Where Are You?

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Esther.

Queen Esther.

Before she was queen, she was a humble and exquisitely beautiful woman plucked from a nondescript life.  A woman minding her own business…an orphan raised by an uncle.  In that part of the world, in that day and age, women were not destined to really be anything of consequence.  They were property at best.

Maybe you are familiar with this story from the Bible.  She was plucked from her home and taken to the king’s palace with hundreds of other women to win the contest of the most beautiful, most alluring and charming female.  The king was done with the current queen and was ready for the newer and more malleable model.  Queen Vashti was on the outs.

Esther was vetted and prepped and sent before the king.  To make a long story short, he picked her.  He was smitten.  God was at work to preserve His people…her people.  God is always at work.  Even if we don’t see it and aren’t picking up on it.  He often works below our radar.  He has a plan.

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There was one man in the kingdom who despised the Jewish people and Esther’s uncle in particular.  His goal was to annihilate them.  But, due to Esther’s great courage and God’s favor, she prevented this atrocity and saved her people.  And, as a twist of fate, this vindictive man was put to death with the same gallows he had planned for Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.  Talk about irony.

God doesn’t play.  He had redemptive plans far bigger than man could see. 

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The amazing point of the story is this:  Esther was willing to be used and stepped up to the plate.  She prepared herself physically, intellectually and spiritually to carry out this audacious responsibility.  She knew the risk involved.  Death was a high possibility.  God knew he could count on this one humble, Jewish woman.

What does this story have to do with my blog post this week?

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As we journey through this life, we enter different seasons.  Regardless of the season, we have choices to make.  Will we be obedient to what God is calling us to do?  Are we willing to take the risks this might require?  What is God calling us to do that is risky?  Perhaps it doesn’t look as glamorous as the potential of becoming queen.  But, you know there is a cost.

Submission isn’t really submission until you have to obey in something you don’t want to obey.  Life is a series of choices.  Each choice to obey Christ and his invitation makes us stronger.  It becomes easier with each choice.  Esther willingingly stepped up to be used for a greater cause.

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Or, it could be, right now you are in a waiting season.  Maybe He isn’t asking you to be in the business of doing a particular assignment at this moment.  Then your time is now!  There are some tasks at hand.  This is your time to prepare.  Like Esther, there is much you can do to prepare for the assignments in the future.  Take a look:

Be patient.  It’s hard sometimes in the waiting.  It often feels like being stuck.  It isn’t glamorous and isn’t always easy.  You may have dreams, but God isn’t bringing them to fruition until you are truly ready.  It won’t happen until His good time.  Now is the time to get ready.

  • Learn.  This is the perfect time to learn and grow.  Find a mentor.  Read and study.  When God is ready is ready to send you out, you need to have grown deeper and wider.
  • Listen.  What does He want to say to you?  What treasures in the secret place does He want to reveal.  There are things you need to know.  Choose quiet instead of complaint.
  • Praise.  Gratitude is the key to growing deep in the waiting.  It makes the waiting a lot more enjoyable as well!  It opens our hearts to His possibilities.
  • Keep the heart right.  This is probably one of the hardest tasks in the waiting.  It’s easy to doubt, get anxious, become frustrated, or maybe even turn bitter.  Just don’t go there.  Rest in the knowledge that no season devoted to God is ever wasted. Realize the beauty that will come  if you allow it.

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I’ve lived through many seasons of preparation and waiting.

At first glance, these seasons seem mundane, trivial and unproductive.  But, if they are devoted to Christ, they are anything but wasted.  The depth and strength developed through those times grew me to the level I needed, in order to properly handle the next task and season.  Never despise the seemingly insignificant and ordinary days.  The world calls for “doing” and “busy-ness”.  In that paradigm, doing and busyness is the sign of importance and accomplishment.  Not so in the paradigm of Christ.

Just like Esther, be ready!  When the season of waiting and preparation is done, God has an assignment for you to join.  He will call to you.  Be watching and waiting.  Keep your ears close to the heart of God.  He will call.   After all, isn’t this what you have been preparing for?

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Who Do You Think You Are?

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Years ago, I was a speaker for a session at a women’s retreat.  This was some time ago—15 years or so.  I was young and inexperienced at a lot of things.  But, I was excited for the opportunity to share with the women at this retreat.

I was not the main retreat speaker, but an “after lunch session” speaker.  You can probably see where this is going.  It was hard.  I was losing them.  I could feel it—I sensed it.  I saw it on their faces.  I was not the dynamic speaker that the main speaker was.  She reached them in a way I wasn’t able.  She had a story I didn’t have.  As I stood there watching their faces, lunch settling in and the food coma descending, I felt my words bouncing off the walls.  I became more and more discouraged.  I felt more and more like a failure the longer I went.

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On the drive home, I beat myself up.  I was a failure.  What made me think  I could ever be a public speaker?  Why did I ever think I could do something so amazing?  I was a dud.  How foolish I must have looked!  I decided right then and there I would NEVER do THAT again.  EVER.  My speaking circuit career was going to be short lived.  One and done!

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I’m not sure whether those ladies got anything out of my talk or not, but indeed, I kept that promise to myself.  For several years, I refused to ever give public speaking another go.  I cloaked it in “it really isn’t my season for public speaking.”  And, honestly, the opportunities dried up.  I believe me telling God I would never do that again, even when I felt cautioned against saying it, spoke something into my life.

Slowly, over the last couple of years, I have occasionally allowed myself to stand up and try it again….always against my better judgement.  I look at all those years I could have used to grow my skills and talent, but didn’t.  How much more seasoned might I be? I certainly would have gained some great wisdom and experiences.

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Have you ever done this to yourself?  Have you ever had a supposed failure and shut yourself down from ever stepping out to try again?  I didn’t receive criticism from anybody but myself.  I was my harshest and cruelest critic.  I allowed insecurity to set up camp and shut down opportunities for my life.

Do you let insecurity settle in and define who are or what you do?  Do you define yourself by what you do?  How about what you know, or maybe, don’t know?  What about what you have or don’t have?  It’s a crazy problem I see all around.  And further, how are we supposed to keep our Littles from spiraling into this mindset when we can’t seem to untangle ourselves from this giant knotted mess ourselves?  We have to do better!

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After doing some research on this topic of self-image, I have learned a few lessons I think will challenge me before I get into another situation like the story above (because, it’s probably going to happen in some way, some where again!).  I will be better equipped to handle the self accusation that will come hurdling against my heart.

First, our deepest longing is for unconditional love.  We have this hole in which only unconditional love can fill.  The only place unconditional love comes from is Christ. People try.  But, really, Christ is the only source of unconditional love.  We have to know our place in that love.  We have to receive this love that requires no performance on our part.

Second, we have to know who we are in Christ. He has to be our Center.  Everything else flows from that.  Every part of our self has to come from that Center.  It will effect every area of our life.  If we are living in insecurity, we are focusing on ourselves and not on Christ.

Third, I have to speak aloud who I am in Christ.  I have to hear myself.  You know, we believe more of what we hear ourselves say than what anybody else says.  I have to stop speaking the negative story lines and words about myself.  It really isn’t anybody else’s job to prop me up every day.  I have to encourage myself in Christ.

Fourth, I am not what I do, what I have, what I know, or any lack thereof.  I am everything in Christ—nothing in myself—but everything in Christ!  I must get my focus off of myself and onto who I am in Christ.  If I look at any of those things, I will only have a false sense of security or an unfortunate sense of insecurity.

So, the sure-fire cure for the insecure heart is this—knowing Christ’s unconditional love.  It is the cure for the aching heart and the strained mind.  Life has a way of clobbering the daring right out of our heart, if we let it.  Stepping out with courage requires a heart settled on this amazing, unconditional love.

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I know insecurity is settling in for a nice, long stay when I am constantly comparing myself to others, I’m easily offended or can’t take criticism well. So, I have to actively fight the monster with this powerful truth.  I am unconditionally loved by the Creator of the universe.  He created me.  I am not perfect and that is okay.  He loves me anyway.  I will not focus on me, but on the one Who created me.  He is my Center and all parts of my life will come from that place.  Because He is my center, I can stand strong in who I am in Him.  That is more than enough.

 I will open my arms and heart to new adventures.  I will rest in the knowledge that I am enough in Him.  Aren’t you ready for that less-pressured way of living, too?

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We Can Do Hard Things

You never know what you can do until you have to do it.

12038515_10208120059425782_2205531781384824545_nI used to never really consider myself strong.  I use to doubt my endurance for hard things.  I would think of certain scenarios and think there was no way I could ever endure something like that!  I was young and life had not been truly hard.

Have you ever thought like this?  It’s possible I’m a lone bird on this one.  I get stuck in my head quite a bit.  But, on the off chance you have ever wondered how you’re going to make it, or do THAT, or what if, then maybe this is for you.

One of my very favorite sayings floating around lately is a hefty reminder.  And, you better hang on for it!

“We can do hard things.” 

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I’m not really sure how this fits into today’s culture.  For the most part, we are busy entertaining and indulging ourselves and avoiding uncomfortableness at all costs.  I try to avoid stress and anxiety.  I know my margins and am pretty good at trying hard to not cross them.

So, in today’s “first world problem” culture, the hard, ugly, messy, costly, inconvenient and uncomfortable are usually avoided like the .  If it is out of the carefully crafted comfort zone we have so strategically arranged, it must not be for me.  Check.  Not going there.

But, what about the gift of inconvenience?  What about the gift of hard?

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I’ve had the privilege of knowing women who have done hard.  My mom did hard for over 10 years as she was the primary caregiver for my sweet father as he slowly withered away.  I’ve watched my mothers-in-law take care of grandchildren as their own and nurse a dying bitter man with grace and patience. I’ve seen women pick up family and home and move across the world and endure hardship in order to rescue children and women from slavery.  There are all kinds of hard.

We can do hard things.

In fact, life is more rewarding and satisfying if we do hard.  Perpetually taking the easy road and always choosing the easy leads to comatose living.  If that is even considered living.

Sometimes, we really have no choice.  The hard is shoved at us with the force of a tsunami, and we have to swallow it and keep afloat.  Our world is shoved into another realm and we must adjust our course or be obliterated.  Sometimes, it seems we have had more than our fair share of hard and inconvenient.  It appears all we do is hard.  I’ve been there.

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We can do hard things.

I have a beautiful passage of Scripture you need to hear!  Psalm 16:5-6 goes like this:

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 

You may be wondering how I’m going to take this verse and make it work to convince you that, yes, you can do hard things.  Well, here it is.  I have had a very long season…years even…of doing very hard things.  In fact, it came like the waves of the ocean.  I often felt as if I was going to drown from the unrelenting surge of hard.  Life looked bleak and it was breaking me.  The years of pounding had me convinced this would never end.  This seemingly had become the course of my life.  I was constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for the next wave.  Not a hope-filled, joyful journey by any stretch.  I anticipated lack instead of abundance.  I waited for darkness more than light.  I expected drought instead of blessing.

Now, on the other side of the hard, I realize I have learned some valuable lessons.

1. I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

2. The hard doesn’t last forever.

3. I can’t do it on my own, but with Christ and friends, I can do anything.

4. Christ sees it all, and……now, look back at Psalm 16:5-6.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

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The beauty and grace I never thought I would ever see again, has indeed, come.  He never left me.  And, in fact, He holds my inheritance and the borders of my life are stretched to beautiful places.  Life isn’t perfect.  Not everything works right all the time.  Not everything has been fully restored.  But, I anticipate in due time, all things will be made right.

There is something about going through hard and inconvenient, instead of caving and crumbling.   There are lessons we learn and strength we gain.  Strength begets strength.  By not choosing the easiest, or bypassing the hard,  a rock hard strength develops within you.  One. Choice. At. A. Time.

Every time we choose to do hard, we choose strength.  Each time we don’t give up, we choose spiritual fortitude.  And, it is just amazing to see where we are taken in Christ through the journey.  As we come out through the suffocating, restricting and confining alleyways of the hard, we come upon the wide open vistas of grace and hope that stretch out before us.  We see it is both beautiful and breathtaking!  Oh, the light and stunning grace!  He knows us and gives us beauty for ashes.  Yes, we may lose much, but the inheritance promises to be worth the journey!

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It’s Fall Y’all!

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What a fabulous summer!  Summer rolled in like the tide.  Its ebbs and flows played a beautiful rhythm.  In fact, this summer led us to places, in ways, we didn’t plan or predict.

I enjoy summer.  It gives me a much needed mental break from the everyday, nonstop hustle of the school year.  Being a homeschool mom certainly has its own challenges as well as joys.  I enjoy the relaxed, easy going, lazier days of summertime.  I’m just always happy to see summer rolling up!

Now, we are sitting at the door of a new school year.  New books, new folders, pens and paper.  A refreshed and renewed attitude.  Students are actually ready to take on the adventure of the new school year.  We attend a homeschool co-op, so everyone is excited to see old friends and make new ones.  It promises to be a great school year.

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As fall is right here at our front door, I can’t help but think of new beginnings.  Where summer chills me out and rigid schedules and patterns relax, the onset of fall calls for renewed energy and the starting of new disciplines.

One of the disciplines that took a hit was my regular time of personal devotion and spiritual reflection.  It was too easy to wake up, roll over and check out social media or the morning news.  What I began to notice was the negativity that awaits you each morning!  Not the shot of grace and hope you actually need to help you start the day effectively.  Whew!  Habits can be hard to break!

I have the dearest of friends who has impacted me.  I have great respect and admiration for her for so many reasons.   One reason being, she has taken an indefinite break from Facebook because she saw the negative impact it had on her parenting and her relating to her kids. Her life had become an interruption to the steady stream of Facebook.  She did what she knew she needed to do.  She is a good and wise momma.

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I find myself longing for a mind break.  I realize the constant stream of social media is exhausting me.  I end up being unable to even slow down mentally.  Any free moment is spent scrolling and perusing and comparing and tuning out the world around me.  The constant onslaught of information makes it really difficult to adequately and appropriately process the world.

Anyway, I see moments of these distractions becoming far too central to my time.

I’m not ready to shut it all off completely.  However, I do need to bring it back to its proper place.  So, the fall is a great time to adjust course.  I have a few apps I will be using to aid me in my spiritual devotion. I highly recommend them for your own daily encouragement.

The first one is “She Reads Truth”.   Besides being inspirational, this app is beautiful!  Here is the link for you to check it out.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/she-reads-truth-bible-+-devotional/id892128363?mt=8

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The second one is “First 5” by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  This program has additional resources you can purchase to go along with the study on the app.  This one is pretty cool!  You can use this app as an alarm; it will wake you with the new devotional for the day.  Here is the link:

http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/make-your-first-5-count/

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The third one I use occasionally is “Jesus Calling.”  I have used this in book form, but use the app more frequently as of late.  Here is the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/jesus-calling/id607521654?mt=11

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A fourth resource I am going to use for devotional time with the kids is  https://instagram.com/100dayswithjesus/.  This is a study focusing on the 100 names of God.  It isn’t geared just to children, but they do have a portion that can help relate it to children.  I am excited for this!

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It seems to help me to have these devotionals to turn to each day.  I am all for whatever can challenge and meet me where I am.  Different seasons call for different resources.  During this renewed season, I am also purposing to pray for my kids more.  This is not a safe world; what greater thing can a mother do than pray for her children?   At this moment I am praying for wisdom, protection and favor with God and man.

I am excited for this fresh fall season.  It’s time to reign in my crew and provide more structure and order to our days.  The lazy days of summer are much needed, but now it’s time for the focus that fall brings.

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What are you looking forward to about this new season?  What resources do you utilize to guide your meditation and reflection?  I would love to hear what inspires you and draws your closer to God.  I think it is exciting to see the way different personalities connect with God.  We don’t all do it the same way.  And isn’t that great?   What disciplines work well for you?  I want to hear about it!

I would love to have you join me on this journey of hope and grace!  Sign up with your email address to receive a weekly blog post delivered straight to your inbox.  Here’s to grace and hope and future days!

Disappointment

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Disappointment.

Who isn’t familiar with it?  It’s a part of life.

Walking through disappointment with kids will wrench your gut and wring you out.  As a mom, I know life happens.  There is no way to protect them from disappointment and do them justice.  In those hard moments, there is so much wisdom to be poured into these sensitive hearts.

I really love those moments of teaching our young ones to process pain and disappointment in a healthy way.  I certainly don’t love the circumstances that bring the pain, though.  But, what shallow and weak human beings they will be if I don’t shepherd them through their difficulties.

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Today was such a day.  Another disappointing report crushed a young heart.  I could see it–a beautiful face fighting hard to hold back the tears.  A heart full of dreams and faith.  Lots of believing and praying childlike prayers.  It was in that moment I had to close my mouth and say a prayer.  I prayed for the right words to ignite a fire of faith.  My first thought was, “Lord, what do I say to another disappointing report?  What are you going to do about this?”

I know all too well these times come.  We don’t hear the answer we want to hear, we are passed by for what we deserve, people don’t live up to our expectations and wound us, or there is another delay in our answer.  And, we ask, “What am I supposed to do about this?  Where are you, God?”

Here are 3 thoughts to help us through these moments:

  • God sees and knows.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • God works all things out for our good.

I absolutely believe God sees and knows all that is going on in our lives.  I know He never leaves us or forsakes us.  I know for a fact He works all things out for our good.  I know these three things to be true in my life.

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We have walked through some incredibly severe and trying situations as a family and I remember sensing God speak to me that He had seen it all and knows it all.  What a comfort that was to me!  Just hearing that affirmation of love still brings hope to my heart.  You know what that means?  He had never left me and He truly understands my pain like no other.  He would vindicate and heal the wounds in His good time.

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I told my disappointed one yesterday that God does not always answer in the fashion in which we envision in our minds.  Our small box of plans can’t even begin to hold the answer He has for our situations.  And further, if our disappointment and need hasn’t been answered just yet and we’re still breathing, then the answer is still on the way!

Big lessons for a young one.  Better to learn and solidify your faith at a young age and know for yourself this great big God of the universe than have to wait until your older and have no clue who He is!  Yes, I would love for this life to be smoother sailing, with more positive reports, but, I know He is with us even in those moments.

He is walking through it all with us.

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By the way, lots of love and hugs help, too!  God isn’t shocked or offended by our pain and questions.  Take some time to grieve and process the loss or disappointment.  Talk it out and then move forward.  By the end, a little ice cream hit the spot!  There are no callous “stop crying and suck it up” talks in this house.  But, we are learning to not wallow in our pain.  Eventually, we were able to laugh a little and hug it out!

So, what disappointment have you swallowed lately?  It is sure to come.  But, you can stand strong when you remember this:  He sees and knows; He certainly hasn’t left me;  And, I know good is on the way—it may not look exactly how I planned, but His perfect plan is at work in my life.

Hey….maybe you should even have a little mint chocolate chip ice cream to top it off!

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Would you like to read more about this wonderful journey through this one beautiful life?  Sign up to receive a post delivered straight to your inbox each week.  I would love to have you join me on this journey of hope!  Here’s to a great week!