Wednesday, December 6, 2017

for when we expect perfection from the imperfect

Auburn lost.  My sports lovers know what I'm talking about.  If you are not one of those, bear with me, this is going somewhere non sports related I promise.  They lost.  And while the mom and dad were disappointed, the ten year old and eight year old were devastated.  When your excitement and hope raises to high levels of what could be and are then dashed, it's a hard and hurtful fall.  When you're a young boy living in the state of Georgia and have to walk into school the following Monday and see the dreams you wanted written on the face of another, it stings.  Lessons are certainly learned in good situations and bad, but man doesn't it feel like one way outweighs the other?

While watching Auburn not win a title this year, six pieces of furniture sat outside in the driveway waiting to be brought in.  Warm air of day mixed with the cool air of night and condensation took those beautiful just completed refinished pieces and coated them with a milky white finish that couldn't just be wiped away.  The next afternoon amidst the frustration of a clogged paint sprayer in a desperate attempt to just finish something the right way, tears of anger and disappointment collided into a minor meltdown.  This time the ten year old and eight year old were happily watching a Merry movie while mama was devastated.  Lessons are certainly learned in successes and failures, but man doesn't it feel like one way outweighs the other.

Even without the perfectionist mentality of needing a blemish free situation, everyone loves a perfect ending.  Everyone wants a perfect outcome.  Everyone wants to perform perfectly.  Everyone wants to be treated perfectly.  The moment the end result doesn't meet the expectation created, friction starts, and sometimes that friction becomes a firestorm.

While trending topics do not often make their way into these thoughtful sharings there is one that has been on my mind for weeks.  Not so much the "what" that is happening, although that is sadly present, it's the wondering of the outcome.  What will the fallout be for those involved and how will our world change because of it?

I am cautiously treading forward begging for grace to be given while reading with the promise that I can do my best talk to it through with anyone who by chance misunderstands or misinterprets my meaning.  Or even better, to talk it through with someone who understands life much better than I and can help me discern the situation, can help bring wisdom into my life as I look upon it.  There are no real answers coming, just questions to ask and think about, and a pointing once again to the sole source of Truth.

Men of fame are falling like flies.  Each day another one has fallen from grace and hit a bottom so rocky there doesn't seem to be anywhere else to go.  Rightly so, as their actions are despicably  hurtful and harmful.  My mind, like the minds of many other girls and women, has gone back to times in my life where the dominance of a male figure convinced me to do things, say things, and act in ways outside of my thought-to-be character, due to naivety and fear.  And while there are just as many times that my own sinful heart encouraged me to engage in behaviors that were known to be wrong, the female in me still rejoices that there is a seemingly male witch hunt going on to claim those who have spent their life preying on weaker vessels to fill their own needs.

The redeemed part of me is heartbroken as I am reminded how much we have all fallen from grace and how much this world likes to demand perfect behavior without the presence of a perfect Savior.

We annihilate without understanding.  We condemn without compassion.  We reject without responding.  Leaving those that have fallen sitting in the muck feeling like they have no choice but to pull themselves up and figure out how to live up to the standard that has been set up.  A standard none of us can live up to. 

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they will refuse to listen, tell if to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  Matthew 18:15-17

How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  He asked them to follow him.  He ate with them at their table.  He touched their hearts, and drew him near.  He did that for me, because I was one of them.  Just as you are.

How will the world respond to such situations?  Is the world going to help pick up those that have fallen under the weight of the consequences from their own actions?

How are God's people going to respond?  Will we join in the droves of others calling for their heads and rejoicing that they have gotten their comeuppance or will we crawl down into the mire and stretch out our hand just as God did for us when He came out of time and space and gave us His Son.

This well written and well timed quote was said by Savannah Guthrie, though I do not know if it was she who penned it, "We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks:  How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don't know the answer to that."

Whether regarding this exact type of situation or countless others, we each come across many times in life when we have to look and see that the person we created in our minds does not match up to the behaviors that come out.  We are looking for perfection in the imperfect and are thrown off guard when expectations are dashed.

It's easy to love on the lovable.  It's a joy to bring a parent food for their new babe or to walk alongside a family lovingly opening their home to a fostered child.  Holding the hand and praying with a friend who is battling an illness is heart-wrenching but healing.  Donating funds to veterans who served and fought for your freedom seems like the least you can do. But Jesus didn't stop when it came to touching the lives of the socially acceptable problems so I don't believe we, as His people, can either.

The hands and feet of Jesus keep walking and keep grabbing the lives of those who feel like they have fallen so short it's as if they are a million miles away.  The hands and feet of Jesus leave 99 of their sheep in a pasture and searched high and low for that one so that it knows it will never be alone.  

We reconcile our love for someone when compared to their faults because we know we too are faulty.  Perfect love doesn't go away when someone fails us.  Perfect love doesn't go away when we fail another.   Perfect love is made stronger as we walk alongside each other guided by a Perfect Spirit given to us by a Perfect Savior.

The firestorms are not over.  They started a long time ago and will continue until the end of this earth.  I don't know how the world will respond, but I pray His people will respond, that I will respond, in the same way I was responded to, with an unconditional love and a direct arrow pointing to Jesus.

Pray I'll be able to do that, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

because fear doesn't own you

You don't own me
Don't try to change me in any way
You don't own me
Don't tie me down 'cause I'd never stay
Don't tell me what to do
And don't tell me what to say
Please, when I go out with you
Don't put me on display
~John Madera and David White, songwriters
As an adult with a slightly higher level of maturity than the me long ago, rewatching movies from my tween and teen years makes me gawk at what was being let into my being--I'm looking at you Clueless.  I mean Josh was in college thinking about law school and Cher was 15...15!!!  Along with droves of other things and other media I won't get into now, my abundant naivete thankfully/unfortunately did not understand the depth of the scenarios presented.  However within them situations stuck and for better or worse had a hand in developing me into me, my thoughts into my thoughts, and my reactions into my reactions.  
Have you ever heard something or seen something from an unconventional source and have it either radically change your life or set off a series of thoughts inside you that led you to a conclusion you have looked for for years?  Anything can preach.  The gospel is everywhere.  No matter how much the world desires and tries to hide it, God will make himself known whether in the most obvious of places or the most random.  
And all the peoples said Amen, especially this girl who while flipping through Netflix saw a picture from a movie watched during those years I mentioned.  After that brief moment of scrolling past, the title song made its way into my head and as it repeated within there was an almost immediate understanding of a Truth.  It doesn't own me.  It never has.  The It I am referring to is fear.
I could sit down and list all the things I am scared of, and actually have done some in the past here.  It's a great exercise and I will be challenging you to do that later.  There are also verses upon verses dripping with Truth from the only real source of it reminding that we have not been given a Spirit of Fear, that the Lord is our light and our salvation so whom shall we fear?in Him we trust we do not have to fear.  That last one gives insight to the issue of fear.  When my trust is in Him I do not fear, the moment my trust is moved onto something else fear sets back in.
 Even if there are extensive lists in front of you of both your fears and the Truths that fight them, until a realization hits that you, that I, am living in fear, letting those objects, people, and hypothetical situations effect choices and direct steps, there is never freedom from fear.  We were often reminded by our former pastor that head knowledge is not enough, you have to feel it in your gut too.  That is when it becomes part of you.
Fear is second nature, it's an involuntary reaction that feels so normal you do not even realize it's happening.  For some it has been that way forever.  The imperfect world you were born into, the imperfect body you start with because of the fall long ago is predisposed toward fear.  Much like the way some are predisposed to certain illnesses, or addictions.  Sin ain't no joke.  It weaseled it's way into everything.  
For others fear has  found its way to you through the experiences of life and the effects from them.  When you are faced with, hit by, a traumatic experience of any kind it leaves its mark not just physically, or emotionally, but chemically in the very makeup of you.  Fear is planted.  
There are wondrous things that come through trauma.  God promises that the sufferings of this world will NEVER compare to the glory revealed in us.  Within the hard you find a Good God that is more wonderful than you could have ever imagined, you see yourself more loved than you could have ever understood.  But somewhere, sometime later on because of this broken world an infiltration begins. However much you have known and felt the true Peace that passes all understanding, you still know what it is like on the other side.  That same past knowledge that God uses to give you an abundance of compassion for others is also used against you by another one to keep you on edge, making you think in every experience another shoe can drop, another shoe will always drop.  Satan twists, it's his specialty.  Fear is his favorite weapon.
When you let the list of fears effect your choices, guide your steps, you are giving the power of control to things that, quite frankly, don't get to say.  They don't get to change you.  They don't get to tell you what to do.  They don't get to tie you down.  They don't get to keep you from the things for which you were created.  They don't own you.  
But also remember that we don't own ourselves.  Thank goodness, because I've seen the way we mistreat the things we own, forget about the things we own, get tired of the things we own.
So who owns me?  The same one who created me, holds me, loves me, guides me, protects me, comforts me, never tires of me, never mistreats me, only helps me, only does things for my own good, and knows what I fear and has cast it out with his perfect love.
The earth is the Lord's and ALL it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.  Psalm 24:1
O LORD, how many are Your works!  In wisdom you have made them all;  The earth is full of your possessions.  Psalm 104:24
Confession time.  There are two things God has asked me to do that I have said yes to doing, yet still have not done.  Much like that annoying elephant in the room, they are there in my thoughts, the knowledge that I said yes but have been overcome with fear of what will happen after that I just keep circling them, painstakingly procrastinating, trying to tick off every other possible thing on the to do list first.  And for those who know me, my to-do list is looooonnnng.
It's a short trip from trust to fear.  One moment our eyes are directly upon our Creator and the next they are averted to an easier task,  a plan already accomplished, or an escape route that gives immediate comfort.  But Isaiah 26:3--and the tattoo on my foot--reminds that He will keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed directly on Him.  On Him, not on our fears, our doubts, our what ifs, our if onlys.  On Him.
I am challenging you to make a list.  Write down every little thing you are afraid of from the silliest of bugs to the biggest of scenarios.  Do you see a theme?  Can you see if those fears direct themselves all to a similar root?  If you are so inclined, also think about how those fears have changed the way you have made decisions.  Do you have your own elephant you are skirting around?  Please tell me I'm not the only one!  But please, please please please, do not stop there, in the midst of that despondency.  Now, look up.  Look to who owns you, who has always and will always love you, who gives more than you could ever ask or imagine.  Look to who has and will cast out every fear and redeems them in the process.  Look up and see that fear doesn't own you, a Mighty God does.
I'll be praying for you, pray for me.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

For the perfectionist

When with my eyes I try to see
A perfect world around me be
No mess, no stress, everything in a row
My heart may seem happy
But my vision is low

When with my eyes looking through God's view
They open up to things quite new
Heartache, trauma, loss, grief
First to appear
Difficult to believe

It may feel hopeless
You may feel doubt
The emotions that surge, we'd rather do without
But when looking through God's view you try
It keeps our vision way up high.

From that way now my eyes can see
How hope infuses everything
From the simplest smile to the highest praise
His hand it guides
It shows the way

Love and Joy, Faith and Trust
It never did depend on us
Perfection striving is a ceaseless task
Always trying, always lack
Until within His Son's light you bask.

This Perfect one
He is so near
Your eyes, your heart
It becomes quite clear
This world's imperfections mercifully show
It is along His path I long to go.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

because there are stages in your growth

Each of our three boys learned to ride their bikes in very different fashions, ones that honestly matched their overall personalities.  Our oldest learned gradually, methodically moving from one step to the other until he finally stopped freaking out enough to realize he was really riding on his own.  The video of the first ride is priceless!  Our middle just decided one day that that was the day he was going for it and then pretty much jumped on the bike with minimal help and took off as if he'd practiced the event so often in his head that he didn't need practice in the physical world.  Oh to have his confidence and determination.  Our youngest, oh that baby, rocked his first time on two wheels.  I was inside cleaning the kitchen when he came and told me he wanted to try his two wheeler.  Not even bothering to put on shoes, because this boy had cried wolf before, I very shortly found myself running barefoot down the street with our oldest videoing his first epic ride. However the day after that first ride, and for many more, he claimed he didn't know how to do it anymore and wouldn't even try.  It wasn't until his neighbor friend came over on two wheels and upon seeing "the competition" yelled "Daddy get my bike." Since then it has still been an up and down experience because, bless his diva heart, if the conditions are not PERFECT buckle up for a patience draining trip around the block.

While my own journey to learning to ride a bike is not one I wish to remember, I see myself so much in each of their scenarios, especially in regards to my faith.  Whether it's methodically doing the right steps the right way so that the end result is practically perfect or jumping in on my own confident that I can get it done or going down the trail of trying, succeeding, fearing failure, quitting and trying again, I am constantly given opportunity to "work out my salvation in fear and trembling"

When through our past sufferings God bent me towards a desire to write and share, I at first took it as a yes to feeling confident in Christ to share the things placed upon my heart without fearing my lack of theological prowess and coming across as not reformed enough, or not loving and open enough, or maybe even seeming completely heretical.  As time has gone by I also have seen it as a confidence in sharing my short comings, the ways I am still very much being worked on as my Inner Dispostions are being changed.  Even again this past weekend as we were sharing with an elder at the church we are going to be joining, that pesky theme of self-righteousness reared it's ugly head again as I was sharing my faith story.  It is what Satan uses to derail me and what God uses to continually draw me to Him.

If given my wish, my bike metaphor for faith would be God give me a push so I can ride on my own from here.  Amen again and again that he doesn't leave me on my own.  I wouldn't want to see the massive crash that would happen.

When thinking of the verse from Philippians 2 that talks about working out your salvation with fear and trembling it was never the fear and trembling part I had a problem with odd since that word fear usually is in my top five of describing myself.  While I am thankful that as a teenager I learned in this scenario that fear is just a deep respect and trembling is just coming in humility. the problem I have always had is with the working part.  What God always calls working I seem to translate as earning instead.

Faith is a walk, a working out, a struggle between flesh and spirit.  It is not perfect, but within it we are being perfected.  Looking back over the years there are three distinct stages of growing in faith that have emerged.  As time continues and "knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:3-5)" more knowledge will transform into wisdom and the stages of growth will expand.  That is His promise until the work in us is completed.

For now, here are the three stages that have been walked through in my life and I pray my story disappears in your thoughts and yours comes forward and you will either see yourself in one of these or be able to discern your own, not to become discouraged at your lack, but to feel power in your weakness and hope in the growth that is promised.

Stage 1- Passive Faith 
     For reasons that would require an extensive explanation of my background that will not be shared here but will delightedly be shared with you personally over a cup of tea should you ask, there was a very long period of time where a passive view on faith led my life.  While there have always been hints of self-righteous earning and the desire to be good and do good in hopes that that would up my status, the majority of my life was spent thinking that faith was just something that happened to you as in God gave us each a measure of faith and we were kind of stuck with how much we got.  Thinking no matter what I did either way would make a difference I became equally content and discontent.  

Stage 2- Aggressive Faith
     In my late 20s after a sermon series on the spiritual disciplines my spiritual life changed dramatically. Eyes were opened to Truths and Promises that were never quite understood and there before me in lists and notes were ways and things I could do to grow.  Read, Meditate on the Word, Pray, Watch, Fast, Worship, Memorize...all actions.  All tangibles that sent me from being a spectator to jumping in and participating.  It was a time of amazing growth and learning and prepared my heart for the trials that would come just a few short years later.  While this remains one of the most memorable times of being drawn close, in the background self-righteousness was growing as well.  Creeping in on was a thought in my head that now that I've started I have to keep going.  I have to work hard to continue to grow and learn.  Subconsciously the gift of a new found and growing faith was taken over and thankfulness began shifting into triumph.

Stage 3- Active Participation
     There are times in life where God will break you down just so He can rebuild you.  So that He can rebuild you because you have been doing your level best to build yourself.  He does not need us to fulfill His plans.  As hard as that is to hear, it's true.  We are not powerful enough to destroy His plans and we are not Holy enough to fulfill them.  However, we are loved enough to be asked to participate in His Kingdom for our own benefit, for the encouragement to others, and for His ultimate Glory.  We are asked to participate through the disciplines, through acting out our spiritual gifts, through practicing the fruit of the spirit.  We are asked to participate so that we get a front row seat to seeing Him work, and love, and grow, and build, and disciple, and rescue.  We get a front row seat to the fulfilling of His promises so that we will learn to see His hand in every minute detail of life so that, instead of trying to go it alone, we burrow deeper into the shadow of His wing knowing that is the only place to be.  

I wish I could say I am fully entrenched into the Active Participation stage that I rejoice in the gift of Faith given and the way in which it increases only through Christ, but the world being the broken world it is, I crawl away at times and lie and wait for things to happen or try again to ride on my own with nothing but a push.  Then again He reels me in and loves me anyway.  

Today I pray for you words from John Piper, "Lord, thank you for our faith.  Sustain it.  Strengthen it. Deepen it.  Don't let it fail.  Make it the power of our lives, so that in everything we do you get the glory as the Great Giver.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

loving my neighbor: an ode to anne shirley

In fair warning to you, my dear reader, the following will be a little different than my normal.  But alas, this writing time for me is just a continual saying of Yes to the One who I believe is asking me to do it and today I feel more than a little compelled to say a thank you to a quite fictional person whose example can, and arguably should, be made real to others through us, His children.

Anne Shirley is a beautifully, spunky female character created by L.M. Montgomery in the early 1900s and lead character of the book Anne of Green Gables and it's many sequels.  She was made more popular due to the PBS movies that came out in the mid 80s which introduced her to a new generation and generations since.

One of my best friends from early elementary school through today introduced me to this girl who would influence my heart greatly.  Being a red head herself, my friend was very fond of Pippi Longstocking and Anne Shirley.  Most of our early sleepovers involved watching a movie featuring one of these carrot tops.  I received the box set of books one Christmas and read the first one many times as well as watched the first two movies over and over.  For those who are also fans, you know why I don't mention the third installment.  It was truly terrible.  I even upon meeting the man who would become my husband found a greater love for him because he not only knew who this girl was but he also had a great affection for the story as well. He was my own personal little Gilbert Blythe.

It was not until adulthood, and bonding with other truly kindred spirits after the death of Jonathan Crombie, that I read past the beloved first Anne of Green Gables and farther into the set.  Quite quickly I realized that the woman this Anne-girl grew up to be was a woman I longed to be as well.  There are many things to love and respect about this character, from her young spunky honesty and dreams to the wisdom she gains through experience and desire to make the most of all situations because as she says "It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will." 

Above all else, the thing I admire the most is the way she loved others, showing that love, true Gospel love, was indeed an action.

Art imitates life, but there are times where Art is showing me how I need to imitate it.

So, here are 5 ways Anne loved well and gave us an example of showing The Gospel in life.

1.  She leaves people better than when she found them.  Repeatedly, she makes her way into the lives of the lonely, the grumpy, the gruff, the quiet, the wild and changes them, not with force or lessons, but with love and words.  Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the world scouting movement, challenged us in 1941 to "Leave the World better than we found it."  This simple statement can be applied to our homes, our schools, our friendships, our churches, and any person and any place with which we come in contact.  A welcoming smile, a kind hello, a friendly hug, an honest answer, a helpful hand can turn another's day around.  It's just being a light and Shining a light. And just as Jesus is the light of the world, a city on a hill,. "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

2.  She seeks them out and approaches them first instead of waiting to be approached.  I was struck by one of the stories in the book Anne of windy poplars where a fellow teacher named Catherine after being consistently rude on a daily basis was invited home for the Christmas holidays by anne simply because she knew this woman needed a friend and felt energy within that it was something she needed to do.  Just as my first reason stated, This woman left to go home much better then when she came.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am not the only one who has found themselves in a situation where they feel alone.  Even the most extroverted of extroverts have at least one experience where they were out of their comfort zone and unsure of exactly who they should talk to and what they should say.  I love Anne's desire to not just approach others, but to approach the unapproachable.  Those who with every ounce of themselves are trying to repel others due to their own insecurities and yet she reaches out and loves anyway.  "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even tax collectors do the same?"

I am drawn to the wall flowers, to the ones who are trying to hide because maybe they don't think they have anything to offer.  There is a desire within to give them a glimpse of how much they are loved and sought after by God by seeking them out.  In those people, I see a past version of myself.  Knowing the girl who once didn't understand her worth, has been gifted enough reminders to fill a book that she is completely known and completely loved and worth every spiritual blessing in Christ.

3.  She thinks about what she can do for another instead of what they can do for her.  In his letters Paul tells us to "do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself." and to "let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

It is not just in this modern world where we have a desire to look out for ourselves and ourselves alone. It is a sin that was introduced into this world from the first moment of the Fall and has weaved its way into every aspect of our being. The only way to fight it is with the help of the Holy Spirit and the best way He provides for us to do that is to practice putting others above ourselves until little by little, leap by leap, the desire of our heart is not for what we want, but instead for how we can sacrifice ourselves for others, giving to them instead of receiving for ourselves.

4.  She listens.  And listens intently.  I have shared in the past the importance of saying things out loud. That moment where your words full of fears, desires, insecurities, confessions, and dreams become a voice to be heard is most often a milestone moment in a life that sets you forward into the next thing that needs to be done on your life's journey.  To have someone there who listens, truly listens, is a precious gift. Yes, advice is wonderful. Yes, empathy and compassion and encouragement our treasured gifts too. But to have someone sitting and listening, intently listening, to the words that seem to be falling from your heart, is such an example of the unconditional love, care, and steadfastness that our Heavenly Father has.  It is bearing the burden of another as they finally let go of the things weighing them down and see another help them carry it.

5.  She, on occasion, crosses a line of friendship from passive into active pushing others to do what they have always long to or felt that they needed to but didn't have the courage to do alone.  I cannot pick a favorite quality shown, but if hard-pressed to do so this one could be given that title. Not because it's something that I do well though hopefully I have been able to in the past then again in the future, but because it is one that has been done for me countless times. Often, I am blinded to my strength because of the focus I put on my weaknesses. And while His power is made perfect in my weakness, there are times where insecurities freeze so firmly that it takes a voice from the outside fueled by the love of God within them that melts those insecurities into actions.  It's why we were created for community. It's why we are so mercifully given the body of Christ to walk with us.  Because of this, "let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day Drawing Near." (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

Loving our neighbor is a command, not a suggestion.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37-39)  Not just the ones you like.   Not just the ones who are just like you.  Not just the ones who were nice to you first.  Not just the ones who can scratch your back if you scratch theirs. Everyone is your neighbor, look around and love them. 

I know it is not an easy task, nothing on our own is easy.  Fortunately for us, gifted to us through Jesus is a Spirit that dwells within guiding our hearts and our lives, changing our Inner Dispositions so that these impossible to do on our own things can in fact be done with Him.

I am praying for you within this current climate and beyond that you will feel the push within to love your neighbor and love them well and then after you feel the desire, to go forward in action and let your faith be known through your works. Pray for me.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

because He bears repeating

During Spring Break my junior year of college I took a road trip with my now husband and two of our guy friends to New York City.  Looking back now, I wonder what I was thinking as I voluntarily trapped myself in a van for 15 hours with three guys.  All of my girlfriends were going on a trip to Biloxi for one of their 21st birthdays, a trip which my parents did not find it a good idea for me to go on, so it was either head out with the boys or go home alone.  If I'm being honest, there was also a small part of me that was hoping to get a little diamond ring action in a picturesque part of Central Park...ok, so maybe I do know what I was thinking.

On the most budget-friendly--read desperately frugal because we were poor college students--NYC trip imaginable we did anything and everything that was free and cheap.  Our biggest splurges were discount matinee tickets to a broadway show and the ridiculous amount it costs to ride an elevator to the top of the empire state building.  One moment that fondly sticks out in my head is us sitting on the sidewalk devouring food we bought from a grocery store deli with whatever cash we happened to scrounge together between the four of us.  Awe, memories.

The majority of our trip required us to walk, A LOT.  One day as we were navigating the city we realized the course we needed to take was exactly the same path as the day before.  These three males I was with found it hilarious to also repeat every conversation and comment that was made the day before as well.  There's a chance this hilarity only lasted a brief amount of time, but to this girl it might as well have been forever.  My husband not only finds this story funny but also loves to act it out in other places as well.  Apparently repetition is the key to comedy.  I don't know about that.  Repetition tends to be the key to unlocking all kinds of anger within my soul.

While I agree smiling is a good thing, efficiency is my favorite--anyone catch that Elf reference!?  My days revolve around what needs to get done, who needs to go where, and how can it be completed in the most efficient way possible.  Days like today when I drove into the driveway after dropping my babies off at school only to discover a forgotten lunch box on the van floor makes me seethe just a bit. Not because a child made a mistake, but because now instead of going straight into the house to begin the next thing I had to turn around, go back, repeat the act I had just completed.

I want to walk up a mountain and reach its peak.  I want to start each day with everything just as I left it.  I want to remember each lesson taught so the next day only holds new ones.  I want God to just finish His work in me already so I can move on with my life.  Yeah, that last one made me stop in my tracks too.

The truth that each day we grow in faith we realize how much more we need to grow in faith can be rough at times, especially for those who like to accomplish, check off, and move on.  God did not create us with the intention of teaching us all we need to know so that we can go off on our own.  He created us to constantly not only need, but desire to reach for Him, over and over looking for His ways and not our own, seeing our weaknesses so that we ask for His strength.  He created us for repetition. The repetition of dying to ourselves, of letting the gospel overflow in our hearts, so that we can pick up the cross and follow Him.

Lara Williams, blogger and author, wrote, "We cannot coast today on yesterday's faith"  Yes, yesterday's faith taught us lessons, yes, yesterday's faith drew us closer, but our human hearts, chock full of the black stuff as Logan called it, are always trying to take over.  Paul Tripp reminds us that, "(sin) renders us unable." and we need help, on the daily.  

The probably familiar verse in Lamentations, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." is one that can be read with a warm feeling of comfort and encouragement, but also, with just a slightly different head tilt of perspective, is a loving reminder as well.  His steadfast love never ceases because we NEED never ceasing love.  His mercies never come to an end because we NEED endless mercy.  They are new every single morning because every single morning when we wake up we are in need of that same mercy.  Live, love, and repeat.  Yes, Lord, great is YOUR faithfulness, because I would have straight given up on me already!

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I on the other hand can go from got it altogether to hot mess in a second.  And even still He is with me, reminding me, repeating His Truths over and over, then circling around and doing it again.

Yes, yesterday's faith was a blessed gift, but it did not complete in us what is needed for today.  Today I still need Him just as much, today I am thankful He is repetitious.

I am praying for you that you not only see his constancy, but that you embrace it wholeheartedly, not feeling guilt because you once again need to have something repeated, but that you celebrate a God that bears repeating.  Pray for me.

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.