Wednesday, September 20, 2017

because we all need to gain a little more perspective

As another Wednesday morning comes up there is a bit of an anxiety within.  Do I have anything to share, anything full of purpose, encouragement, helpfulness?  Anything new?  And then I am reminded of this verse from Ecclesiastes, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new?"  It has been already in the ages before us."

The only newness we see on a daily basis are the new morning mercies we are gracefully given and the new ways we are able to comprehend the age old things that have been around for eternity.  The additions that are forming and restoring our Inner Dispositions.  The struggles that have been here have always been here along with all the joys.  Sure, they are relived over and over in cyclical ways with different people, different settings, different results, but the base remains the same.  We are all forever learning the same Truths, just in a million different ways.

I have been given a sweet reminder this morning that my job, my purpose, what I am being asked to do, is not to create fantastic new ways to handle life or new thoughts to be remembered and written on reclaimed wood and placed on the wall above a beautiful entryway vignette.  My purpose is to remind, just as I am constantly being reminded.  It's why we need community, why we were built for it.  We learn from one another, feed off one another, take one idea and expand it, one creation and tweak it, become inspired by another so that we can inspire another still.  Build skyscrapers together instead of struggling over and over on one level alone.

There was a time, quite recently actually, when I would judge the "goodness" of a day as I was laying in bed at night.  Pondering over the days events I would subconsciously add tally marks to the good side and the bad side and then see which side won.  One day last week, school had been cancelled yet again due to post Irma-ness and I was determined to get out of the house and do something fun.  We had already had a watch the Hurricane through the windows all day day, then a lazy day, then a post Hurricane clean up day, and all parts of us all were needing a get away fun day.  

Without giving you a play by play of the mornings events, and a list of all the parenting moments that ensued, just know that for many different reasons, NOTHING went as planned that day.  By late afternoon in a moment of desperation--more for my sanity because I could feel negative emotions rising quickly within--I grabbed my phone and ear buds, put on my running shoes, and ran the small length of road in front of our home back and forth, over and over, while my sweet and temperamental boys played football in the yard spanning between our home and our neighbor's.  Somewhere in that 30 min jog, and the numerous interruptions of boys needing their mama, I was reminded that life is not an average of bad and good, we don't have to take both numbers, add them up, divide by two.  Life is one moment at a time.  One good moment at a time.  While plenty of yucky and not so fun ones are mixed in, they do not have the right, and should not be given the ability, to minimize the good ones.  Learn from them yes, allow them to overtake, no.  Nothing is strong enough to overtake the Good we are given.  There are better ways to be overwhelmed. 

As if I needed to be reminded of this lesson immediately, literally right after I was done running and mentally planning an instagram post about appreciating one good moment at a time complete with a picture of three finally happy boys playing football together, one of them fell and scraped his elbow in a pretty ugly way on the driveway.  In the next overly dramatic filled moments of injury fixing and using a ridiculous amount of bandaids because the proper first aid items needed were not on hand I was still holding on to that moment from earlier.  Letting the good shadow the bad, instead of the other way around.  Maybe that should have been my post.

This was going to be the end of my intended sharing for the day, short and sweet, and a bit of food for thought, but then in the car on the way to my new Happy Wednesday spot, I was brought to tears by the recent earthquake in Mexico and the news reports of children in a school texting from underneath the rubble praying that a rescuer would get to them before it was too late.  The suffering of others is all around us.  

A line from a recent study by N. T. Wright has been a constant in my mind.  When reading through 1 Peter and the amounts of suffering from these Christians Wright challenges with the statement that "those of us who read 1 Peter in comfortable freedom have a deep responsiblity to help our brothers and sisters for whom persecution of which Peter speaks is a daily reality"

At first there was more than a bit of guilt from my first world, love of making all things pretty and clean self, for all the times I complain or struggle.  What gives me the right to ever think that what I am going through is hard...just look at what "they" are having to go through, whomever they might be at the time. --For the record, I know this is not true and that struggles we have are very real to each of us and a part of the way God is redeeming us--

While I 100% think that the responsibility he mentioned is true and required, quickly added to it was another thought. This concept needs to also be put into practice right where I am sitting now.  

The whole idea of nothing new is under the sun, the whole idea of living in community, takes place under the command of bearing one another's burdens, wherever that person happens to be.  Constantly looking to one another and looking out for one another.  God will place someone in your life to grab your hand and pull you higher just as you will have another lower than you who needs the same.  Down the rope it goes being helpful and being helped.  Sometimes simultaneously, sometimes pulling up the dead weight of a severely injured soul, sometimes being the desperate one that just can not help with the way because of the heaviness you are in.

What was really gained that day of running, was another level of perspective.

Gaining perspective can often feel like being scolded, "Come on, get a little perspective, things are not as bad in the grand scheme!"

Maybe that will be the lesson you learn, maybe you are having a pity party for yourself and need something to snap you out of it?  But I'm beginning to realize the gentleness of God in this scenarios.  As a perfect Father, He rarely uses shock and awe as a discipline tool, scaring us into obedience.  He lovingly sent a son who walked on the Earth.  A son, because of His perfect communion with His Father, knew all things, was told all things, was given the ability to do all things, and yet gently walked alongside the sinful, the confused, the ignorant, the boisterous, the boastful, the depressed, and saved them, restored them, and gave them a different perspective.  How I long to have that same gentle manner.

A shift in thinking is all perspective really is.  Taking a step to the left or right to get a different angle, asking for other eyes to join you to give different thoughts, different opinions, different experiences.

But as much as we were created for community, created to have others alongside instead of living a solitary life, the best eyes to ever gain perspective through are the ones of our Creator made available to look through by the Son He sent, the Spirit He left, and the Words that hold true for eternity.

I will be praying that you not only see the good moments and hold on to them, but that through that there will be a heaven-sent perspective that will lead you through each moment you are brought through in your own life and when walking alongside others in theirs.  Pray for me. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

because small things are a big deal

one sheep.

In Luke, Jesus said to not only leave 99 safe ones to find just one lost sheep, but when we do find it, to celebrate, and celebrate big.

One is not so small a number.

We each know or know of grand people, large personalities, that people gravitate to, that people emulate, that people secretly or not so secretly wish to be.  His perfectly designed history introduces us to great Kings and Generals that led battles for freedom, leaders of countries that spoke wisdom and truths to the masses, artists of all kinds that are now household names because of their reach across social lines, and missionaries and ministers with humble beginnings who have come to make waves that have reached even the most hidden places.

In the midst of a world making statements, taking stands, shouting louder than the person next to them, whether physically or through countless medias, it feels as if the only way to live a life of purpose, the only way to be bold for your beliefs, is to shout until your voice is gone.

It is all too common for me to feel that if my beliefs are not shared in the same venues as other individuals or if my actions are not as grand resulting in gobs of attention or if my voice can literally not be heard above another's shouting then there is an objective not being met and it is a direct consequence of my lack of ambition or determination or knowledge or ability.  There is a feeling that something is lacking somewhere in my soul.  Sound familiar to anyone else?

There was a time where I struggled with showing Joy.  Why did I not seem as joyful as others with a smile on my face in the midst of any trial and an upbeat voice to go with it?  Through conversations with my pastor there was a realization that Joy takes many forms and outlets itself through individual personalities instead of having one face.  My joy was just as real as another's even though it revealed itself differently.  All our actions in light of the Kingdom follow the same rule.

We are not all meant to have the loudest voices.

"Courage doesn't always roar" ~Mary Anne Radmacher

When there are 7 billion people available, quite a few are going to be known, well known, famously or infamously, depending on their impact.  Most of us, however, will not reach that level of recognizability by the masses.  For some that may be a relief, for others that truth is a harder pill to swallow.  It is in these moments where it is imperative to seek contentment in what you've been called to so that you do not begin calling yourself to places not meant for you.

When you only have eyes to see impact and change happening by those deemed important by the world's standards you place yourself in a position for a few different things happening.

          1.  becoming overwhelmed with the desire to reach the same level
          2.  removing God from his place of priority so that you can seek control 
          3.  losing yourself in the process as the dream begins to take that control instead
          4.  missing out on the smaller things right in front of you

God holds each of our futures and yours could be to become a louder voice among the masses to bring glory to Him, but just as meaningful is the quiet voice and intentional actions that bring glory in the midst of all of our mundane.  Actions, for His glory, will speak louder and steadier than any words.

There is beauty in smallness.  There is deliberate, intentionality in smallness.  Small things are just as important.  Small things make wide ripples.

"And every work he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21"

It can seem easy to get lost in the shuffle, to believe you are but a blip, but in Truth that is actually quite impossible.  We each are known completely, loved completely, planned purposely, and executed perfectly.  We are each small in the shadow of our Creator, rightly so as He provides that wonderful wing in which we can dwell beneath.  

I'll be praying for you to see the beauty in the smallness of life, pray for me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

for when you need contentment in the calling

As we conclude our look into these next Ten months, let us remember past Truths that have been revealed and concentrate on opening our hearts to the new ones God so lovingly and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  

He is our simple answer in the midst of the complicated world, the one who gave us "time."  

And in the midst of all unknowns, we are Known to Him and when we Abide and Obey we can hear and follow His call in our lives.  

Though you would think the hard part is over once we hear, it only begins, as we then have to be content in whatever it is He has called us to...

If at this moment we were somehow miraculously blessed with a daughter, she would be given what could be interpreted as a most grandma sounding name.  Matilda Ruth May would hold not only have all of our hearts, but in turn would be granted a first name after one of my most favorite book characters and a middle name matching that of a woman in the bible that has encouraged me since the first reading decades ago.

Ruth was a girl who married a man who had moved from another land into her own.  After the death of her husband, her husband's brother, and her husband's father, she was left alone with her mother in law along with a sister in law who also happened to be from the same country as she.  Though tradition and law would have kept her bound to her husband's family when the decision was made to move back to the family's original homeland, her mother in law gave her an out, told her to stay in the place she knew, with the people she knew.  Her sister in law took the opportunity to leave.  Ruth stayed.  And thus began a story that resulted in another link in the line of Jesus.

The thing is, Ruth didn't know that that was going to happen.  No angel appeared to her as did to Mary centuries later to tell her she was going to birth a Savior.  Ruth did not have the benefit of reading and studying her story in a bound book as we have.  All Ruth had was a brief moment on a road to make a decision to turn back or keep going.  No one would have faulted her for either choice.

Finally hearing and answering God's call in your life brings a peace, a relief, a joy that cannot be compared to anything else.  That moment when you step forward into your next thing, even when it happens without a feeling of complete confidence, holds an excitement of adventure whether or not there is a healthy dose of unsurety mixed in.  

But just down the road from that initial beginning, when the trudging of your feet on the path begins to wear down the initial excitement, is where the doubt can begin to sneak in.

An in depth study of the book of Ruth in college left me with a phrase that pops into my head often, Glean in the field where you are planted.  Meaning, wherever you find yourself, take advantage of the opportunity, learn all you can from the experience so that that knowledge can become wisdom and prepare you for whatever is to come next.  Over the years, I have learned--the hard way no doubt--that there is another aspect to gleaning where you are planted, you have to be content with being there in the first place.

Have you ever tried to be content with where you are all the while being furious at where you were?  

Those two feelings do not mix.  You can not be content in where God has you if you are furious for being there.  But believe me, BELIEVE ME, when I say it is ok if contentment is not an immediate reaction.  For someone who is constantly carrying the undesired side effect of a short fuse as a result from her past hurts, Fury can definitely be a stop on the trip to get there.  It's ok to get mad and frustrated, with an array of other emotions thrown in as pit stops as well.  

If fury, or anything else besides contentment, is the one you are feeling now, let Him know, don't try to push past it or ignore it, or fix it on your own.  Your unrelenting loving Father can handle all of you and longs to do so.  He knows your heart and is forever refining you on the way, so tell Him what you are feeling, SAY IT OUT LOUD.  Your inner dispositions can not truly change if it's not Christ in you that is changing them.  

There are many words that can be substituted for contentment in the world.  Pleasure, cheerfulness, and gratification are just a few, but in this conversation of being content with where God has placed each of us, the only word I can think to use is Satisfied.  God longs for us, asks us, to let Him satisfy.  To let Him fill up all the places inside us so that we are satisfied in Him and Him alone.  To seek satisfaction elsewhere is to place something else in His place. above where He should rest in your life.  

Satisfy us Lord, with your tender mercies that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14

The hardest part for me to understand was when in the middle of something, in the middle of the hard and confusing, not knowing whether to seek contentment and wait for change or to seek contentment and look for change.  Life in Christ is not passive.  Yes God is sovereign, and holds the entirety of my story in his Hand completely crafted from eternity, but it takes my physical movement to go forward on this earth.

Were the things I was facing, were the rocks I was pushing up hill needed to build whatever was at the peak or were they just getting in the way and needed to be let go to roll back down so that my hands would be free for whatever I would find to do at the top?  This is that time again when I listen to these words instead of the doubts that can come up, "No matter what our circumstances, we can enter right now into God's will for us--the will of a wise and loving Father who knows how to weave all of our choices into a redemptive masterpiece."  Whether I keep pushing an unnecessary boulder or whether I let one go that might have been helpful to have after all, I can be content in whatever state I find myself in next because He redeems it all.

One important thing I have learned to help me with truly being content in where I am was discovering that many times I was scared to be content because I was afraid God would make me stay there forever or forget that I wanted to move onto something else.  I realized, that God knows the desires of my heart and asking for something is not a sign of discontentment, as long as I trust Him no matter what His answer is.

Though I am not a huge podcast fan--I have an aversion to the lack of genuine voices podcasting can supply--there are a few, with normal vocal tones, that I have come to listen to.  One of which, called The Pivot, included a conversation between two singer/songwriters my husband and I have loved since college, Andrew Osenga and Bebo Norman.

When seeking contentment in where you are in the midst of following the call in your life, when racked with confusion over knowing whether or not your search is fruitful or futile, take into account my synopsis of the ending of their conversation...

"It's ok to try something and for it to go well and for it to not go well.  It's ok to walk away from something that is going really well because you are not meant to do it.  You can be about pursuing something and come to the conclusion that it is not something you need to continue pursuing.  You can be about pursuing something and know it's something you do not want to continue pursuing but have no choice at the moment to not do it because of the commitment that you have made.  Even the next thing you are sure you are supposed to do may not work and then you will find yourself back at square one again.  The gift is knowing that whatever hurdle comes, it doesn't end who you are, your identity in Christ.  Life does not fall apart just because of a shift in your current state."

Christ gives you freedom from caring about the end result because He gives you freedom to be content in the midst of whatever.  Nothing is wasted.

I hope you have enjoyed and gleaned from the lessons we have been learning this month and that they have and will help you think about your next ten months and carry over into your forever as well.

I will be praying that you will continue to see and hear where He is taking you and that you will be able to find contentment in the midst of whatever it is.  Pray for me.

Part 1 - The next ten months
Part 2 - A simple answer
Part 3 - Time is not ours
Part 4 - Doing the 'right' thing

Thursday, August 17, 2017

for when we want to know what we're supposed to do

As we continue to look forward into these next Ten months, let us remember past Truths that have been revealed and concentrate on opening our hearts to the new ones God so loving and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's Spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions.  He is our simple answer in the midst of the complicated world, the one who gave us "time."  Today lets hit the big stuff, listening for God's call and walking in it, and expecting the unknown all the while trusting we are completely Known to Him.

"People are always telling you that change is a good thing.  But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all...has happened." ~Kathleen Kelly

--Just hearing those words from Kathleen Kelly a.k.a Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail immediately gives me the great desire to put on a trench coat, curl up in a bed, stare at daisies, and get lost in that iconic movie.--

Change has different faces, and while we each have our share of graciously given exciting ones, we each know too well the scary and disappointment that can come when something we didn't want to happen, happens.

Almost 4 years ago, something I didn't want to happen, happened.  Life was shaken up, any control I falsely thought I had was completely stripped away, and I was left with no other choice but to look up, to see that all I really needed I already had in Christ, and with that the promise that I would never be left, never forsaken.  I can expect, and even welcome, the unknown, because I am fully known

Through that single experience, and the massive amount of ripples that came with it, life as I know it now is very different from what I was imagining for myself.  However, in many ways it is beautifully, mercifully, similar as a loving Heavenly Father, my husband, children, and certain friends are still here, next to each other, bearing burdens, living life as children of the King, better and closer and able to tell of His goodness.

All is not roses and rainbows, many scars still remain and many idols are still being unearthed as work that has begun is still in the completion phase, but the heart within is changed and, while still being renewed daily as inner dispositions continue to be formed, has a new trajectory, a clearer purpose, that would not have been possible without that change.

Any good that is here for me, and for you, does not have come on our own terms, by our own hands.  It is something we are not able to create, but is instead masterfully created. 

I know this because even still, when confronted with the new hard things, there is an almost immediate desire to let it consume my emotions, forcing me back to the past memories of frustration, exhaustion, confusion.  Because I know, I know, how hard HARD can be,  I know how energy sucking it is.  I know how vulnerable you feel through it as your heart is laid completely bare.  I know the doubt that swirls around within when your world is suddenly a very different place.  Even with the litany of positives that have come, even with the humbling honor of walking with others through their own Hard, even with the encouragement that we should feel joy when facing trials of any kind because of the mature faith it brings (James 1:3-4), I am tempted to ignore His faithfulness and promised comfort and reach out for the comfort of the world.  Even if your events are much different than mine and those others around you, do you still find yourself in this same place at times?  Embrace your weakness.  Say a prayer of thanks that you can not go on on your own.


In our own strength, we are weak.  In our weakness, we are made strong.

It's our fear of appearing weak that keeps us from following those places we are being called.  Fear of failure, of admitting we might have heard wrong, of what we may have to sacrifice to go forward, of what others may think, or what might be assumed by our inability to accomplish the goal we thought was a sure thing.  After our church closed it's doors last year I was meeting with our then pastor sharing my confusion about different choices I should have made, could have made.  During my should I have done this, could I have done that, his response was eye opening, heart opening.  "Just because the outcome is not what you wanted, it doesn't mean you made the wrong choice." 

The trophy at the end is what we all want, but it's the experience of the journey and the hearts touched through it that God is really after.

As someone who relishes being told the right answer, knowing the exact right thing to do and steps needed before proceeding, it is somewhat painful for me to tell you that no where in this sharing will there be anything resembling a "How-To" in regards to knowing what you are called to.  It is in fact bad blogging form to not give you a "How to hear and listen to God's call in your life in 10 easy steps" kind of advice.  But it's not something in my power to give.  There's no rote answer, sorry to all those fellow type As out there.  If you want a map of where to go to find out the answer I can draw a simple line straight to the foot of the cross.  If you want a map of where that will take you next, consider instead to stare at the abstract drawings of a two year old with all their chaotic swirls and overlapping lines.

normal_scribbles_3.jpg (365×400)

In his book The Will of God as a way of Life, Jerry Sitser says "No matter what our circumstances, we can enter right now into God's will for us--the will of a wise and loving Father who knows how to weave all of our choices into a redemptive masterpiece."  

For 8 years of my husband's childhood, his family were missionaries in France.  When my father in law was asked how he knew it was the will of God to be a missionary in France, his response was along the lines of "well when I was standing in the middle of a French airport I figured God must have wanted me there."

There is no perfect way of knowing, there is only a perfect One to follow. 

If I would even attempt to give any kind of advice to you as we seek out our next ten months and forever it would be to do two things, Abide and Obey.

Abiding is sitting right there in the shadow of Christ, the safety of His wing, getting to know Him better and as that knowledge grows the wisdom will follow after.  Obeying is hearing those still small voices and saying yes to them until gradually you are able to hear the bigger ones that come, not worrying about the ending as much as relishing in each now He is giving and what it is giving to others.

We can't screw up God's plan for us.  We're not that powerful.  Abide.  Obey. Do not fear that you will do it all wrong, you might possibly will, but trust that the Holy Spirit will always guiding us towards what is right.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

sunday song

Even without the tragic events stemmed from hate filled hearts that occurred yet again yesterday, our world is full of heartbreak, struggles, grief.  I stand still and all around me in a whirlwind of thought are headlines, phone conversations, texts filled with despair and loneliness, scenes seen and overheard in different areas of life.  Swirling, they try to cover up what I know is Good, who I know is Good.  It's so easy to think we live in a world much worse today than ever before, but honestly, the "worst" we see has always been there, its just gets closer to home, forcing us to look in the eye and decide if we will turn away or not.

There are many who need to speak out more; there are just as many who honestly just need to shut up.  But we all need to remember even in the midst of the overwhelming chaos in our eyes, is a God who holds us all, image bearers of Him, in His hands, even when we don't understand what is going on around us, especially then.

"He is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonder in heaven and on earth." (Daniel 6:26-27)

This week in a devotionsI read these next words. feeling thankful for the reminders, and the promise that even as we move forward in our what's next, there is One who already knows.

"Over all the trouble that confounds and dismays us is a God of glorious wisdom,  power, and grace who rules every moment of every situation.  No, you will not always see his hand.  You often won't understand what he is doing.  There will be points when life won't make sense to you.  At times, you will wish that life could be different.  There will be moments when you will feel unprepared for what is on your plate.  In these moments, look up and remember that above it all there is a throne, and on it sits a God of unimaginable majesty, ruling all for his glory and for your good." Paul D. Tripp

There is strength within the sorrow,

There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting,
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding,
You're teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper,
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever,
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined,
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens,
Reaching down in endless grace
Youʼre the Lifter of the lowly,
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me,
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good,
You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
Youʼre working for our good,
Youʼre working for our good and for your glory

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

because our time is not our own

As we continue to look forward into these next Ten months, let us remember past Truths that have been revealed and concentrate on opening our hearts to the new ones God so loving and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's Spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions.  He is our simple answer in the midst of the complicated world.  Today, let us think about how to guard our time for His use instead of constantly filling it up with ourselves.

Here in our small corner of Georgia, our children are in the midst of the second full week of school. Which, for me, means that after ten years of staying at home with at least one little toe headed boy, there is instead quiet all around.  I am far from empty nested, as it is only a few hours until their noise reenters our environment, and even while they are gone learning from our loving community of teachers there are plenty of things left in their wake that makes their presence in our home still fully known!

However, like anyone who has suddenly, or not so suddenly, found themselves in a new stage of life, there is plenty of doubt trying to creep its way into the experience.  With that doubt, often comes his unwanted friend Worry.  Yesterday, in perfect timing--as if God was capable of anything else--a quote by Oswald Chambers came to my attention reminding to not "take the pressure of forethought upon yourself.  It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything else that worries us."

"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; 
     the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; 
     and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind" Job 12:7-10

Whenever you feel worry begin, dig down to the root of it before it can take root in you.

For me in the now of my life, worry was triggered by one seemingly innocent question that has been asked in a variety of ways but with still the same meaning at the center: "What are you going to do with all that time?"

Time, this almost tangible among intangibles.  We want to enjoy it, we want to use it wisely, we want it to not fleet it away, we want it to stand still, we want it to fly by, we want to make the most of it, and we do not want others to judge the way we spend it.

There is great temptation to prove myself worthy and not wasteful to every person who asks that question.  In truth there are lists upon lists in my head of things to catch up on, projects to tackle, goals to meet, people to connect with, and places to volunteer.  However, also, admitting to anyone that there is a great desire to spend a week laying on the couch watching old movies, trying to replenish some of the sleep that has been lost in my first decade of mothering with daily naps is exactly what I am afraid to say out loud because it seems selfish and slothful, and goes against all things women have been responsible for doing since Eve screwed up the peace of the Garden for all of us.  Kidding, but not really.  You get me, right?

When we look at the world we see people around us constantly scurrying about.  Even if there is a smile on the face of a friend you run into around town as you both pause in that moment to chat about life while your grocery carts are blocking two aisles and an intersection in Kroger, you still know that you both have an agenda and lots of things to check off before the day is over. So after that pause, however pleasant it was, scurrying picks right back up.  I feel myself constantly quoting the visiting pastor from a favored Andy Griffith episode, "What's your HURRY!"

To answer this for myself, a list--of course a list--began trying to explain why people, myself included, feel the need to hurry about scheduling every possible minute of the day and more.  Maybe you have other thoughts to add, and if so please feel free to share.  I love hearing your thoughts and heart!

Thus far the list includes...

     *  Having to do life alone-  You are the mother and father, the caretaker and breadwinner.                                                                  Attempting to fulfill all the roles needed in a household was not the                                                          perfect Design, but a situation many find themselves in.  Oh how I pray
                                                 there is community around each of you to help bear the burden.

     *  Overscheduling-  When each person in the family has passions that you want to allow them to
                                      pursue, plus friends to commune with, plus school activities to attend, plus
                                      work that is needed to fund it all, you find yourself with a
                                      nightmare of a calendar and the desire chuck all of it.  I'm not going to                                                     lie, sometimes we need to go with that last desire.

     *  Too many yeses-  Saying no, unless it's to your kids when they ask you for a dessert after                                                     touching zero of their dinner, is HARD.  Even for us introverts who basically                                           want to hide out in our happy place alone with a book, still struggle with
                                      people pleasing where yeses fly out of our mouths faster than the nos cry out
                                      inside.  This inevitably results in a schedule full activity but a heart full of
                                      bitterness as time is being used up by the dayfuls on things you might never
                                      have wanted to do to begin with.

     *  Keeping up with someone else-  Could be the Joneses, or the Mays, or the Keels, or the
                                                              or the Cardozas, or the random person you see everywhere
                                                              and can't remember their name but you know you MUST keep                                                                 up with them.  Therefore, you say those too many yeses, let
                                                              everyone sign up for everything, take in those extra practices,
                                                              exercise classes, leadership roles, and all else to make sure your
                                                              life resembles the ones of those around you.

    *  You are afraid to be still-  This one stung the most.  Afraid to be still.  Afraid of what others may
                                                 think.  Afraid of what you are missing out on.  Afraid of what you may
                                                 learn about yourself if you have time to think about what you are doing.                                                  Doubt, worry, and then fear.  They are a threesome never far away from
                                                 each other, but never produced by the Trinity.  They are products of
                                                 darkness, only to be fought off by the Light.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit with the sister of a friend, who I would love to have become a friend herself.  An artist by trade, she opened her home to me to peruse her art as I had a desire to add a little sophistication to my home with pieces that were unique all while supporting a local artist who also fits in the budget of one who, as I recently mentioned, hasn't worked outside the home in ten years.

Like many artists, she frames her non canvas pieces atop a white surface with plenty of room on the edges.  This 'white space' takes away the potential for distractions as your eyes are now free to fully take in the beauty of what is at the center.

photo cred J. Rollins

We are God's handiwork, His art here to glorify Himself and be used in the lives of others.  And around our lives needs to be the same white space any artist would give.  Because, "White space is where the world and all the distractions falls away.  Where the voice of the Divine can be heard..." ~Valerie Rickel

Days will come, seasons will come, that feel busier than others, depending on the ages of children, the life work you have chosen, the events of a given week, surprises that pop up and need to be dealt with immediately.  Life is life, and in this imperfect world we can not expect perfection from anyone other than the Creator, our Savior, and the Spirit He left with us.  We certainly can not expect perfection from ourselves, therefore how we use the time we are given will not be perfect either.

However, we CAN ask to be led to use it wisely and fight the temptation to use it all up with ourselves and for our agendas.  For "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."Psalm 127:1-2 
Sleep.  Rest.  In Him.

Author of Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray said, "Spiritual Whitespace makes room--room in our hearts for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, room in our lives for rest, room in our souls for rejuvenations.

So, as we continue forward with these thoughts towards the next ten months, and forever, I will be praying that there will be an opportunity to create some white space in our lives, room to breathe and see.

The time we have was never really our own.  If we were bought with a price, than that includes all parts of us, time spent included.  We cannot make the most of something that does not belong to us, but He will make the most of us when we give our time back to Him, the one who created it in the beginning.

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

because sometimes there is a simple answer

As we continue to look forward into these next Ten months, let us remember past Truths that have been revealed and concentrate on opening our hearts to the new ones God so loving and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's Spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions.

Welcome August, you month of new beginnings, marked with your ability to send children forward into another year of childhood while mama's hearts break and rejoice as their visions of those growing souls before them change in and out with the perfectly remembered picture of a different age and younger, rounder faces.

Ten months are upon us friends.  Ten months of learning, growing, changing, following, leading.  Ten months of figuring and planning and implementing.  Ten months of some things staying the same while others are moving forward.  Ten months of treasuring past and anticipating future, of remembering past Truths and opening your heart to the ones God so lovingly, continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.

Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions. Should we ever really feel the effect of aging when each day we our spirit is being renewed?

It's tempting to take on newness, change, in two different ways.  Depending on personality or possible prior knowledge of the change that is to come, one way is to attempt it all at once.  The other, is to attempt to hide from it completely.  There is the typical battle of getting it all over with, getting it all completed and checked off, versus avoiding the need to begin with, doubting that any change is coming or even necessary.  How often do we drift to an extreme when there is a middle ground of patient faithfulness where we should usually be treading.  For me, it's often on the daily.

Living in this home, and in yours as well, are minds that, as Paul David Tripp puts it, "want to make life all about us, to want little more than our own way, and to live like little self-sovereigns."   Try as I might, I cannot just believe that there are three young monarch wannabes walking the floors of our home.  My heart desires my own way more often than it desires anyone else's.  One major side effect of this most annoying product of the fall--fall of man, not the season--is that it causes us to make much harder than it needs to be.

There are literally dozens of scenarios that come to mind that could entertain you slash make you feel better about your own life.  Just the amount of time wasted while arguing with a child about what socks to put on so that they can make it to baseball practice on time is shocking.  You would think a pair of baseball socks was the simple answer, you would be wrong.  And there is no pride in my head when I think about the attitudes I have illustrated and the time I have wasted being less than loving when that same pair of socks does not find their way back to my designated desired spot after said practice is over when a simple reminder would suffice.  This is only a drop in the bucket.  Only a small innocent example of the much more vile ones that have made their way into history.

Our innate being does not want the simple answer.  It does not want the one held open before us.  Sin has made us desire the complication this world brings, getting lost in the midst of a mess we make as we are bound and determined to find our own way instead of resting in the Peace given through Christ. The ever calming place in the center of any storm.

As we search for the biggest and the best, God uses the humble and contrite.  Even Anne Shirley knew that "All things great are wound up with all things little"

While the end goal for this series is to encourage you to make intentional plans for your next ten months, it would be futile without starting first at the heart level.  Clearing out ourselves so that someone else can fill its place.  Sin clouds our vision.  Our eyes are always looking at something, but where are they actually focusing?

The simple answer in the midst of the complicated world?

He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Rev. 22:13)  He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by him all things were created...all things were created through Him and for Him all things hold together. (Col. 15-17) All the things.

As we then seek our next steps, we can do so without succumbing to the complicated goals the world tells us we should be striving for because, "If you delight in the fact that you are God's, you cannot be disappointed in how He's using you." Ryan Johnson, pastor New City Church.

And if you are His, He promises He is using you.

If you have the opportunity right now, read Paul's words from Colossians 1.  It is within this line up of prayers that I find not only encouragement for myself, but petition for you as well.  Long ago this disciple wasn't just praying for those faithful saints in Colossae but also for me and you and every other child God calls to him.  He did not cease to pray for these things, with Christ we can strive for that as well.

As you seek the simplicity of just resting in Christ in the midst of the complicated world, I pray that it will, not just over the next ten months, but for forever, change you to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  That you will bear fruit in every good work.  That you will increase in the knowledge of God.  That endurance will grow and there will be patience filled with joy.  And that with each day you will be able to give thanks because you will see that He has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

I'm praying for you, pray for me.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

For when you are saying goodbye to summer

For us in the southeastern states this is perfect timing as those of us with children have been scurrying about gathering all the supplies needed for going back to school.

Come this Friday or next Monday or whatever the day of the week within these last moments of July and early ones of August there will be an inundation of comments from our friends in other place across the US as we post our precious babes all cleaned up with backpacks on ready to tackle this new year.

Yes, we know it is still July.
Yes, we know it seems early.
Yes, we know you do not start for another month.

However, whether the first day is tomorrow or a month from now, there is still that mix of feelings from excitement and anticipation of new adventure to sadness for the waning summer.

Years ago Myquillin Smith, aka The Nester, shared a thought about how we each only have 18 summers with our children before they go off to college.  While there, lord willing, will still be plenty of contact after that 18th summer, life, relationship, and influence upon that child will be so very different. That is why, around here at least, summers are full of both fun activity as well as lazy togetherness.

Lots of things take backseats during the summer months so that time with three little, not so little, boys can climb up securely into the front seat.  Even my wonderful homeschooling mamas can relate to this. While they do have more one on one time due to the education they have chosen, there is still a nice reprieve from "teachering" and a greater ability to just BE.

Honestly, single or married, kids or no kids, school aged or not school aged, life is not so broken up by a yearly calendar as much as it by a school calendar.  Businesses, tv shows, amusement parks, churches and many other places make their plans around what happens from August to July, instead of January to December.  So, while the first of January is a typical time to set goals for all parts of life, it's this time of year where more plans are laid and more thoughts are going towards what the desires for life will look like over the next ten months until the next sweet summer comes around again.

What do you want your next ten months to look like?

The other day, as I was standing in the kitchen looking at the piles of recently separated school supplies that had just been purchased and feeling exhausted from a running ALL the errands day all while knowing the state of a summer filled house is more than a little overwhelming to think about putting in order I noticed that the inside edge of our back door was disgustingly dirty.  How does a part of the door that no one touches get that filthy.  After making this comment to my husband his response was, "Isn't it interesting, that when anything in the world is left to its own device it goes downhill instead of getting better."

Y'all.  I just stopped in my tracks.

How often do I think life will maintain itself?  That items or feelings or goals or people will just stay exactly as is until I am able to come around to them again.

A plant cannot grow without sunshine and water.  Gardens become overgrown and full of weeds without the loving hands of a gardener.  Are other living things any different?

Lives need caretaking.  Schedules need caretaking.  Goals and dreams need caretaking.  Left to their own device they will also become unruly, overgrown, and hidden by situational weeds because they are in the world.

But first and foremost, before we are able to take care of anything, we have to realize how much we are taken care of.  

In Genesis 28:15 God says behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

It is out of this promise, it is with this Hope and this Hope alone that we are able to care for others, It is with this ever present hand that are able to help care for the life He has given us and planned for us.

Over the next few weeks, as we all are beginning to leave those lazier, not so scheduled days of summer and jump back into the swing of regularly scheduled programming, we will explore this topic a bit deeper.  Stepping into these next ten months and making plans on how to care for them the way God has called us to.  Not just hearing, but listening, to His call for you.  Not just seeing, but focusing on the way that is being brought before you.

I hope you're as excited to join me as I am to join you on this mini journey of more ways God is constantly changing our inner dispositions to be more like Christ.

Until then, let your mind wander and let your heart begin to listen to what may be coming up inside for you, all the while remembering that the care you can give to other things is there because you are so unbelievably cared for.

 I'll be praying for this beginning of the next ten months, pray for me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

for when you spend two hours writing only to have your chromebook erase all of your work

Y'all I am in tears, streaming, forcing myself not to ugly cry in the middle of a coffee shop.  Back on my beloved Wednesday morning I have been sitting here pondering and pouring onto the keys praying that my words would be an encouragement to another.  And then, a frozen screen, a restore, and nothing.  The site that usually, dutifully saves every word as you go, did not do it's job.  Minutes from being finished, a paragraph away from a conclusion, and now nothing is left except the tears on my cheeks, an empty cup of tea and a half eaten piece of blueberry pound cake.

My mind is reeling, wondering if it's God who did not think my words were glorifying or Satan who did not want them read.

I hope I can conjure back up the heartfelt reminders and encouragements about the call to be pioneers in our lives, about letting Faith guide us to blaze new trails for others as we ultimately follow the True Pioneer of Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who is able to empathize with us in every way.  But that time is not right this minute.

Until then, please pray for me to see His hand in something as little--and big--as a technological failure and as I pray for you I want to leave you with this...

"Father, you know us in secret, and you know all our secret places.  What we do to benefit your kingdom will not be lost if it is not seen by others, for you see and you reward according to your grace and mercy."  G.K. Chesterson

Friday, June 16, 2017

because He wants our first fruits

Alongside of our circle drive, in the perfect location for me to accidentally back into them on those early morning school runs when the sun has not quite yet sent it's rays down upon us, sits a large patch of blueberry bushes.  While their age, to us anyway, is unknown, they have been planted long enough to tower over seven feet and have enough strength for their blossoms to withstand this years early Spring freeze that demolished every azalea in the county.

Going on three summers we have watched and waited as the little round green nubs grew and changed colors until the bushes are full of dark bluish purple berries ready to be picked and either popped directly into your mouth if you are my children or turned into delicious muffins, cakes, and cobblers if you follow my line of thinking.

Those first fruits that come off the tree never cease to bring a feeling of awe to my heart.  They are a testament to the process started by a seed that continues to cycle around for almost no other reason than God created it to happen in that way, at that time.  A physical, tangible reminder of how He sets things into motion and cares for them until the fruit is borne.  Whether through frost and drought, or the perfect growing season, we, and the occasional bird and deer, are blessed to take from the branches.

There was a time when the giving of the first fruits of your harvest was required by law, with reverence and a holy fear, these items were offered up and only after were the rest able to be taken and used either for use or profit.  This first fruits offering found its fulfillment in Jesus, as "He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 15:20) 

Because of Christ, we do not have to earn favor from God as we are each His favorite if we are hidden in Christ, the Spirit inside calls us and guides us to desire to give our own first fruits to Him.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us less, and likewise, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. But, to both glorify His name and as an outlet for the overwhelming thankfulness that builds up when you seek to learn and understand how much He has, is, and will do, our Spirit longs to offer our own personal first fruits to Him.

In this scenario, minds may jump first to money, giving back some of that which the world counts as most valuable in our society.  Some may think of giving their time and service, helping their brother in need, coming alongside their neighbor, sacrificing to walk with another and bear another's burden.  Each of these have their place of importance in the Kingdom we are called to live in, however, if the first fruits of your heart are not set aside and offered up, than any act done comes before Christ and not with Him.  He wants us first, and we need Him first.

While reading through Life Together, some wonderful ladies and I struggled through Bonhoeffer's suggestions of how a day for a believer should look.  When you get a group of moms together there will inevitably be talk of how there is not enough time in any day to feel as if you are caught up on anything.  And while Dr. John Trainer--though it's often credited to C.S. Lewis--does say "Children are not a distraction from more important work.  They are the most important work." there is still a great desire to feel accomplished and productive outside of that realm.  When your list of what you consider are needs and desires is constantly growing, it is most difficult to be told that your day needs to include even more.

Excuses were made that this book was written so long ago that obviously we can not assume that it is applicable to our day and age, but we each knew there were Truths set forward that were more than just good advice, but items necessary for our hearts to be set in order.  Just as God does not often work on all parts of our hearts at the same time, neither do we need to try to overwhelm ourselves with incorporating all the things we see simultaneously either.  For me, this was where the thought of first fruits began to grow.

Taken from Psalm 57:7-8, Bonhoeffer says, "For Christians the beginning of the day should NOT [emphasis mine] be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day's work...let the first thought and the first word of the day belong to him to whom our whole life belongs."

Our thoughts and words, the first fruits of our day, given to Him.  An act of praise and thankfulness with the first conscious moments of a new day full of new mercies so graciously given again and again.

In the last few months there has been special attention placed upon those first thoughts and first words of mine after turning off the alarm but before my feet touch the floor.  There have also been wondrous closeness felt with my creator and savior because of it.  He is faithful when we are faithful.  But praise Him even more, He is faithful when we are faithless (2 Tim 2:13)

Because, lest you think I now am living the utmost holiest of lives uttering nothing but praises as soon as the sunrises, think again.  Just as you encounter in your life, I know all to well the constant pull of countless items that fight for your attention.  Some, such as the caretaking of your children, home, profession, friendships, family, church community, living community and the like are noble and necessary.  Others, like the temptation to peruse various social media venues, desires to fulfill dream like scenarios, and the occasional or not so occasional desire to hide and distract from real life through a countless list of activities can be given no noble title, yet are succumbed to much more than any other thing.

But when there are so many things clawing at you, demanding that you look at them first, it can be difficult to distinguish in that moment which direction to give your focus.

When in high school, if I was confronted with a difficult or dangerous situation that needed to be avoided but could cause embarassment or uncomfortableness from my peers, my parents would tell me to just blame them.  Let them be the reason.

God has given us the answer of where our focus goes first.  He has given our 'need to make everyone happy hearts', an 'out' so to speak.

He, and He alone, gets our First Fruits.  Period.

To be able to give those first fruits in our first moments, that will inevitably train our hearts to give him our first fruits in every moment, our minds and hearts need to first feel thankfulness for those moments to begin with.

This comes through three things...

          1.  Abiding in Christ.  When you are seeking him, hiding in his word and being, your inner dispositions
               change.  It is an involuntary action.  As your inner dispositions change, you begin to see how your
               Spirit longs for more of Him, more of Him in those first moments and in every moment after.

         2.  Practice.  Wake up tomorrow morning and thank Him for the new day.  Ask Him to help you be a                 blessing to someone.  Ask Him to help you see His hand throughout the days events.  Ask Him to
              help you wake up the next morning and thank Him again.  The words do not matter as much as the
              heart behind them.

         3.  Give yourself grace when you fail.  I promise He will.  You will wake up one morning and check
              facebook instead.  You will get halfway through your day and suddenly remember you were
              anything but thankful.  You already are forgiven and you will be loved anyway.  You fail daily.  He
              has promised to love you for eternity.

This is an ongoing challenge for myself that I am now extending to you dear friend.  Give Him your first thoughts, your first words, your first fruits of the day.  It can take no more than a moment but that moment can carry you, because it's Him carrying you, for much longer than you can imagine.  

I'm praying for your first fruits to be for Him, pray for me.

Friday, June 2, 2017

for when you need courage to take the next step

When on a vacation with your extended family which includes 12 adults and just as many kids all of which are under the age of 10 and more than half of which are 5 years old and younger, peace and quiet is not something you count on achieving.  Though fun and energy are most definitely daily tasks that are being checked off, when your soul leans more to the introverted side and thoughts do not tend to come to fruition until quiet moments are found, a writer's heart, such as mine, assumes that another week will go by where that part of herself needs to be placed to the side so that the energy needed for creativity and pondering can be funneled instead to being in the moment and enjoying it to the fullest.  Are there those in the world who do not have to voluntarily transfer their mental energy on the daily? If you are one such soul, be thankful my friend.

However, my doubt was overcome by His promise yet again and on a morning with a cup of tea in hand I sat on the front steps in Florida air mixed with humidity, a faint breeze, and the mottled noises of a houseful of folks beginning their day and came away with one thought that has continued to grow since, "It's time to keep going forward, I promise I'll tell you if you need to stop."

He speaks friends.  When you listen, you hear.

One of my children not only needs step by step instruction, but he needs it clearly written and sequential in order to complete everything needed.  If instructions are spoken instead, he requires the time to complete one, maybe two at a time, before adding to the list.  If given too much at one time, all is forgotten and nothing will get accomplished.

I simultaneously love and get frustrated with this quality of his.  The love comes from my own inner need for order and lists and wanting to make sure everything is done that is needed to get done.  The frustration comes from not understanding how, even when it's the same routine over and over, there is not an immediate and habitual moving on to the next thing.  What is keeping that little mind from using past experiences and context clues to just keep going?

Can you see where I'm heading with this?  The dawn of understanding pieces of yourself often comes through observation of others.  This is not judgement, in its negative sense, it is the judging that brings understanding, wisdom earned through situational discernment with a good dose of humility on the side.

The Christian life is full of unknowns, not for our Creator of course as He wrote our stories before the beginning of time, but for us and our minds personally.  Situations that have not yet come to past, experiences that have not yet been lived through, and wisdom that has not yet been gained are all dotted along our paths to be.  Sitting there for their planned time and place.

However, like my precious boy, we can find ourselves waiting, hesitant to take the next step because of the uncertainty of what will happen when we do.  Whether we admit it or not--and I have a feeling most of us would admit it freely--there is a great desire for a list of steps.  A sure, written in stone, sign that says go and do this exact thing.  Forgotten are the Words left with us and the example of those gone before us.  Distrusting are we to the people placed in our lives presently that mentor and guide.  Even ourselves we doubt.  What if we did not really hear what we thought we heard?

So instead of using our own context clues from the information given, instead of allowing our habit of walking in the Spirit propel us forward, instead of living in Faith and taking our own "leap from the lion's head" we sit, and wait, and look for a 100% no fail guarantee.  Both instances, the childhood chores and our spiritual stalling, stem from immaturity.  Both do not just improve with age, but with practice as well.

There are times we are called to wait.  Where there is a deeply felt need to stop trying to constantly take control and to sit and be still instead.  I have experienced a season of wait myself.  Never is a true wait on the Lord wasted, because not only is the wait required for building up those lovely qualities of patience and contentment, within it is also a process of preparation.  Whether God is preparing your heart, mind, soul and strength for the next step or preparing other people and places for your arrival, there is work in the wait. Says Oswald Chambers, "To wait upon God is the perfection of activity.  We are told to rest in the lord, not to rust."

Some can sit, wait, and look for a lifetime.

"It never works to wait for God to do what he has clearly called you to do."  ~Paul David Tripp

For myself, there are three things possible on the horizon, three things firmly planted in my heart, and for almost a year I have been trying to discern which one was supposed to be first.  Agonizing over taking a secure step forward and instead circling around trying to pick the right path.

I do not know what has been placed in your heart, but I do know that if you have prayed about it, sought the counsel of another about it, and it is still firmly planted--assuming whatever it is is not completely heretical of course--that it's time to leap, it's time to keep moving forward trusting that He will tell you when to stop.

He promises to make those paths straight, not smooth or easy or quick, but straight to where He's guiding.

The end results might matter and they might not, what changes your heart the most is the walking forward when you do not know the way but ever Trusting that God does. So go, and in the words of the ever wise Will Ferrell, "Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the results."

 I will be praying for you as you discern and take those next steps in Faith, pray for me.