glorious impossible

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Glorious Impossible 2011

Published December 6, 2011 by joypatton

I write about this almost every year because it is such a good reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to me.  The “Glorious Impossible” comes from a worship song by Carl Cartee we sing at church during the season.  It causes me reflect on all the “impossible” things that God made possible for His glory in the Christmas story.  How impossible it was for a virgin to get pregnant!  How impossible it was that Joseph decided to marry her anyway.  How impossible that Elizabeth, who was past childbearing years, would get pregnant.  How God moved a couple from Nazareth to Bethlehem to birth a child in the city of David from the “house of Bread.”  How impossible for shepherds to see a choir of angels singing or  for Mary to have an angel speak to her or for Joseph to have an angel in a dream… twice!  How impossible is it to get a man or woman to act in obedience based on a dream?  How impossible to find three kings willing to travel and bring gifts based on what they saw in the stars!  How impossible to move this couple from Bethlehem to Egypt to again fulfill a promise!  How impossible for God to become man and yet remain fully God!

The Christmas of 2006, when I first contemplated these things, I had experienced some amazing glorious impossibles.  God’s provision for two new vehicles, one of which was a minivan for our growing family.  Both cars that we still have today.  I had seen broken relationships that seemed beyond repair healed.  The impossible realization that I was pregnant with a baby girl, a feat no Patton man had accomplished in five generations!  However I struggled with what seemed to be the most impossible situation of all…providing for the needs of my mother-in-law without having a nervous breakdown.

In 2007, I looked back at a year of up’s and down’s with Andrew’s mom.  She did come to live with us for six months until she got pneumonia and had to move to a nursing hime.  How impossible it was to have two strong women share the same house!  How impossible it was for us to sell our house just before the market turned!  How impossible it was to find a mortgage we could afford!

In 2009, the biggest glorious impossible was that God made me, a cold-hearted, selfish woman, the mother of four children.  How impossible it was for us to have not only one daughter, but two!  How impossible it was for God to make provision for us financially without fail each month!  How impossible it was to find four women to work together to start a Connection group for women who attended Fellowship and lived in Nolensville.  How beautiful and precious is their friendship and community to me now!  God is glorified when we live in relationship with one another.

In January of 2010, I prayed to God and told him I was weary.  Our financial situation was very stressful.  We had medical bills from Andrew’s kidney stone that weren’t covered by insurance, not to mention other major medical expenses on a high deductible insurance plan.  God asked, “Are you tired of trusting me?”  Ouch!  I told him that I never wanted to grow tired of trusting him, but that I was weary of the journey.  I asked him for a window.  How impossible it seemed to have a record label job open up for Andrew!  How impossible it was for him to keep his own company!  He works two full-time jobs so that I don’t have to spend time worrying about how I can make money.  How impossible for our family to have group health insurance again!  Glorious!  I also rejoiced in my own glorious impossibles like teaching a Bible study called Women Who Dare to Believe with the amazing authors of the study Nan Gurley and Bonnie Keen.  Somehow God saw fit to place me on that teaching team with two women I greatly admire and learned so much from.

Which brings me to my glorious impossibles for 2011.  This year I’m taking a year off from teaching weekly Bible studies so that I can have time to write a book God placed on my heart five years ago.  This is the year to write.  I stand here not know what God has for any of the things I am writing, if the books will get published, if anyone will ever read them.  Right now the thought of a publishing deal or future speaking engagements seems entirely impossible.  How impossible it is for me, a young woman who teaches the Bible without a seminary degree or a platform, to be granted a ministry to other women of all ages!  The other glorious impossible is trusting God to make me the kind of mother who can deal with a tween (who acts more like a teen) and preschoolers.  Every day I go to bed emotionally and physically exhausted.  And every day I get up and do it all over again.  We stand on the edge of watching our oldest son develop into a top baseball player.  How impossible it will be for the two of us exhausted parents to steward his talent well for the glory of God without going bankrupt!

But if I know He can do the impossible because I have been watching him do it in my life for years and reading about it in His Word for thousands of years, why am I filled with worry and fear?  Why do I spend my time trying to figure out how to make the impossible possible?  I’m so thankful that He has done the most impossible thing by making a way for me, proud, arrogant, selfish Ice Queen, to be in relationship with Him.  Not only to live with Him forever, but to be forgiven, adopted, justified and declared righteous by the blood of Christ.  How impossible is it for a sinner like me to be deemed a saint!  How impossible for man to dwell with God for all eternity!  At Christmas God did something that was impossible for any man or woman to accomplish.  He made a way for the unrighteous to be made righteous, not for our glory or happiness, but for the sake of his glorious Name.

So what’s your Glorious Impossible for 2011?

Video of Glorious Impossible by Carl Cartee

Which tea cup are you?

Published March 7, 2011 by joypatton

Sometimes God teaches me His truth through my closet and sometimes through my china cabinet.  Recently I realized that I have three tea sets that reminded me of how I often feel when God wants to take me out of the china cabinet and put me on His table.  I think like many women in the Bible God calls each of us into a glorious impossible, something that seems impossible to us and it won’t happen unless God makes it happen. 

I have a tea set with a gray pattern and silver along the edges.  I bought this set when I was in college and wanted to have a tea party with some of my friends.  However I obviously had no china or tea cups.  I found this set at Big Lots and used it for my party.  It’s pretty, but it’s not fine china.  I later learned that the way you can spot fine china is by holding the cup up to the light.  Bone china is what you can see through.  You can’t see anything through these tea cups and if you look closely, you would probably find quite a few spots and flaws.

I see myself in my Big Lots tea set.  Neither one of us came from really prestigious places.  We aren’t all that fancy or pretty.  Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of the big things God has called me to.   I have also met other women that don’t feel worthy of the glorious impossible that God has given to them to do.  They don’t believe they are worthy of success or that God could really care about them in their small, little place in the world.  When we get down to the root of it, we don’t really believe that this big great God could love and care about an ugly tea set from Big Lots.

But God does see, he does care, and he does love the women the world says are unworthy, even worthless.  He proves this again and again in His Word.  For example, He chooses Mary of nowhere, nothing Nazareth to be the mother of His only Son.  She let God move her to be the centerpiece of his table even though she knew she was of humble estate.

I have another set with delicate blue flowers on it and gold on the handle and around the rim.  The stamp on the bottom reads “DUCHESS, Bone China, England, Tranquility.” You can immediately feel the quality when you touch it.  This is a lovely little set that I found in the attic of my husband’s grandparent’s house.  After they passed away, I was helping my mother-in-law go through all four stories of their house.  We found this set all packed in a box in wood shavings with bubble wrap.  It had been sent a gift from relatives in Scotland.  But as far as I could tell, it had never been opened and used.  Knowing Andrew’s family, it was probably because they felt it was too pretty to be used because if you used it, it might get broken or chipped.  So it sat in a box in the attic, safely packed away.

It was never used because of the fear of what might happen.  It was never used because it was too valuable to risk being broken.  I bet it was pretty comfortable in that box packed with wood shavings and bubble wrap.  When I found this set as a woman in my twenties, it was a tragedy that it hadn’t been used.  It was so sad for me to think that something so beautiful had never been enjoyed.  What’s the point if you can’t use it?  

This is me when I am ruled by fear, when I am afraid to share my story or use my gifts.  When I let myself get taken out of the box, I don’t have any control over what people might think or say about me.  It could hurt; it could break my heart.  In the past, it has.  I’m also afraid that the situation might not be right.  I think that I’m more important than I am and should only be taken out of the box for really special occasions.  I only what to come out under the best circumstances, knowing that I will be treated carefully and respectfully. 

But heroines like Esther let God take her out the box and use her, no matter what the cost, no matter what the fears were, no matter how many times her heart would be broken or her life be taken.  She had courage to go before the king uninvited because she knew her God was bigger than any circumstance. 

The last set is an ivory tea set embossed with ivy leaves and accented with gold on the handle and the rim.  This is set is part of my wedding china.  I remember picking it out.  I wanted something that was timeless and classic and would go with whatever colors I had in my house.  Most of my tea cups and saucers are perfectly fine, but one cup has a big chip in it.  I don’t remember how it got chipped, probably in the washing and drying process after it had been used.  But now I won’t set this cup on my table for someone to use.  It’s been broken to the point that it’s unusable.  It’s still pretty to look at and in my china cupboard so that every looks even, but it will never know its full purpose again. 

That’s how I am.  I’m pretty good at covering and hiding the flaws, but deep down, I know they are still there.  Some of you feel the same.  That there is something in your past that has rendered you unusable by God.  Maybe it’s a deep character flaw or a bad habit or an addiction that you just can’t overcome.  Sure you do a good job at covering it, but you and God still know it’s there.  The shame of the past can make us want to take ourselves out of use and circulation.  I begin to believe that God might use me in some diminished way, but it will never be what it was originally meant to be.  It will never be a complete set; it will always have a chipped cup.

This is me when I believe that I have become unusable.  I remember one night my mouth had gotten me into trouble and it was something I said from a teaching platform.  I said to my husband, “I’m never going to teach again because every time I open my mouth I hurt people.  I can’t do that.”  I had decided that I was unusable, that I had messed things up so badly that it could never be fit for use again. 

But God still uses women like Rahab the prostitute.  He chose to use her scarlet cord, not as a symbol of shame, but as a sign of salvation.  She had made her mistakes, but when she believed God, he used her to deliver Jericho to His people.   

I want you to know that no matter what tea set you identify with, God has a glorious impossible for you and wants to use you. 

Have you ever considered how arrogant it would be on any of these tea sets to refuse to be taken out of the china cabinet? The Big Lots set says, “God could never use someone like me; I’m not that important. I’m not valuable enough to be used.”  Do you realize that shame is often the flip side of pride? 

The Duchess Tea set says “I’m too valuable to be used.  The circumstances have to be just right for me to come out of my box. I’m afraid of what will happen.  What if I get hurt or broken?”

The Ivory set says, “I know you could never use me.  I would do more damage than good.  It won’t be what it could have been.  I’ve messed it up too badly. You can use me for a tea party of five, but never for six.”

When we refuse to be used, we lack the faith to see that with God anything is possible.  God delights in taking this Big Lots tea set and moving it to the center stage of his story.  God delights in taking the Duchess tea set out of the box and risking breaking it.  God delights in making things that were unusable, usable. When I refuse to be used, I am focusing on myself and what I can or can’t do.   

But I want to be like the women in the Bible.  They chose to focus on who God was, not who they were.  They chose to believe that God was bigger and greater than them.  May we all realize we are just tea cups in His china cabinet.  May we surrender to Him when He moves us out onto His table.  May we remember who we are and never forget who He is.

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