Courage, Dear Heart

“I know what I’m doing.  I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

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Why is it that after all I know, I still doubt?

Where do I think He is going to lead me?

What about the time I trusted completely and the wheels came all the way off the bus, landed in the ditch…..and, the bus blew up!?!

Why do I forget who He is and how much He loves me and mine?

My heart screams foul.

Instead of first remembering all the glories and grace, I turn and stare at the cracked and raised scars. I think of what put them there. I remember the pain and the emotion of the broken and disillusioned reality.

  So quick to forget.

What causes this short term memory gap?  Is it fear that causes the impaired vision; or is it the impaired vision that causes the fear?  I know it is a human issue.  It’s not new to me.  Even the wanderers of Israel could never seem to remember the miracles and open hand of God.  Maybe you, too?

It is so easy to rehearse the pain of the past; it is lazy at best and ungrateful at worst.

There.

Sometimes we need to be direct and truthful with ourselves.

Tell ourselves to snap out of it—get back to focusing on the good.  What of this living by the spirit of fear?  How much better would it be to live with power, love and a sound mind?

Interesting how “sound mind” is lumped right in there.  It seems fear has a way of causing us to lose our minds.  Without clarity, we don’t process and interpret life or situations effectively or wisely.  When we don’t work from a sound mind, we lose self-discipline and good judgment.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  But, for whatever reason, I can pick up and move on over and slide in right next to fear.

What do I think fear is really going to do for me?  It is a harsh taskmaster.  Fear ties a noose around my neck and leads me down dark and unsafe paths.  My judgment is clouded and I am not able to hear clearly what God just might say to me.  Fear is relentless and tiring and leaves me frazzled, lying in a heap.

 

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I have to shake my head.  God did not think highly of the wanderers when they did the same thing.  Oh, He loved them immeasurably!  But He grew tired of their faithlessness and their inability to just remember!  In fact, He saw them as ungrateful and difficult.  I really don’t want God to look at me in the same light.

Our scars are left behind as a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient and our strength is made stronger in our weakest moments. 

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God’s grace goes where no human hand can.  The world is a rough and tumble place with countless potential land mines.  Fear points out everything that could possibly go wrong; grace reminds us He never leaves us or forsakes us.

If we are so quick to remember the messes and disasters, why can’t we just as easily remember He has an awesome plan for us—one that is full of blessing, hope and better tomorrows?

Maybe the best place to start is with gratitude.

It seems to always come right back to that.  Doesn’t it?  A daily remembering of all the lovely graces which fill our days from beginning to end.  It takes a purposefulness and strength to look beyond the hard edges.  It takes focusing on the abundance in the simplicity.  Oh my goodness!  The whole of our minds shift and light dazzles the gray.  Why wouldn’t we want this?

Gratitude and grace aren’t gold pavers lining the street and smoothing out bumps and potholes.  They serve to lift our focus from the mess to the savior in the mess.  We see He is for us. This sin of Adam is the problem; not God.  He has never left our side.  And, He can clearly see us all the way home.

So, what do I have to fear?

What do I have to be afraid of?

No scheme of man can ever take me out of His hand!  (And you know some try awfully hard!)  Circumstances or events may not look how we imagined or the horizon may be asking more questions than giving answers.  The answers don’t often come before we strike out on the unfamiliar road.

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When gratitude and grace emerge, you shift your focus to the one who sees clearly and has walked this way before.  

Psalm 32.8 beautifully expresses his heart toward us,

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

He watches over me with loving care.

He is not flippant with my life.

When I stay close, He gives me good counsel.

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When I stay close, I look at Him, see His heart and know—really know—I need not be afraid for whatever

may come.

Fear has no place.

Fear can’t rule.

This is a huge challenge for me today.  How about you?  What is so easy for you to forget?  What situation needs your radical faith?

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Just try it……the air is cleaner up there.

The Whole Of It

…..May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.  The One who called you is completely dependable.  If he said it, he’ll do it!!

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There is something that calls to me from this Scripture.  You will find it in I Thessalonians 5:23-24.  This world has a way of pulling us into a million pieces.   Start with responsibilities, toss in a few wounds, mix in unmet expectations, throw in some disappointment and there you have it!  I would never say life is all bad.  But, stuff happens, and there ya go!

As a mom, one of the most important things is to see your children whole and happy—living to the fullest.  When you see one of those cubs struggling  to stay afloat, your instincts kicks into gear.  I’m sure you are familiar with “Mother Bear” syndrome.  I’m really familiar with it!

I do believe I lived in Mother Bear mode for about 3 years.  There’s not a thing that can be said to a woman in full-on MB. Those cubs are the treasures and the way I see it, it’s our responsibility (with my honey) to get them from start to adulthood in one relatively good, solid piece.  They need to be someone people can stand to be with and do something good with the space they take up.  They need to pursue their passions and dreams and be all they can be.

So, when life starts getting in the way and you see your treasures fracturing and losing their handhold, MB mode is on high alert!  My prayers for my hurting child were for him to be whole…. nothing missing and nothing broken in his life.  I didn’t want the pain and anguish he experienced at the hand of someone so incredibly selfish to derail and destroy greatness within.  I prayed and prayed for the wholeness which was rightfully his.

I remember God spoke to my heart that “he had seen it all” and my child and family would be healed and whole.  He cared even more than I did.  I wrote it down.  I clung to that promise as my lifeline.  That was over 2 years ago.  I haven’t forgotten.

images-2 But, there have been times I have felt that the progress just was not good enough.  It wasn’t a complete enough healing.  I remember telling God during a particular season this wasn’t going to be good enough.  Next try, please.  I’m not sure what God thought about that. But, I felt I was exercising my faith.  I knew God told me the broken parts would be healed….this wasn’t healed, as I understood healing!  It certainly was a start, but I was believing for wholeness.  There was a pain and hurt so deep that only God could touch it.  But, I believed.  I hid that promise in my heart.

I’ve watched him on this journey.  Huge steps forward and some hiccups along the way.  He wants it just as much as we do for him.  It takes time and is a long journey that is neither easy nor enjoyable.  But the strength of his spirit is inspiring and one of a true fighter; he will not be labeled a victim.  For all of us, we want quick, easy answers and solutions to the pain and loss.  We know such answers won’t come.  But, I haven’t stopped believing!

Now, here we are.  Three years later, great ground has been covered, healing has taken place, much learning and growing has been experienced.  And, I am still watching and listening.  God is answering and doing what he said he would do.

I just had an incredible conversation with my boy.  He experienced God in a powerful way during his university’s chapel service a couple of weeks ago.  He isn’t one to share his personal pain on a constant basis and has a list in his heart he knew intimately….hurt and pain he had just assumed would always be there.  He was coping.  God said,  “That’s not good enough.”  God promised…..and he is delivering.  God came in that moment….even when my boy wasn’t looking for it.  He met him there and brought more healing and hope to the hidden and private pain.   He talked of joy like he hadn’t experienced in years.  Oh! How a mama’s heart is healed by hearing such things.

When God promises something, he delivers.  Our timetable is rarely correct.  He doesn’t work on Human Standard Time.  When he promises he will make you whole, putting together body, mind and soul, that is what he intends to do. I haven’t given up.  It comes out of nowhere, looking different than I expect.  But, oh my!

A few days before my son’s extraordinary moment with God, God sent a reminder to me of this very verse.  I took note.  He gently reminded me and turned my head toward him.  I knew.  And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he came and amazed us once again.

He’s just cool like that.

Love And All Its Glory

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I’ve heard folks say, and I guess some really believe it, if you experience hardship , you aren’t in God’s will.  I am confused by this mentality.  Never mind that Scripture says, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Nobody wants it on a greeting card, but hey….

That brings me to think for a moment of the areas in life that I have had difficulties and obstacles.  My children, my family, my church, my friendships, my life, my marriage….they’ve all had, at one point or another, some level of challenge, difficulty, turmoil, chaos, or pain.  And I would dare to say, each of them are a part of God’s will for my life.  How can someone say that my children or my church or my life is not a part of God’s will?  Boggling.

Anyway, in 2008 my husband and I knew God was getting ready to change things up for the  Reynolds’ crew.  With open hearts and anticipation, we moved from Iowa to Virginia.  I look back at a few rare journal entries and feel such sadness for that girl who wrote with such excitement.  I want to warn her of all the pain that is about to blow through her life in a matter of months…..for years.

To say we faced challenges is a gross understatement. Wave after wave of loss and turmoil rolled over my family.  I was working hard to help the children transition well, but I could feel the strain and the tearing of the fibers in my home and, more specifically, my marriage.  I could feel the fabric of our marriage stretching to bare. We were functioning at some level, but we certainly were not thriving.  There was a lot at stake so we just kept moving….one foot in front of the other.  Hardships come. Opposition rises.  And marriages crumble. IMG_7745[1]

……love never gives up.  It’s certain….we both had misfires, misunderstandings and unmet expectations.  There were hurt hearts and wounded pride.  But, we didn’t give up.   It was probably the lowest of lows for us.  But, we kept on.

……love cares more for others than for self.  My husband was the rock we all needed as we wandered in the Shadowlands.  He was strong and tended to us and led us as a fearless leader.  We gladly followed.  It was the aftermath of the abuse that drew us together emotionally as a force to be reckoned with.  We rallied as a team and circled our wagon.  We worked together to help bring healing to our broken family.  Even though we felt weak and vulnerable, we were a team.

…….love always trusts God.  My husband always pointed us back to Christ.  Even in the hardest hard or darkest dark.  Yes, our faith was shaken and all we knew was rocked to the core.  But, this man, my love, led us back again and again to Christ.  He didn’t have all the answers and didn’t pretend to.  But, he knew that God could be trusted….even when it doesn’t make sense and we can’t see His hand.  Glenn gave me room to question and even scream and yell.  He held my hand and understood when to let me cry.  He cried with our boy and grieved for the loss.  But, he led us back, over and over, to Christ.  “Follow me while I follow Christ.”  He didn’t know where it all led, but we would follow Christ.

……love never dies.  Goodness.  What a statement!  Do our dreams die?  Do our hopes and expectations die?  Do people and marriages die?  Yes, yes, and yes.  But Christ living in us does not die.  Christ living through us does not die. This is our hope!  God is love.  If we have him living in us, we have his Love living in us.  My husband demonstrated love by continuing on with this broken mess.  He led us to forgiveness.  My sweet love gave sacrificially to help us on our journey to healing.  He trusted God’s love even when his own doubts were doubling by the day.

  He will cringe at finding out I wrote my blog around him this week.  He’s not a self-promoter.  Nor does he like my flattery “out there for the whole world to see.”  But, then again, those are other traits of love flowing in my man.       I could go on and on.  But I will end with this.  Love isn’t shallow or flighty.  It isn’t selfish or easily drawn away.  And if you have any experience, you know that some days it fires hotter than others and some days you love because that is what you committed to do.  red hot sedona love

So, for those taking notes, in this world you will have trouble.  Lots of it.  And it doesn’t mean you are out of God’s will.  But you do walk out of God’s will when you forget to love.  If you truly love, you work through it.  You work through the bad, the ugly, the broken, the inconvenient, the harsh and the lean times.  It’s what you do with the trouble that counts.

If you do it right, you end up with the amazingly beautiful,

the whole, the blessing,

the joyful and the abundant.

Everything can be conquered with love.

Strong Medicine

I sat on the bed.  Everything I believed was in the middle of a free fall.  This was my parachute.  It deployed and my descent slowed.  So, I sat there and started crying.  Not the gentle tear, but the rolling, sobbing kind.  

 

If you asked me, I would have done away with our current course. There was so much to wade through and sometimes I just wasn’t sure about much.  Trust of everything and most everybody was at a devastating low.

I had picked up a book I had some months earlier stuck in a corner.  I had seen it advertised, it looked interesting, but when it came, it underwhelmed me.  So, there it sat, forgotten, actually.  Until one night in small group, the book came up in discussion.  It rang familiar….I went home, dug it out and started to devour it.   It’s funny how that happens.  Not a coincidence, by any stretch of the imagination.

I had NO idea.  God knew that it would be required reading for the journey I was about to take. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp changed my life forever.

As I was reading, God nudged me and began to un-bandage my wound.  He was always so gentle with me.  His gentleness wooed my worn out soul.  He knew me and the brokenness of my heart.

He was always so full of grace.  And, He began to speak through the words on the page.  What was I going to do with it?

God was there in all the ugly pain.  He was there and heard my child’s desperate cries for help and rescue.  He made a way out.  He was with us in the counseling moments.  The hours upon hours of healing that took place through a dedicated mouthpiece.  The darkness that seemed to hover over the waiting room would take my breath away.  The grief that never seemed to run out.  He was there.

In that moment, I had a choice to make.

I could either trust Him enough to be grateful in spite of the pain and destruction or….not. 

Was I going to continue feeling as if He couldn’t be trusted? Was I going to keep on feeling as if He didn’t know what He as doing and certainly not keeping an eye on my family? He held out the medicine for my soul.  Right there. Within my reach.  Trust and Gratitude.

Gratitude makes my life a sanctuary.

Gratitude invites God into the pain and opens the door to beauty.  Gratitude changes the lens of of our view.  Thanksgiving lifts my head off of the present, shattered mess and on to the One who leads me forward.  I can trust that He will lead me safely on and be right by my side.  I could focus on my desperate thoughts of wishing this had never happened; or wondering where God was on the nights my child had no escape; or the fears of my child never being whole and happy.  At that moment, the view was pretty tragic and desperate.

God knew my life was meant for more than that.  There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances, but I could change my view.  That was entirely up to me!  Gratitude invites grace into the dark and transforms it into light.  The light shines bright and life is breathed back into the dead.

It’s not easy or everyone would do it!

If it came naturally, this world would be transformed beyond recognition.  I’m not saying we have to be grateful for the ugly destruction.  I’m certainly not there yet or sure I ever will be.

But I’m choosing to not focus on it.  It isn’t my daily diet and I am not going to let it eat me alive!  BUT, I am trying daily to focus on the everyday miracles and answered prayers. 

The hand of God moves and reveals Himself in the mundane and in the grand.

Beauty in the sunlight

Chai tea lattes in the morning

Family dinner

Little girls kisses

A Saturday with no commitments

God loves my children even more than I do

Friends who understand

Honest and open conversations

God speaking to my children

A day with lessened pain

Darkness is destroyed

Date night with my love

Libraries!!!

In my brokenness, I can still worship….a sacrifice to the One who is always there

A smile

Love expressed in simply kind ways

Candles on a cold day

Sweet sibling prayers

 

So, here I am….1,122 gratitudes strong….written down.

And it will keep going.

I’m just one woman working to live at peace on this journey I am on.  Unfortunately, at times I’ve bogged down and some days have been very gratitude silent.

But, I don’t want to be that….for what has the Love of my Savior done to be ignored and unrecognized?  He faced darkness head on so that I can have Light in my own darkness.  

 

What gratitude do you need to start voicing?  Where is the mundane or grand that needs acknowledgement in your life? A lack of gratitude will choke the very life out of your heart.  But, thankfulness will keep your eyes off the dark and on the Light!