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.

  (Lamentations 3:24-26)photo-1474572522289-b09bbcaa9284

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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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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Hiding

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This past week the reminders have been quite vivid and stir my soul.  When God works, he does an amazing job.  He unceasingly works on our behalf and I must stop and call attention to his handiwork.

I am amazed when I witness the tender loving care of a Father who knows exactly what we long for and desperately need.  Our need and pain are not lost on him.  When we relinquish control of our will and plans and rely totally on him, he speaks to our need.  We may not even know exactly what it is we need, but he does.

What a loving, personal God. 

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He could have set this world in motion and stepped aside to see what we could come up with.  Watching from a distance.  And waiting. But he didn’t.

And, most certainly, we make a mess out of things.  Our pain comes from our own hands or from selfish desires around us.

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No matter the depth of our brokenness and regardless of how far scattered the pieces of our hearts, his beautiful grace works a breathtaking miracle.  If we let him.  When it is the easiest to hide and shelter our hearts, that is when we must step into the light.

Vulnerable and available.  

He longs to bless and comfort and mend the broken shreds.  But, so often we shrink into the shadows.  People hurt.  Rejection screams.  Loss tears and rips at the fiber of our souls.  And we lay in a heap.  Broken. Devastated. Wounded. Desperate.

Desperate for a loving grace that brings healing.

Truly, desperate to be known, and yet loved.

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He knows our weakness and our vulnerability.  How desperate we are for him.  He longs for us.  He seeks us out.  He searches and finds us.

Do we hide because we are undone and naked?  Who of our fathers and mothers was that again?

Are we the only ones?  Are we walking in the company of a great swell of witnesses? Those who have walked through shadows cheer us on.

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What do we lose if we quit?  Who remains lost because we refused to be known?  He knows and sees anyway.  All is already clear to him anyway.

Why do we feel the need to hide?

He has healing in his hands.  Pours out the oil of gladness and a peace that no man can conjure.  In my depths, I look up for hope.  He is our hope waiting along with peace and joy.  Healing.

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What man and the snake intended for evil, all will be made right.

The gift of the cross made right our broken souls.

It made clear what the serpent sought to do.  Death was in the serpent’s lie.  Death is the tongue and jealous desires of man.  But, no man can ever separate us from the Love of God.  No schemes or plans can ever cause our release from his grip.

It’s a grip.  A grip of grace, of love, of hope, of joy.

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Hiding causes us to miss it.  In the moments of hiding and closing off our hearts, God holds the remedy.  A salve only found in him.

He does all things well.

The Psalmist of long ago cried out with such beauty and desperation I feel it in the depths of my soul:

“I think about the heavens.

    I think about what your fingers have created.

I think about the moon and stars

    that you have set in place.

What are human beings that you think about them?

What is a son of man that you take care of him?”

(Psalm 8:3,4)

Yes! That is me!  My human self!

My micro self in the sight of a macro God. There is awe in the reality.

  Why in the world should I hide? 

I am known by him and yet I am desperately loved.

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I’m not a burden or disappointment. Ever.

I am my beloveds; he is mine.

And, you, too.  Created and kissed by God.  He created us and called us good.

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I am safest when I hide in his hand.

Not hiding from his hand.

Healing is in those hands.  For he has engraved us upon his palms.

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A Grand Design(er)

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“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Ain’t that the truth?

How many times have you looked around at the details of your life and wondered?  Wonder what it all meant.  It’s often for me!  I imagine if we were all sitting around talking over coffee, we could attest to the fact that there is quite a bit different from what we ever imagined for ourselves.  Perhaps there are plenty of unanswered questions.

When you are young, you’re not sure what this life will hold and what the painting of your life will look like.  You often have hopes and dreams and plans.  And yet, the twists and turns many times lead us on adventures we never anticipated.  Some good; some less than stellar.  But, they are your journey.  And as Jesus followers, He takes the canvas and paints a beautiful picture out of the pieces and parts.

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Your picture is beyond beautiful.

He has shaded in hues and tones and textures you hadn’t even thought of.  I know that’s the case with me.  So many times the twists and turns seemed like detours and dead ends.  Some looked ominous and scary; some looked bright and brilliant!  And all blended together, a masterpiece is created. A one-of-a-kind original!

We are focused on the grit and grind. The battle scars and worn out spots.  We wonder what the heck this is all going to look like at the end. He sees around the curves and bends in the road.  He sees the light shimmering in the trees just beyond the rocky terrain.

So, rest assured.  He has a plan.  We don’t win a prize for working ourselves into a frenzy trying to figure it out. 

His ways are not ours.  He orders our steps.  

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My oldest, who has just finished his second year of college, changed his major once again.  This is awesome!  I’m proud of him.

A year ago, he took a leap of faith and followed a path that was beyond scary for him, but felt compelled to launch into.  During this last semester, he began to question his purpose and calling.  He knew what he wanted, but just didn’t know if it would work or was even doable.  After thinking long and hard, facing some tough questions, and seeking solid advice, he was shown a way to do both.  And seamlessly!

He doesn’t have all the details or plans worked through.  But, he is learning his purpose. He’s on his journey. I couldn’t have asked for more from or for him. It looks amazingly different from anything he would have planned for.  And that is beautiful!

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His masterpiece will look vibrant and lively and multidimensional. And who knows the plot twists and detours and roadblocks he will face.  But, that is all part of the portrait. God’s ways are higher than ours.  Our thoughts, however masterful and wise, can never match the all-knowing heart of God.

And, I’m fine with that.

I don’t understand it all.  There is much that is unexplained and confusing in my own journey.  I don’t necessarily like everything I see.  But, there is beauty in it.  And I will leave it at that.

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So, rest assured.  He has a plan.  And it’s the most amazing and breathtaking masterpiece you could NEVER imagine on your own. 

His ways are not ours.

Let go of your preconceived ideas and even the disappointments.  There is no life in that.

But, there is exquisite beauty in walking by faith and not by sight.

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Raise Them Strong

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The other day my youngest and I were out and about with friends and headed to the zoo.  I’m not sure what the girls were even talking about.  But you know tweens. They talk, laugh, and giggle at just about anything and everything.

We were headed down the interstate and I hear mine say,

“Life is severe!”

I can’t remember anything else she said after that.  That got my attention.

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She’s 12.  And, life has proven to be severe for her.  Now, in all good perspective, I understand we aren’t sitting in a cancer ward, or at a funeral home, or living in a war-torn village.  All things considered, it is an overall blessed life.  But, for her, it has had some challenges.

She has had to walk away from a community that she has known since she was four-years-old without barely a goodbye.  This was where she realized her passions and had some dear and strong friendships.  This community had become incredibly personal to her and the center of much of her life.  Her father’s job was over and she was soon cut off from many she considered family. Her world was turned upside down over night and a once safe place, was no longer safe.

She has faced anxiety about her future and the loss of the only world she really knew.    Unfortunately, she has learned tough lessons on rejection and betrayal, grief and loss.

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I’ve been thinking about my children and how, as a parent, I have gifts I need to give them.  After some of the things we have been through lately, resilience is one of the very best I can give.

It’s not something I can bestow upon their heads by tapping a diamond encrusted wand and sprinkling some pixie dust.  Now, wouldn’t that be a trick!  So much cooler…and easier!  But, alas, this gift doesn’t come that way.  But, its value almost can not be measured.

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“Life can be severe, but you will make it!  You will be just fine.”

One of the worst things I can do is kill myself making everything work out exactly so to my children’s specifications and requests.  Because, life happens.  Jobs change, you don’t always make the team, the doctor’s report comes back ugly and scary, you aren’t always the chosen favorite, and sometimes people walk away.

As a young adult, I  had my first taste of hardship.  No matter how hard we tried, things didn’t seem to go our way.  Instead of the Midas touch of gold we had the leaden touch.  It was quite a rude awakening.  Up to that point, we had enjoyed lots of success in college and things ran quite smoothly.

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I know there are many who learn hard lessons way too early.  Much earlier than anyone would ever wish.  But, I grew up in an upper middle class, church attending, two-parent household, with a younger brother, a dog, and a cat.  Everything, pretty much, except the picket fence.

So, you can imagine my shock and fear when I was faced with significant hardship for the first time.  I was a young married pastor’s wife starting a church from scratch.  It was tough.  We barely made enough to live, much less bring another human into the world.  Yet, we did.

It wasn’t an easy path.  Fast forward 15 years and unknown to us, a whole new level of hard was stretching out ahead of us.  Yet, this time, we had three very impressionable, young humans in tow.

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When they were younger, we could protect and shield them from much of it.  But, now, not so much.  They are smart and perceptive.

I get discouraged when I begin to think through questions that rattle through my brain.  I feel a panic that threatens to scorch my heart.

Why do my kids have to experience such things?  

Why do they have to experience loss, rejection and betrayal?

So many things I didn’t have to experience until adulthood.  

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But, here is the next question.

Why not?

Self pity rises up and threatens to suck the life and light out of everything if we don’t ask this simple question.

Why not? 

Who are we to expect to escape hardship?

Seriously.  Jesus said we would have trouble, but to take heart, because we can overcome because of Him.

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So, as unpleasant as it is, we have to face the truth.  We are not exempt.  Our great hope comes, however, from our great source.  We live in this fallen world.  But, we are journeying towards the other side.  Bumps, bruises, scars and all.  We are stronger, smarter, wiser, tougher and more resilient than ever.  We have a story to tell.

A story of a God who walked through the desperate darkness with us.  Church hurt is excruciating.  Being wounded in the house of our friends is a tough pain to swallow.  As, a mom, I would give anything to protect my children.

There is much we can shield them from, but you can’t shield them from life.  

If we want to raise strong, emotionally healthy adults, we teach them how to walk through pain and disappointment.  It is better to learn how to be strong and resilient early in life.  You are then equipped to walk this life out with grace.  These aren’t lessons merely talked about, but lived out day by day.

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I have met some of the most open, grace-filled, and loving people in the last few weeks.  They are becoming our new community.  These people have been through about as much as we have—maybe more.  But, they are good, kind, big-hearted people.  They know what it means to travel through the hard, dark places and come out stronger on the other side.

That’s what I want to be.  And that is what I want my children to see.

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Time to Get Off the Merry-Go-Round

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God is teaching me. He’s teaching me something important.

All those worries and cares and concerns. Those problems without ready solutions. The struggles and disappointments. They are all real. Very real.

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But, the question He is posing to my heart is,

“Where is your focus? Is it on all of that stuff

or is it on Me?”

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Yes. That is the question rolling around in my heart and mind today.

It’s not like I haven’t had to ask this and learn it before.  But, here we are.  He’s brought out the big guns this go around.  This may be the biggest lesson in trusting God I have had to walk through.

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I find I am weighed down with concerns and worries.  As a Momma, I have three souls I am locked into.  I watch and listen.

Remember when your babies were newborn, fresh from heaven, tucked into the cradle? Did you listen to and watch those babies breathe? I feel like that is where I am with my Loves even now.  It just comes from deep inside of me.

Last night I realized I am tired.

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I constantly roll around in my head all the concerns, trying to work out solutions.  My brain runs from one issue to the next.  And round and round it goes. Like a merry-go-round, my brain spins and spins.  It wears me out.  Because for these situations, there are no easy, quick answers.

I do believe it is the most bone wearying tired.

To carry burdens you were never intended to carry.  Running around plugging holes, propping up the sides that start to sag, stitching up wear and tear. Running and running…round and round.  I get one thing fixed and then something new pops up.

It makes me tired.  And weary.

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So, God is asking me an incredibly important question.

Am I focusing on the long list of worries or am I looking to Him?

The view is quite tiring if it’s the list of concerns.  But, if I am looking to Him, I gain strength.

Today, as I was taxi for my baby girl, I was tired.  Some things didn’t turn out as I would have liked today.  Dealing with a chronic illness with one my Loves, my Momma’s heart hurt.  I was disappointed for him.  I was desperately working to look at this new information with a glass full approach.

And as I drove, I imagined having a serving tray.

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As I drove, I loaded each concern on the tray and imagined handing it over to God.  Piled high.  A real “here ya go, God!”

Why was I feeling like I had to come up with solutions?  His answers would be better suited anyway.   They would be custom fitted and tailor-made specifically for each situation.  Why did I feel as if everything was resting on me?  That I am responsible to make all the answers and solutions and resolutions happen.

Crazy making that is!

And, oh, what a weight!

It’s just too much for one heart to carry.  I was never created to carry and fix and solve them! Yet, I had taken on that burden on my own.

Was it because I didn’t think I could trust Him to come through?  Or was it because I have an insatiable need for control?  I guess it doesn’t matter why.  It’s just not mine to carry.photo-1453224424525-aeb893f2f1ca

Sunday night our pastor referred to Isaiah 53.

4 “Surely he has borne our griefs

    and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

    smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed.”

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Actually, the entire chapter is a beautiful perspective changer during this Holy Week.  If you haven’t read it in a while, you should.  But, my attention centers on these two verses.  He bore all of our sin and shame and endured it all to death.  He carried the weight and died our death so we wouldn’t have to.

And even yet, He wants to carry our grief, sorrows and cares.  He is intimately acquainted with our anxiety and pain.  He was beaten beyond human recognition for our very lives…for our salvation and healing.  Why would we not want to entrust Him with all things?  If He carried that, will He not carry those things we care about?

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So, as I reflect on this passage and the beauty of 

Christ and all He has done for me, 

He has shown me I am not capable 

of carrying around this load on my own.  

He is my sorrow bearer.  

It’s cool when the pieces of His teaching start to come together.

I know this is a lesson I have learned in the past, but seem to occasionally forget.   We have to be reminded…and often.  He loves us enough and is patient enough to do just that.

I am grateful.

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What’s That Noise?

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There is so much noise.

Everywhere.

Do you ever get tired of it?

Do you ever just wish it would stop?

I do.

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There are opinions from all corners of the globe.  They run 24 hours a day.

Constant, instant, unsolicited and often discouraging.  Anywhere, anytime, about anything.

Oh, there is beneficial and helpful information out there.  But, I dare say, I know I open my heart too often to the negative and non-life giving chants of society.  And it is anything but helpful!

What can we do to protect ourselves from the noise and chaos?

  1.  Set boundaries.
  2. Unplug.
  3. Meditate.
  4. Focus on others.

To be quite honest, I struggle with most of these.  It is almost impossible to shut out this flow of unending information.  But, these are some helpful steps to eliminating the noise pollution in our worlds.

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Setting boundaries.  This simply means guarding your heart and mind. What do you subscribe to?  What groups and people do you follow on social media?  Do they uplift and support your values?  If not, clean out your pages and feeds.  Only allow access into your heart and mind, voices of life and wisdom.  You are going to have to replace the negative with the positive.

Unplug.  I am terrible at this one.  My mother has even pled with me to give it a try.  I unplugged the other day for several hours while on vacation.  I had to be brave and make the jump at my husband’s insistence.  I am way too attached to the constant scrolling and observing and mind numbing. But, I did it and it was wonderful!  And, I learned I could make it just fine.  I will do it again.

Meditate.  We have to make a specific and concentrated effort to stop and listen to Christ.  He has instruction and guidance and wisdom we need each day.  I struggle to stop and quiet my heart.  There are too many times I run through my day hoping to get it right.  I too often fly solo without having taken the time regroup and recharge.  I run on old information.

Focus on others.  When we focus on other people and help them, we don’t have time to feed our souls with junk.  When we serve, we are more like Christ.  When we give to others, we aren’t searching for false validation from voices that haven’t earned the right to speak into our lives.  As we give to others, we will find we need to have something to give away.   We have to take away the negative and replace that emptiness with the positive.

Sometimes the opinions and narratives I tell myself create the chaos and noise. 

When I have consumed a steady diet of lies or negativity, I retell myself this same stuff.  We believe everything we tell ourselves.

A little scary, isn’t it?

I know I am guilty of tearing myself down.  I listen to the stream of negativity as a captive audience.

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Not the right weight.

Not smart enough.

Not strong enough.

Not good enough.

Not doing enough.

Bad mom.

Terrible at homeschooling.

Failure.

Rejected.

Disorganized mess……………………….

And, if I’m not careful, the list runs on and on.  I wouldn’t allow someone else to fill my world, or anyone else’s, with that kind of noise.  Why do I sit by and allow it for my own heart?

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Honestly, it takes hard work to fight and resist. 

It takes following the four steps to bring quiet out of the chaos of our world.  Do the hard work.  We can’t speak life and peace to our own hearts and minds if we are surrounded with negative images and noise.  Otherwise, we won’t make room for the life Christ wants to give.

I need to be mindful of the voices I listen to and allow in my world.

I am so worth it

and so are you!

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Life is Beautiful!

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During these last few months, I have been on quite a learning curve.  If I’m honest, I have to say I recommend a mid-life plot twist and I don’t!  It’ll be the ride of your life!

But, really.

Just imagine going back to graduation—high school or college—just as a young whipper snapper.  With all sorts of possibilities and the world as your oyster, you look with anticipation toward all your options.  That is where we are.  And it is breathtakingly beautiful and scary–all at the same time!

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I remember a couple of years back being envious of my oldest as he was setting off for his first year at university.  So much youthful excitement and a no holds barred approach–I was envious. 

I was so excited for him and all the unscripted future had for him.  I remembered what it was like to have your whole life ahead of you.  So much hope and promise.  So much anticipation to follow new paths and dreams!

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And, now, here I am.  I am ready.

I have spent 25 years of ministry serving as a pastor’s wife.  I use to tell my Love, I love being his wife, no doubt about that.   Just maybe not a “pastor’s wife” sometimes.  I learned much and gave everything I had.  The role comes with difficult tasks.  With some cool opportunities and blessings thrown in along the way, too.  Now, though, I am ready to do new things…serve in a different way.

Our new beginning is before us.

Given to us as a gift.

Staring into the sunshine, the road is wide open in front of us.

Only this time I have three world-changers in tow.  This road we chose over 25 years ago, has presented them with many unique challenges and opportunities.  Each child has processed and walked them out differently.

As I sit and look at the bright and shining future, we have these amazing kids to guide and shepherd.  This time around, it is not a solitary journey or private decision to be made.  Change is hard for even the strongest of us. I have no doubt God has a beautiful future for each in my tribe.  We just have to guide them into this bright new future.

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Shepherding.

That was the word God gave me for this season with my babies (they will always be my babies.  can we just agree to let me call them that?  just humor me!)  Even with all the excitement of a bright future the transitioning has been challenging.  More so for some than others.  Loss is hard.  But God is greater.

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My Love and I must shepherd our children well through this transition.

 We have a responsibility to guide our children through the shadows.  Through the tears.  The goal is to get EVERYONE to the other side.  I told my youngest Little,

“In this family, we are all for one, and one for all”.

We stop and sit with, pick up and carry, hold the hand, give love and receive love.  We shepherd our children through the pain of rejection, loss, betrayal, and disappointment.

No one will be left behind.

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I have always hated the pre-flight airline spiel about putting your own mask on first and then your children’s.  I understand the logic and know it is best.  But, my overly compassionate self screams, “I will put their’s on first, thank you very much!” But, that doesn’t really make sense, does it?

So, I have decided I am in a similar spot in my life.  It is time for me to get my oxygen mask on first and then I can administer life breath to them.

These world-changers deserve the very best I can give them.

There is wisdom to give and hope to share.  There are dreams to help them dream.  There is a future brighter than anything of the past.  Even with all the beauty we did experience, there is more to be had.

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I need something to give to them.  So, here is what I am going to do to strengthen myself.

  • Exercise and build physical strength. 
  • Write…which is following my own dream.
  • Give creative Bible journaling a try.
  • Attend weekly worship at a safe and loving church.
  • Read for enjoyment and growth.
  • Stay accountable to wisdom.

There it is.

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I have been busy working hard to keep my family between the ditches…putting out fires, battling fears and wiping tears.  Because, sometimes life just hurts.  All of that is incredibly important.

But, now it is time for me to get out of that defensive position and into the intentional, offensive position.

Now, here is the next important piece of the puzzle.

My Love is leading spiritually intentional and strategic discussions during dinner on Wednesday evenings. 

With a preteen and a teenager in the house, it can’t get too serious or stifling.  But, God gave this idea as the perfect way for us to shepherded them.  Like most moms, I do much of the crisis management throughout the days; one of Dad’s roles is to give purposeful direction.  They need his voice and strength cloaked in velvet.

 We will not allow the negative to win.  We will not leave anyone behind.  We have bright future days.  I will not live on the defensive, but work from a place of intention and strength.  For what the enemy means for destruction, God transforms into beauty.  He will shepherd us.  We only need to cooperate.

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Unexpected Graces

 

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Well, here I am sitting in the saddle.  It feels good!  I have missed this place! I’m glad to be back.

It’s been a rough and tumble couple of months since I last sat down.  When I took a break right before Christmas, I never anticipated the journey I would embark upon.  Frankly, it was like someone gave a monkey a match.  It has been quite a ride.

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I needed this time to regroup and set my heart and mind right.  I have been too afraid to write, honestly.  Afraid of what just might come out.  But, it is time.  And, I am grateful.

In an effort to cope with our pain and lighten the mood, our family began to refer to this season as a “plot twist”.   In stark reality, our lives have dramatically changed.  Due to painful circumstances, my Love resigned his position at the church we pastored for over seven years.  Sometimes, it is just time to move on.  There comes a time when you realize the odds are not in your favor and for everyone’s sake, you have to make an exit.  You just hope to do so with grace.

I do believe it has been one of the most hurtful seasons we have experienced in life and ministry.  After 25 years, we have experienced our share of disappointments and set backs.  But, this, by far, was the one of the biggest gut punches of them all.  The only other to compare would be the sexual abuse of our son by a trusted friend and church worker.

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I have learned quite a few lessons in our time here in Virginia.  Some are pretty tough.  But all have been for my good.

Our time in Virginia has been anything but easy.  We have endured some losses.  But, I also can look and see some beautiful gains.  I would be shallow if I didn’t recognize them.

A few years back I began my own One Thousand Gifts journey.  It was a life saver, really. Each day I would count out my gratitude, line by line.  I am beginning a new one.  It’s important to remember the gifts from our journeys.  If not, it could get terribly discouraging!  So, it is time.  Time to refocus my attention.

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One lesson I’ve learned is, “God gives good gifts.”  Some seasons we just have to look a little harder.  Many times they are hard gifts.  I look back at our journey…it is unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever experienced…yet, I still find beauty in the charred rubble.

Light only shines through cracked vessels. 

So, when people ask me if I had known then what I know now, would I still have relocated to Virginia, I’m never sure how to answer.  In the natural, it does not seem worth it.  We have paid quite a high price.  We certainly didn’t know all we were taking on.

Truthfully, I don’t like that question at all.  My first instinct is to scream NO, of course not!

Injustice,

hatred,

jealousy,

abuse,

unfair expectations,

rejection,

financial loss,

illness,

anxiety and depression,

plots and schemes,

abandonment,

betrayal.

Who would?

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When I look at that list of pain, it would seem hardly worth it.  I could easily drown in that sea of loss and hurt.  I do see, however, the gifts from God’s hand that He gave in the middle of such ugly hard.

So, I choose to look at the gifts.  It is time. 

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Friendships,

children discovered their gifting,

memories made,

bound family ties,

new dreams inspired,

spiritual growth,

loyalty,

a sweet canine companion,

hope,

peace,

increased faith,

grace from unexpected places,

deep kindness,

lessons learned,

lives changed,

wisdom,

provision,

protection,

opportunity,

divine encouragement.

I am most certain I have forgotten many other blessings.

I have a sneaky suspicion I am not alone in this listing.  We are not unique.

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We all have experienced our share of pain and loss.  I simply refuse to get stuck here.  I don’t want to live in the muck and mire.  I will not suffer needlessly.  I want free of it.  And, the only place I know to start is with gratitude. 

Christ does not promise a trouble-free life.  No, indeed.

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This world is fallen and is coming undone.  People disappoint.  No amount of dancing can undo that fact.  But, I have learned something else.

Light shines out of my broken places.

God is mending in such a way that light will warmly glow and draw others in.  They will meet Him there.  It isn’t about pretending to have it all together.  No one understands such living.  It is a fairy tale and too great a weight to drag around.

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So, once again, I have picked up pen and tablet and will scribe my gratitude.

I won’t forget our pain, for it has left a mark.  But, mostly I will remember with a heart of gratitude all God is and was to me in the pain.  The strong arms that have held and carried.  I will remember.  All that was meant for my harm, is turned to good.  Nothing can ever take me from His hand.

That is what I will remember.  That will be my focus.  There is beauty to out-sing the ugly.  For it is well with my soul.

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Christmastime–Oh Holiest Night

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Christmastime is a great reminder.

The candles are lit and sparkling beside the nativity.  They focus my mind.  No doubt we have fancied and freshened that holy night so long ago.

My nativity.  Each piece set in just the right spot.  I love these earthy colored pieces I have collected over the years.  I have several Christmas collections, from Santas to Nutcrackers to reindeer.  But this one?   It speaks to my heart in such a deep way.   Recently, I have begun adding my Advent candles to the display.  I’m so glad I have!  There is such a deep, beautiful peace residing in this scene.  It draws me in.

Have you ever gone through something so challenging you felt as if you lost God?  Or, maybe you thought, He just left.  Circumstances and pain erect a barrier so dense it is hard to sense any Presence?

I have.  It was the darkest, scariest period of my life.  Everything I believed seemed in question and the pain threatened to choke all hope from my heart.  Sometimes that happens in life.  He warned us it would come.  We all face trouble at some point.  We are often surprised, shocked, and even, disabled by it.   I was struggling.

But, here today, I don’t want to focus on that.  Just believe me when I say it was a dark night of the soul.  Even in that darkest moment, a miracle flicker of light began to shine through.  When I was feeling God had left me, He spoke to me loudly and clearly.

I knew then and there He does not leave us or turn His back on us.  Our pain in the darkness often hides the light, but He remains by our side.  Where was I looking?

I was distracted by the pain.  I lost sight of Him.

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He is amazing that way.  This giving of the greatest gift.

Christmas is the greatest reminder of the greatest love.  Yes, He came on that holy night for us.  But, it is a beautiful reminder to me He came and He never leaves.  Joy and hope flutter to life in my heart when I sit and remember how He is forever with me.

Our lives crash into the world’s agenda and, inevitably, pain and hurt comes.

Real, life-altering pain.  Chaos and crises run rampant.  But, we can rest in the knowing He is with us.

Ann Voskamp said in her book, The Greatest Gift “No matter what intends to harm you…God is never absent, never impotent, never distant.  You can never be undone.”  That thing that was meant to destroy you and make you think God no longer sees or cares, will not be your end.  In fact, He has a great way of taking all the broken, ugly bits and turning them into the most beautiful creation.

God will use it to set you apart from the crowd.

Yes, the lion roars and speaks lies of hopelessness and desertion and death.  But, God.  He intends no such thing.  I don’t believe all things happen for a reason.  It just doesn’t work.  But, I do believe He takes all things thrown our way and will redeem them for our good.  Now, that works.

And, while He is at it, He stays right there with us.

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The JOY to come from such a realization is priceless.  So, sitting here looking at my nativity and thinking of days gone by and the ones yet to come, I can rest in the knowledge I am never lost, forgotten or abandoned.

His very coming is proof.  Proof of His abiding love.

Such joy comes from realizing no matter what comes my way, He’s got me.  No scheme of man or evil plan will ever remove me from His hand.  So, allow this Christmastime to set this truth in your heart.  Every time you see a nativity, allow it to remind you of His never-ending presence in your life that was made possible because of that holiest of nights.

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