Wednesday, September 12, 2018

because if you don't tell them, how will they know {September's challenge}

"We live and breathe words..." ~Cassandra Clare

How true is this statement.  Words are very much the life and breath of our days.  They portray our feelings, share our concerns, teach our children, effect our hearts, overwhelm our motherhood, cheer our teams, bring tears at times and smiles at others...I could go on and on.  They, no matter what walk of life, fill our minds to overflowing daily.  Whether those words are read, spoken, thought, signed or even dreamed, our lives are teeming with words to hear, see, and process.

The previous was something shared years ago in a post called "Words" early on in this blog's life.  And recently it has come to mind again as the thoughts of sharing our stories and being transparent with others have been topics of discussion and pondering.   

Writing for others to read can be an intimidating thing and I don't just mean for me.  When you put down words or thoughts in an assignment, a story, a text, a letter, or a quick note, you are taking a piece of your heart and whatever it is full of in that moment and bearing it to the world.  While all words can never be taken back, the written ones are easier to remember than spoken ones because the evidence is before you to be looked at again and again if desired and destroying it requires a purposeful, physical action whether it's just pressing delete or tearing up and burning paper in anger.  I know I can't be the only person who has had an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend bonfire!

While we all have received notes that carry less than positive feelings, we also probably each remember times where left for us or sent to us have been words of full of love, thankfulness, and encouragement.  The best are the ones that come out of the blue.

As we begin to abandon the robotic, social norm answer of how we are and discover ways to be more transparent with others in our everyday conversations we will begin to see and feel how others impact our hearts.  A reader commented with these words when asked a question by a friend if we really should share our hearts with random strangers we just happened to run into during the day...

"...when we are open and honest and honest with people then it might cause them to be more open and honest and help them to share a burden when they might now have otherwise.  It may be a situation where you are definitely out of your comfort zone, however, you may just have the story they need to hear.  So, to answer your question, sometimes you need to open up to people close to you or sometimes you need to open up to a total stranger.  You might be surprised how a total stranger or someone you barely know can minister to you in a profound way and you might minister to them in a way that could change the way they are feeling about themselves and therefore change their life forever!"

When I receive a message or a comment about something I said impacting another in a positive way it doesn't puff of my pride but calms my soul.  Hearing that something you said or did brought peace or joy or understanding or support to another gives you confidence that yes, you are purposeful; yes, God is with you and is using you; yes, you heard and listened and obeyed.  All of these things are true without the response, but as people who were created to be in community, the giving and receiving of words is part of us, part of our given mission.  Proverbs 18:21 says Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Likewise, it is imperative for me to remember that if another's purposefully given words that show appreciation about something I said or did are so impactful in my life, mine to another for the same reason are just as impactful to them.  We do not live in a world of straight lines where we give, another takes and that's the end.  Whether it's positive or negative, what we do creates a cycle.  What we give another always has the potential to effect what they give to the next person.  What I desire to give is love and support to motivate another to continue in the way God has pointed them towards and created them to be so that they can do that for another.

But I know, without Him being the one ruling my heart, there is the potential to create the opposite effect.  That is a fruit, that is not delicious to eat.

So friends, today I have a challenge for you, a task for the month of September that I hope you will not only join in on, but share it with others and then come back and share with me what you did, how it went, or what you learned.

I challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to contact five people.  Think back in life, a week, a year, a decade, to a person who maybe just randomly or maybe completely on purpose spoke something into your life that changed you, something that was said out of the blue or with deep thought that open your eyes to who God made you or in a way you had never seen before.  Find in your memory banks a milestone moment to your heart that was built with just the innocent words of one who did not fear being transparent in a moment.  I know you have them, we all have them.

Step 1:  Pray.  Pray first.  Let the Spirit within your heart guide you to the moment in the person so that the actions and words that come are not from you but from Him.

Step 2:  Write.  Call.  Text.  Whatever.  Reach out and let that person know that this is what they said and it impacted your life more than they would have ever thought, because if you don't tell them, how will they know.

So far on my list is a teacher I had through elementary and middle school, a woman who without knowing has mentored me through really hard life situations, a reader who constantly encourages, a previous employer, and a young child whose smiling face never ceases to brighten my day when I see it.

I am praying for you as we conquer this first challenge An Inner Disposition is setting that you will not only see the cycle that is built from it, but it is one you will want to take on again and again, pray for me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

because when I ask you how you're doing, I really want to know

I had a brilliant idea for a movie, well first it would be a book and then it would be turned into a movie.  You get more out of it that way so I hear, the message lasts longer and reaches more people, more fame piles up.  Obviously, though, the book would still be better than the movie, it always is.

The opening scene would be a woman walking through a door and down a hallway.  Maybe she's in a high rise apartment in New York just getting home from work, maybe she's in her child's school building on her way to a conference, maybe she's just taking a walk around the neighborhood, but regardless of the scene she is walking forward when she comes across another person coming in the opposite direction.  Like all polite people the individual she is passing greets her with a common "hello, how are you?" and then she turns her gaze to the other and PAUSE...

And it is in that pause where the story happens, it is in that slight pause before her response that time stands still.  Her mind flashes back in time rethinking her day, her week, her year and we, as the reader and/or viewer, get to see her story.  We get to see the moment where she walked out of the house without her wallet and phone only to not realize it until the moment the cashier tells her the final total.  We get to see her crying in the car having just hung up the phone after a difficult call.  We get to see her walk out on a job that caused such unprofessional abuse that the money was not worth the pain.  We get to see all the things that are piled on her plate and weighing her down, changing her course of life.  We get to see what is truly on her mind.

And then the end of the movie comes and we are transported back to the hallway, back to the moment she has been asked that familiar question, only to see a polite smile come across her face and hear her say "fine and you?" and then walk past continuing to her destination.

The reason the setting of the story is not important is because it can happen anywhere, does happen everywhere, on a daily, hourly, minutely--pretty sure that's not a word--basis.

"Fine" and "good" are answers we are all too good at giving.  I am reminded of this scenario everywhere.  Recently while pushing a cart full of groceries at Publix, the well mannered stockist, in his well mannered voice, asked how I was doing today.  I responded with the correct" I'm doing well, how about you?" to which he responded "I'm great thank you."  It was a very pleasant exchange that would surely have made his manager happy because at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure, you want your staff to be pleasant.  But, was it true?  For either of us?

Nobody likes to hear someone constantly complain and grump about everything.  Each one of us in our minds can think of that person who we feel is constantly complaining, constantly negative, and wouldn't see a silver lining if it was pointed out to them, but for some reason we have taken our frustration with that one person's behavior and led ourselves to believe that we must never complain, we must never be negative, and in the end what happens is that we keep ourselves from being real.

The hardest place to go through this scenario is at church, and before it seems like I'm being critical, I don't mean my particular church specifically, I mean Church with a capital C.  The places where others who claim to know and love Jesus gather together.  It is an all too common exchange among Christians as well.  We pass in the hall or at an event and hear "good morning, how are you today?" and you assume chances are they are just being polite and are expecting the typical response of "good, how are you?" so you say it, and move on, but, inside, you are thinking about the real answer, and about all the things that are not just good, and you wonder what it would be like to actually say everything you are thinking.  You wonder if they are thinking and feeling the same thing.

Everything I share here is another lesson in my personal sanctification, another lesson in my need to cling to Hope and not to myself.  Though I have never been good at hiding my feelings with my facial expressions--much to my dismay--this was and still can be a familiar part of my everyday and I know I am not alone, which is why I am sharing it with you now.  I am a recovering perfectionist who has been shown in my past the real life danger of hiding my imperfections, and wants to share this with my friends, my family, and with you who I might not know and might never meet, so that you can see it is not only ok to share our true selves, but it is what we were created to do.

We were made, through our identity in Christ, and not by our own strength to 'encourage one another and build each other up' (1 Thes. 5:11), to 'bear one another's burdens' (Gal 6:2) and remind each other that 'He would began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Phil 1:6).  

No, you don't have to spread your business to the masses, no you don't have to cast your pearls before all the pigs, but then again you never know which pig really needs to see a pearl.  And if we are solidly clinging to Christ then we can believe about ourselves what Psalm 46 says about the tabernacle, when "God is in the midst of her; she shall not bed moved; God will help her when morning dawns."

Just imagine what it would be like if we not only gave the real answer and shared out hearts when asked, but if we truly expected and desired a real answer from the ones to whom we ask those questions.  What if instead of giving and expecting typical, we gave and expected transparency?  What if we each set the example of sharing our hearts, sharing our sins, sharing our struggles, and really desired others to as well and were ready to listen no matter what it was that they needed to say out loud so that we could encourage them in their walk and point them towards the only One that can bring lasting help.

Lives change in the midst of transparency, hearts are met, burdens are lessened.  Real life happens when you share your realness, it can't happen any other way.

If you have spent your life holding on to all the hard inside only to let it drip out occasionally this is a massive paradigm shift in your life, but it is one worth exploring and practicing until that pause is no longer void of what you are afraid to say but full of what you need to say and what another may be need to hear.  Truth begets truth and that moment of honesty from your end could be just what another needs to finally drop a burden they have been holding on to.  A moment of honesty on another's end could be exactly what you need to drop the burden you have been clutching with both fists as well.

When I ask you how you are doing, I promise, I really want to know, so I am praying for you, challenging you, to let your conversations be real, open, setting up the atmosphere of honest communication where hearts can grow or hearts can heal or hearts can just see God's image in another.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

because each of our lives could be a podcast

My dad used to drive us to elementary school.  At the time he had a brown 1979 Impala that he had been given by my grandparents complete with cigarette burned front seats, a ceiling with fabric so droopy it could hit you in the head if you sat up too straight, and a push button radio that he only kept on NPR which never failed to tell us how many minutes it was until the hour as we were getting out in front of the school drop off line.

So, with that explanation, I guess you can say my hatred for talk radio began at a young age.  Apart from Click and Clack's comical Boston accented voices on Car Talk who will forever hold high rankings in my fondest childhood memories, I have always found talk radio to be false thoughts only spoken as ads, full of unnecessary sensationalized emotions and opinions that seem to do more for segregating people then bringing them together, or, well, boring.  I realize that is a strong statement.  Sorry that I have to stick by it pretty intensely.  Forgive me if you have different opinions!

It was because of this, and these preconceived opinions, that I have jumped, very late, onto the podcast bandwagon.  My inability to pay attention to them while also working on other things has kept my list down to just a handful of favorites that can be listened to when my mind does not need to be engaged elsewhere, most of which are just people I may or may not have ever heard of telling their life stories.

In conversation the other day I was sharing with a friend some wonderful insight I had gained through listening to a guest on The Pivot and how cool it was that this person who I will never meet dared to bare their soul and hard earned wisdom of life just so that I, Sarah in Oxford, Ga, could be spoken into.  There is such beauty in that, that sharing of life to benefit the life of another.  Conversation continued on about how many celebrities now have podcasts and how thousands and thousands will listen to them for no other reason than because they are well known.

This thought was pondered quite a bit and then I remembered a verse in John that portrayed another preconceived opinion that one of the disciples had before following along.  At the end of chapter 1 when Philip tells his friend that they have found the Messiah and are going to follow him.  His friend replies, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Why do we often assume good things only come from big important places or big important people?  When there are 7 billion people available, quite a few are going to be known, well known, famously or infamously so.  Most of us will not reach that level of recognizability by the masses, but we still each have a story to tell.  We each have the ability to impact another with what we have been through, what we have been brought through, and where we are going.

I'm not saying we should each start a podcast, but we should each tell our stories.  Talk about what has happened, what God has done through it.  When Jesus restored the literally out of his mind naked man in Luke 8 back to his senses he begged to go with them wherever they were going, but Jesus said no, instead, go home and tell what God has done for you.  Go to that little town you have been living outside of and say it to them.

We are not all meant to have the loudest voices, but we are all meant to speak.  

I'm not saying we should each start a podcast, but we each could, because anything Good can come out of anywhere if God is deeming it to be so.  You can be the stone that starts a giant ripple that brings others to Him.

Oh Nazareth, you precious little blip on the map.  Can good come from you?  Yes, and it was the ultimate Good.

I'll be praying that you not just know your perfectly purposely planned and executed story for His glory, but that you will tell it to others and let them see.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

because we can't hold on forever

I have never really liked my hands. My sister inherited the good hands. They're soft and smooth, long fingers with nails that grow past the point where the white actually shows and can be filed in a ladylike manner. I seem to have inherited the opposite. Even at a young age they seemed, to my eyes, like old lady hands. I got the large veins that show their blue through the skin on the back, short fingernails that break way too easily, and no amount of lotion will keep them soft and supple for long.

You would think that the four years of CrossFit they have endured would make me like them less, because now added in with what was previously mentioned are calluses and torn blisters and the scars that are still slightly visible from previous ones that have already healed.  But actually, that makes me like them a little more, because at least I can see with my eyes the work they have done.  If I can't have pretty, at least I have productive.

But there's one part, one aspect, those two extremities at the end of my arms have that I just can't seem to improve on my opinion of, how well they can hold on.

It never fails, or I guess I should say they always fail.  Sooner or later, usually sooner rather than later, they give out and let go.  All my willpower in the world cannot make them hold a bar for longer than they are able.  I have to stop and rest them, shake them out, and will them to try again.  Recently, after having a seemingly normal conversation--well a normal conversation for some of us--about grip strength and bar cycling with one of our coaches, I sat in the car staring at my battle wounds and gained a sense of understanding.  Yes, I can improve their strength, our bodies were created in an amazing way that makes grown and improvement a possibility, but I will never be able to hold on to anything forever.  I wasn't built to hold on,  I was built to be held on to.

A story I was told years ago has always stayed with me.  In the story this man's friend was on a tubing trip with his family.  As they floated contentedly down the river, his young daughter in his lap, the water's current started to quicken and before them they saw that the rapids that were usually quiet had grown fierce and wild with the recent rain.  He braced himself for the blows to come and with all his might held tightly to his daughter as they were thrown from the tube and sent into the waters.  Tumbling and turning he kept holding on until they finally reached calm waters again.  With tears streaming down her face she grinned proudly at her daddy and said I holded on, I holded on the whole time!  But he knew the truth, she wasn't safe because of her strength to hold on, she was safe because someone stronger was holding on to her, and he never let go.

It's a lesson I have learned a thousand times for sure with thousands left to go, I can't control the outcomes I can only fulfill my part.  I can't force things to happen that are not meant to be, just like I can't stop what's meant to be from happening.  I can cling and stretch and learn and grow, all good things to be sure, but eventually I'll have to let go, and when I do I can clearly see the One who is always holding on to me.  In my weakness I see His strength, in my weakness He in my makes me strong.

As I continue and practice, strength will grow in my body, but as for my Spirit, instead of learning to hold on longer, maybe the lesson should be to let go a little sooner so that I may rest in My Father who will never let go.  I'll be praying that for you, pray for me.

For do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

because we need to live out our unique passion

You know you've hit it the minute it happens.  In the middle of conversation you ask the right question or mention the right topic and suddenly the face in front of you lights up in a new way.  Eyes open wide, smile even wider, their countenance changes as they become almost giddy and All In to the conversation.  Child or adult, introvert or extrovert, the scenario doesn't change, because when you find the right thing we all become giddy, over spilling with words that cannot be hemmed in because now we are talking about our passion.

A passion is more than a hobby, it's more than a delightful pastime, a passion makes people come alive.  It taps into the deepest essence of who God created them to be and what he created them to do.  "What does it mean to be an ambassador of the King?" Paul David Tripp asks.  "It means reflecting his message, his methods, and his character wherever he has placed you."  Wherever in whatever.

As easy as you would think it would be to know your passion, to know what you were wired to do, it is not.  It takes thought, concentration, and noticing.  Sometimes it is almost impossible to do on your own.  In an interview on Andrew Osenga's podcast The Pivot, Bebo Norman mentions how integral our community is in regards to seeing ourselves in a true light.  Our community, the people we have built our lives with and around, see us in ways we can never see ourselves.  They see us without preconceptions and veiled covered eyes.  They are the ones looking and they are the ones who can see when we light up.

But even when a passion is pinpointed, it is even harder sometimes to allow your self to succumb to it.  As odd as that sounds, it is so very true.  We, in our human desire to please and succeed, stuff passions placed within us and though you may be able to justify the why with a million different reasons, I feel as if they all boil down to two root things, expections and fear.

--though they are just another way of saying the two roots of all sin, pride and unbelief.  Thanks to my PCA loving in-lawed family for teaching me that little tidbit within a week of knowing you--

1.  Expectations- Shakespeare said that "Expectation is the root of all heartache." and I can name quite a few of his works where the reality of this was played out.  We find that thing that makes us tick, that makes us feel alive, but then we look at it from another angle and then another and doubt seeps in.  It doesn't "look" as impressive as I thought.  It doesn't look as productive as this other thing may be.  If I sit around the tables at my high school or college reunion or family gathering and chat about it, how will it sound?  Will people understand or will they laugh it off.  Oh comparison, how you wheedle your way into every scenario and thieve all the joy.

2.  Fear-  We can be scared of the oddest of things, here's a quick list I came up with a few years ago with minimal effort, but a significant one on our lists is fear of the unknown.  When finding your passion, and especially if that passion will require a change of occupation, living, etc. fear of not knowing the end result frequently outweighs the joy that could come from living your passion out.  The unpleasant known is much more comforting than the potentially pleasant unknown.  How confusing our human minds can be.  The passion we want, but the leap to it we can almost not bear.

Corrie Ten Boom speaks directly to this when she challenges us to "never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."

When reading in Jeremiah there is a story where the people of Judah keep trying to escape their land because they are afraid of the new enemy king that has taken it over.  After trying many solutions--running away--on their own with only terrible things happening they come to Jeremiah and say tell us what the Lord wants us to do and where he wants us to.  Whatever it is, we will do it.  After ten days Jeremiah comes back and says stay in the land God has given you and the king will keep you safe, but if you flee to Egypt he will come after you and kill you.  Any guesses where these fools go?  Fear kept them from listening.  The fear that came with trusting a future they did not know overpowered the trust that God always knows.

for more thoughts on fear and tackling it read this

Maya Angelou has a beautiful quote that reads "there is no greater agony then bearing an untold story inside of you."  This meaning does not just pertain to writers, it pertains to us all.  Within each of us is placed a story, whether in the form of words, talent, or gifts.  These passions  demand to be let loose.  Your story is there to be used.  Blocking it out will not cause the flame to be extinguished, it sends that flame deep down into your soul where it will slowly burn until it can no longer be ignored and you have to bring it to light, give it the oxygen needed to grow.  To leave it stuffed, burning in the darkness, is agony.

One of my favorite things is when great wisdom and truth comes out of nowhere from unexpected places.  A always remembered moment will be sitting around my in-laws dining table listening to my husband's grandmother and her friend talk.  I had never met this friend before and had never heard of her before but the story her life contained was one of inspiration and amazement and the best part was how casually she shared it.  The humility that came through from her normal tone and laughter made it all the better to listen to.  Somewhere in the middle of a story she flippantly said, "there is just no better place to be than in the middle of God's will."

It took quite some time to sort through that comment.  But how do I know if it's God's will? was asked over and over.  I have been told before that it is ill-advised to dwell too much on that topic.  Instead just assume that whatever I am doing is God's will because if I wasn't supposed to be doing it I wouldn't be.  It's easy to argue many sides of that.  What it came down to was the feeling of agony and why is it there.  Is there something missing, something that could feel more "right", something else that should be in my life to make this unsettled feeling feel settled.

We all do not have the luxury of having our greatest passions be the way we make our living, but we do all have the ability to make our passions an integral part of our life.  When you succumb to it, when you look and see the gifts you've been given and the passions that have been placed in your heart and work towards integrating them into your time, your actions, your life, all of a sudden that turmoil inside settles.  It doesn't meant a dream life starts, or problems dissipate, or you get to quite your job, though sometimes it can.  Instead you just feel at once that yes, this is what I was created to love, where I was created to show love, and you begin to understand that yes there might just not be a better place than in the middle of His will. 

I don't know your passion, and you might not know it yet either, but I urge you to pray that it will be found, pray to see how you were uniquely created to work and show off His glory in the middle of our world.  I'll be praying for you, pray for me.


Go and be as the butterfly.  Go unfettered by cares, by the Infernal bondage of the Mortal.  Go with a light heart, trusting God and giving thanks.  Go and gather unto yourselves so you can pour out to others. ~Jan Karon, through Father Tim

Monday, August 6, 2018

for when you dust off your post-summer self

There is a feeling of guilt welling up in me.  It's not a new feeling for any mama or woman in general.  We are experts at this emotion, both feeling it and placing it upon another, but this isn't, for once, a debilitating guilt.  Though it's not the righteous kind, which is the only form that I have been reminded on more than one occasion that is not in fact sinful.  However, it is at least a friendlier sort.  The current guilt comes from leaving you, my friends, in a lurch for the last few months.

As we explored the feelings that come when you are left thinking about a season where life did not quite work out like you expected  and prayed for eyes to see beyond what we on our own are able, next, instead of a charging ahead, came silence.  Well that's not entirely true, because I can assure you the last two and a half months have been anything but silent.

Summer came and with the freedom from stringent schedules, normal alarms, early bedtimes, and regular baths--because swimming definitely counts in the summertime--also comes a lax in regular cleaning chores, nonexistent disciplined days, and very few moments of quiet.  I know you feel me.  It's not often that I pinpoint a certain select group of people that I'm talking to, but mamas, today, it's you.

Something happens to us in the summer, whether we work outside the home full-time, half-time, or are at home always.  Whether we have toddlers, school-aged children, or are welcoming home those from college who will always be our babies.  There is a large chunk of us that we voluntarily set aside and place on the shelf for the summer.

We are skilled in the act of sacrifice, relinquishing much of our own life, for the lives of our children.  Hear me when I say this is not in a sense of martyrdom, but in a sense of loving duty.  We know, all to well, how quickly time slips away, how few summers we will have to guide lives and build memories before they are all but a glimpse in the past.

From the moment we begin showing in our first pregnancies to well past the time they are grown, we are told by strangers, discuss as friends, and notice on our own as we sit staring at the faces of the ones we carried, that time flies much quicker than expected and we desire with all of our hearts to hold on to most moments as long as possible.  Even the hardest moments of the past can bring a heartfelt tear to the eye at times when we gaze upon the growing mature one that we see in front of us now.

Today I say to you all well done, good show, way to go, cheers, you killed it, whether you feel it or not.  We did it, we survived another summer--well us southerners did it, you in most of the country might have a couple weeks to go.

So here's to us, to the moment we notice there is a lack of noise and we begin again to be able to form complete thoughts, to the moment we stand on our tippy toes to reach up and grab that us that we voluntarily set aside for a bit to live and thrive through another of the 18 summers we are given.

For you homeschooling mamas, you are taking your teaching self down off the shelf, polishing her up, and are again taking on many roles past motherhood in the lives of your children.  It's not an easy job to do.

For you working mamas, you are able to fully bring back your professional self off the shelf and are able to engage more into your career with a little heartfelt ease and less distraction knowing that your children have been firmly left in the capable hands you know and trust to come alongside you on the parenting journey.  It's not an easy job to do.

For you stay at home mamas with babies still surrounding you at all times, you can bring down the new you, the one with another year of experience at training them up and figuring out the new personalities and idiosynchrosies that come with a child who also has one more year of life under their belt.  It's not an easy job to do.

For you in the middle mamas, for you transitioners, for the ones I relate to the most, you are in a crossroads of life that will most definitely not play out as you expected no matter what.  You may be starting back to work again after years at home, you may be starting a new job or career, or you may still be sitting and frantically or not so frantically searching, realizing, those next steps.  You are my people, and I know with all my heart, it's not an easy job to do.

For all of us, the self you are taking off the shelf is one of certain mystery, though she still looks the same on the outside from when you placed her up there, you know inside she is not.  She is full anticipation, expectations, a little bit of fear, and a deep-seeded desire of hope that when dusted off and put back fully into the real world of post-summer life you will like the person she becomes and enjoy the walk ahead.

Though fear and doubt seem to follow me around like old friends, I am looking forward to another year with you all. As we see what the future holds I am praying for you ladies, praying for the confidence to tackle the opportunities that await, praying for the newness to slowly change into experience, praying for clear visions and desires to pursue, and most of all praying that your hopes are grounded in Christ as He is the only one who can fulfill and will fulfill through each and every endeavor.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

for when you need to see what lasts

It's May.  You may think I knew this by looking at the calendar, but the truth is I know May as soon as it peaks it's crazy little head around the corner.  All I have to do is look at the state of my disheveled home, the piles of baseball equipment strewn all over the porch, the stack of field trip forms and end of school reminders, the yard tools ever sitting in the open waiting for the next spare minute to dig up weeds and put down beauty, and about a million and a half other things that signal, yes baby, I'm here...again!

Ten'ish short months ago we said goodbye to summer and started this new school journey with a challenge to think about what the time ahead would look like and how God would use it to propel us forward.  Can I be honest with you here?  It looked nothing like I thought it would. 

There has been much frustration, anguish, confusion, depression, and giving up.  Having expectations can be dangerous things in all aspects of life because of the effects when they are not met, but not knowing what to expect can take you to places where only fear and doubt dwell.  

The best thing in these times is prayer for eyes to see beyond what you alone are able. 

"Just because the outcome is not what you wanted, it doesn't necessarily mean you made the wrong choice."  D. Crandall

If you look back on the past ten months and wonder where the time went or how you find yourself where you are without much to show for it, I feel you.  You are not alone. 

A few weeks ago Zach and I went to an estate sale at a beautiful old house in Oxford, our little blip on the map.  For those who know me, you know that that experience is one of my happy places.  I love rescuing the old, giving it new purpose, but there was a sadness that crept over me as I walked amongst this house with all of its treasures left behind and the words of Ecclesiastes came flooding back into my heart.

"God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself. but God does not allow him to enjoy them.  Instead, a stranger will enjoy them." Ecc. 6:2

I did not know the people who lived here and I do not know their hearts or how they lived their lives.  I am not saying that they did not find pleasure in the beauty they had collected or that they didn't know where true joy came from.  But what is true is that when they left this earth none of their belongings went with them and while the possessions themselves did last in a physical sense--well some of them, there were plenty of piles of broken items lost in the corners--in a spiritual sense their meaning was lost with the memory of the owner.  A stranger will now enjoy them, this stranger in particular, and impart new memory and have a new pleasure and in the end the cycle will continue.

But in this there is beauty, because as we see the finite of ourselves, we are reminded of the infinite God we have.

Nothing we produce lasts, it just doesn't.  No matter how hard we try to make ourselves known it is futile, but take heart, because there is something that lasts. 

"Everything God does will last forever, there is no adding to it or taking from it.  God works so that people will be in awe of him."  Ecc. 3:14

Everything God does will last forever and guess what one thing is that he did?  He created you.  And not only did He create you, but He uses the Spirit of His Son to work through you, to touch the lives of others, to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on Earth, to, as James says, be doers of the word and make your faith known by your works through action.

It's easy to let what didn't happen cause you to get lost in the disappointments, confusions, and seeming failures.  If you look back on the past ten months and wonder where the time went or how you find yourself where you are without much to show for it, look again, with different eyes.

I have had the honor these last ten months to watch a child grow in maturity in Christ so much he can see the tangible results, watch a friend find a job she is passionate about and bless countless lives in our community, watch a woman cling to Christ at the ending of her marriage and a couple begin a new life together that will bring a father and mother to the life of a son.  I can keep going, and if you look, I bet you can too.

God's promise has not changed.  He promised in the beginning, way back in Genesis 28:15 that 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's all a vapor.  Let's not focus on the things that do not last, but the One that does, and what He is doing through us, because He is always doing something.

"If you delight in the fact that you are God's, you CANNOT be disappointed in how He's using you." ~Ryan Johnson

Praying you see your place in this Truth today, pray for me.