Wednesday, December 28, 2016

for when you think you are not known

You sit, wondering, do they notice me, notice my presence, notice my smiles, notice my tears.  Amidst the conversation, the fellowship, the friendship, am I that forgettable, that invisible, that insignificant.  In the world so big and wide it is that which glitters that gets the awe and attention.  The golden chalice draws the eye while the humble clay cup dutifully serves day after day.  If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, what do all the other wheels get...

Lest anyone reading become worried, no I am not, Praise God, currently in the depths of despair so while kind words and encouragement are never turned away and always treasured more than the giver can imagine there is not a sudden need to be boosted up out of the pit.  However courage of Spirit does allow me to admit that this is not an unfamiliar feeling from the past and will be recognized again in the future and experience has taught me that more than a few instantly recognize and empathize with the feelings.

New surroundings can bring about the oldest of memories.  That which has never been truly confronted, hurts that have never completely healed, or even pains thoroughly prayed over, dealt with and moved past can be plunked upon your door step once again tempting you to open them up and set them upon your shelves when the senses begin whirling trying to make the unfamiliar places your body resides in familiar places for your mind to understand.

As easy as it is to succumb to these feelings of insecurity, of vulnerability, it is also just as easy to push them down away from the surface of completely tangible.  Pressing them just far enough to the point where they are barely covered by whatever you have chosen to hide them from visibility.  It can be found laughable the way in which the human heart tries to readjust the negative things we feel.  Those with the introverted tendencies I know so well turn into themselves even more attempting to swallow themselves whole in hopes that no one will notice them even though being noticed is what their heart cries out for.  In their equally as confusing but completely opposite way, the extrovert becomes more extroverted drawing attention to themselves in an effort to confuse and keep your eyes on the parts of them they seek to show so that the other ones will hopefully go unnoticed.  Misdirection on both accounts.

As always, it is the speaking it into existence, the bringing it into the light that causes the fog to lift, the dust to blow away, and clarity to begin to form.  Darkness never gives a true story.  Light is the only thing that shows Truth.

The Truth is we all want to be noticed, all want to be known and all fear them both as well.

Years ago in the car the other half of my heart who has vowed to love me forever, and I him in return regardless of life's curveballs and our own sinful stupidity, played me a song on the tail end of our biggest struggle to date.  That song, Josh Wilson's song titled One Safe Soul, beautifully simplifies this oxymoronic struggle within our human hearts.

Man's greatest fear is being alone,
And his second greatest is being known,
But if you are both known and loved,
You've got nothing to be scared of

We don't want to be alone because we feel rejected but we don't want to be fully know because we fear rejection.  It's being both known and then loved that gives our hearts the ability to soar.

Tim Keller puts it another way and then adds in the key component for all aspects of life, the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, makes all the other pieces make the sense the were designed to make.
"To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial.  To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.  But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.  It is what we need more than anything.  It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us." 

This desire of our heart, this desire to be noticed, sought after, recognized, known is our soul crying out for something to fill a void only able to be filled by our Creator.

Thank you for the people placed in our lives who know us well and love us despite their knowledge.  They are an extended grace of which we are so undeserving.  But to place all hopes on them, to place upon them the burden of keeping you upright, to sit and seek out only the love of others to keep your spirits up and your Spirit well, will leave you alone and unknown more than any heart needs or desires.  

We will each find ourselves around a bend we on our own would have never journeyed toward.  A path on our own we would have never trodden.  A corner turned because the way in which we wanted to go, the planned route we never assumed would go anywhere but straight, was blocked forcing a new direction.  The unfamiliar will come up without a familiar face around in which to hold a gaze unless you know and understand One who knows and loves you,  who has known and loved you, since before time began.

In countless places, with countless personalities, amidst countless individual situations we sit wondering, do they noticed me, notice my presence, notice my smiles, notice my tears assuming the answer is no.  Sometimes it will be, sometimes by the other struggling souls around you the answer will most definitely be no, you are not noticed by them, but always, always you are noticed.

Because O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;  you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.  Psalm 139:1-6 ESV

With the end of the year coming, with the analyzing of the past year's events and the desires of the new year ahead, I pray we see all the ways we were known and loved, yes by each other because we are the hands and feet of Christ here on this earth, but mostly by our Father who, no matter the paths we each took or were taken on this year, loves and knows us and always has and always will.

Pray for me as I seek to make that my focus and reflection, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

for when you long for simplicity

FRIENDS is my favorite.  Yes friends are my favorite too, but FRIENDS, that beloved show of the late 90s and early 2000s, will always have a top ranking in my heart and to my eyes.  Their humor and friendships, the way none of them could take themselves too seriously because each was a hot mess in a different way, even the way they titled their episodes make me love it more.  Seriously, the way they titled their episodes, the one where..., was not just witty but quite helpful.  While I'm thinking about it, efficient wittiness is one of my favorites as well.  For never before seen footage, you had a hint of something that was going to happen by reading the title and later while searching for a desired episode you are reminded at a glance of what that episode held thus providing a quick end to  your search.

There is a large part of me that wants to go back and change the title of everything I've written renaming them each with efficient wittiness, both for myself and for others, so that at a glance it is known what might be held in the heart of the words; so that at a glance the hard fought lessons, encouragements, and words of the past can prick the consciousness giving reminders to carry into the future.

For today the title would be for when you long for simplicity.

At first glance, it might seem like a thematic seasonal post is coming next filled with reminders that in this season, this bustling December brimming with parties, appointments, shopping, and whatnot, you must force yourself to stop, slow the race around you, and breathe to soak in the peace of Advent, the peace we now get to have because we are no longer waiting on the Messiah's first arrival but living in Him; anticipating His return while remembering long ago those who faithfully waited on His initial appearance.

Yes, all good things and just writing those words immediately brought a calm to my Spirit and a smile to my face, but what about the rest of time?  The other days when the Christian calendar might not be as obviously beckoning for your stillness.

Does it seem, as of late, to anyone else besides the controller of these words, that there is a heavier overall desire to minimize, to simplify.

Whether it's paring down the number of objects owned, or cancelling appointments on the calendar, or deciding what to dos on the list really aren't necessary, or cutting out relationships in your life that require more work than seems worth it, or, or, or.  It is a real, and becoming much more common, occurrence to do whatever can be done to make life more simple and less arduous because we feel in our hearts that complication is what is reigning.

To the human heart and mind it makes perfect sense. 

A handful of friends spent this year magically tidying up and shed themselves of gobs, yes I said gobs, of unneeded, undesired items.  I even followed suit, just without reading the official magic words.  Getting rid of items can mean less work on upkeep and therefore more time available.  It teaches and reminds that wants and needs are not the same thing and having more just to have more is just more.  Purging your life of things that don't bring joy will, in theory, allow more focus on things that do.  However, seeking joy from any material possession will always leave you lacking.

Likewise with those over scheduled schedules, the obvious solution is to get rid of the things you don't want to do or don't feel called to do if you want to add a more socially, 'christianly' acceptable spin.  We all have a breaking point, some of us just require a little extra pressure, and the first thing done is paring down those schedules.  Gone will be the weight from doing what is expected, what is assumed, instead of what is desired, what is meant specifically for you.  Somewhere in the lessons you realize you could not keep up the pace, you realize you just cannot do it all.  The blessing beneath that curse is that you were never meant to. 

In a recent sermon I heard a now favorite colloquial phrase in regards to this subject, and I quote, the bible is chock full of things you can't do.  I just love that phrase chock full.  To a southern heart it means full to the brim, not one more thing can be stuffed in there without it overflowing and making a mess everywhere.  It also doesn't hurt that it is straight Truth.  The creator of the world, which means your creator as well, never required you to do it all, and He certainly never required you to do it alone.

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer has quickly become one of the books I will forever treasure for opening my eyes to life as it was designed to be lived, for helping me pay attention to that sweet Spirit within who has never ceased pointing and guiding all the way.  Though not even quite finished reading it for the first time through, my copy is already worn from use and heavy from the extra ink, and the occasional crayon, needed for underlining and margin notes.

Tozer, or A Dub'ya, as my Friday morning ladies and I call him writes, "Be thou exalted is the language of victorious spiritual experience.  It is a little key to unlock the door to great treasures of grace.  It is central in the life of a godly man.  Let the seeking man reach a place where life and lips join to say continually, Be thou exalted, and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once.  His Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it had been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity."

The very essence.  Simplicity.  Be Thou Exalted.  God first.

Life as a Christian was never going to be easy, going against everything the world holds in highest honor is a hard row to hoe, but holding the same things as the world in highest places is when everything becomes disjointed.

For this girl who yearns for simplicity, for all of us who seek and change and ignore and purge and do without just to taste a hint of a simpler life, this is balm.  This is a single step.  A scary one for some, a difficult one for some, a giant leap for some, but one that brings immediate and lasting simplicity.    
There will be no perfection, for only One is perfect, or even the illusion of perfection, that are what many see as the greatest success of life.  But there will be peace no matter the chaos around because the lines are now in order, the rightful one holds the lead spot and everything else can see where they fit, where they have longed to belong.

Everything falls into place because of God.

Yes, 'tis the season now but 'tis the season always.  Life in Christ changes you not for a moment, not for a five week period between two holidays, but forever.  Your inner disposition finds simplicity when it's only focus is Christ and your attitude about life falls into step as your heart clings to Him.

Praying for you to simply need Christ, pray for me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

for when you have spiritual scar tissue

It is the last day of November, a month that holds so much joy from birthday celebrations, where distinct seasonal changes finally become apparent in The South, when thankfulness, though desperately needed for our hearts each day on this earth, takes a central role in the themes of life all around.

It is also a time where your heart feels constantly at odds with your body and mind.  Every part of the being inside longs for slowness, for the chance to sit, enjoy, and appreciate the leaves and the wind, the little and big ones alike are excited about time off of normal schedules, and the Advent Season that has begun with all the joy and beauty it entails.

Your heart wants to soak it all in, but your mind and body are trying to accomplish all of the tasks deemed needed so that there is something on which your heart can soak.  It can feel, quite often, like a never ending battle, between the undertaking of tasks and the triumph of appreciation.

Currently I am sitting in bed on a quiet morning, heating pad firmly pressed on my lower back, as I attempt to be still long enough to recuperate from aggravating a decade old injury.  All around me both physically in view and the long list in my head, are mounds of to dos loving to make themselves known and mock that they still sit uncompleted.  The living room has tools and supplies piled in corners waiting for their turn in a fireplace remodel that will hopefully be finished before stockings need to be hung.  Tables, chairs and coolers from our son's birthday party before Thanksgiving are sitting on the porch needing to find their way back into storage.  Paraphernalia from our two youngests' homemade zip line complete with beanbag crash pad are in the yard soaking wet from the rain that finally showed up.  A dead squirrel, the conquest of our newest kitty, most definitely needs to be disposed of.   Pecans need to be picked.  Suitcases put away.  A toilet needs to be fixed.  Clean the house could go on every list every day for every person for now until forever.

When your mind desires to process through words, everything is fodder, everything is noticed and analyzed, much to it's dismay and appreciation.  And so goes it with the reason I am resting right here instead of working over there.

16 years ago, almost to the day, the middle of my body was injured in a car accident.  Parts were compressed that have no business being pushed together and breaks happened, 5 to be exact.  All of them were in places that couldn't be stabilized so there were no casts, no outside visual of any injury, except for the crutches needed for a couple weeks.  However, inside was a mess of bones fusing themselves back together all the while producing scar tissue around them in hopes of building up protection against any future injuries.  Though it was common to have tinges of discomfort, normal movement seemed to have been present until a day recently when the scar tissue popped revealing underneath that what was thought to be healed didn't in fact come back together the right way causing pain, lack of mobility, and mega frustration.

Research showed me that this is a common problem, that protective layer that built up actually restricts and hinders the performance of intended functions, it binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely.

Jeff Dunbar said "Your physical life is the laboratory for your spiritual life to grow."  Is it any wonder then why the first thought was this, what other parts of  life built up a protective layer around them only to have actually hindered true and complete healing?

Ask that question aloud.  See what happens.

It's a tested method so no worries.  I did the same thing,  I asked it.  At first there was fear of what would come up.  Would there be an onslaught of guilt?  Failure?  Would my mind feel as if it would explode from the sheer number of memories rocked?

Quite the opposite is what became true.

Just as a hot beverage can be felt warming the body slowly after a deep drink from a cup, warmth can be felt slowly as your heart feels the comfort from a Spirit longing to comfort, help, and heal.

Very few times in  life is there ever a quick fix, especially when dealing with emotions and character.  Almost all changes involve work, hard work, dedication to the task, presence in the solutions.  More often than not the reason we don't open ourselves up to change is because we know the hard that will come, we are aware of the adjustments needed and that things might very well get worse before they get better.  That is exactly how the scar tissue is formed, that is exactly how we become hindered from functioning the way we were intended to, the way we were designed.

All of life is sanctification, all of life molds and shapes to create a heart ever growing, ever striving to become more like Christ.  What happens in the physical translates immediately to the spiritual.  What happens to our bodies affects our hearts.  And beneath them both is a God already working to heal completely, changing our inner disposition, restoring us day by day.

Friends, it can be so hard to let go, oh so very hard not to build up your own protective layer trying to block further hurt or injury from any angle, but with Him we can "humble ourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you.  Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)"

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

for when you desire to change your inner disposition

All actions do not begin with a dream to accomplish.  Most decisions, most plans, most daily deeds are determined by the need of the moment.  What is necessary to be completed immediately?  What has to be taken care of and checked off to ensure that the machine which is life is running smoothly?   Before preceding to the wants and desires there tends to be a mass of responsibility always in the way.

On my counter is a daily to do list full of calls to make, errands to run, and chores to do.  Whether you write yours down or not, I would bet there is a similar one for your life as well.  Elsewhere, longing for attention, there is a list of projects I want to tackle, places I want to go, friends I want to catch up with, books I want to read, a future I want to cultivate.  Again whether or not you write that down, I would hasten to guess that there is also such a list for you set to the side, desiring a glance and a little attention.

One of the things my lips most complain about is the desire to build castles instead of parking lots. What I mean by this is that there is this yearning to build upon what has already been done.  To, like my son and his wooden blocks, continue to stack the pieces one upon another until an architectural masterpiece emerges.   What always seems to happen is that as soon as the first few levels are in place something comes along and knocks it all down again so that over and over the shape seen is flat with little productivity.

A rule in our home when the boys were very young was "Do not knock over someone else's build"  It's simple.  If someone else builds it, leave it alone.  Often it seems as if this is the problem, someone keeps coming along and knocking over my build.  How many times will this happened before I begin to realize that when I build something myself it will always be knocked down?  When I realize that an unmatched castle of the Kingdom of God is being built no matter how many parking lots of mine I see?

"Let us build for the years we shall not see" ~ Sir Henry John Newbold

Years ago there was placed in my heart, spoken through the words of a counselor, and developed by the Spirit within, three words.  An Inner Disposition.

Your inner disposition is who you are on the inside that comes forth in words and actions on the outside.  The question we should ask is what things do we see on the outside that give us a desire to make changes on the inside?

Each of us is a unique creation, placed together in a way that makes us exactly and perfectly us. Within us are placed a combination of talents and gifts.  We can not control which of these things we get, but we can cultivate the ones we are given.   However cultivating them alone is when what we build comes crashing down.

There is, in this world, a constant state of renewal.  Each day on the shore the tide will go out only to come back in again, but with it, the water brings food from the depths up to the shallow waters so that those who depend on it for survival do in fact survive.  Life cycles, water cycles, changing of the seasons, rotations of the Earth, it all exists to show the need for renewal, that things end only to come back again, that dying to one thing is the only way to produce another.

...though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16.  The words prior to these are my favorite.  We do not lose heart; that is why we do not give up.

Do we not give up because of ourselves, because of the things we are building?  No, the things we build will pass away, become as vapor.

The only true way to change your inner disposition is to deny yourself and follow Him.

We do not give up because we have a treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.  We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  The treasure is Christ, His Spirit within, producing something in us that far outweighs our trouble, a castle that stands eternal.

God holds hearts.  His Spirit through the sacrifice of His Son is what is inside.  Day by day He is making them new.  Day by day he is guiding them to different places in different ways.  Day by day He is examining, not so He can beat us down with what is wrong, but so He can create a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within.

He is changing my inner disposition, and I want you to see how He is changing yours as well.

From that comes the well spring of life.  From that mouths speaks.  From that, tell of His wonders.

From those few years ago and that short phrase, many words have been written, and are still left to write, that desire to show and encourage transparency so that the light will shine in on any dark places, so that we see the ways we are falling short but also he love that encapsulates us despite them, and we begin the opening of ourselves towards renewal.

On the outside, at a glance, I may look the same, you may think you look the same, but look closer. You will see the difference He has made, the difference He is still making, the difference we have Hope that he will continue to do until completion.

I'm praying that you can not only see it, but that you will continue to seek to be made new, to see the Kingdom castle being built, and the ways you have been created to place your pieces.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

because we each leave pieces of ourselves in the world

Handmade, handcrafted, lovingly put together in a mother's womb, each piece was delicately and beautifully positioned.  Into the world emerged a young life, a young soul, and no matter the actions behind conception or the emotions of the earthbound parents, a Creator smiled down knowing His Child was created perfectly unique, perfectly themselves, perfectly fitting in a story ages old that stretches to eternity.  Beginning there but never ending...

Meandering down the rows of another cute boutique during a day meant for rest and friendship an item caught our eye.  Printed upon the canvas of a zippered pouch was a paragraph of encouragement ensuring the onlooker that they were beautiful the way they were, created for purpose, loved beyond measure.  The hint of sadness was not hidden in my friend's voice as she spoke forth words of desire for her daughter to believe such words when they were said to her.  The only response I could muster, as the litany of reasons that caused the same disbelief were being hurled at my heart once again, was that there are many who have trouble believing the good things about themselves.

Imagine our Father, lovingly looking down on each of us, sharing that same desire, that we could believe all the words He has said to us.

To live life resting in and believing all Truth with unwavering precision would bring a feeling so comforting it is doubtful it could even be imagined.

Somewhere along the road the sojourner of life stumbles creating bruises outside and within that stay for a time and become reminders of missteps.  Straying off the path and getting lost only to have to delay by turning around and back tracking causes doubts and uneasy steps in the future.  Spotting fellow travelers on the road ahead of you make one wonder why you are traveling so slow.  Seeing others behind you gives a sense of boastfulness for the false thought of being ahead of the game.

It is these continuous circumstances that shift our view from Christ and with it results in the loss of peace that comes from focusing solely on Him and the ability to see ourselves as we are seen. All things of this world will send you places as far from truth as can be taken while all things through Christ will take you to places far out of this world.
The good news, always the good news, is that a journey is exactly what you were created for, continuously being redeemed, day by day, experience by experience, and the lane you are in is for you and you alone, perfectly crafted, personally planned, for the only soul who can live it out.

You are not what you were and though you are what you are now, you are not what you will be.

Mike Kinnebrew, a long time friend of ours, has pursued music for many years in the midst of his own journey of stumbles and side paths.  Each of his songs brings Truth in a way that requires thought and reflection upon the lyrics flowing within the beautiful melodies.  

This is all, all I am, and all I'll be.  I'll sing my song, I give them to you, these pieces of me. 

These lyrics, favorites of mine, speak to these thoughts of believing you were created with care and purpose and loving who you were meant to be.  Each of us pieces perfectly fit together.  Each of us pieces of a bigger story being told.  Each of us leaving pieces of ourselves for others along the way.

Reading through 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 brings comfort in the differences, beauty to design, Hope because of the promise that you are brought together no matter how different you may feel. one Spirit we were all baptized into one body and all were made to drink of one spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many...But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose...

Each created for purpose.  Each unique.  Each brought together with other unique beings.  Parts of a whole.

Think about your role, your part, the pieces of you that the world needs.

Using those pieces so carefully created, God puts us into the narrative, guides us to take part in Kingdom work so that we can see Him more clearly and feel His presence more closely as we leave pieces of ourselves in the world.

I'll be praying that you can believe this of yourself, pray for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

because life happens in a flash

For reasons undoubtedly learned in college child development classes but forgotten in detail along the way, age 4, in our parenting experience, was when imaginations began to soar.  Anything and everything could happen by simply pretending it to be so.  Each young blondie in his growth from toddler to all out boy traveled through the phase of make-believe.  While one or two have the definite signs of taking it to the core of their lifelong personality, it was still a journey for them all.

Our oldest at age 4 was thoroughly enthralled with a Flash costume.  This thrift store find was far from mint condition, but despite it's loosening seams, hanging threads and lack of ability to close in the back, to him it held a power to transport, quite literally, in a flash to anywhere his super powers were needed.  Over and over I would watch as he zoomed past me from the hallway, constantly asking "Did you see me?"  "Can you see me?"  "Am I going so fast?"

One day, my husband took a picture of that mini flash as he was zooming across again and again. The effect on camera created a blur of color following that little super hero as if he truly was running so quickly that the naked eye could never spot him.

Unfortunately, not every flash produces the smiles that a kid in costume can.

Change is inevitable.  Whether welcomed with open arms or fought against tooth and nail or dealt with somewhere in between, change happens constantly.  One of the hardest parts of life is when it sneaks up, unexpected, and in a flash your normal is not only different, you know it can never be the same again.

When someone, either just once or over and over, has experienced a figurative bomb going off in their lives, it may not bring the physical destruction that a wire and metal one can, but these crisis situations can leave an emotional and spiritual aftermath of distress, confusion, and upheaval that can take just as long or even longer from which to recover.

Inside, new pathways are created in your mind that now lead to distress, fear, anger and a host of other negative emotions.  Because of these new paths, any moment in the future that might even hint at a past difficulty causes the sequence to trigger and in less time than it takes to blink, your heart and mind are overcome with the emotions the past has created.  If by chance you are taken by surprise and have an unexpected reminder in the midst of your happy normalcy, the journey to distress feels even more immediate.

During a sermon recently we were asked if any of us felt like we were experts in any given skill. Often feeling like a jack of all trades, master of none, the pitiful list in my head was nothing to be impressed about.  One thing I do feel as if pro status has been achieved these past three years since my most significant bomb in life, is understanding triggers and the difficulty they can cause in someone's day.  I assure you, it's not a skill to be envious of as the sometimes debilitating emotions caused by anything from song lyrics, to foods, to instagram photos can shut down all viable senses for hours or days.

In a quick moment, it can seem as if more than one step has been taken back, in truth it can feel very much like a back to square one situation.

If there is any part of you who feels this, has felt it, can identify with it, please know, please hear, these moments do not define your well being, they do not get to say how much progress has been made or not made, they do not get to make you feel as if you are missing something vital or have been forgotten.  In short, they don't get to say.

Don't let them be what speaks to your heart.  There is One far better to entrust with that privilege.

Looking back, it is crystal clear that the journey to make believe was needed childhood experience in my boys' lives that not only created grand memories for child and parent alike, but opened minds and hearts to ideas outside of their tangible environment, ideas that would prepare them to be able to trust and have faith in something bigger than themselves, bigger than their understanding, bigger than their realm of possibility.

There is a common phrase swapped among parents, especially the mothering kind, that the days are long but the years are short.  As a firm believer that we are all learning the same Truths, though through many different ways, only believing one group can glean from that nugget seems wrong, selfish somehow.

For all of us, every being upon this earth, life is lived so often in flashes.  Like a creature finding it's way across a raging river by stepping on and leaping to whatever rock or tree trunk happens to be peeking above the surface until they have reached the other side, the bits and pieces of days can also feel separate from each other, just bits of stone and wood that are seen and leaped to to keep from falling in the water below.  The beauty comes in looking back and seeing those bits and pieces were really just a jagged path leading you safely to shore.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in EVERY detail of their lives.  Psalm 37:23

Delight in this Truth as He delights in you.

Every one of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain: a sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of universal vastness.  Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world, that our origins are divine...I think we have not been fair to the facts until we allow at least the possibility that such experiences may arise from the presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind.  ~A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God 

Hardships are not the only thing that come in flashes, His Good comes in flashes as well.

We can feel God speaking to us, the Spirit working in us, much like the sun rises.  Bit by bit, color change by color change, until finally the whole picture is visible.  Many parts of life require a wait, require that slow dawn of knowledge collecting and plans to be prepared before being revealed.  But daily we are given flashes of His goodness, reminders of His faithfulness, visible snapshots of grace and mercy, "assurances that our origins are divine."

Each of us will be presented with different things, different flashes to show we are loved and cared for, to show we have been given much, much more than asked or imagined.  This world will try it's best at times to block those reminders and replace them instead with negative memories and suggestions of failing.  At times the world will succeed, but only for a moment, for a flash, it will never conquer a heart held in the hands of it's Creator.  Hold on to Him, Hold on to the Hope He provides.  Look for the flashes of Light.

As always, I'm praying for you, pray for me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

because he brings a felt difference

It is impossible to wake up and take one step out of the bed without seeing, hearing, or remembering something that is trying to get your attention.  If you are lucky, or maybe just more than human, there may only be one in the forefront of your mind, but for the majority the first opening of the eyes, the first sound that comes to the ears starts the assembly line track of responsibilities, needs, wants, distractions, and rabbit trails of the day.

Though a vague example to many, my deep in the throes of parenting young ones who watch cartoons self can, on countless mornings, hear in her head the deep overly dramatic voice of dear Mr. Pricklepants in the Toy Story Terror special saying "And so it begins!"  And so it does indeed, life in all its helter skelter, hurry scurry, hustle bustle beauty.

It never fails that by the end of the week there is a long list of items that were started and not finished, put on the back burner, or ignored completely.  Yes, yes it is not a secret that lists are my one weakness--please someone know that reference--but this time I am not referring to the tangible to dos of errands, appointments, and chores.

Instead, I am looking on the inside, thinking about the needs of the heart and soul, of what should have been and always be the main event being purposely pushed aside or accidentally left in mid meeting because something else popped up in its way.

A like minded chat was had about such a thing during a visit with family.  Outside in the almost fall like weather of North Georgia, I sat with my sister in law watching the children play, and doing what good southerners do, listening to a football game.  

This specific game did not capture my attention too much as it was a Bulldog playing instead of my Tiger of choice, but nonetheless I understood her thoughts because had it been the other way around those shoes would have definitely been filled with my feet.

As it became a little more possible that there would not be success for her group of boys on the field she asked her husband in a not at all freaking out and demanding voice to turn off the radio so that she could just sit in peace because what was blocking it had disappeared.

Empathetic to her dilemma, we discussed how relaxing it was to NOT watch and listen to football games.  To be sure, there are some who are able to sit and watch with no spikes at all in blood pressure, and while I no longer passionately and lovingly scream at the TV since my children were old enough to copy the behavior, I completely understand the peace of finding out later.  

When you are told after the fact that your team lost you can feel disappointed for a moment and go about your day, when you are told that your team won you can feel elated, maybe watch a few highlights, and then carry on.  But being in the middle of the stress brings to surface those emotional distractions and already said rabbit trails that knock you off course for longer than I'd care to admit.

Likewise, it is for these reasons that I will never write about politics, or to forewarn, any trending topic.  To share a well versed and educated view means research, engrossing yourself in the issues. All responsible things to be sure, but somewhere a twist can happen and the desire to keep abreast of current events turns into a desire to prove another wrong, to shout with a louder voice to prove your correctness while proving another's error in judgement.

Please hear me when I say not every football fan is mistaken in watching a game live or even taped, not every citizen passionate about politics is trampling on other's voices in a desire to make their's heard.  One is not holding sin in their hand by showing enthusiasm for their interests, but when that interest overtakes their thoughts, when that topic drives them instead of the other way around, when the moment your eyes open it is the first thing to demand attention there is cause to step back.

There are monumental times in my life where I restrained from dealing with issues that needed to be addressed and where I pretended everything was ok when not so deep inside I knew trouble was growing faster than I could stop it.  

I have learned, the hard way of course because is there really any other, what avoidance is and it is safe to say that that is not the problem my heart is feeling today.  The issue instead is prioritizing.  What comes first?  Who should I be shouting about instead?

"The best thing I [we] can offer this world is a well tended spirit, a wise and brave soul" says Shauna Niequist in her most recent book, so why is it that instead we so often offer up haphazard, depthless, brief and careless versions of ourselves in its place?

The quick and easy answer is because the focus is on a million other things instead of the One True need.  This is a Truth that not many already believers can argue with and that other non believers might be able to understand easily as well, however as my pastor would always remind us hearing and understanding is only half the goal, there needs to be that conviction in your gut before that Truth comes out in your life.

Please say it's not just me?  However if it is, then let this be another step of growth along the path coming closer to Him.

My father-in-law spoke of it this way in the sermon we were able to hear on our visit this past weekend, "For us to hallow, or sanctify, His name means that we give God the supreme place, that we set Him above all else in our thoughts, affections and lives."

Placing the bulk, the first fruits if you will, of our attention on God, our loving Father and Comforter, means He takes His rightful place in our lives.  He becomes Center Stage and those laundry list of items that come with life on this earth lose their neon signs demanding immediate attention or else. Even those stressful events or topics of conversation that some can not wait to argue about while others can't wait to hide from can be enjoyed or experienced from a place of peace, a place of compassion, because instead of your human heart leading the way, your spirit filled one is guiding instead.

There is a noticeable different in conversation, in heart's desires, in relationships, in blood pressure for goodness sake, when He is first.  It's not just a Sunday School answer, though it's a good one, it's a felt difference.

I sat across the table from a woman recently who in a mere ten minutes of sharing stories taught me more about following God's call in a life than the 34 previous years of mine. In a sentence, spoken with love, delivered with tears brimming, she said "There is no more perfect place to be than in the center of God's will"  I'll be unpacking that one for awhile!

My heart aches for many in this world, but none more than someone who doesn't know, who hasn't felt, the complete presence of peace that comes through Christ.  Regardless of the road you are walking, there is no more perfect place to be than with Him.

While we are all learning the same Truths from the same God, each of our hearts understands and is pricked by different things.  It's the amazing way He works, using our individual loves to bring us closer to Him.  Think about your hot button issues or your cold shouldered ones and place them lower where they deserve to be while asking Him to bring your attention higher where your spirit needs it to be.  It's not an easy task so

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

for when you are wandering in the desert

"I don't see the desert as barren at all; I see it as full and ripe. It doesn't need to be flattered with rain. It certainly needs rain, but it does with what it has, and creates amazing beauty." Joy Harjo

Do I see what she sees, do you? 
There is simultaneous appreciation and hesitancy when a topic presents itself among my thoughts.  It usually happens at the oddest times and then comes with a waterfall of sentences, bullet points, phrases to research, ways to connect one wayward thought with another until a large and impressive knot is formed weaving in and out of itself connected, tied together, not to be unraveled.  Even if the point behind the words is less than impressive to others, I am always stunned by God's ability to show me things through the process.  Very important and humbling for this destination hungry traveler.

I wish, oh how I wish, that these lessons more often came through Pollyanna glasses, happily smiling and seeing nothing but the good.  Oh how I wish they came through cheering successes, things you rave about, brag about, without a seconds hesitation because they look as good on the outside as they are for you inside.  There are plenty of devotionals in this world with a verse, a paragraph and a pat on the back to start your day.  I can be both frustrated and thankful that that is not what is asked of me because while neatly wrapped and tied with a bow is what our human mind desires, the understanding of the hard cleansed with the brutal sacrifice of a Savior is what our human hearts need.

Dry.  Empty.  Lonely.  Bleak.

The very definition of a desert, the desolate land, completely contradicts these words above that have intrigued my mind and caused more than a bit of reflection.  

No one can say they have not felt results of a dry season, have not seen the effects of drought.  In the physical land it causes the ground to become parched, water sources to dry up, fields to lose their ability to yield the fruit they were created for, animals to become lethargic. Desperate for water to revive them they give up and lay down waiting for the inevitable, scavenge and search, walking until they seek out their need, or look to their caretakers for the help they can't get themselves.  

Our hearts are no different.  A spiritually dry period can be much different than one filled with trials though there is hard in them both.  There will be times where, like the fields in a drought, you feel parched, dried and cracking, useless as the fruit you were created to yield can not soak in enough moisture to bloom.  Like the wildlife we are tempted to give up and take it lying down or scavenge our own way to gain some ground in the fight for survival.  But as hopelessness tries to prevail I pray the Hope within overtakes and instead there is the remembrance to look to our Caretaker for the help we will never get from ourselves.

Paul spent a better part of 2 Corinthians 11 listing the sufferings he has endured.  False imprisonments, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, dangerous journeys, robbery, sleeplessness, hunger thirst, cold and exposure were not just bumps on the road, but daily life events.  One of these events would be enough to stop a sojourner in their tracks but for him these were far from a sign to stop, they were fuel to continue.  For the sake of Christ [he says] I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.  For when I am weak, I AM strong.

In every movie with a desert setting from Star Wars to Fievel Goes West, countless Cowboy films to classics like Lawrence of Arabia, there is a search for an oasis, a watering hole, a place that gives life in the midst of the dry and desolate.  Once found, life inside you changes.   There in that place with life giving water, you find peace from the fear, you see hope instead of doubt, you feel revived and eyes that once only saw the barren land can focus on the beauty in the hills and valleys among the dunes.

I can see the desert as full and ripe, I can see the amazing beauty it creates, but I can't see it on my own.  I need the Hope promised, I need the eyes of Christ to see that [He] will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. [He] will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. Isaiah 41:18

On my own all I see is sand, all I feel is heat, in Him I can see the land of the living and the good He brings to it.

Praying for you in your desert places, pray for me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

because you can wait

As always, I am sitting and praying and believing there is another set of ears in need.  Praying and believing that there is another heart desiring these words put forth somewhat humbly, somewhat insecurely, somewhat confidently sure that the thoughts do not come from me alone.

But today, making eye contact with the blue eyes staring back in my direction is essential. Reminders are needed. Truth is needed.  Hope, above all else, is needed.  Of course that could be said for everyday, necessary for everyday, but there are times where not one more minute can pass until that salvation you are working out requires some extra fear and trembling.

A couple years ago, after smiling at so many others' posts, I downloaded the Time Hop app.  Eager to enjoy smiles and tears of joy from past pictures of my baby boys who aren't quite babies anymore, I soon realized that I had no control over what from the past would make its way directly into my vision. 

Sure there were those lovely memories of cute babes and fun times with friends, but every so often a memory was triggered that did not bring smiles or immediate joy.  In its stead would come pain to a heart unable to handle the unwanted surprises.  After a week, pressing the uninstall button gave back a little memory space on my phone and started my days with less unexpecteds and a lot more peace.

Last week, Zach had a different experience with those memories involving social media sites, and his was one that I have not been able to get out of my mind.  Technology brought to his attention a photo he had posted of our church's first Sunday in its new space six years ago.  Captioning the photo were the words "I can't wait to see what God has in store for us."

I can wait. That's all I could think. I could have waited.

Because, spoiler alert, that beautiful place full of loving people closed its doors almost exactly two months ago.  Because within those years of growing in grace and wisdom and knowledge of God, among those years of serving together to help the unchurched, dechurched, teens, and homeless, friendships ended, betrayals hurt, marriages were broken, arguments were had, loved ones died, and longed-for children never made it into the world. 

If I knew what was coming, my caption would have read, I can wait.

There have been many a time in life where focusing on the hard times and the unwanted events has taken precedence.  We like to keep hopes high, to assume that the only thing coming up in the road is sunshine and happiness, cool breezes and sweet smelling flowers, laughter drifting in and out of fondly remembered moments.

When there is an inevitable bump, or in some cases a gigantic precipice followed by a seemingly infinite chasm in the road, all other previous moments are inconsequential in our minds. The only things that takes up all the precious space are the challenges, therefore blocking out the beauty beneath.  That evil one, man, he earns his name.

Many a time I sat at a table across from my pastor as he patiently heard my heart full of hurts, fears, and doubts, and on occasion, successes, growths, and dreams.  Many words were taken straight in and hung on to, but one phrase was written as to never be forgotten: "just because the outcome was negative, doesn't mean it was a wrong decision."

Let that simmer a minute.

Why does that assumption always find it's way back in? Why does it feel as if hard means bad, uphill means unnecessary.  Second-guess girl rears it's head again as past decisions are critiqued and Trust slips to the background, letting self take center stage.  To place your Trust in Christ, to believe that God truly is Good and in Control, is to submit to the bumps, peaks, and valleys, to keep your eye on the Horizon and see that though circumstances change, though you change, He never changes.  

Life is full of wait, a word and a lesson I have been called to ponder upon. To rush it is to miss the moments on the way.  God is working, always working, and as exciting as new beginnings are, the journy through them is equally as frustrating, equally as full of desires to quit, to cut and run.  Instead of saying I can't wait to see what He does my answer is instead that I can wait.

I can wait.

I can wait as he renews my strength so that I can run and not be weary (Is. 40:31).  I can wait and keep his way, knowing that I will be exalted to inherit a place in His kingdom (Ps. 37;34).  I can wait because He is good to those who wait for Him, who seek Him (Lam 3:25).  I can wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4)

So I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope [Always Hope]; [May] my soul wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

There will always be that desire to jump ahead, to see what is coming up, to be expectant of the future, and that is ok. But don't miss what happens in the middle. Don't be in such a hurry for what's next. Don't waste the wait.

Pray for me as I try to relish the waiting, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

for when you have to venture out to come home

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”  ~Mark Twain

The exact moment I came across these words is unremembered but the encouraging, challenging, and to be honest a bit convicting feelings they left will not soon be forgotten.  Framed on our wall surrounded by photos of transcontinental and worldwide adventures, Mark Twain's challenge stands, reminding me that while I am dearly loved I am small in comparison to the great big world God created.

I married a thrill-seeker, an adventurer, a roots had never grown down too deep mover, a traveler and experience collector.  He married a homebody, a lover of familiar comforts, a rooted Southern girl who originally couldn't bare to be transplanted too far from her original bed, one who longed to see but feared to venture out.  We are a perfect clash, an iron sharpening an iron, forcing one another to go out and to stay home.  The dance of balancing these two is rarely an easy one, sometimes not a pretty one, but always one that ends up, one way or the other, glorifying the One who is authoring the way.

As an introvert, quiet and alone is not just a wish, it's a necessity.  There are many who flourish in the midst of the bustle, and there are many others who can only step into the bustle because they have learned they first need to flourish in the still corner.  However, with it comes the temptation to stay in the corner of safety and solitude, inviting people into my world occasionally but stopping myself before stepping into theirs.  

There is often such a fine line between understanding the needs of the person God created me to be and the sinful heart that overtakes and thinks it knows best. 

Lest you extroverts think you're off the hook though, my personality may not allow me to completely understand enough to speak directly to your needs and struggles, but it could be easily argued that as courageous as it is to be on the go, there is courage in staying still as well.  In the quiet and stillness He speaks to you.  I pray you seek out the quiet to listen.

There have been multitudes of new locations sought, new experiences had, and new people met and better understood these past twelves years of adventuring with my other half.  And the things seen have changed me.  There have been large bustling cities full of lights and voices, homey neighborhoods and towns, quiet serene fields where we were the only ones around, mountain tops encompassing views from hundreds of miles beyond, amazing man-made feats of engineering, awe inspiring cliffs framing divinely created sunsets, and much more.  And whether joyous or difficult there will be things seen that cannot be unseen.

When you venture out I guarantee you will be uncomfortable.  You will see distressing things.  The intimacy of the customary is gone. Stripped you are of your natural habitat, and open you are to the unknown.  Things that your eyes and mind deliberately block out when navigating the well trodden roads, now have to focus on everything in their path ensuring that you can see where you are, ensuring that you will see who else is there as well.  

I have prayed during these times in the past and will continue both for myself and others in the future that blinders will not be put on but that light will shine on the uncomfortable to cause compassion to grow in the heart.  If we believe the Truth that we can not flee from His presence (Ps. 139:7) and we believe the Truth that The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9) than we must believe that the steps we take and the things we see are divinely orchestrated and instead of ignoring them we must allow them to seep into our heart and ask how they are to change us, make us different.

As harsh as this may sound, the assumed and true anguish of others is not there to make you see how much you have been blessed but to stir your heart to be a blessing to others.  Perspective is a miraculous thing.  Seeing the hardships around can absolutely produce a thankfulness within your soul that might not be achieved any other way, but if your only reaction is to mutter to yourself "well at least what I'm dealing with isn't that bad" or the tried and true, southern hand on heart, whispered through pursed lips and teary voice "I am just so blessed" then there is a point the size of this world and beyond that you are missing.  

But beyond the possible hard and unfamiliar, there will be scenes closer to home.

When you venture out, looking at the new and unfamiliar, you will ironically see so many beautiful things and people that are quite familiar.  Mother's pushing babies in strollers listening to the oddest of words their toddlers are spewing out, women and men rushing to work, people cleaning, building, cooking, serving.  Tourists staring at a new environment trying to navigate, trying to take it all in. Locals rushing by maybe somewhat callous to the too familiar charms of the city in which they live.

All the feelings of comfort that come from a well known environment exist in the neighborhood next door and in others halfway around the world.  We all are living in communities, placed there by a divine plan to intermingle, to seek out the bustle or grow on the outskirts of it.  We are not so different, there is a common thread carefully woven by a great Designer that wherever you are can remind you of home.

For me and my introverted self, the best thing about venturing out is the reminder of how I love to come home.  But come home Changed.  Each time away presents opportunities for new growth, better understanding, pricks of the spirit.  Then I go back home ready to jump back into the life He's given bringing in this new knowledge, renewed Spirit, and new desires to be better at and expand His influence in my everyday.  Pushing me onward all the while bringing me home.

The imagery of the prodigal son comes to mind.  There are many ways to extract meaning from that one story and while on the relationship side I relate much more to the older brother than the prodigal, on the seeing the importance of home I am in tune with the prodigal all the way.  At the end no matter what experience came before, he knew the place he needed to be was home in the safe and loving hands of his Father.  He came home having seen and experienced much more than he ever imagined, more than he might have ever wanted.  He came home changed.  He came home knowing that there was one place and one place only he wanted to Abide.

Venturing out puts to death exactly what Mr. Twain claims it will but it also brings about a Light in Life that nothing else can when you see that the venturing out is also a way to see that home is not a brick and mortar or wooden box that houses all your belongings.  Home is a Father who loves, a Son who saves and a Spirit who guides.  That is where I want to abide.  It feels like home to me.

Pray that I always want to come home to Him, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

for when you need to remember what you are given

There is something about being around small children that will cause you to question your sanity. They do not have to have come directly from your body or call you mom, nor does it need to be the same sweet small person following you around.  All that is required is for one or more to be a constant part of your life in some form or fashion. The continued presence of such small people with their energy and words and lack of filters and impulsiveness and overall beautiful not at all self-controlled thirst for life and the actions that are produced from that miniature minded carpe diem philosophy effects your brain cells in a way that causes them to flit away almost without being noticed until you try to speak an intellectual thought without time to process your words before they are let loose.

As a former babysitter, dance teacher, school teacher, and now mom, there have been a slew of wonderful children in my life and therefore a mass exodus of brain cells that once had my back when attempting to produce intellectual thoughts.  Now, and I am hoping you can relate, phrases will at times just spill out of my mouth that cause me to literally stop in my tracks and truly wonder if I have in fact finally gone crazy.  The carefree teenager and young adult mind of this mid thirties woman never imagined I would utter the phrase "We do NOT wash our hair in the toilet."  Never imagined I would stand in confusion trying to discern why I would have strung any of the commands together that I had just given and what on earth did they mean anyway.  I have felt, on more than one occasion, much like Ernest T. Bass learning to read and write.  Nohuntbewareopenandclosenocredit can sound like more Shakespeare than the times when my words come tumbling out in a hurried directive towards a blonde boy or three.

Then, there are those purposeful nonsense words you say, ones that can only be uttered at children for fear of losing your adulthood membership card when said aloud to anyone over 4'6".  Just last week while sitting in the lobby of our youngest's preschool, the other parents and I giggled to each other when hearing a lovely teacher sing a song to her three year olds about flushing the potty and washing their hands.  Every part of me was thankful for her desire to remind and teach about proper hygiene, but that sing song direction initiated a waterfall in my thoughts of phrase after phrase I and others have used to teach and remind depending on the situation at hand.

The one phrase that came before any others is one I guarantee you have heard and possibly said, not only to a child but maybe even to yourself.

You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit.

Its usefulness in the situations in the lives of children is countless.  Its lessons valuable.  Be thankful for what you are given.  Be content.  Do not compare what you have in your possession to what is in the hand of the one next to you.  Have self control in your reactions.  Do not pitch a fit over something that has just been handed to you free of charge.  Adults have uttered these words for so long that children will say them to each other, say them to themselves, and if the said grown up is honest, they have had to turn this phrase around on themselves as well.

In daily life on this world, it is a helpful rhyme that gets quickly to the point and nips many things in the bud before tantrums arise, but somewhere along the line, this quick child-rearing colloquialism can at times shift the view of who God is in our lives.  I have caught myself equating God with a teacher passing out suckers at the end of the day, reaching into the bag with no rhyme or reason, and handing out what happened to be in His hand to the next one waiting in line all the time reminding me that I get what I get so don't pitch a fit.

Forgive me for my doubt of your perfect plan.  Forgive me for my lack of Trust.  Forgive me for forgetting at times the Truth of who and what You are, Creator, Omniscient, God with me.  Forgive me for not remembering your Love.  For not remembering I am your Special Possession.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)  He is intentional, specifically designing your heart and life to work out His good for the Kingdom.  He is not random.  You do not just get what you get.  You get what you are given.  You get what He gives.  

What He gives is abounding Love (Ps. 86:15), divinely orchestrated gifts from the Spirit (1 Cor. 12), every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), a holy life --not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Tim 1:9)

And even better--maybe not better but just as amazing--is the fact that we are told to ask, to make our heart known, then sit as the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guards are hearts and minds then to Trust what comes next because the Lord is at hand. [paraphrase of Phil 4:5-7]

Semantics are important, different ways of phrasing can truly change how a person responds to your instruction or advice, but this is more than semantics, this is better understanding of who God is in your life and who you are because of Him.

We don't get.  We are given to by an Almighty Father.  And we are given so that we can give in return.

Everything you come across in life is ordained and allowed, nothing comes as a surprise to the one holding you in His hands.  It will not all be easy, but it will not all be hard.  It will not all be what you may have requested or imagined, but it will all draw you to Him in life altering, heart altering, magnificent ways.

Your world may even fall apart, but I promise it will get rebuilt.  Slowly or quickly, painfully or peacefully, pieces will come together and what was once crumbling will be made strong when it is built on the Cornerstone.  And you can use all of it to advance the gospel (phil 1:12) and to declare His glory (Ps. 96:3).  

Don't think about what you get, think about what and who you have been given.

Praying faithfully for you today, pray for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

because I need to be reminded to pray

I wasn't planning on writing today.  Yes, I know Wednesday is my day, the day I set aside all the to-dos no matter what and try to put into words the thoughts that seem to just float around in my head until they are snatched up and tailored to make sense. But not today, today was a day when the no matter whats mattered a little more than normal. 

Tomorrow evening a group of people who have each left a piece of their heart in Romania are gathering at our home to fellowship with and love on the family God used to draw us there.  This loving missionary family and it's many branches are in the US from RO and we are eager to hear the hardships and successes being faced and to assist in filling them up with love so that they can overflow on those so very far away when they return.

Because of this, I had pre-warned my mind that no thoughts were going to be processed today so it would get a little rest, but amidst the cleaning and fall decorating my eyes kept glancing from one object to another and my mind decided it wasn't on vacation after all.

To anyone who knows me well, they know that decorating is one of my favorite things.  It is a hobby that brings me joy, relaxes me, and gives me a creative outlet.  I still have not figured out how to convince my friends to really make good on the request that I come in their homes to help reorganize, rearrange, and redecorate, but one of these days I will hopefully sucker at least one into it.

Though there is an ongoing list in my head of items I'm searching for, I never know when that one special treasure is going to to pop out at me.  While I love the typical spots like Target, Homegoods, and Hobby Lobby, my favorite places are full of once loved and forgotten items or even better, another's free trash that can become my treasure.  The items in my home that bring the biggest smiles are ones that have a story beyond factory to store shelves.  They have either been through something, seen it all and then some, been unearthed from piles others thought were filled with nothing, or been created with the two hands of a loving friend or family member.

Within this treasure trove are a handful of special keepsakes, specifically chosen to remind me of one thing, to pray.  More than souvenirs, these have been taken from special places and purchased from special people and their point extends far beyond home decor.

Leaning on a wall in our entryway is a solid wood door covered in layers of paint.  This door came from the home of a woman forced to leave her home after it had been condemned, a woman living in an area of town ravaged by drugs.  This door stands still not only for looks but to remind me of the families struggling because of addiction, of the children being raised without the basic needs we so often take for granted, of hearts that need healing.

On a shelf in the living room is a watercolor print made by a dear friend, Never Ceases is its infinite reminder.  The picture faithfully sits to remind me to pray for her and her husband as they serve as missionaries in Bogota, as they struggle with the joy and sadness that mixes together when you know you are answering a call in your life but are having to do it so far away from family and friends.

The words are there to remind me to pray for myself and others who need to be reminded that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.

Next to that sweet and beautiful reminder is a metal square with a number and a beautiful white engraved plate.  The number was taken from a home in Romania. This home that looked like it was beyond repair, has now been turned into a two story orphanage, Laney's House, and almost ready to give a loving home to abandoned girls.  Oh how I want to remember those young lives in prayer.

Next to it the plate, handmade by Romanian hands, waits there reminding me to lift up those hands working for it's very life and the lies they are trying to support.

Each of their purposes is great and they do their job faithfully and without complaint, but there is a different truth that happens more often than not.  I walk right by.

Daily, I pass by the beautiful solid wood door, brimming with stories of happiness and heartache, and I do nothing.  Daily, I stare at a shelf filled with beautiful things made for beautiful purposes by beautiful people and my eyes glaze over, recognizing nothing.

Objects are wonderful reminders, when you remember them.  My heart may have the best of intentions to lift others up but on my own I will fail every time.  My heart needs more than visual reminders of a people in need, my heart needs compassion for those people, an ache of love and longing only available through the righteousness given to me through Christ.

Because of Him I am a new creation and because of that I am Holy and Dearly loved and am able to put on a compassionate heart (Colossians 3)

Without the compassion shown to me over and over again from my dear Heavenly Father, I would have no ability to show compassion to another and compassion is a key ingredient when praying for the needs of another.  Compassion fuels your heart's ability to love, to sympathize, to want to help, to want to understand, and to know that there is Hope in the end because the compassion did not come from me it came from and through a Perfect Unfailing Love.  And when I try yet again to remember everything on my own and fail again when I forget everything on my own, that same compassion is what reminds me that I too am in need of the same love, and that I too have it unfailingly.

I don't know how you remind yourself to pray or who is on your heart full of desire to lift up, but I do know that you can't do it alone.

I am praying for compassion to make its way in.

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

because time won't heal

There is no desire to ease into conversation today.  There are occasions when before delving into the depths of a hard topic one will attempt to soften their audience, like the pleasantries exchanged in a phone call or meeting before the desired point is finally mentioned.  Then there are times when you are talking with someone so familiar that the hard and deep is what comes up first so that the way is cleared for the pleasant things to come at the end, if there's time, and if there's not no harm is done because you know conversation will be happening again soon.

You are my familiar friends, and though I love the pleasant that can come up, I am more resolved now to dive straight down.  Every word written and every post shared is in a desire to say things out loud. To give voice to distress, to longings, to hurts, to doubts, to love, to comforts, to peace, and to Hope, in a desire to encourage and let you know that you are not alone.  This remains true even if the audience is one person.  If just one understands God in a truer way, sees the love of Christ in a purer way, feels guidance from the Spirit in a more familiar way then it is a job satisfactorily done.  Just one sheep.  It's what Jesus said the shepherd would leave every other one for, if I can not be satisfied with the same then I am not following after Him.

Hurts have been center stage in many conversations with others recently yes in my life but also and mainly in the lives of many others.  Past ones resurfacing ripping open once thought-to-be-healed wounds leaving doubt and forcing reflection, present ones causing new wounds not delicately made, and the knowledge of future ones that will come because they are just impossible to avoid when certain life situations occur.  As no two lives are the same, no two hearts are the same and therefore no two hurts will be either, but the same Truths can be applied.  While the majority would always say they are rooting on the side of these same Truths, somewhere along the way we each may fall victim to the same lies as well.

For you and for me and for anyone else we come in contact with, lets talk about those lies, get them out in the open, shine the spotlight of grace straight into their ugly faces, and see Truth always instead of them.  Today there is a specific one I want under the heat of the lamp.

Time will not heal your wounds.

Though the saying has been around since the days of Chaucer, as he is the one credited for this somewhat well meaning string of words, it only takes a quick google search to see that while it is flippantly and maybe sometimes lovingly spoken to encourage or written in fancy script to decorate a wall, it--in my opinion and the opinion of many many others--is a lie that not only does not help but causes further hurt.

Time is only a manner in which we track how long a process is taking.  It aids our finite minds in keeping a count of the comings and goings of minutes, hours, days, months, and years.  Time on it's own produces nothing.  If we allow time to heal, what we are truly doing is sitting and waiting for a group of measurements to take away pain.  Believe me I understand what the saying means, but what I want to encourage you to do is look past a set of words strung together for a brief pick me up and instead focus deeper on what truly brings lasting healing.

When our bodies are scratched, bruised, and broken it does take time for them to heal but time is not what is healing them.  I have watched a cut on a finger more than once bleed, scab over, and then disappear as if never there.  Time did not heal that scratch. The amazing properties God gave our skin to replenish itself healed the mark.

If badly injured you wouldn't just wait for time to go by hoping for it to get better.  Waiting can cause your injury to become more severe.  Infections can set in, diseases can spread to others, symptoms can worsen, a small cold can progress into a life threatening illness if left untreated.  Letting time pass without assistance can do much damage.

Our hearts and spirits are the same way.

When we are wounded emotionally and spiritually, time will not heal our pain.  Rose Kennedy said, "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone."  

I am inclined to completely agree with her.  The mind will work that way, protecting itself, shoving things in boxes in the far corners, hiding hurts away, and if that is what continues the wound will never be gone, it will just stay hiding until something triggers it back to the forefront needing to be shoved once again into its perfectly labeled box.

However there is another way, the only way to have true healing, the only way to have the Hope promised to us; believing in, submitting before, and clinging onto the Gospel of Christ.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Please do not take this as a Sunday School answer, instead take it to heart just as if Peter himself was here speaking to you, pleading with you to not stay stuck in emotional hurts, to not doubt in the healing of your body physically, to not lose Hope in your heart spiritually. 
Jesus spent his life healing people's physical ailments so that he could get their attention and heal them spiritually as well.  He took care of bodies so that He could reach inside hearts. The heart is the place He wants more than any other.

We live in a world filled with hard, filled with bodies that are breaking down day by day, filled with hearts that are so lost and hurting that they hurt those around them as well, filled with believers and non believers alike who either don't know Hope or have lost sight of it.

Every life is different, every heart is different, every hurt is different, therefore every path to healing is different.

Rest assured, there is no timeline of healing.

One body or heart might take just a flash of a moment, one body or heart might take months and years of treatment or counsel, one body or heart might have to wait until they are no longer on this earth to fully receive the healing they desire.  There is no timeline of healing, but there is a sure Hope, there is a promise from a Creator who has never not even once broken one, that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds and we can call out to Him and He will heal us and in our wait, no matter how long it may be, He upholds us with His righteous right hand.

Let time do what it was created to do, let it remind you that you are not where you were and you are not where you will be, that the present is just the present and a thousand of our days are a blink to the Designer of our lives.  Then Trust in the healing that comes from Him.  It is He alone that can do it.

It is quite a challenge to remember.  So...

Pray for me, I'm praying for you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

for when you need to 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.