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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

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

A Promise

After I got diagnosed with VEDS, my relationship with Brandon took a negative turn.  If you want to read the beginning of our story, you can find that here.

A few days after I was diagnosed, as I was driving to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with.

So He did.

I was sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face.  I was praying.  Asking God to give me something, anything to hold onto.  I felt like I was drowning.  I felt like this new knowledge that I did in fact have Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome was going to send me into the darkest pit of despair.  I needed something to cling to; to keep me from falling into the pit that threatened to ruin my life and steal every ounce of joy I had ever known.

So I pleaded with the Lord to give me something.  Anything.

And then it happened.  In my little two door car, trying to see past the tears that filled my eyes, hearing the cracks in my voice as I cried out for help.  I saw it.

It was about five years into the future.  Brandon and I were married and we were in our room getting ready to go to sleep.  We walked over to the bed and he reached out his hand to me.  I took his hand and we knelt down beside our bed with our clasped hands between us on the quilt.  We closed our eyes and started to pray.  Just like we did every night.  When I opened my eyes, our clasped hands were old and wrinkled.  We had the hardest time getting off of the floor with our old knees.  But we still knelt beside our bed and prayed together every night.  Just like we always had.

I was frozen.

That was it.  That was my hope.  That was my promise.  That was the thing that I could cling to for the rest of my life.  When my world started to crumble again, I could remember that promise that came straight from Heaven.

I had been given visions before and I’d had dreams that I knew were from the Lord, but nothing had ever compared to this.  It was so vivid and I knew it was just for me in answer to my prayers.  I had asked God for hope.  I had asked Him to give me something to cling to; to keep me from slipping into the darkness.  And He answered me.  He is so good.

He gave me hope.  But not just a fleeting hope.  This vision that He gave me filled me with joy and hope and peace.  It has continued to fill me with joy and hope and peace.  Through every trial and every temptation to give up and sink into despair, this vision has been a reminder of God’s plan for me.

Just because a doctor says that my median life span is 48 years doesn’t mean that I can’t live to grow old and kneel with my husband in prayer every night.  Just because a doctor says that I’m at an incredibly high risk of rupturing anything in my body at any moment doesn’t mean that I can’t live a full life.  Just because a doctor says that it’s really risky for me to have kids doesn’t mean that I can’t adopt the sweet kiddos that need someone to love them.  Just because a doctor says something doesn’t mean that God can’t turn what he says into a new dream, a new blessing.

Just because I have VEDS doesn’t mean that I can’t live a long life with the man of my dreams.  It doesn’t mean that I have to live in fear.  It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on me and I have to walk this road alone.  Actually, it means the opposite.

Being diagnosed with VEDS has opened my eyes to just how near God is every single moment of every day. The vision He gave me has reminded me of that more times than I care to count.  Chronic pain and a different issue every day makes life a little more insane.  But it also makes me a little more thankful for each day I see and each moment I get to live.  It makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am to have a man like Brandon who is more than just willing to walk through this insane life with me.  He wants it.  He is actively choosing me, with all of the crazy complications that come with a life entangled by VEDS.

He chooses to stay with me instead of walking away like most rational people would.  He chooses to help me through the nights that I’m plagued with negativity.  He chooses to hold me when the tears overwhelm my joy.  He chooses to pray for me when I don’t know how to pray for myself anymore.  He chooses to pray with me and help me to see the good all around me.  He chooses to point out the positives and remind me of all of the blessings the Lord has given me.  He chooses to walk with me through each of the painful moments, letting the Lord lead us on this crazy path that we call life.  He chooses to love me, in the rare good moments and the frequent bad ones.

So, Brandon, it means the world to me that you actively and presently choose me, regardless of every problem we have faced and all of the craziness I’m sure we will face.  You are my sunshine.  Truly.  When skies are gray and all I can see is the negativity, you help me to see the sun hiding just behind the clouds.  You remind me that the Lord is still there and He is ready and willing to carry my burden and give me joy.  You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.  And I pray the Lord never takes you from me.

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

One Month Later

If you missed the first part of the story, you can find it here.

I know it’s been a little while since I last posted, so I’ll give you a quick recap of my last post: Brandon and I  decided to take a break from any kind of communication for the whole month of October, 2012 in order to focus more on the Lord and seek out His will for our relationship.  We were not dating at the time, just “talking” and we had not seen each other again since we said goodbye at camp.

October was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It took a lot of self-control to not look back at our text messages. It took even more self-control to decide to block him on Facebook after I realized that even though we weren’t supposed to be communicating, I could still see everything he posted on social media (that was horrific by the way, especially when he posted sweet things). At one point, one of my friends was talking to him and ever so nicely came over and said, “Guess who I’m talking to!” Yes, they knew about October. Yes, it stung. Yes, it hurt. And yes, I put on a smile and laughed along with them so they didn’t feel bad about it.

You know the quote that says, “You never know what you have until it’s gone?” Whoever coined that phrase knew what they were talking about. When I woke up on October 1st, I still almost expected a good morning text from Brandon. I expected to see his name pop up on my phone at some point during the day. I expected to get a phone call that night and hear his voice before I went to sleep. I knew it shouldn’t come and it never did. But that was what I wanted, right?

I wanted Brandon to agree to not communicate with me for a whole month. I wanted him to agree to not text me, not call me, and basically vanish from my life for a month. Well, I wanted him to vanish as much as someone can when said person was constantly on my mind and seemed to come up in almost every conversation I had… The problem was, I had asked for this. I asked for the distance I didn’t want. I asked for the communication I so desired, to be cut off completely. I asked for it all. Literally. At that point I was questioning everything I thought I had heard from the Lord along with my sanity, of course.

But God is and was good and He brought many blessings and revelations through October.

When Brandon didn’t freak out about my absolutely insane request to cease communication, it was the first time I realized how serious he was about our relationship. Now, please remember that I asked all of this of a guy I had only known for three months and also hadn’t seen again in those three months. I also may or may not have mentioned to this boy that I was looking for a man worthy to marry. And he didn’t even flinch. At all. I’ve never known another 18 year old guy to react with such a calm and accepting spirit. Three months in…. I’m just praising the Lord that He has turned that 3 months into more than 3 years now. But that’s a story for another time.

October was a time that the Lord gave me to ensure that I was placing Christ at the center of my life rather than allowing myself to place a boy in His rightful place. It was a truly freeing experience, despite all of the craziness. We both learned a little more about who we were in Christ before we pursued a relationship together under the Lord’s guidance.

Now, let me just tell you that I cannot possibly express the number of different emotions that I experienced during October. It was like an emotional rollercoaster on steroids. The problem was, the highs never lasted long and the lows were lower than I had ever known them to be. However, through it all, God was right there with me. He rode with me on my crazy rollercoaster and I know that He was with Brandon as well.

The moment that we were able to talk to each other again, I got a call. November 1, 2012 at 12:01am. I know this is all about to sound like the crazy, mushy movie stuff, but I’m going to say it anyway. The moment I heard his voice, it made every single second of October worth it. The moment he said, “I missed you,” I knew that we had made the right choice. It was like that one moment made up for the month of insanity that preceded it. Hearing his voice again and knowing that he missed me and hadn’t decided that I was absolutely insane (which I definitely am) or given up on me brought so much joy. To know that October didn’t make him run screaming for the hills made me realize just how much I liked that boy.

Even though our conversation only lasted a little while that night, the days, weeks, months, and years of communication that have followed October have been blessed because of our obedience to the Lord in that time.

We decided that we didn’t need to change much about our relationship, other than truly striving to keep Christ at the center of our individual lives as well as at the center of our relationship, of course. Neither of us felt like God was leading us to start a relationship right at that moment, but we also didn’t feel like He was telling us to back away from it. So, we just kind of picked up where we left off, with our minds set on doing God’s will, not our own.

October was a doozy. It was nowhere near my idea of fun, though it definitely fit my criteria for following God when He tells you to do something even when you really don’t want to. We both came out stronger in our faith and we learned more about ourselves and each other as well. It was a blessing disguised as a trial; so I’ll just keep praising the Lord and counting October as pure joy, just like James said to do in James 1:2.

Gentry Bass

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