Wednesday, August 24, 2016

look for beauty

"What a splendid day!"  said Anne, drawing a long breath.  "Isn't it good just to be alive on a day like this?  I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it."

Currently carried everywhere in my purse is Anne of Green Gables.  A love was born for spunky Anne Shirley at a young age by the side of one of my best and oldest friends.  Many a friendship currently has deepened because of our genuine love for Prince Edward Island's residents and grown women might grieved greatly when the actor who played our beloved Gilbert passed away.  Picking the book back up after many years was in response to my heart's need for a lovely novel after so many non fictions in a row and the absence of finding any new fiction that could keep my attention for longer than a chapter or two.  On the radio, just yesterday, there was a discussion about the importance of reading older books and the intellectual, moral, and historical lessons needed from them that are just not possible to get from modern literature.  That, plus the news a new miniseries will be coming out based upon this classic series, has given me an uncommon feeling of being quite trendy.

Whenever I am on trend it usually comes as a result of an accident.  I attempt to make myself aware of the fashion trends to a point so I do not find myself looking completely uncool in situations, but mostly I just like what I like as far as fashion, home decor, movies, books, and so on and let that be the guide.  Trends come and go and I do not have the time, money, or husband approval to keep up with the comings and goings.  He was a staunch there is no need to change it until it breaks who cares of it matches or not kind of fella no matter how ugly it may be fella when we first met.  Since currently I am revamping our works perfectly fine but looks like a dungeon 1950s laundry room into a visually appealing space, there is proof that over the years there has been much movement towards my side of thinking that beautifying the areas around you bring a comfortable homeyness and peace to the eyes and spirit.  However, his way of thinking is continually reminding me that I do not need perfection around me, that I can, and should, be able to find beauty anywhere.

It is easy to clearly imagine a day just like Anne is describing, one with a bright blue sky and a smattering of white clouds, one with a hint of a breeze but a full shining sun, one void of humidity that can be enjoyed with a thermometer that doesn't read anywhere near the 90s, one that would without a doubt have a beach, or mountains, or garden, or fields, or a city skyline for a view depending on your preference and personality, one where everything simply seems to fall into place and the only thing left to do is enjoy.  There have been countless days like that in my life, as well, I assume, as in yours, and there will be many more fitting that same description before life on this earth is done.  But, we have and will amass many more that look quite different.

The flipside has days with unbearable heat that have you searching for cool air wherever you can get it, with painful cold that sends people huddling indoors or struck with fear on how to stay warm when there is no door to go in, or with rain and fog and gray clouded dreariness that effects moods without any effort.  There are also days where the outside weather may be textbook perfect but your heart is feeling something so different inside that your eyes have trouble seeing the beauty for what it is, and more importantly from where and Whom it comes. 

There was a season in my life where beauty should have been so hard to find that it would have felt like a desperate daily search just to find an ounce to cling to.  While that did happen more moments than can be counted, while fear and heartache did their best and succeeded at times to cover up every smidgen of beauty the eyes could see, in between the hard and desperation, came arrows shooting straight to small beautiful things forever in the midst, things that once had been stared right through and now became beacons of beauty and gifts in the rubble.  The most precious lessons were learned, one of which...

Beauty is not based on circumstances.  

Like Joy, the ability to see Beauty is not dependent upon the best of circumstances taking places. Beauty can be seen and found in any and all times and situations because it is wholly dependent upon the view through which you are looking.  There are no shortage of things we are promised when we cling to our God of Hope, and while those promises never include perfect lives, they always include life given from One who did live perfectly.  One such promise is to all who mourn...He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:3)

Beauty from ashes.  Beauty in the darkest places.

Looking upon the surface will grant you the ability to see beautiful things the way the world sees them but to miss the infinite amount of beauty that the world's eyes will never be able to see.  Look below the surface, look through the eyes of that sweet Spirit within you that never takes its eyes off the true Beauty always before us, beholding the beauty of the Lord and meditating in His temple (Ps. 27:4

However difficult it may be alone, with Him "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living [as long as I] wait for the Lord; be strong, and let [my] heart take courage and wait for the Lord." Him not me, His eyes, not mine.  Seeing His work in the lives of myself and others, not my efforts.

Let's look for Beauty.

Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

huddle up!

Staying close has been on my mind still as the answers found were not really answers as much as questions, though more helpful questions they certainly are. The two keys of staying close and giving your all when you feel God calling you to relationship with a certain place or person at a certain time and stepping back when that relationship overpowers your ability to think of another's needs above your own or when your voice is now beginning to overpower His can be applied daily to make new decisions of getting involved, to keep things in check, or to know when to let go.

But those two keys seem to just relate to whether or not you stay, so going further, how do you proceed once you have found a place or a person to delve into relationship with, or once you are all in but not sure of the next step, or before that, when still in search for those people and places your heart is being pulled towards.

Come mid August the anticipation of Fall arrives forcefully.  For Georgians, school is back in session, there are no more long lazy days of summer by the pool, no late night walks until the sun has gone, and though the temperatures are still soaring at dreadful mid 90s and the humidity suffocates more than a little, breezes pick up and leaves fall quietly because of them.

A couple short weeks from now, especially in the South, conversations, TV stations, radio shows, and facebook statuses will be overwhelmed by one topic, football.  My pastor, the yankee that he is, always dreaded the coming of football season because of its ability to overpower the thoughts and schedules of nearly everyone but himself.  In our home we are big fans, though I now watch the games through the lens of a mama who just wants everyones' babies to play well, be good sports, and not get hurt.  While my beloved Tigers have adopted a hurry up offense with posters of plays on the sidelines made from famous faces, one of my favorite illustrations from football that is usable in this question of how to proceed, how to continue your steps or how to even search out the ministry of your heart, comes from the huddle.

Seeing a team, gather together, stare each other in the eyes, and make a plan before proceeding as one entity each doing their own parts excites me every. single. time.  I can just imagine the conversations that go on, the frustrations and anger that I am sure are shared, but the encouragement and determination that are there alongside.  They are meeting together, working together, not to just sit and wait and continue a lengthy conversation, but to go forth and accomplish a goal, whether it be a few steps at a time or one giant leap.  The best part, however, is just a few seconds or minutes later, it happens again.  and then again.  and then again.  Over and over they gather together, make a plan, strive to accomplish it and then huddle up again ready to keep going.

It is a worldly adaptation of a heavenly command from Hebrews 10:25, let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching and oh how it can inspire.  Y'all His Gospel Truths are everywhere, just look for Him!

Speaking to that I can hear the voice of Kit Deluca in my head--the roommate to Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman--saying a line near the end of the movie after she has seen the (glimmer) of a light in her life, "Do you have a goal?"  Huddling up is my goal.  Not the hiding and huddling in fear and doubt, but the Huddle that comes when you bind together, plan together, and then don't keep it to yourselves but show those around you what you are going to do next.

We said a sorrowful goodbye to our church home last week as many different aspects required the session to make the decision to close our doors after 15 years.  There is Trust that this is right and there is Hope that we each have a church family waiting for us in the future but for many, including myself, the search causes doubts to rise and stress to bubble up.  As the church adventure, as we call it with our boys, embarks at the top of the list will be a place where we can jump into the Huddle.  A place that will invite us in to the circle not to sit, converse, and wait, but to prepare, set goals, and then venture out, outside of ourselves, outside of themselves, outside of the walls and into the world around us.

I want huddling up to be my goal in all relationships, whether with my husband and children, family or closest friendships.  The people most important to me in my life are not ones that I hide with but are ones that I huddle with.  People who sit, plan, listen, ask, encourage, and then set off with me or apart from me until the next huddle starts.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention the single most important huddle in life, the source of where Life comes from.  Yesterday evening, after a difficult did not go as I thought it was going to day, I prematurely flipped the perpetual hymn calendar gifted to me.  Today's hymn can better state the place of the most important huddles of our daily lives better than I ever could...

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I long to take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land,
A home within the wilderness
A rest upon the way
From the burning
Of the noontide heat
And the burden of the day

Everything, every huddle, begins and ends with Jesus.  Abiding in His shelter.  Riding on His coattails.  Basking in the Hope given one because of what He has done.  Not to just sit there alone with Him, but to give rest and to allow Him to fill our cups before we head out into the other relational huddles and then out again taking all of Him with us into the world.

Oswald Chambers said "To live life alone with God does not mean that we live it apart from everyone else.  The connections between godly men and women and those associated with them is continually revealed in the Bible"  Huddle with Him and then Huddle up and strike out into the world and then come back and do it all over again.

Life very seldom wraps itself up into a pretty little bow.  We, because I am assuming another can relate to this, have to resist the urge of stopping short of sharing our struggles until they are fixed so that we can present them in their entirety, the beginning middle and end, all tied up with lessons learned.  While happy endings are most assuredly the overwhelmingly popular desire in my choices for books and movies, it has always been more comforting to listen to a story from another that has not yet reached its conclusion even if there have been victories along the way because that is real and relatable.  

Plans, no matter how well thought out are going to fail.  Plans, no matter how well executed, are going to fail.  You will come back to a huddle elated at times and battered and bruised at others. Share those too.  Share the successes, but share the failures.  In these stories you will either see God's hand at work, or anticipate what He will do, because the Hope we have is that He is always working and always doing, and as long as we huddle up with Him before striking out, taking our rest in Him on our way, then we take the confidence of that Hope with us wherever the play leads.

Pray for me as Huddle Up, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

staying close

Nearly every serious thought that comes out of my mind through my hands onto a paper or screen is in reality just an end to or part of a long trail that has been mixed up and twisting around for weeks, days, months, or sometimes longer.  The writing down of it is as much a release of built up contemplation as it is a processing of what has been formulating over time.  

Madeline L'Engle did say "If I could talk about it I wouldn't have to write it." and there lies my problem many times when need for conversation arises.  For me, verbal debate is usually out of the question as others would grow tired of the hours or days in waiting for the processing of information to go from my mind, to my fingertips with keys or pen, then back out of my mouth, most likely with tears because you know the talking out loud about something pretty much pushes me over the emotional edge.

It's hard to convince someone else to let you write a few paragraphs in response while they stare at you instead of just saying out loud what you want to say.  Believe me I've tried and the result is seldom what I actually "want" to say and results in a corrective email or text later that day.  Lucky for me the current debate in my mind is only taking place with myself and I very much understand the need for both sides of the argument to have their processing time so no one is having to hum the jeopardy theme aloud to move things along.  I should add that there is also no talking back and forth out loud in different voices either just in case you have a weird Smeagol/Gollum picture in your head right now.

For the past little bit I have been flipping and flopping on a topic, playing devil's advocate with myself, until I come today with no real answers but maybe, perhaps, a way to ask the right questions.
I have mentioned before that if there was a soundtrack to my life Sara Groves would indeed be the voice behind it.  With almost all thoughts from the past along with the present ones stirring about, a second guess girl personality emerges from me on a regular basis.  There always seems to be a but or however--which is really just a fancy but--that can be used to turn a solid argument into a conflicting solid argument.  It's quite annoying at times.

The topic at hand is staying close.

A sweet young lady and friend spent the summer being an intern in Romania with a ministry Zach and I support wholeheartedly.  We have had the pleasure of going twice to love on and support both the missionaries there and the Romanian and Roma people and have come back each time with a better sense of how God loves both us and His children around the world.  However, as much as I love the people and work that is done there, it is hard to retain the same fervor for it when the distance between places is so great.  Hence began my debate.

While Romania was the trigger for the initial trail, anything I have been invested in throughout life qualifies as an experience this debate speaks into.  As you may have guessed, the first thought was that for the light not to dim, for the passion not to grow cold, one must stay close, stay engaged, immerse yourself into the relationship.  

Whether the relationship at hand is with a ministry, people group, activity, child's school, spouse, friend, or family member, it is relatively impossible to continue passionately supporting and loving it without not only keeping in touch but letting yourself feel compassion as well.  Picture what it is like to be in their shoes, try to understand how the day to day must work, must feel like, the pressures that are put upon, the more knowledge and understanding you have the more you are able to effectively help and support and the more those actions don't come from a sense of duty but a sense of the desire to love another and love them well.  

My mind was made up and I was ready to go forward when a pesky voice in the back was wondering but what if you are so busy engaging deeply in the people and things you want to engage in that you forget there are others around.  And so started the other side, can staying close harm more than it helps.

Zach and I are in the middle of binge watching The West Wing.  Neither of us have ever seen it and though it has been recommended by more than one friend for over a decade it hasn't been until the summer that we hit play on episode one.  Since then there have been few nights where we haven't watched at least one-or three-before falling asleep.  Before an extensive rabbit trail is taken let's just say we absolutely love it and much prefer watching Jedediah Bartlett's campaign to any of the others we are forced to notice.

However, another thing that can be noticed, is the danger of immersing yourself so much into one thing.  Yes, you can not base an argument over fiction, but fiction is taken from real life experience and this is not a graded debate so let's move on.  There are a reason why cliques form in a variety of places from childhood to adulthood.  We like when people agree with us.  We like when people think the same way,  We love when our thoughts and opinions are affirmed by those milling around so our innate desire is to stay close to what we know and who we agree with so that our personal world looks orderly.  In the meantime we, purposely or as a side effect, build a fence to block out everything else. And we are none too fond of another coming in to try and shake it all up.

So here I am straddling the fence of pros and cons of staying close and stepping back and realizing that for once the answer doesn't really lie somewhere in the middle in lies within it all.  The answer to the question do you stay close or step back is yes you do.  

You stay close when you fill God calling you to relationship with a certain place, a certain person at a certain time and you give them your all just as you except theirs in return.

You step back when the idea your fighting for overpowers your ability to think of others' needs above your own no matter which side they are on, when the only voice you hear is your own instead of your Creator's.  You step back when the good thing you were doing has now become a ruling thing in your life.

So yes, you do both.  Is it easy?  Well obviously not, nothing is, but asking the right questions is always worth it because eventually the whys will lead you down to the source of the One who gives you Hope.

There will always be another who does not share the same opinion, same values, same beliefs.  To ignore them is to ignore a huge part of the world God created.  More often than not, when I have the ability to engage in conversation with or visit a place that is much different than myself, it does not necessarily change my core beliefs unless they are needing to do so, but it always opens my heart up to another's and allows grace to build up and flow out all the more.

When all the voices around you are similar, the views around you are similar, the arguments are all one sided, it is forgotten that not only are their other opinions, but some of them may be valid.

Thought it may seem me like fighting a raging fire with a squirt gun, it also seems as if so many of our human struggles would come to naught if we just do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit [but] rather, in humility value others above ourselves (Phil.2:3), but that might be a topic for another day.

Myself and many others I know are starting a new season and will have to make tough decisions on how to stay close to past while opening up to future, giving up the cliques we know to see the others who might have been blocked before, but the best thing about all of this is staying close to your Father who loves you, Jesus who saved you, and the Holy Spirit who guides you is always the best option and will always lead you to the way everlasting.

Pray for me as I stay close to Him, I'm praying for you.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

into the fog

Fog. It is a weather condition, like many others, that when it comes can conjure up a variety of feelings. When looking upon it while safe in the comfort of your home it provides a peaceful, serene view as it hides the distance while surrounding what is upfront in a protective hug. When walking in the midst of it, that same beauty can be seen if you are in a familiar place, strolling along a well worn path, inviting a different viewpoint to your welcomed familiar. But fog, that hazy restricting cloud, can also evoke anxiety, fear, and doubt in your heart as it blocks your sight of the distance and keeps you from preparing for what it is to come. One of the more difficult things in life to do is taking the next step when you have no idea what lies on the ground ahead.

Yesterday we woke up with a cloud of fog covering our yard and trees with nary a hint of the beautiful, landmark Old Church in the distance. From my big cozy chair it was a beautiful sight but the more I stared into its soupy center the more I began to think about and hurt for the ones, myself included, who find themselves in the middle of the cloud not quite knowing which way to turn.

Last weekend we said a most sorrowful goodbye to a little kitty who had our hearts, the void she has left is felt by all of us including our kitty brother who lost his sole playmate.  There are many other possibilities of goodbyes in the near future of other people and things that our hearts love, people and things that could leave voids as well.  Though life will always be lived with one goodbye after another, I can already feel the fog rolling in, causing me to doubt that there is a plan, doubt that there is a future I will love just as much, causing me to forget the wonderful that has been given.

My prayer journal is filled with names of friends and family who are embarking on new experiences that surely carry with them excitement but is most assuredly coupled with overwhelming nervousness that masks the familiar things that are still there. Even in anxiously awaited hellos, the fog can come in hiding the familiar, making you forget what you have already been given.

Recently I heard a Godly woman proclaim to a roomful of women that God is good, God is good to me, and God is good at being God. Our trouble comes when we forget these basic truths, when we don't give them the time to float up, before giving up, freaking out, hiding out, or stuffing whatever emotions the situation brings. When we forget that God is good, God is good to me, and God is good at being God we walk into the fog alone scared and confused instead of resting in the Hope we have been provided that He's got all of this.

While staring out that window I began to pray. I am praying to see His light shining through those hazy clouds, I am praying that the fog lifts and what is left is a clear picture of next steps, but mostly I am praying that regardless of what we see that we will walk into the fog knowing the only eyes that truly matter are guiding us exactly where we need to go.

 Pray for me, I'm praying for you.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

You are not alone

--I may or may not have had to take a minute to dance around and sing "You are not alone" with my best MJ voice and moves.  Sorry, or perhaps you are welcome, if you have to take a minute yourself to get a similar experience out of your system.--

A few months ago while preparing dinner I tested myself.  It had been a great stretch of time since my last emotional meltdown, so obviously I assumed the hurt was all gone, I was all healed up and ready to go.  The root digging experience had come, my milestone day was circled in my heart and head, so why not see if I could handle it.
I immersed myself in a past hurt and it took only seconds to feel myself begin to slide...

Six plus hours of constant tears,  numerous text message conversations, a threat of bodily harm from my best friend if I ever did that again, and more than a few hugs from my love took up the rest of my day and the wee hours into the next. But as He always promises to do, Good came.  I can never screw up enough to keep that from happening, neither can you, amen and hallelujah.
Hurt can trigger countless things, but in the midst of the past memories emerging, thankfulness pops up as well, and it's friend courage follows close behind as you are reminded again of His faithfulness and the long road you have already walked.

The next morning, after weeks of debating, chickening out, then thinking about it again, I told Zach I needed a not so small chunk of money to invest into my future, after getting the you should absolutely do it response I needed, I registered for SheSpeaks and also requested to be placed on a list to meet with two publishers during the weekend.  Deep breath.

This past weekend I drove through Atlanta rush hour traffic complete with thunderstorm to Charlotte, checked into a hotel all alone, sent more than one frantic tear-filled, fear-filled message describing how completely unequipped I am and how I think I'll just leave because obviously this was a mistake, received more than one "you can do this" message in return, and then fell asleep feeling like a teenager all over again getting ready for her first day of high school.

Over the next two days full of freezing conference center temperatures, beautiful decorations, fantastic food, poignant messages, and 800 other women four words were whispered into my heart over and over again...

I walked in completely alone, received my registration packet, then took my husband's advice and found a table that appeared to have another girl flying solo.  After initial hellos, conversation started and after 15 minutes I found myself at a table full of seven other singles who God turned into a group.  In less than an hour I was taking a picture with said ladies at a cutely decorated spot for photo ops that after passing first thing that morning had left me pondering how pathetic I would look taking a picture there alone.

These lovely ladies and I shared meals, stories, social media accounts, email addresses, phone numbers, hugs, pictures and even car rides.  They are now not only friends, but coworkers for Christ across the country.  Ladies who share similar thoughts, aspire to similar roles, and feel similar feelings of hope, anticipation, and for sure more than a little doubt for the future.

You are not alone.

Standing in the hallway of a hotel conference center two states away from home I glanced up and saw a familiar face.  A woman who runs in a similar circle, a woman I bump into constantly in the oddest places, a woman that until this weekend I might not have described as a friend but now is not only that, but a woman I would call on for prayer in any situation.

You are not alone.

At the first session, after the inward debate of where to sit, I found myself right in front of another Sarah May also from the Atlanta area. No joke.  We laughed, we talked, we took advantage of a photo op, we waved in passing, we even found ourselves twinning on day 2 in our kimonos.

You are not alone.

My entire weekend went a similar way.
One speaker shared a marital past that compares to mine.  Another shared about waiting for her calling to be revealed and then waiting again for it to come to fruition.  Over and over again more words lovingly and transparently shared that encouraged and spoke to specific fears, specific needs.

You are not alone.

In the hotel lobby before leaving for the second morning of the conference a conversation was struck up over the coffee/tea bar and an offer for a ride to the center was extended from me to two ladies from San Francisco.  A lengthy conversation between myself and one of them was about foster care and the cycle of abuse that goes on and on and both of our hearts that ached for the people caught in the vicious circle.

You are not alone.

Before one publisher meeting a stranger stopped by to hand me a hug and a jar of mints with a note attached.  Before another, I was stopped in the hall and prayed for by a fellow attendee who initiated conversation in a previous meeting. Then while waiting for our appointments, the woman sitting next to me and I discovered that she knew my husband's parents quite well and had attended his church and was also a youth leader for one of my sister in laws years ago

You are not alone.

Recently my PCA pastor Father in law shared a mini sermon with us at our family reunion.  In it he suggested that in a way we each wake up every morning as unbelievers, needing to be reminded of the gospel, of the Truths we know we know but can't always remember.  Preaching the gospel to ourselves daily is a necessity so that our hearts are available to see the times we need to share that gospel with others.

Yes, take homes from the She Speaks conference included an adorable necklace, a conference notebook full of things to ponder, a renewed passion and assurance that I might possibly be traveling in the right directions, contacts, networking, and a core group of co writers for Jesus to lean on for support and pull from for inspiration.  But the number one take home was the reminder that my God, my Creator, the one who sent His Son who placed His Spirit in my heart, is unendingly faithful.  He holds me, little bitty me, in the palms of His hands, and loves me.  He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:17) Even me.  Even you.  Even us.  Especially us.

It is not necessary to travel to a conference, or travel anywhere for that matter, to realize the Truth of not being alone, the tangible feeling of never being left or forsaken.  All it takes is a glance around to see what has been placed before you, to see who is before all of your things and who is holding you together.  Can you see it?

I'll be praying that you can see countless ways that you too are not alone.  Praying that you know how much you are loved by an Almighty Father.  Praying that you know that you are being held right there in the palm of His hands.  

I'll be praying for you.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

digging up roots

We had lived in this new house for less than six months.  Walls had been painted, furniture set in place, and decor was somewhat coming together.  Plenty was still left to do but considering decorating, revamping, and freshening up my home has a significantly high rank on my lists of favorite things, that is a job that is delightfully unending.

The yard we inherited is beautifully green with spans of open grass suitable for all things sports that three boys fine appealing.  There are also private set aside spots for a soon to be coming chair, the perfect spot for spring and fall reading.  A variety of little spaces give an illusion of rooms in the wide open space where yard games are played, water balloons filled, birds visit feeders, berries picked, or trees climbed depending on in which section you find yourself.

My greatest challenge will not only be adding pretty flowering color but also to not destroy this green haven that has been around for decades. I am not nearly as handy in the outside home world as I am on the inside.  Vision is never a problem, but the results can end up a little brown and crispy more often than I would like.
Although most of the spots out of our doors are ones that I love there was another that stuck out every time I stood on the porch and glanced around the yard.  It cried out for help, or maybe I was crying out to help it, because staring front and center in my view were 30 year old boxwood bushes.

It is a mystery to when my hate/hate relationship with these bushes began, but ever since childhood I would stare at these boxy things cornering curbs, lining up on house fronts, and blocking fences and scowl at their trimmed shape.  Maybe in the elaborate garden of an English manor they have their place but in every home I have lived as an adult they are on the list to go.

One Sunday afternoon while the boys were resting and Zach and I were feeling our Sabbath rest needed to be more active of body to help quiet the spirit, we began tackling the task of ripping out those eye sores of mine. We spent little more than an hour trimming, digging, pulling, and then hauling away.  In little more than an hour this spot that had occupied my line of sight was left clear of debris and ready to bear something new in its space. 

In little more than an hour God granted me a milestone moment.   A day where my heart was changed, and I saw more of what He was doing, what he had done.  A day where so many struggles and prayers were whisked away and answered as pieces came together in my head and heart.

 In one afternoon, I learned four fundamental truths at the exact same time...

     1) Roots have to soften if you want to dig them out.  Difficult situations produce growing roots inside your heart just like Truths do.  The longer they live within you the deeper and stronger they grow to the point that they can almost feel permanent.  Ripping them out can be painful, exhausting work.  You can dig all around or you can wield and axe and turn them into shards but either way you will be spent and torn apart.  

The bushes we dug out had been soaking up rain for over a week.  The water had seeped in and softened so that the roots let go of the dirt around them and were able to be lifted out.  The Holy Spirit and the Truth it reveals serves the same purpose.  It can soak into and around the roots in your heart, softening their hold, so that they can be lifted out.  There's still a hole to fill no doubt, and making a hole of any kind does not come without some effort, without some pain.  However when it is not made through violent force, but with tender care it makes all the difference.

2)  Digging out roots is hard work.   Clearing out, digging out, is good.  It provides clean slates, level footing, new beginnings but it is not easy.  It takes effort but more importantly it takes getting started.  My wonderful Mary Poppins said, "once begun is half done."  Standing on the porch staring and grimacing at a bunch of bushes accomplished nothing.  Getting down in the dirt is where I had to be to complete the task.

 C.S. Lewis said "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  The metaphorical roots that grow within us can be even more difficult and painful to remove but once gone it leaves more space for Truth to root down inside you and "Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong." (Eph. 3:17)

3)  You need help.  Uprooting is not for the faint of heart and it is not a job done easily alone. My parents will drive four hours to spend a weekend digging flower beds, trimming trees and planting new things.  I have a friend whose parents have done the same thing several times as well.  Friends will mow your grass when you're sick or out of town, check on your pets, gather your mail.  God places people in your life for community, for bearing one another's burdens, for digging roots out of the ground.

There are people in your life who love you and are willing to drop almost anything to come to your aid, accept their help.  You were not mean to live life alone.

4) The finished result is well worth the work.  One of my favorite feelings is sitting outside all fresh and clean from a shower after a long day of work and enjoying the fruits of the labor.  Getting started might take awhile, there is obvious hemming and hawing sometimes, procrastination at it's finest but in the end when the job has been done the statement "I wish we would have done this sooner" is often uttered.  

I don't always understand God's timing.  Often I feel as if He might have wanted to show me things sooner but was just waiting until I was paying attention, but He is sovereign over all and I pray to accept His perfect plan as it comes or as I notice.

On October 4, 2015, one of my milestone days, I was given the gift of being able to completely forgive, submit to the command to love another even when the world would tell me not to, and just as that space was now cleared and ready for new growth, so was my heart ready to completely heal.  It can still take time, just as it can for you.  Weeds can pop up when the right care is not being taken but Hope remains as the promise of new mercies is ever present and the Divine Gardener is a much better care taker than I.

This is the last of this three part series of days and dates, joys and sorrows, milestones and newness.  I hope at some point my story and my words drifted away and you saw your own in it's stead.

I'm praying for you, pray for me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

milestone days

If you missed part one of this three part series/story, please take a moment to go back and read about dates we circle in red and why there are also ones we pray fervently will pass quickly, and "as difficult as it is those days, Hope is still present. that promise never left, and laying those hurts at the feet of Jesus and learning to see those days through a different lens allows a beautiful ending to come no matter what date is on the calendar".  I hope you were able to ponder a bit about your own days, your own dates, your own anticipations and dreads, and how you can ask to remember them in a different way.  Today I will share some of my own along with my very favorite days of all.

Before Logan entered the world of one year olds and beyond, I was a dedicated baby book filler-outer. Written in those pastel animal filled pages are dates marking first baths, first teeth and first steps, along with all their favorites at different months that seemed to change right after I wrote them down.  The only stat that never seemed to move was the one connected to the dreaded "How long do they sleep at night?" question which never failed to make me examine my mothering skills. But I can happily say that at ages 9, 7 and 4, it is no longer an remember when you are in the trenches, it is only temporary. 

The best of days we are sad to see as temporary.  We want to hang on to them forever, wishing and wishing they will never end, but knowing that to go on to the next thing they must.  But with the good comes the bad (and vice versa) so the worst is only temporary as well.  The days we have and the places we feel cemented into are just as fleeting.  Life is always going on, the world around is always on the move. At times, our place in it whirls right alongside with happiness and action, and at others we watch it go past in a blur as we sit and work through and wait for a season before we can jump back in the mix.

I have a combination of both just like the next person.  Days of happiness and sorrow that intermingle together, weaving in and out of my consciousness, teaching me new lessons and reminding me of past mistakes but working in unison to grow my heart, my compassion, my wisdom, my life.  

If you have not picked up on it yet, and if I have not alluded to it enough, I am a believer in the writing down of things. A memory-keeping enthusiast and to repeat an already repeated reason, it is so that I can remember.  Remembering can be a beautiful thing when you let God take your memories and show you Hope and Truth throughout them.  It can take time.  Yes, oh god yes, it can take lots of time, but His promise is true and though you might not be able to say the wisdom learned was worth the pain, because for some the pain came through horrific circumstances, you will be able to say that the wisdom learned is the good He promised He would provide. (Romans 8:28)

 As Forrest says when sharing his beloved stories, he likes to know where he's going and where he's been.  As promised, here follows a few of my bests and worsts, the days I circle in red and the days I once wanted to hide from but now welcome because I see my promised Good within them.  I love seeing where I have gone and where I am going even if the latter is more than a little hazy if not completely pitch black at times.  

The day I was born results in a day of celebration once a year.  It is one of my favorite days.  Now in life I share that day with my youngest son.  I pout a bit at first but love usually wins out.  

I met my husband on Halloween in 2001.  Because of this night my happiest days came on June 5, 2004 when we were wed, February 15, 2007 with the birth of our first son, May 8, 2009 with the birth of our second son, and November 15, 2011 with the birth of our third.  At our wedding I gifted him a journal I had written throughout our dating years with dates and memories, some big and some very small, but all part of our journey.  

My first heartbreak came in 6th grade, many more followed with the biggest one in December of 2000 that I am not proud to say dragged on and on until it finally came to an end in September of 2001.  That day is also one of my proudest moments one that holds a place in my favorite kind of days of all.  I had a car accident on November 13, 2000 that still gives me flashbacks and makes the Georgia/Auburn game played on November 11, 2000 one of my best days as well...odd but true.  The worst day of my life was September 8, 2013 when a marital betrayal of the worst kind was admitted (I even mistyped it the first time and wrote 9 because that is favorite my 12:01 am day to look forward to).  It is the uncontested winner and I pray it holds first for the rest of my days, because what it would take to beat it i

s not something I would ever look forward to experiencing!
Just as I do, you have days of happiness, days of sorrow, but most importantly you have my favorite days of all: days where you are given the gift to see something new about yourself. The day something in your heart changes, whether the circumstances you are living through do or not, and you can see things that God has been revealing culminate into a beautiful picture that sets a milestone in your soul and in your story.  These days make all the days worth living!

Milestones are well named.  A marker telling a distance traveled.  A point reached that results in only going forward from now on or one that reminds you that you have been that far before so it is more than possible to do it again. 

A friend recommended a movie to me a couple years ago that I did not just love but absolutely loved and has stayed with me since.  While I can not begin to describe About Time because you will most assuredly grow bored with the length that this will become, I can say put it on your to-watch list and then think about this one tidbit out of the many hundreds I could share: In the movie, the men in the family have the gift of traveling in time to any place in their past until one thing happens - their wife has a baby.  

Once a child has entered their world, that milestone keeps them from traveling to a time before it was part of their lives. There are scenes in the movie that portray this fact in somewhat sad ways, as it might cause you to lose connection with a person who has passed before the milestone, but for me it is a distinct reminder that there are times God gives us where forward is the only direction we can go. Where the past must remain the past and while it is there in memory, it is just that - a memory.  

The best days we have, whether they include a marriage and children, or whether those are milestones coming in the future, are wonderful memories, but they can not be our only references to move forward.  My wedding day was a mess of beautiful and nerve wracking emotions but if I relate to my husband with the same feelings I did on that day, we would be sunk for sure.  

The worst of days will come with heartache. Even though they will produce wisdom, if we function day to day with the emotions they invoke, our decisions will be questionable coming from the roller-coaster of feelings that can change by the minute.

God, in his ultimate wisdom, gives us these critical milestones, or turning points in our walks and in our lives that most often come out of nowhere.  They creep in and surprise you at first until you stop and realize there have been pieces coming together you just did not notice, and what a bigger picture they were going to make.  In my experience, these milestones do not come in the best of times or the worst of times when emotions are high or dragging dangerously low...they come in the middle when you are least expecting it but fully able to notice it.  

In those moments a light bulb goes off...a ding is heard inside your soul, and you grow.  Your heart grows because it feels more loved, and feels more of a love for yourself or another.  Your faith grows because you are reminded yet again of Hope, Faithfulness, and the promise of One that never fails.  Your wisdom grows because answered prayer and truths combine with knowledge changing how you relate, how you decide, and how you share from then on.

These days are precious gifts and they are the perfect kind because they are a gift you didn't know you needed but now can't live without.

I have one monumental such day that planted a large marker in my story, brought clarity and healing, and yet another reminder of how much God loves that I will share with you soon.

 Until then, I hope just as you pondered your days of joys and sorrows, that you will look back on now and excitedly anticipate later the milestone days for your heart and how they carefully show you a specific lesson, an intentional love, and a reminder of whose you are and the comfort that brings.

I'm praying for you, pray for me.