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It’s the New Year. 

Everyone is posting their great notes and how-to’s for the new year.  All the great revelations for the upcoming year and reflections upon the past year are being posted.  I think that’s great.

But, for me it’s January 4. A normal day. Hump day.

Kids have started back to school. I am getting my house back in order after Christmas festivities and guests and chaos. nhhguo-2ypw-andy-fitzsimon

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I’ve got a wedding to plan.

They needed a wedding planner. My son is getting married to the love of his life in exactly 46 days. I’m calling caterers and bakers and paying florists and receiving wedding invitations in the mail and getting ready to shoot them off to guests in the mail.

And laundry is going and the dog is being walked and I’m helping my Honey roll out the many law group projects he envisions.

 You know how it all goes. We all wear a hundred different hats.

Life just keeps moving regardless of the calendar.   It doesn’t really matter that it is January 4 and great life wisdom for the year needs to be made and written down in a journal.

But, in the middle of it all, I am listening.  I am still listening.

I have no great big introspection to bust out as of yet. I’m working on slowly hearing what I need to hear for my life. You can’t rush great revelation!

I don’t make resolutions.  It only sets me up for failure.  Anybody relate with me on this one? I quit doing that a long time ago. That’s so 1990-something for me.

Probably pre-baby era.

But, I will tell you what I am doing.

I am taking time. 

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In the middle of all the crazy normal (and not so normal) life goings-on I am taking moments to turn on the worship music, make a hot drink, light some warm candles and read Scripture and devotionals and journal my thoughts.

Praying and listening with my spirit to hear what God is saying to me.  Right now I am trying to determine a word or words that might give direction for my year.

Listening for a word or words that would give me focus and that would infuse some faith into my spirit for the days of 2017.

So, I am being more focused, more intentional.  I am being more determined to make the time to listen. I am intent on hearing from God and finding direction.

photo-1447600514716-ca6f3974c346Last year was one for the books.  I really don’t ever need one like that again.  But, as I say that, my heart is quickly hastened to add there were blessings added I never saw coming. And blessings in the works that I didn’t realize I would need at the time I would need them, but God did and orchestrated their timing. So, even though, much rain came, God sent grace and provision.  He had people and resources waiting for just the right moment and season.

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And as I look into 2017, I hold in my hands all the beautiful grace Christ gave in 2016.

So, on January 4, I don’t have great proclamations of how to go about your year and what to give up and what to grab ahold of.  All I know is take time to see what God would say to you. He works personally for each one of us.

2017 is not 2016.

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I have two different Scriptures I am holding on to for my new upcoming year.  That is as far as I have gotten.   I’d say it is a pretty great start. I feel certain they are to guide my new year. Here they are:

Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands. (Isaiah 43:19, The Message)

Get up, my dear friend,
    fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
    the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
    The whole world’s a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
    with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
    and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend,
    my fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove—
    leave your seclusion, come out in the open. (Songs 2: 10-14, The Message)

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I will let these Scriptures guide my thoughts. And let me tell you, they have already been challenged in this first week of the year! But, I am returning to them over and over.  Isaiah 40:8 reminds us , “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”

 I encourage you to take time to listen to what Christ would want to speak to you.  Maybe you haven’t had a whole lot of time to spend searching for a great revelation.  Just take a few moments to quiet your heart. Invest moments in yourself. Invest in your year– it will help chart the course for your year.

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I was feeling particularly low going into the new year’s eve weekend.  I was focused more on the challenges and hurt of 2016.  It was hard. There were deep disappointments—the most being from people.  And that was my focus. I was weary. My heart was heavy. It had become too much of my focus. And a year of reviewing the pain was getting burdensome. In an effort to relinquish the hurt, I prayed an honest, broken prayer laying in my bed.

cse3okq03oq-riley-briggsAs I have begun the new year, my attention has begun to shift. It is as if a literal shift has taken place on a physical calendar in my heart and mind. As in a turning of the page over to a new year on a new calendar, so is my attention.

I encourage you to do the same. Look ahead to what God has for you in 2017.

I press on to what is ahead.

I honestly have no idea what this year holds or what is on the horizon. I can’t even begin to imagine what God has planned. The slate has pretty much been wiped clean over the past year. So, I think I will buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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Change your focus.  It just may change your heart.

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a sweet, sweet story

Here we are.

Just steps away from Christmas Day. Lighting candles and humming carols. Spending moments with loved ones. Wrapping and running and spending and spinning.

We are climbing to the pinnacle.

But, let us stop. Breathe. Listen.

I could think of no greater way of celebrating this final week than having the story…in it’s own words..told here.  I hope you enjoy the art I have included. Of course, the story needs nothing else added to it.

But, God created Beauty.  He is Beauty. This is my gift to you this Christmas.

Merriest of Christmas Seasons!

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The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

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29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

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Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed:

“Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 

43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

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Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

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The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a]Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

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10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

1“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

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16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

(Luke 1, 2 NIV, Bible Gateway)

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From the Home of the Crooked Christmas Tree…

May you find the hope, joy and peace you are looking for this Christmas. May your family be blessed. And may your New Year be bright! Blessings from the Reynolds and Sweet Sage Lane!

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This Crazy Crooked Christmas Star

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This is the year of the crooked Christmas star.

We have a beautiful bronze star we have used for years.  It is supposed to light up.  But, the lights burned out last year.  I suppose that’s a blog post for another time!

I can’t bear to part with it!

This year it is perched quite crooked.

At first we tried and tried to get that star to sit straight. But now, honestly, when we think about straightening it, we just look at it and laugh.

Such has been our year. 

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It has been a very crooked and crazy journey.

It stands as a funny reminder that we made it. Even though it was such a crooked journey and rather out-of-the-box for us, we made it.

It was not what we expected.  It was not easy.  It was not perfect.  It was full of potholes and pit stops and detours.  It was not as we would have scripted for this point in our lives.

Yet, here we are.  We made it.  We are all together.  We are whole. 

We are not perfect.  But, we certainly can laugh.

If you’re like me, you often scroll through and see the gorgeous photos of shiny, sparkly Christmas cheer on Facebook and Instagram. They are awe-inspiring and often perfect.

Perfectly set and coordinated. 

I love looking at and enjoy being inspired by them just as much as the next soul.  I think we all need to see beautiful things. I mean, who wants to sit around and see messed up, screwed up, tacky all day long. Not me.  We have to remember, though, it’s not always perfect.

We know much of it is staged and just outside of screen view are the piles of bills and boxes and much undone.

And that is life.

But, we love to see the beautiful.

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Here is the picture of my crooked star. I figure you will get a great laugh out of my imperfect tree topper.  We’ve pretty much given up on making it straight.  It is about as symbolic as can be for us.

We look and laugh.  We don’t take it seriously.

Life has bumps.

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We had a significant bump this past year.  And actually, we are coming upon the year anniversary.  We are all human and yet we continue on.  We continue loving and living. Opening our hearts and hands. We move forward.

This year we look different and feel different.  There are different people in our lives.  Many added that we did not even know just a year ago. And some gone.

We walk different paths now and do different things and go many different places.  It’s crazy the difference a year makes.  This crazy crooked journey!

But, it is ours!

God’s grace is always present in the journey.

It has been far from perfect. Figuring things out as we go. For perfectionists, this can be a challenge.  Searching for normal and equilibrium. Finding the margins and loosening the grips on control. That is all part of this grace journey.  All in the move on this crooked way.

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If we look at the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus, it is less than perfect by human standard.  

The Savior of the world was born in a barn.  A dirty, smelly barn.  He was born to two young parents. Far from home.

And then, in a desperate move, a power hungry king began the search for this unknown boy. Being divinely guided, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt in the dead of night to save the life of their son.

This perfect Boy, born into a not-so-perfect world, is intimately aware of the battle between good and evil.

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He knows our weakness.

He is acquainted with our hurt and pain.

He understands the frustration of the crooked journey.

He knows us and has walked the same way.

The best part, though, He was perfect. He made it through.  He led the way.

He led a way we can follow. Like the Magi followed the star, we have a light to follow.

And, He will lead us all the way home.

His grace is sufficient.

I just read this verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  His grace is sufficient for every situation I find myself in. His grace is all I need. Regardless of the place–crooked or straight.

My Christmas star may be a little crooked. It’s a simple reminder.  Life isn’t perfect. And that is ok.  Jesus is. And that is enough. He’s got me. And He will lead us all the way home.

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Mary’s Wait

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Waiting.

The Christmas season.

Mary.

A young girl. A handpicked maiden. A virgin.

She nurtured within her a sacred promise.

Mary carried dreams deep within her heart. The waiting had begun.

Not everyone understood. People whispered with side glances and shaking of heads.

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The angel greeted her. Startled her more like it. The Presence of God was near. Near to her…her beauty radiated from the inside out.

She was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. This journey was about to change  her forever.  She would always be known as Mary, the mother of Jesus.

One chosen by God to fulfill a most sacred of tasks.  To carry this most precious Seed.

One who had never been touched by a man, much less slept with one. She was going to mother the ‘Son of the Highest’.  She was going to birth a son.

She was going to be Mary, the mother of God.

Her reply, “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (The Message)

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And, then the waiting.  She waited just as we do.  Nine months.

But before all that, she had a lot of explaining to do.

Can you imagine? Put yourself there.

Joseph was not so sure. This was NOT how things were supposed to go. The disappointment and shock were palpable. Honorable Jewish men did not marry pregnant Jewish women. It just was not done.

So, in the waiting, there was difficulty.  

There was the typical pregnancy adjustments and pains and challenges.  She knew the promise spoken to her by the angel in the secret place. She knew this gift she carried would be called Holy. Son of God.

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Such beauty in the hidden promise spoken to this young heart. I imagine this promise was something so sacred and beautiful, guarded lovingly within her heart and held tenderly throughout the years.

Oh, the beauty of it.

In her final days of waiting, Mary and her Beloved set out and traveled many miles where she gave birth. In a barn. A filthy, noisy, smelly barn. There was no gentle midwife with soothing words and no sweet post-birth photo shoot with sweet smelling blankets and adoring faces. No, these parents were sharing a space with manure and hay and animals. No family or support system. Just two young kids. In a borrowed barn.

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Waiting on the fulfillment of a promise. And bringing in the Son of God. A dirty barn and the Most High.

And such is life.  Full of waiting.

We have promises spoken to us in the secret place.  Given to us when the least was expected. We grabbed hold. We took it and planted it deep into our heart. We believed it. And then perhaps the mess came. Maybe a lot of mess came. Too much mess.

 “Let it be with me just as you say.”

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Just like Mary, I have said it. Obviously, I’m not carrying around the Savior of the world.   But, I am carrying around other dreams. Dreams significant to my world. The world God has placed me in.

A different seed. A different gift. Spoken into my heart. Spoken into my life. And life happens and stuff seems to interrupt. My expectations are not fulfilled.

My timeline is off.

And, so the waiting continues. And the waiting is not easy.  Nor are the stretch marks beautiful or the delayed gratification satisfying. But, in the waiting I am growing. In the waiting I am stretching.  In the waiting I listen.

Part of the waiting is sitting quietly. Waiting is hard work. At least that is the best I can make of it.

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Much was bombarding my heart and mind. So, I took a break from Sweet Sage Lane. I wasn’t sure what might come out on the page. I wasn’t sure it would be beneficial to much of anybody.

And sometimes parts of our waiting seasons require silence and stillness.  To be fully transparent, a couple months ago I struggled with depression and anxiety at new levels I hadn’t experienced in quite some time.  Not everyone understands that journey.  But, I am doing much better and God used many sources to bring light and hope back into my heart and mind.

Yesterday, and then again today, I was reminded once again the importance of making the most of the season I am in. 

At the appointed times, Mary did the things she needed to do.  She ministered to Elizabeth and travelled to take care of family business.  And, sometimes our seasons require movement. Waiting requires preparing for the appointed times to come.  Because, the appointed moments will arrive.

Waiting is hard work.

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So, once again in this beautiful holiday season, I am reminded of Mary.

The Lady in Waiting.

The one who prepared for the Son of God to be born. The one with an open heart. The one without an agenda of her own.  The one willing to open her life to an adventure of unknown proportions.

At the appointed times, Mary did the things she needed to do during her waiting.

So, as was with Mary I say, “Let it be with me just as you say.”

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In the waiting I anticipate the fullness of beauty and wonder.

This advent season is a hope-filled reminder of promises kept and wonders foretold. My heart opens with full expectation and renewed anticipation.

In this, my heart is stirred and comforted with a long awaited and much needed peace.

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A Few Beautiful Things

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It’s true. I’ve lived it!

God gives beautiful things.

We all know life throws some crazy stuff our way.

But, more than anything, wrapped in and through and around and over and under is a big bunch of beautiful. The one place you can always count on finding a steady flow of beautiful gifts is Scripture.

Today, as I was reading a great book that focuses attention on Christ in the face of challenges, I was reminded once again of these verses I have heard so many times before.

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I wanted to share them with you.  Perhaps you needed this reminder today–regardless of your situation.  Wherever life finds you; whatever your particular set of circumstances, these Scriptures are for you.

Beautiful art makes everything better, too. So, I thought I would just make this a whole big post on a whole bunch of beautiful! Enjoy!

A photo by Sebastian Unrau. unsplash.com/photos/CoD2Q92UaEg

I will extol the Lord at all times;

            His praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;

            Let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;

            Let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

            He delivered me from all my fears.

                                                (Psalm 34:1-4)

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I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait

For him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to

The one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the

salvation of the Lord.

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The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

            And delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

            Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,

            For those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,

            But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

                                   (Psalm 34:7-10)

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The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

            And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

                                                (Psalm 34:18)

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The Lord makes firm the steps

            Of the one who delights in him;

Though he may stumble, he will not fall,

            For the Lord upholds him with his hand.

                                                (Psalm 37:23-24)

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Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he

will give you the desires of your heart.

(Psalm 37:3, 4)

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I hope this week is one of noticing beauty and marking it in our lives.

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Encouragement, Dear Momma

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Mothering.

Its’s one calling that can cause great guilt and insecurity in one fail swoop. 

The one calling that tests every ounce of grit and determination you possess. 

It swells the heart with pride and love until you feel you will burst.

In equal measure, the pain that comes when our children experience the hardest parts of life, settles in and hurts like Hades.

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I have three.  I multiply these raw emotions by three.

I don’t know, but maybe you have found a way to insulate yourself.  Me, not so much.  But, I am learning alongside with my kiddos.  Life throws some pretty big curves, but we are stronger.

Endurance.

That is what we learn.

Last night, I had the joy of listening to my oldest speak to a group of students.  He is passionate about “loving on” people.  That’s his phrase.  It’s a way of life—offering grace and hope to anybody who needs it.  He heads out to his university, grabs coffee and “loves on” students.  He’s built for it.  He’s good at it.  He’s all about it.

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If any person has the right to build up walls and isolate themselves, I guess it would be this kid of mine.  He has stared down some pretty big giants in his life.  This man-child, who is really an adult now—turning 21 very soon, but always my crazy kid—has had enough challenges to last a good while.

But, this only seems to spur him on even more.

Bullied, abused, isolated and rejected.

And all from a Christian community. It’s hard to swallow. It’s tough for a mother to watch. It tears at your insides and makes you angry. Trying to figure out what is it that made him such a target.  I don’t know.  I still don’t have answers, other than, those folks needed help.  He just got in their way.

The last seven years have been full of challenges and victory for him, for us.

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Hurt and healing.

Despair and hope.

But, this young man of mine is a fighter.

He fights for justice with a vigilante spirit.  He’s strong-willed—and thank God for that.  He’s not a lay-down and surrender sort of guy. Which, by the way, made for some unique parenting days!  However, I’m truly grateful for that strong spirit.

Back to last night.

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I watched as he held the attention of each of these junior and senior high schoolers.  He related to them from his heart.  He did what he loves to do the most.  He shared hope with those kids.  He spoke their language.

Sitting there, a realization hit me square on.

This child.

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This one I grieved over and prayed for.

The night after he told us about the abuse, I laid outside his door.  His life, our lives blown apart by another person’s selfishness. The evil that had invaded our home.  It all rolled through my brain as the night lay dark and long.

I was afraidI was afraid this child would not survive this. 

Fear and lies gripped me and laid hold of my heart.  I was afraid to leave him alone.  And to my eyes, he seemed wounded and shattered beyond repair.

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But, we did what we do best.

We rallied and fought…together.

Prayer and help and love and care.

We all worked together.  This family of mine.  God did what he does best.  He restores.  He isn’t the God of a half-baked job.

NO.

He is the God of the very best order.

No slipshod or faulty duct tape fixes here. 

He is the very best at total healing and complete restoration. I wouldn’t leave that to just anybody!

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So, sitting there, it occurred to me there might be other Mommas whose hearts feel  broken beyond repair and hopelessness has set in.  Something about this child of yours—this love wrapped up in skin.  Your heart is beating to the rhythm of their hurt.

This is for you, my friend.

Life isn’t easy.  Life isn’t fair.  Bad things happen—to the ones we love the most. 

Sometimes the very worst.

Or sometimes, they struggle, but can’t seem to find the right paths, no matter where they look.

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They are looking in the wrong places.  Maybe they don’t like the answers you’ve been giving. It doesn’t really matter where the pain is coming from.

If there is pain, our hearts break.

Perhaps you can’t even see the light with this one. 

You would just like a tiny spark of hope. 

Let this be that. 

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Know that God is good at what he does.  We don’t have to be him.  He’s got it.

Rest that child in his care, and take a rest, yourself. 

This is a weight too heavy to carry on your own.

If we love our children this much then how much more must God love them?

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Take hope from my broken and busted heart for my shattered child.  I had a drop of faith to believe God could do something.

That is all it takes, dear Momma.

He knows the beautiful soul of your child and all he was created to do and be.  God is big enough to restore it to completeness.  Nothing missing, nothing broken.  I held onto that for dear life! And I witnessed it in action just last night.

Why don’t you, too?

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Lessons Learned Along the Way

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Have you ever wanted a do-over? 

Maybe you think pushing a reset button would be a great idea!

Perhaps you aren’t happy with how life has turned out.  Maybe you feel disappointed.  Especially when you look at how time has passed and the days ahead don’t ring with anticipation.

Perhaps it’s your current job or friend circle that needs an overhaul…”show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” as the saying goes.

Or, maybe you see pruning or growth in your family that needs to be made.

I think this is normal.  I think life would be boring if we were never challenged to come up higher.

It’s time.

It’s time to make the changes.

Really, who wants to live frustrated for the next few years?

If you don’t make the necessary changes, you will be at this same spot this time next year!

Think about that.

Selah.

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Life is precious.  What are you going to do with this one, wild journey?

It doesn’t always require drastic changes.  Often times strategic tweaking can do the trick.  Interestingly enough, we already hold the keys to the changes we need.

All it takes is some old-fashioned courage and grit.

Change doesn’t come easily and it always comes with a price.  But, if the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of change, this is your moment!

Now, I realize change for some can come unexpectedly and may even be un-wanted.  But, instead of fighting it, how about embracing it?  My family is in the middle of the biggest life change since our early years. My goodness, this is life altering!

But, it is exhilarating!

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Here are five lessons I am learning as we journey through our transition.  I think they will help you as you reach forward.

Not everyone can make the journey with you.  And, that is okay.  And, you will be okay.  Let them go.  It hurts like heck, but, if you allow him to, God will help and heal.  If you can avoid burning bridges, I’d advise that.  But, sometimes, that can’t be helped either.  Just go in peace and forgive.  Live for the long-game.

Realize the past is a beautiful teacher.  Sometimes, it’s tempting to hate the past and the hurt that has come with it.  Even to the point of questioning the purpose of it all.  If there is pain involved, bitterness will set in.  Fight that! Fight it with all you have.  Remember the good and learn from the difficult.  Everything can be a teacher…if we let it.  Keep in mind the past is what is propelling you into this new era of change.

Change is good.  If everything stayed the same, we wouldn’t grow and become all we are destined to become.  Go with the flow.  Seek God on how he would have you respond to this change.  He gives only good gifts.  Remember the wonderful verse of Jeremiah 29:11.  God has great plans for your life.  Immerse yourself in the knowledge of this and be filled with gratitude.

Move forward in grace.  God will walk with you into this new place.  He has already gone before you.  If you are losing something, he will restore it in his beautiful way.  Take the grace you are carrying with you and share it with others.  People need to see your light and courage.  You in turn will inspire and encourage others.  Forgive what needs to be forgiven.  Release those that need released.  Bless those that need blessing.  Offer grace freely.

Stay in sync with God.  Change can be a confidence buster at times.  People around you may question your sanity or even try to sabotage your forward motion.  Keep closely tied to the One who loves you more than anybody else.  The One who knows your future days and works for your good.  Not everyone does.  That’s okay.  But, God is on your side.  He believes in you.

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We are well on our way to a beautiful new season.

I’m working to remember these hard-learned lessons and shepherd my Loves in this as well.  The change has been challenging, but honestly, I haven’t been happier!  I know God is with us.  My children are thriving.  We have more peace.  We don’t know how it will all look, but God is good.  He only ever has our very best in mind.  I look and see he has been behind us and is already ahead of us.

Take a deep breath. 

You know what needs to change. 

Inhale grace and walk in gratitude. 

Take the best first step and the next step after that.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is press the reset button.

You got this!

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Four Lessons I Needed to Learn

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So far this summer has been simply wonderful! 

There have been some great moments of relaxing and recharging…with plenty of celebrating thrown into the mix.  Graduations and anniversaries and young love.  The Reynolds’ are living the moments and dreaming of the future. 

Never mind it is July already! Somebody should slow the calendar down.  

I’m in the middle of learning life-changing lessons. I figure I write best about the things I have learned. I will throw this one out there first. 

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If you are so busy you cannot eat at home on a regular basis or are not able to stay on top of life’s basic demands, you are too busy.

It doesn’t seem very spiritual, but it is. I don’t share this to heap more mom guilt.  Lord knows, nobody needs that.  But, it is a sad realization I have come to.  Perhaps I’m the only one needing to learn this?

I know we all live full and complex lives.

But, I’m convinced meaningful life is not meant to be lived at hyper speed. So fast you can’t breathe or even think clearly.  That was my life six months ago. 

It wasn’t for a lack of money or resources to handle the responsibilities, it was lack of time. It wasn’t for the lack of skill in the kitchen. I figured if I just could pull it together better, at our speed of life, then all would fly straight. I have to admit, this pace didn’t even feel right, but what was I going to do?

I realize now (but, suspected then) the quality of life I was missing out on.  Yes, so many good things filled our time.  Serving others, leading productive ministries and raising well-rounded children. But, holy goodness.  It was not a healthy pace.

So, lesson number two–

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Sabbath, solitude and silence are essential to good living. 

I am experiencing the beauty of these practices.  What an ahhhh moment this has been for me.  Oxygen to my soul. I have to admit, it wasn’t by my own design.  Life just kind of worked out that way. I didn’t really have a choice.

But, it’s the best thing that has happened to us!

I’d like to encourage you to find simple ways to simplify and bring solitude and sabbath to your world. So much chaos is competing for our attention. These quiet moments are where we hear God the most clearly. 

Sabbath and solitude are the antidote to chaos.

A book is always helpful, I think.  The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski will challenge you. Check it out.

Let’s go for the third lesson.

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What you see is what you get.

Literally. 

Are you looking for God? 

Are you noticing He is right in front of you? 

Creation calls out to us and testifies of his presence.  If we are moving so fast we don’t even notice the world around us—the intricacy and detail of this physical creation passes us by.  Perhaps he made all of this just for us.  For our appreciation.  In order for us to understand him better. 

But, do you even get to enjoy it?  Appreciate it?  Value it?

I didn’t.  So much around me, yet, I flew past it and didn’t acknowledge the gift of creation and life.  Sometimes, the most spiritual thing I do is sit, take in a deep breath, close my eyes and sit.  That usually leads into contemplation and gratitude. Try it; you might like it!

And, here’s numero quatro.

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When people disappoint and hurt us or walk away OR when things come to an end and suffering and pain invade our lives, we can stand firm and serene.

We rest in the HOPE and the knowledge of who we are in Christ.

None of these things are irrevocable or will harm us permanently. No loss is lasting or defeat is final.

Life will bring pain. No doubt about that. These things are not the final declaration upon our lives. We know that the Kingdom of God will conquer it.

What do we need to do now, in this moment?

Pray,

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In this, rests our HOPE. Instead of focusing on the loss, pain and disappointment, focus on the gifts that have come. There are indeed many gifts.

I know I want to hear that still small voice. Christ speaks powerfully to my heart in the still small ways. It’s amazing how I can hear when I listen. 

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He has taken me on a journey of resting and healing. 

The thing is, I didn’t even realize I needed rest and healing.  But, he did. 

He intervened in my chaos and began setting it to right.  It’s amazing how in service to God and others, we can miss so much.  I certainly don’t even begin to think I’ve got a corner on God and all he has to reveal. 

That is why we all need, for our own sake, to stop, look and listen.

Those sacred habits I had started dropping, I now look forward to with so much anticipation. 

I know now that to sit quietly with a slowed heart and mind will yield blessing.    These are the gifts I’ve been given.  And, what gifts they are!

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The Gift of Confession

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I’m in the middle of a great book.  I recommend it.  The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski is an excellent book on spiritual renewal and growth. It’s not a speed-read.  It is thought-provoking and quite challenging.   I highly recommend it.

It digs deeper than the feel-goods I usually enjoy reading.  It explores beyond the typical, everyday sort of religious conversations into mapping out spiritual practice. 

Recently, I read a chapter on confession.  The practice of confession serving as a healing point for our hearts and minds.  In the particular religious construct I find myself a part of, confession is a private and personal moment between God and me.

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I wonder how many times, though, I am ashamed to truly confess or become too busy for true confession.  There are two components to confession.

One is coming clean before God and the other is coming clean before others. 

Can we really believe confession is beneficial? 

Frederick Buechner said,

“To confess your sins to God is not to tell him anything he doesn’t already know.  Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you.  When you confess them, they become the bridge.”

This is powerful.  I often find that I too often offer blanket confession before God. 

Sometimes, a one-size-fits-all type of confession. “Lord, forgive my sin.”  There is beauty in this, but I have to think it isn’t always enough. It is good to be specific and honest with ourselves and with God.  I have noticed when I am open and honest, my openness to His work on my behalf increases. 

In recent months, when I have been honest about my sin, say of unforgiveness, and I name it for what it is and ask for His help in conquering it, I notice a change in me.  I see His hand working and sense He is ready to help. 

Honestly, I miss this too often.  I get busy or lose track, but He is showing me His faithfulness every time. 

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Let’s take this one step further. 

Can you imagine how our spiritual and mental health would improve if we were able to make confession to someone safe as well?  To be able to safely unload our shame.  And in this way, not carrying our burden alone. 

The Bible speaks of confessing our sins to one another. 

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How many of us ever feel safe enough to confess any of our shortcomings and sins to other people?  Our culture is too caught up in having it together. And, let’s face it, often, we know our sin can and will be used against us.  

Many times we find the self-righteous Believers among us and this quickly shuts down the conversation.  But, I want us to consider true confession as a pathway to a whole and sound life.

 This is where our self-righteousness (in ourselves and towards others) needs to fall by the wayside. God sees our suffering in sin as like a cancer.  It is eating away at us and must be handled.  It is not out of vengeance or anger He looks upon us, but, it is with compassion and mercy.  He knows it is killing us. 

And, He has the cure.

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He hates sin.  He hates the death it is bringing.  He doesn’t hate us. 

In His love, He is calling us to Him so He can heal us and make us whole.  So, confession, while initially seems vulnerable and unpleasant, is the answer to our pain. Pulling our sin out of the darkness and flushing it with light, destroys the hold it has over us.  The enemy of our souls thrives in the dark; secret sins have no power over us when they are brought into the light.

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Our sin, which causes a breach, will soon become the bridge after we open wide our hearts to Him and His inspection.  As a recovering perfectionist, I hate to be wrong or make mistakes.  Not just because it means I am wrong, but because, it means somewhere in this heart of mine, I am flawed. 

I don’t like being flawed.  But, I am.  We all are. 

This Savior sees and knows our weakness and failings.  Let’s be honest and open with Him and with the safe people in our lives.  Healing comes when we open our hearts and sweep out the junk we’ve swept into a corner.

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Up and Coming

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I’m not interested in going back.

I choose to live in the future.  Our lives are meant to be faced forward, not dwelling  on past days.

Ahhh, it’s easy to remember the good old days. 

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I find myself tempted by that option. Goodness. My kids are growing up and I’m not as young as I used to be.  There are loads of happy memories and experiences to wander through.  But, I’m not camping out.

What was is done. 

What God gave then–I hold with such fondness so many beautiful gifts.  I love my kids and all their lives mean to me and all those beautiful memories.

But, to stay there is not life.  Life is best lived moving forward. 

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Some folks get caught in the golden memories.  The way things were. 

The answers and miracles and fondness of memories.  I just wonder, though, if by refusing to move forward, what we are really saying is God can not be trusted.  He will not do equal wonders in the future.  They will certainly look different, but they will be no less awe-inspiring.

I choose forward.

God has great things planned for the future.  The future days excite me!

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A new day calls for new ways (Let me be clear—not new truth.) Perhaps to not move forward feels safest and gives a more solid footing. God has future plans that are bigger and brighter than those of the past.  If we stay in the past, we miss the opportunity of bringing along the new people here today. 

The prophet told us clearly,

“God has a plan for our future.  Good plans.  Plans of hope and peace.”

God is always working with the future in mind. 

That was the whole point of Christ’s coming.

photo-1440999189875-aec750e026f4It’s easy to get caught up in the swooning over past memories.  We tend to clean up and spruce up many of our memories.  Sometimes we revise the history in our minds.  Time is an equalizer.  Anyhow, it is no longer with us.

I choose a forward moving life.

It’s a new day.  What was is over. 

Hopefully, I have learned what I can from the past and will be able to carry it into the future. There is such beauty and peace walking into the future knowing God has me.  I am His. 

Give me forward facing folks anytime. 

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They understand the path is not charted and could get bumpy. 

We don’t live in a utopian frame of mind.  We know, because of experience, God is present regardless of bumps and roadblocks.  If I have learned anything over the last years is God never leaves.  Never.  I fought that battle in my mind years ago, and now carry that hard-won truth with me into the future.

I wonder.  Do people not think God will be present if they move forward?  I imagine there could be that fear.  But, that truth has to be won…even fought for…in our hearts.  Better to learn this sooner, rather than later!

Forward.

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It is the seeking of what lies ahead. 

Refusing to be held back by what may have worked or not have worked in the past. Not insisting I do it my way.  Holding firmly to the belief that God is a God of wonders and mystery. Actively seeking a forward moving mindset.

It isn’t saying the past is invalid. 

photo-1444011283387-7b0f76371f12It is saying, “I am good with the past.  I am at peace with the past. But, I am excited at what God yet has for me.”  Pretty simple.

I won’t be defined by the past, but merely informed by and beautifully shaped by it. 

The gifts I carry into the future are beautiful and costly.  Rare and exquisite gifts.  Gifts obtained by tears and prayers and even some sweat and blood.  And, I hold dearly to these gifts as I move forward. 

I am moving forward! 

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