me and showing me nothing but love.  Thank you for talking me down when I was so riled up.  Thank you for your endless prayers and countless texts and phone calls.  You have blessed my socks off.  (Literally!  I don’t have any socks on right now!  You blessed them right off!!)

I don’t even know where to begin with the prayer bunnies…  Literally.  There are NO WORDS that could ever express my gratitude and love for each of you ladies.  Knowing that you are always there, ready with a prayer for me when I need it most as well as when I forget just how much I need it.  I pray the Lord blesses you beyond all measure.  I know each of you has so many crowns awaiting you in Heaven.  I also know that you will relinquish every single one of them before the throne of the Father, even as you have done on this earth.  You have turned every blessing that He has poured out on you into the sweetest incense of praise.  May the Lord drop prayer bombs of blessings on each of you.

Now, to the absolutely phenomenal and incredible woman who is taking my place.  You’ve got this.  The kids will accept you and love you with more love than you ever thought you could receive.  They will welcome you with open arms and they will teach you things you never knew you didn’t know.  You will be incredible.  Seriously.  Don’t freak out.  You’re more qualified for this job than I am!  God used me and blessed me for the time He wanted me there, but it’s your turn now.  God will use you so fully if you allow Him to (and I know you will).  The kids will test you and they will drive you insane sometimes, but you know that.  But let me just say, the insanity and chaos is nothing compared to the love and joy and even peace you will find while ministering to those sweet kids.  You’re awesome and you’ve got this because God’s got you and He is putting you in this place for His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  And you know I’m not going anywhere yet!

The Lord has been so good and blessed me through all of the insanity I’ve faced throughout my life.  I know He will be with me during this next year and the year after that and the year after that.  I know He will be right beside me and before me and behind me.  I know He will help me plan my wedding and pay for grad school.  I know He will walk me across the stage at graduation and down the aisle at my wedding.  I know He will place me exactly where He wants me for my clinical fellowship year.  I know He will help us choose our first home and help us organize our things within that home.  I know He will help us love one another through the first difficult year of marriage and every other crazy year after that.  I know He will give me the perfect job with great coworkers.  I know He will be there every single step of the way.

I can hear the Lord now: “I’ve helped you through so much in the past.  I’ve shown you My love.  I’ve taught you My ways.  You’ve never been in need before.  Why in the world would I stop providing now?  Why don’t you just trust Me.  I’ve got this.”

I know God is using this insanity to help me see things more clearly.  Being perfected, molded, and purified aren’t pretty and they are also pretty painful.  However, with that in mind, it is necessary to go through the refiner’s fire if I wish to be used by the Lord.  So, into the fire I go.  Knowing the Lord walks before me and beside me and behind me, each step of the journey.

So here I am.  Trusting God to provide all of my needs.

Thank you all for your prayers, supports, and intercessions.  I feel them more and more each day.  You are all incredible and I pray the Lord heaps blessings upon each of you.

Gentry Bass

Finding Joy

Picture this:

It is a beautiful spring evening. The sun is slowly setting along the horizon, located on your right. A small river runs soundlessly on your left, hidden by some trees with faces carved in them. The sky is still a brilliant blue and the clouds are starting to shift from white and gray to warmer shades of pink and orange with the coming sunset. There is the sound of children’s laughter from the nearby playground. A very slight breeze sets the leaves of the surrounding trees into just enough motion to draw your eye.

You are sitting on a playground swing. The black stretch of seating beneath you feels smaller than you remember, but it still holds your weight. The chains in your hands are dark and weathered and in your mind you hear your mother’s voice saying, “be careful not to pinch your fingers in the chains!” You take a deep breath of evening air and push off, setting yourself into motion. The air whisks past you as you begin to pump your legs. The wind in your face is familiar and a smile begins to form as you slowly push yourself higher and higher.

Your hair shrouds your face and then is driven back as you swing back and forth. Joy bubbles up within you and you realize that your smile has broken into laughter, music to your ears. You remember a time when you never thought you could reach this height and relish the rush of wind in your ears. Your legs ache from the too small seat beneath you being pulled tighter in by the chains at your sides, but it is not enough to drown out the feeling of absolute exhilaration.

You cease striving to swing higher, and instead rest in the movement until it becomes a gentle sway to and fro. The pounding of your heart and rapid breathing slow as the swing does, until everything is once more at peace.

This is where my joy is found.

This is where I find Jesus. This is where I talk to the Lord and praise Him through my laughter. This is where I listen to His voice in the rushing wind and the peace that follows. This is where the chaos of the world around me turns into the rushing of the wind in my hair. This is where the anxieties and stresses of my life are released and I find peace in the movement and in the stillness. This is where I am free and the only chains that hold me are the ones I cling to, keeping me in my seat.

This is where my joy is found.
Where is yours?

Gentry Bass

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