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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

Dream Bigger

Have you ever had someone look you in the eyes and say, “Dream bigger!  Your dreams just aren’t good enough.”?

Well, me either.  Not really.  It wasn’t so much a person as the Lord’s voice in my head one day as I was praying.  He was very clear, though; my dreams were not up to His standards.  So I upped my game.

First, I brought Him all of the dreams I did have: a house, family, good job, blah, blah, blah.  Basically, all of the typical girl dreams, including a nice guy with a ring and a wedding eventually.  Yeah…  I’m pretty basic.

Then, I gave up my dreams and asked God what it was that He wanted me to be dreaming of.  (That is an absolutely terrifying question to ask Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God…  Do it.  I dare you.)

His answer wasn’t what I was expecting.  Actually, He rather surprised me.

It was as if my dreams were pieces of clay that I had molded and spent so much time perfecting myself.  They were well thought out and I had taken pieces of each of my dreams from different places: a detail from my best friends dream wedding, a characteristic from the storybook prince, a spark of life from my past experiences.  But all of my hard work wasn’t good enough…

The thing is, God didn’t just waltz in, snatch up my dreams, and throw them by the wayside.  Instead, He asked.  He requested that I willingly surrender the things I had worked so hard on, but He also promised something better.  So I did.  I gave them all up.  And what He offered me was so much better than I ever could have imagined.

I gave Him my dream of a house in the country with a wraparound porch and a swing.  He gave me a massive house ready to hold friends and family from near and far, ready to serve anyone who walked across the threshold.  He gave me a home filled with love and joy that echoed off of every wall.  He gave me a wraparound porch for all of the kids I love and teach to run in circles throughout the day.  He gave me a swing to sit with friends and family and converse about life and to sing to the kids around me as we swing away from the worries surrounding our lives.

I gave Him my dream of a family which had been shattered by the diagnosis of VEDS.  He gave me a home filled with kids from all over the world.  He gave me a family of adopted kids better than anything I ever could have imagined on my own.  He gave me a church family bigger than any biological family I could ever have.

I gave Him my dream of a good job with good pay.  He gave me a better job than I ever could have found on my own.  He gave me experiences I didn’t know I needed.  He gave me coworkers who would support me in Christ.  He gave me my mission field in the midst of my work life.  He gave me everything I would ever need, provided by His hand, not mine.

I gave Him my dream of a nice guy, of prince charming or whomever else girls dream about.  He gave me a man to stand by my side when no one else could.  He gave me a man wiling and able to support me when I forget to support myself.  He gave me a man better than any prince charming, shadowhunter, Mr. Darcy, or superhero could ever be.  He gave me a man who kneels in prayer with me and worships beside me.  He gave me a man who would never run away, no matter how bad life gets.

Then, He gave me a new dream: to travel.  To see the world He had so deftly created and continues to create and renew each and every day.  But He didn’t just give me the desire to see it on a TV or computer screen.  No.  He gave me beauty beyond my wildest dreams and joys I never knew I could behold, all with my own eyes.  Adventure.  Journey.  Explore.  Travel.  To see it all for myself and enjoy every step of the journey, every moment of the adventure that takes me wherever He leads.

The Lord didn’t take my dreams and toss them in the trash.  He transformed them.  He remolded them into something more beautiful than I could have imagined, something I never knew I wanted.

So go ahead.  Dream bigger.  I dare you.

Gentry Bass

Are you sure?

As awesome and incredible as my relationship with Brandon is (at least in my eyes, anyway), we have had more than our fair share of rough patches.  There have been a couple of times that we’ve come close to ending everything and walking away from each other forever.  This post is about one of those times.

If you want to read our story, you can find the entirety of our rather long story here.

A couple of months after I was diagnosed with VEDS, my friend, Katie, and I went to Chic-fil-a after prayer.  We started talking about different things and somehow we got on the subject of my relationship with Brandon.  Things went South quickly…

I questioned everything.  I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t done that before.  I had.  I’ve had many conversations with the Lord, asking whether He was sure that Brandon was the right guy.  (Don’t judge me.  Every girl has their doubts.  Even girls who are blessed with young men who don’t tuck tale and run when their girlfriend is diagnosed with an insane genetic disorder with more problems and future complications than could ever be noted…  I know.  I’m insane.)

Allow me to describe myself while in this type of mindset.  I worry that I haven’t heard the Lord correctly and I question every decision I’ve made concerning Brandon.  I worry that I have fabricated God’s blessing for our relationship over the last years.  I worry.  I doubt.  I don’t trust.  In other words, I allow Satan to whisper lies in my ears and I choose to believe them over what I know the Lord has told me.

So, there we were: Katie and I were sitting across the table from one another in Chic-fil-a.  A few others were seated in various places around the restaurant, but we were far enough away to have a conversation without worrying that we would be overheard by our nearest neighbors.  Because of that, our conversation flowed for a while and then moved on to the terrible subject of long distance relationships and my doubts.

I didn’t know what the cause of this incredible and sudden onslaught of doubt was.  I couldn’t pinpoint where the overwhelming feeling that I had to break up with Brandon came from.  All I knew, is that after spending an hour or so in prayer with our prayer group, I felt this burden and I felt that it was from the Lord.  It terrified me.  I felt as though the Lord was telling me that I needed to break up with Brandon.  No reason given.  Just a heavy burden that weighed heavier with each passing moment.

Of course, we had problems.  Every couple has problems.  Our main struggles consist of distance and a love language barrier (on top of me being an overly emotional person), but it isn’t like we wallow in our struggles and allow them to consume our every thought.  We had difficulties.  We still do.  But in that moment, it seemed as though every trial we had ever faced rose up before me and would not allow me to ignore them or pray them away.  Instead, the mountain of never-ending trials threatened to overshadow everything and plunge me into a despair so strong that I would never be freed from it.

However, the most peculiar aspect of it all, is that it seemed to come from God!  It didn’t feel like a temptation.  It didn’t feel like doubt.  Actually, if I’m being completely honest, it felt like a test.

Talking with Katie, I came to the conclusion that God was asking me to break up with Brandon to prove that I loved God more than I loved Brandon.  But this wasn’t just a ‘break up with you today and date you again tomorrow’ kind of feeling.  It more along the lines of a ‘break up with you and never see you again’ kind of thing.  So, with a heavy heart and tear-stained face, I walked to my car and sobbed a prayer on my drive home.  I begged God to show me what His will was.  I begged Him to ease the weight I felt in my soul…

He didn’t.  The weight clung heavily all the way home.  It worsened as I texted Brandon the most dreaded words: “we need to talk.”

Later that night, when Brandon got off of work, he called me.  My heart hammered and I was crying before I was even able to say, “hello.”  I must have said, “I don’t want to do this” and “I love you” a million times in that conversation…

I told him that I felt like God wanted me to break up with him.  I told him that I had felt unloved and unwanted by him because he still didn’t speak my love language, even after multitudes of conversations about what that means and how to do so.  I told him about my doubts and worries that I had heard the Lord wrong when He gave me the blessing to date him.  I told him all of it.  Let me rephrase that: I sobbed my way through attempting to explain everything that was chaotically clanging about in my thoughts.  I’m pretty sure the whole, “let’s be friends” thing was even stated and explored for a while.

When I finally gave him time to speak, he was calm.  (That freaked me out more than anything.)  His voice was quiet.  He listened to each word I said and simply replied in a manner of acceptance.  He didn’t seek to change my mind.  He never once raised his voice, he simply said, “if you feel like this is what you need to do, then I understand.”

There was no fight, no anger, no frustration.  There was simply an acceptance of the inevitable end.

And in that moment, I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t bring myself to hurt this young man I loved so completely.  That was the thing, I still loved him!  It wasn’t like I was fed up with him and he had frustrated me to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore.  I simply felt like the Lord was calling me to do the one thing I never wanted to do.  So, regardless of my feelings and desires, I was determined to do what God asked of me.

I have never identified so completely with Abraham than I did in that moment.

There is a man in Genesis, named Abraham, who was told by God to sacrifice his son as an offering to the Lord.  Not like, give him up, but sacrifice, as in kill on an altar.  Abraham obediently took his son, Isaac, up a mountain with everything needed for the sacrifice except an animal.  Once they reached their destination, Abraham tied Isaac to the altar.  Then, just as the knife in Abraham’s hand, poised to kill, came slashing down, and angel of the Lord stopped him.  The angel called out to him and showed him that the Lord had provided a ram stuck in a thicket for the sacrifice so that Isaac didn’t have to die.  The hard part is, if Abraham wouldn’t have tied Isaac up and raised the knife to sacrifice his beloved son, he never would have been shown the ram.

The willingness to sacrifice our own desires has to come before the Lord’s provision and blessing.

That’s what I learned while on the phone with Brandon that night.  Only after I had come to the point of being willing to end my relationship with Brandon and had actually attempted to do so, was I able to see the provision.  As soon as I had told him that I had to break up with him because I honored and loved God more than I loved him, the weight seemed to lift.

This simply confused me even more.  First, I felt as though God wanted me to break up with Brandon.  Then, only a short while later, I felt as though God was saying that I didn’t actually have to break up with him, I just had to be willing to do so.  I had to show where my loyalties lie.  I had to prove who I loved more and who I truly served.

As the weight lifted, and the confusion set in, I had to talk it out with Brandon: the one person who was completely fine with me breaking up with him…  (I personally think that is a whole other problem we should probably address…)

In the end, through every sob and change in thinking, we ended up staying together and promising to pray it through to determine what exactly the Lord wanted us to do and then reevaluate where we were and whether to continue our relationship or end it when he visited almost a month later.  Praise the good Lord in Heaven above that the final decision was to stay put, together, and really strive to focus on Christ, keep Him at the center of everything, and listen to how He wants us to live our lives and then obey.

So here we are, still together, and still waiting to see where He takes us next.

Gentry Bass

Sufferer

Hi, my name is Gentry and I am a sufferer.

If I could look you in the eyes and ask you if you have ever experienced a moment of suffering in some way, shape, or form, I’m sure that you would hurriedly respond with an emphatic, “yes!”  The truth is, we all suffer in some way.  Another truth is, we all suffer in different ways.

The thing is, it all sucks.  Suffering is never fun.  Ever.  But you can’t go through life judging other people or looking down on other people because they suffer differently than you do.  God’s got us all where we are for some reason, don’t disparage that.  And even if our suffering is our own fault, God can still redeem it and use it for good.

Currently, I just so happen to be in a season of suffering.  It’s ironic that a little over a month ago I helped teach a Bible study on suffering at our church’s summer camp.  God does have a sense of humor, you know.  The lesson focused on defining suffering, understanding why we suffer, exploring how you personally suffer, discovering how the Bible suggests that we handle that suffering, and experiencing the result of suffering.  I know.  That’s a lot of suffering.

The thing is, while I’m sitting in the middle of my suffering, I have two choices: I can whine and groan and become angry at God because He let this happen to me, or I can choose to suffer well.  It’s my choice.  It’s your choice.  While at camp, I jokingly told each kid to “suffer well” as I handed them a bookmark after each session.  The bookmark has three pictures on it, each having a verse or quote written on it.  Here’s how our suffering bookmarks read:

“Suffering produces Endurance.  Endurance produces Character.  Character produces Hope.”  -Romans 5: 3-4

“After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  -1 Peter 5:10

“Don’t get the feeling that we signed up for suffering when we received Jesus.  Beloved, we live in a fallen world where every human being suffers to some extent.  The difference is that our suffering need never be in vain.” -Beth Moore

Great words of wisdom, I know!  It’s one thing to sit on the swing at camp and teach those kids about suffering.  It’s a whole other thing to sit in the middle of suffering and read those words and do your absolute best to believe them.

While I taught those kids, I was suffering to some extent.  I was achy all over (a lovely never ending side effect of a chronic and progressive genetic disorder like VEDS), the sun was hot, I had a million and one things running through my mind and no time to even think about all of them (a camp in two weeks I was directing, a VBS in a month I was still writing curriculum for and didn’t have enough help for, relationships that weren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped, etc. etc. etc.), and my heart was heavy for some people I knew who were going through a really rough time.

Sure, I was suffering then, but let me just tell you: that moment in my mind seems like a walk through the park compared to what I am dealing with now.  I mean, I’m sure that’s how it always feels.  Once you move on from that season in your life, you can see the good that came from it but you also aren’t in the midst of it, so it doesn’t seems anywhere near as bad as it did in the moment.  That’s how it usually works for me, anyway.

The suffering I am currently experiencing is something I’ve never gone through before.  I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic and progressive genetic disorder, I’m in a long distance relationship, I’m a children’s ministry director, and I’m about to start graduate school as well as another job.  I’ve been through a lot.  And those are only the things I’m dealing with at this moment!  But this season of suffering is something entirely different.  Why?  Because I can’t seem to wrap my head around why in the world I’m dealing with this so intensely right now.

I feel alone. Left behind. Abandoned. Not good enough. Distant. Helpless. Unheard. Unreachable. Misunderstood. Betrayed. Hopeless.

Should I feel a single one of those things?  No.  And I know that!  That’s what I don’t understand!  I know that I’m not alone, left behind, or abandoned because Hebrews 13:5 says that He will never leave me.  I know I am good enough because Jeremiah 29:11 says that the Lord has a plan for my life that will prosper me and give me hope and a future.  I know I’m not distant because Psalm 34:18 says that He is near to the brokenhearted.  I know I’m not helpless because Psalm 121:2 says that my help comes from God.  I know I’m not unheard because Psalm 66:19 says that He has heard.  I know I’m not unreachable because Psalm 139:7-12 details that God is everywhere.  I know I’m not misunderstood because Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit prays for me when I don’t know how to.  I know I’m not betrayed because Romans 8:31 says that God is for me, not against me.  I know I’m not hopeless because Romans 5:3-4 says that my suffering will eventually produce hope.

I know all of these things to be true.  So why do I feel these things?!  It is so frustrating to me!  I know God is good and He still is, even when I’m in the middle of my sufferings.  The problem I’m having is, I thought we had a deal.

But we didn’t.  I had a deal.  I thought that He understood my desires and wanted to give them to me.  At least that’s what Psalm 37:4 says.  And it’s true.  He does know my desires and I believe that He does want to give me the desires of my heart.  But I know that He wants His will for me even more.  Because it’s better.  His plan for my life is infinitely better than I could ever imagine in my wildest dreams .  If you gave Hollywood all the money and brain power in the world and told them to make a movie about the best life that could ever be lived, they would fall drastically short of what God has planned for me.

You see, God never agreed to my plan.  He agreed to His plan long ago and He’s still lovingly and patiently waiting for me to jump on board instead of riding the railing.  If I’m being 100% honest right now, I was beyond convinced that He was going to move me to South Alabama to do my graduate studies.  I was certain that He would provide a scholarship for me at Montevallo when I didn’t get one at South.  I was sure that He wouldn’t lengthen the time that I have to spend waiting a month just to say goodbye again to the only guy crazy enough to love me.  I was confident that He wouldn’t add physical pain to my already overwhelmed being.  I was positive that He wouldn’t let me get so far down in my own plan, believing that it was His, that I had to be jerked up by the roots in the most painful way just to see that I had planted myself where I didn’t belong.

I had it all planned out.  But that’s where I went wrong.

He didn’t move me to South Alabama, regardless of the signs I thought I received from Him.  I didn’t even get a hint of a scholarship at Montevallo.  He has definitely lengthened the time that I will suffer through only seeing my boyfriend once a month throughout this long distance relationship.  He has let physical neck, shoulder, and back pain pile on top of all of these things.  And He surely allowed me to walk my own path, thinking that I was walking His.  But praise be to God that He saw fit to jerk me up by the roots and carry me back to where I belong.

It never has been and never will be my job to plan my life.  I thought I had learned that lesson a long time ago, when I was 11, but I guess I still have some learning to do in that department.  God is sovereign and He is in control.  He already has it all mapped out for me.  All I have to do is surrender my plans, focus on Him, and follow wherever He leads me.  I mean, it’s really not that hard when you think about it.  We always want someone in our lives to just tell us what to do in order to have a good, full life.  Yet, the moment that the almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God tells us that He’s got it all planned out, it’s better than we can hope for, and all we have to  do is follow Him, we get our calendars and planners out and start marking down dates and making an agenda.  How silly we must seem to Him.  And yet He loves us dearly and patiently allows us to mark our calendars, knowing that He has something completely different planned.  How much more baffling that He allows us to choose between our failed attempts at planning our life and His complete and perfect plan.

I’m sure I put myself in this mess that I’ve made by trying to do things my way, but I also know that God can take my mess and make it a beautiful part of my life that brings glory to Him and Him alone.  I know that my suffering doesn’t have to be in vain.  I know that God is good, even when life isn’t.  I know that even when I feel alone, I am only a prayer away from the Almighty.  I know that as soon as I learn to quit crawling off the altar, my life will become a fragrant living sacrifice to the Lord.

So for now I take it one day at a time.  I wake up, spend time with the Lord, ask Him to guide my day and guard my heart and mind.  I work.  I live.  I love.  I suffer.  And in the end, I know that I will find my hope in Him who gives all that I will ever need.

“You’ll get through this.  It won’t be painless.  It won’t be quick.  But God will use this mess for good.  In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive.  But don’t despair either.  With God’s help you will get through this.” -Max Lucado, You’ll Get Through This

Gentry Bass

New Year; New Life

If you want to read the beginning of the story, you can read it here.

So now you know that I lived out a Hallmark movie and got my first boyfriend for Christmas in 2012.  Today’s part of the story, however, is about a mere seven days later on New Year’s Eve.

It started out just like every other New Year’s Eve had over the past few years.  I was getting ready to go to a friend’s house to celebrate with the girls in our youth and college group.  Of course, throughout the entirety of my readying, I was texting Brandon and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I, for the first time in my life, actually had a boyfriend.  What a weird word!  Boyfriend.  My boyfriend.  Weird.  Of course, I hadn’t seen him or anything like that…  We do happen to live a small distance away from each other; though the distance is great enough to limit our visits to one weekend each month, except for special occasions.  However, on this particular New Year’s Eve, we had yet to see each other since our first encounter, six months earlier at summer camp.

It was our one week anniversary!  (I know.  Gross.)  However, the conversation we were having was short and seemingly one-sided.  I was suspicious.  It turned out that I was right to be suspicious.  The boy was acting upon a plan that had been in the works for quite some time…

You see, Brandon was a tricky little booger.  Well, he still is if I’m being completely honest.  Remember that whole boyfriend for Christmas over text message thing?  That isn’t exactly how he had planned for that conversation to go.  He had talked with a few people and had already planned to come up to visit me for New Year’s Eve and that is when he had planned to ask me to be his girlfriend in person rather than over text.  Which, by the way, he has apologized for profusely since that day.

So, there I am.  Almost finished with the daunting task of blow drying my insanely thick hair.  My sister also happens to be in the room with me, though she is standing on the edge of the bathtub to better see herself in the mirror above the sink.  We also just so happened to be singing at a not so quiet volume…

There was a knock at the door.  I turned the blowdryer off, we stopped singing, and I opened the door to see my mother standing there with a big grin on her face.  “You have a visitor,” she trilled as she walked away.

I was in shock!  There was no way that the absolutely insane boy that I had just recently agreed to start “dating” (remember that previous discussion about the difference I hold between “talking” and “dating”) actually took the time and spent the money to drive 250 miles just to see me.  I walked out of the bathroom mumbling, “It better not be…”

It was.  I turned the corner and there he was.  He was actually there!  Standing in my living room and grinning from ear to ear was the boy I hadn’t seen in half a year.  Needless to say, I rushed over to him and gave him a long awaited embrace followed by a few laughs.  Apparently my face was priceless or something like that.

Standing there beside him for what felt like the first time, I realized something.  He was tall!  I mean, I knew he was 6’4, but seeing as I hadn’t really been around him, I had honestly forgotten how much taller he was than I.

As we walked out of the house and made our way to the New Year’s Eve party, I felt every bit like an awkward teenage girl going on her very first date.  I mean, it wasn’t a date.  It was an ambush.  But that’s beside the point.  The smiles were radiant and the laughter was genuine.

When we walked into our friend’s house, everyone laughed and started talking at the same time.  Brandon had brought two of his friends from home and they were waiting there for us as well.  Apparently everyone had been a part of the ambush except me.  I was bitter at first, but that faded away rather quickly.  I guess my joy at seeing him in person and actually being there with him overshadowed my bitterness.

Now, our New Year’s Eve parties aren’t really anything like, well anything.  That night we sat around the room, watched Pitch Perfect, and talked about life.  There was also a toast around midnight with some sparkling apple juice and perhaps a hand was held here and there, but that’s as close to a typical New Year’s Eve party as we get.  I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

We left later on that night and I got another first for the New Year: my first kiss.  It wasn’t anything super romantic.  Actually it was rather awkward because he just so happened to miss the first time…  Got me right on the side of my mouth!  He’s a keeper, I know it!  He redeemed himself a moment later and met his mark.  Only for a short moment, but it marked the beginning of a new year with a new guy.  Actually, it marked the first year with the first guy that will hopefully be the last guy.  But I guess we will have to wait and see what God has planned for us.

Gentry Bass

One Word: October…

Once again, here’s the link to the first part of the story: Our Story.  Now, get ready, because this one is a long one…

Let’s flashback for the catchup!  I just completely made a fool of myself by texting a guy I knew for a week and basically telling him that I liked him, but didn’t want to pursue a relationship with him because we lived 249 miles away from each other.  Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, but oh well!  What’s done is done and it’s gotten me this far, so I guess it was a decent decision.  On the plus side, he did say that he liked me and agreed with my way of thinking.  So now let’s move into another one of my brilliant ideas about three months later…   It’s known by only one word: October.

October actually started in September of 2012.  Brandon and I continued to text each other throughout the next few months and it was wonderful.  We never saw each other in person during those three months, but our relationship grew slowly as we talked to each other each day.  We weren’t “dating.”  We were just “talking.”  Know, let me define those terms for you quickly: “talking” occurs when two people like each other and want to get to know each other better, but have not moved past the getting-to-know-you phase of their relationship; whereas “dating” occurs when the guy actually asks the girl to be his girlfriend.  I am perfectly aware that there are a million different ways to define those two words, but that is what they mean to me and how I will use them in the future.

So, we were happy “talking” and texting each other every day.  However, the Lord didn’t let me stay in that comfort zone for long.  He wouldn’t let me have peace about our relationship at that moment because Brandon was not going to church at that time or being fed spiritually at all and it really bothered me.  Why did it bother me so much?  My faith is really important to me and keeping Christ first in my relationship was and is the most important thing to me.  So when Brandon wasn’t living up to the “strong spiritual leader” that I thought he should be, I started to freak out.

So I did what any girl would do.  I prayed and fasted for a week and asked the Lord to show me how He wanted me to handle the uneasiness.  I was ready and willing to tell Brandon that we couldn’t continue talking.  But that isn’t what God told me to do.  Instead, the Lord asked me to take a break from Brandon and really focus on Him for a month.  That month was October.

On the night of September 30th, I called Brandon.  I had made lists and written out the reasons why I wanted to do this.  I spent hours praying about it.  I knew that I had to do it and I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.  But I also knew that the Lord would walk through each and every step with me and I knew that it would be a positive experience for both Brandon and me.  I’m not the girl who dates someone just to date them.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have waited until after high school to even start “talking” to someone.  My goal in dating is to find the man that God is preparing to be my husband, not sample a bunch of different people.

I had told Brandon that we needed to talk, but it had to wait until that night.  He had figured out earlier that week that something was off and didn’t leave it alone until I told him that I needed to talk to him about something.  That week also happened to be when he told me that he loved my laugh.  Now, that may not be a big deal to many people, but I hate my laugh and I had jokingly told God that the boy who told me that he liked my laugh was going to be “the one.”  Remember, I was joking.

The conversation went something like this: “Brandon, I really need a spiritual leader in my life and I’m not sure that you are that person for me right now, but I know that you can be in time.  I won’t marry anyone unless Christ is first in their life and we keep Him at the center of our relationship.  I’m not going to date anyone just to say that I have a boyfriend.  My goals in dating are to find my future husband.”

Brandon then proceeded to talk a little about his life.  He went to a private Christian school for a while, which is where he had gained the majority of his knowledge of the Bible, and then went into public school soon after.  His family was not one that went to church often and he had been forced to go to a few churches that he was not a big fan of.  His spiritual growth ended when he left the Christian school and did not pick back up until 2012, when he went to Chula Vista for that week of camp.  He encountered God again at camp and wanted to know more about how to better his relationship with the Lord, but was not sure how to go about doing that.  And that brings us to his current state on that night.

It was not easy to talk about that stuff.  I see things one way because I was born and raised in church and I have volunteered in different ministries since I was ten or so.  Brandon sees things a completely different way because he wasn’t raised with God always providing the answer.  He never knew that he could rely solely on Christ for anything and everything.  It was a major difference between the two of us and it greatly impacted our relationship.

After that little conversation, Brandon thought that was all I had to say.  He told me that he was worried that I would suggest we start dating.  Yeah.  He really thought that.  Which I guess is totally valid because I am the girl who texted him to tell him that I liked him after knowing him for a week…  Anyway, I didn’t suggest that at all, but I did tell him that we had one more heavy thing to talk about…  The break.

I kept my cool as I explained how the Lord had been tugging on my heart and how much I had prayed about this.  My voice was steady as I explained that the break needed to last for the whole month of October and that it included no talking on the phone, texting, Facebook messages, or any other communication of any kind.  I was fine as I explained how it would be beneficial to both of us: we could better focus on God, make sure that He was at the center of our life as individuals, and to show God that He was our top priority.

The moment that I stopped talking and everything had been laid out there while I awaited Brandon’s response to this impossible request, I shattered.  The tears flowed steadily down my cheeks and my voice cracked from all of the tension.

Now, by this time you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy.  I would definitely agree with you.  I’m completely bonkers.  But when the Holy Spirit nudges you to do something, you don’t just sit there and say, “No.”  (Unless you like having your world fall apart because you decided to disobey God…)  You get up, you put your big girl britches on and you say, “Okay, Lord, but You’re gonna have to help me through this.”  And He does.  He always does.  And He certainly did that night.

Through the innumerable tears and the silent sound of breaking hearts, Brandon did not respond like a normal 18 year old boy would.  He did not walk away from me.  He did not turn his back on our relationship because it was about to get extremely difficult.  He did not question my motives or try to change the parameters of the break.  Instead, he admitted that he was scared.  He was worried that not communicating at all for a whole month would ruin our relationship and tear us apart.  He was scared of losing me and I was scared of losing him too.  He was worried that at the end of the month we would find that we weren’t right for each other; that we weren’t good enough for the other.

I asked him, “What is the worst thing that could happen during this month?  Even if the Lord tells us that we aren’t supposed to be together, it’ll be better to know now rather than after we’ve gotten our hearts more involved.  Besides, we could still be friends.  We would just need to draw a line and stay far from it.”  I’m aware that those are some of the worst things that I could have said to him, but I was also saying it to help reassure myself.

His response silenced me: “That’s it.  I don’t just want to be your friend.”

Of course I didn’t want to just be his friend!  But above all else, I wanted the Lord’s will to be done.  No matter what that was.

We set our parameters for October and talked about slightly lighter subjects until midnight.  His one request was to be able to hear my laugh one more time before October started.

When midnight came, we didn’t say goodbye.  Goodbye is too final, especially when a month of absolutely no communication follows that.  Instead, we said, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Although the night was filled with so much dread and many tears, there was a peace that followed the sound of the phone call being disconnected.  I had done what the Lord asked and I knew with every fiber of my being that He would walk with me through whatever craziness I encountered in that month.  And let me just tell you, there was plenty of crazy during October…

Gentry Bass

Where It All Began

I know it’s been a while since I posted, but life has been absolutely insane.  Today, I am going to talk a little bit about something other than VEDS.  I want to tell you about another way that I am walking along “A Path Less Traveled” in my life: my relationship.  This will be the first in a series of posts because this story is a rather long one.

Let’s start at the beginning.  To set the scene, we were at church camp during the summer of 2012.  Now, if you know anything about being at a camp with high humidity, southern heat, no A/C, late night services, and a ton of games that get you hot and sweaty, then you may understand that I never actually looked presentable.  I’m not one of those girls that gets dressed up for the services at night, though I applaud the girls who do because they are better women than I will ever be.  Summer camp is also usually a place where teenagers have what I call a “Camp Fling.”  A camp fling occurs when a guy and girl decide that they kind of like each other and then proceed to flirt with each other throughout the week of camp.  It never escalates to more than just flirty comments or sitting together at meals and service, and by the end of the week, it is over.  Thus termed a camp fling.

I had been known to have a camp fling or two over the years that never lasted beyond the last day of camp.  However, that year I determined that I would focus all of my efforts on the Lord and refuse to have a camp fling.  Yes, I am completely aware that this should have been my focus from my very first year at camp, it just took me a while to get there.

So there I was, seventeen years old with a heartfelt desire to serve the Lord and forsake any camp fling that was flung my way.  I had literally spent hours in prayer during the months before camp praying that I would be completely focused on God and what He had planned for my life, rather than trying to find a boyfriend.  (That was a big deal for me to pray considering I had never had a boyfriend before and I longed for it, despite the people who said I was better off alone.)  Little did I know, the Lord had a different plan.

He allowed me to complete my week at camp without a single camp fling.  After that week, however, all bets were off.  I came back two weeks later to counsel at a camp for younger kids just like I had in the past.  That week, the Lord placed a guy named Brandon right in the palm of my hand.  Literally.  There is no other way that he would have gotten to that camp.

Brandon had never been to this camp before.  His friend Stephen called him the night before camp started and let Brandon know that his church would pay for him to go.  His dad said yes and they left the next morning for camp.

Brandon met the director of the younger camp while he was at our camp two weeks before.  No, we hadn’t actually met while we were at camp together during that first week.  Well, not unless you count me almost refusing to give a random guy (who just so happened to be Brandon) a tissue because his nose was bleeding during a game of ultimate frisbee.  Yes, I know I’m a terrible person.  The Lord dealt with me in that moment and I did end up offering him a tissue and repenting for my bad attitude.  I’m very competitive and their team was being particularly snotty during our game.  But now I’m getting off topic.

The director of the younger camp asked Brandon and his friend Stephen to come back to counsel her camp and they were only barely able to.  They came up the day the camp started rather than coming the night before, like the rest of the counselors did.  I was already set up in a cabin and had two other guy counselors on my team with me.  The following morning, however, I got moved to a new cabin which put me on a team with Brandon and Stephen, otherwise known to me as “the funny guy (Stephen) and his tall friend I don’t really know at all (Brandon)…”

But I’ll save the rest for another time.

Gentry Bass

 

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