Encouragement, Dear Momma

photo-1469975696786-49748c495f56

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.

wVlfnlTbRtK8eGvbnBZI_VolkanOlmez_005

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.

14054185_10210855020998112_7515855168696227332_n

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.

photo-1414759030024-7889df4b20f4

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.

14034846_10210854972356896_2482572510453164206_n

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with b3 preset

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.

dPfjQTyJSJ2LpM7D9Yr0_Photo 15-02-2014

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!

her-tears-grey-puddle

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.

photo-1455368109333-ebc686ad6c58

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. 

12295413_10208592749962750_7471772614596069674_n

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?

photo-1451342695181-17c97b85aab4

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?

photo-1444167827109-712640e22c8e

Advertisements

Hiding

photo-1448216118999-7a3f98dc37f2

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. 

photo-1465264232362-381617a86af6-1

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.

photo-1443994450376-d67ed1937914

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.

photo-1447878279155-652113af70d3

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.

photo-1445510861639-5651173bc5d5

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.

photo-1461337164761-2124f78ecc21

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.

photo-1442810030476-6d83b45a1094

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.

photo-1444401045234-4a2ab1f645c0

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.

photo-1451342695181-17c97b85aab4

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.

photo-1455642305367-68834a1da7ab

Getting Through The Storm

This week we have a friend of mine–a fellow blogger, Nicolette Pennisi, at https://thesoignesoul.wordpress.com–joining in with a guest post. Nicolette is a recent add to my world, but she has quickly found a dear, sweet spot in my heart.  A young adult, a Senior at Regent University, she has a mature, yet sensitive soul. Thanks for stopping by this week. I know you will enjoy her perspective.

photo-1459427601922-b0701209fb27

Last week, Amberly wrote an insightful post on the Lord being the Great Designer of our lives. Walking by faith and not by sight is something that even the most seasoned believer has to be reminded of. This involves having faith during our sun-filled seasons and our torrential downpour seasons.

It seems the biggest confusion amongst new (and even mature) believers is the concept of following Christ on smooth road. It seems easy to follow Christ when we’re feeling the blessings of clear skies and calm waves. The minute the clouds cover and the waves clash about, my faith can falter. Often I find myself thinking my salvation is a guarantee for an effortless life, when I find that it’s the exact opposite.

photo-1443948308135-d57fc66de368

Your storms are meant to sprout you not stunt you.

Relationships start off positive. Never do we expect there to be any troubles because how could we ever disagree with the person we find wonderful from the start? Our relationship with Christ starts off on a high note: we are diligent in reading, praying, and worshipping.

We are hopelessly in love with our Savior. But just like our earthly relationships, our relationship with God is meant to grow. After I experience a hardship in a relationship, often that relationship is stronger prior to the complication. Christ expects that after our trials.

IMG_7745[1]

When Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8, verse 23 tells us that the disciples followed Him into the boat. The next verse tells us that a storm arose while they were out at sea; the tempest wasn’t present when they came on. It was easy for them to willingly follow when there was no difficulty in sight. The moment the storm came, they allowed their fear to consume them. I bet they questioned why they even got in that boat in the first place. If they had known there was going to be turbulence, I’m sure they wouldn’t have placed a step on there.

photo-1447655513720-7da85ed1fa57

When difficulty arises, I question my choices in the same way. Had I known I was going to face the trials that I have, I wouldn’t have gone into certain situations. Some difficulties derive from bad choices and some are simply the result of following after Christ. What we fail to realize is the minute we follow Christ, a storm arises. That is, immediately, there is spiritual warfare being fought. The last thing Satan wants is for us to devote our lives to Jesus. He will do anything to deter us from our final destination.

photo-1440999189875-aec750e026f4

Salvation salvages your eternal destination and your earthly dilemmas.

If Christ is big enough to save us from Hell, He can surely handle our problems. In the midst of the storm, Jesus was asleep while the disciples were freaking out! Jesus knew it was coming. God knows the difficulties we will face, but He uses those to grow us into a beautifully new creation in Him. It’s up to us to choose to “walk by faith and not by sight.” Trusting in Christ is the only way for us to sail through all storms of life. Our faith will be made stronger through these.

photo-1460753311952-cf4606955685

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

His victorious right hand will lead us through. Just as Christ rebuked the winds and the sea, He will do the same when we put our complete trust in Him. We can’t allow our fears to keep us from doing so.

photo-1416163026265-0bc340a710e4

Jesus’ glory is bigger than your fear.

“And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:27.

When Christ calms our storm, you will stand in awe of it.

photo-1462733441571-9312d0b53818-3

When we go through the fire, we are purified and are strengthened after it. It sheds away the new to reveal the new and improved. At the end of it all, we have nothing left but to praise our Savior for making it through.

Jesus told us that He overcame the world so that we may have a greater life. To live a greater life is to walk faithfully with Christ, letting Him rebuke the storms that may come our way.

photo-1445090909078-0217954421ec

Enough

photo-1453668069544-b8dbea7a0477

Do you ever feel like this?

Like life is a cross between “hang on for dear life, dig in and paddle fiercely…all this with eyes squeezed tightly shut.”  Maybe you can relate.

I’m learning to live blueprint-free.

Learning to be fed daily from His hand. To rest and trust.  These are scary, uncharted waters for a Planner.  Oh, I always felt I trusted God to lead my life.  I worked hard to surrender my will and follow Him and His plan.  But, I guess when the paycheck is rolling in and security is sure and there aren’t any real risks in your life, it’s easy to “trust God with everything.”

Oh, well.  I’m no longer there.

photo-1443996264301-c81a3053d00a

And it is either trust or flail.  Those are the options.

photo-1428947667392-649218f955eb-1

The one clear message I hear over and over is “rest, be still, be quiet, trust.”

“I’ve got you; I’ve got this; quit trying to do this in your human strength; I will fight for you.”

Over and over for the last four months.  When it’s easy to remember and when it’s not.  He plays the message in different ways and in different methods.  Some days I get it, some days it is harder for me to grasp.

Sometimes, weariness overcomes and wears me down.  Often, the hurt from loss threatens to overwhelm.  There is a very real understanding that we are not enough.

We are not enough.

We are not enough.  

wVlfnlTbRtK8eGvbnBZI_VolkanOlmez_005

In our own strength we are never enough.  Only in our weakness is His enough-ness allowed to shine forth. We take our small broken pieces…bundled up or scattered by the winds of life…either way.  The only way you can be enough is when they are surrendered and placed at His feet.

The broken shards.  Some pieces have been so pulverized there isn’t much to show for it.  Just scoop them up.  Scrape them all up and lay them down.

Then.  And only then, are you enough.

13055781_10209840768642437_803927134573403925_o

I can’t do enough, be enough, plan enough, or think enough. No amount of strategizing, fixingunderstanding, speaking out, or even forgiving is enough.

It’s all nothing. 

Nothing in the eyes of the Father.  He doesn’t want all of that.  He certainly doesn’t need all of that.  All that doing only serves to enslave us and wear us out.

Trying and trying and trying.  I am finding that is a favorite word for me.  Interestingly enough.  Trying. I tried.  I am trying.  I try.  I say that about accomplishing “important” goals or certain mindsets or mastering certain disciplines.  For the love of goodness!  No wonder I am weary!

photo-1460687521562-9eead9abe9e8-1

I am busy doing all of these right and holy things in order to live the right way and learn the right things and please all the right requirements and all the right people.

How have I managed to slip into law living?

I have nothing.

In myself.

I’ve given Him me and with that everything He wants I give Him free reign.  And that, my friends, is costly.

He can’t do much with the know-it-alls, self-righteous and the Pharisees.  Those missing the grace component.  These are not pliable or teachable enough.  Those who ignore the plank in their own eyes, nearly tripping over it, yet scream about the log in someone else’s.

He isn’t impressed.

photo-1460469235493-43425878ad2d

Until we realize our nothingness without Him, we are a miserable lot.

NOTHING + JESUS = EVERYTHING.

I have recently found myself a part of a community whose mantra is this very thing: NOTHING + JESUS = EVERYTHING.  And you want to know what is cool and beautiful about that?  There is nothing to prove!

They don’t try to impress and they don’t need me to either. They just love.

photo-1459631836437-1c2824882e3f

It is a grace-filled living.  They are open arms and grace-filled hearts.  For whether we think we have something to bring to the table or not, we don’t.  Not really. If we live in grace, we don’t get to pick and choose who deserves the gift of grace.  We know we all are nothing in ourselves and in desperate need of grace at any given moment.

Resting is not something I do well.

I used to brag.  I would say, “I don’t rest.”  My friends would joke about me sneaking a nap on myself.  I don’t brag anymore.  The mandate is clear.

I’m learning to rest.

It’s amazing what becomes “normal” living.  And, when it is ripped away, you begin to breathe and see the unhealthiness of whatever it was.  I’m getting it.

I just need Him.

photo-1461173987039-e3abb8addb9b

All but the very essentials in my life have been stripped away.  And, I do not exaggerate. The tearing away has been painful and great.

It is not punishment.  

It is a realigning, calibrating, and refining.

The souvenirs from the past journey don’t translate to this new one.  The stripping away is of divine appointment and not of my own hand.

Run and leave; and don’t bring anything with you from one journey to the next.

Don’t long for the past.  Exhale.

It’s feels like looking through a glass to the other side of the window.

9XkFhM8tRiuHXZRCKSdm_ny-2

This is divine rest.

It is a separating from the old in order to be ready for the new.

There is preparation in this separation. 

If I don’t rest, I feel a panic bubbling up from the deepest parts of me.  And weariness.  And here we are again.  God knows.  So, for the umpteenth time, until I finally believe it down deep, He calls me to rest.

It is counter-intuitive.  Everything screams to plan and prepare.  To do and do.  But, His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  Yes.  I will sit and rest in His arms.

Give up the nonsense.

photo-1444011283387-7b0f76371f12

He knows it all.  He sees it all.  And that is becoming enough for me.  I can’t settle the score or balance out the scale or bring to pass that which needs to be.

I leave that to Him.  And that is enough.    

photo-1460499593944-39e14f96a8c6

 

Raise Them Strong

photo-1445820133247-bfef6cc162a7

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.

photo-1450084195263-9a8b47617097

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.

11949464_10208016339112839_6410654275708581477_n

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.

photo-1447939327228-66b1930fc80a

“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.

photo-1450151156983-86161cfa704d

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.

photo-1437669514390-0eda00923cc8

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.  

photo-1418743342338-5ee869c68e95

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.

photo-1416163026265-0bc340a710e4

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.

Af0sF2OS5S5gatqrKzVP_Silhoutte

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.

photo-1443948308135-d57fc66de368

Time to Get Off the Merry-Go-Round

photo-1451226428352-cf66bf8a0317

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.

photo-1449960238630-7e720e630019

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?”

photo-1458419948946-19fb2cc296af

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.

dPfjQTyJSJ2LpM7D9Yr0_Photo 15-02-2014

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.

photo-1452696024259-cb7474e79947

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.

wVlfnlTbRtK8eGvbnBZI_VolkanOlmez_005

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.

photo-1447619297994-b829cc1ab44a

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.”

tra

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?

photo-1416958672086-951aa7064010

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.

photo-1451342695181-17c97b85aab4

What’s That Noise?

photo-1453738773917-9c3eff1db985

There is so much noise.

Everywhere.

Do you ever get tired of it?

Do you ever just wish it would stop?

I do.

photo-1423882503395-8571951e45cc

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.

photo-1456425731181-2152d80d946c

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.

photo-1414759030024-7889df4b20f4

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?

URG2BbWQQ9SAcqLuTOLp_BP7A9947

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!

photo-1457457901571-3decb3353ca7

Unexpected Graces

 

1-1234699141PRLF

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.

12716211_10209143679655648_1404086195426651687_o

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.

her-tears-grey-puddle

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.

journal

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?

df26c006fa5aa6c371c195a58fbf0918

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. 

11947605_10208016280711379_5278790613076934361_n

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.

11949464_10208016339112839_6410654275708581477_n

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.

EGYPT-POLITICS-UNREST-CHRISTIAN

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.

12346402_10208592832404811_4671665384202200831_n

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.

12615664_10209001008088948_3467437942845045546_o

Christmastime–Oh Holiest Night

12345402_10208670824554566_2736591417583191709_n

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.

12342803_10208670828394662_3354971018220670543_n

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.

12373291_10208670848755171_183292326692845445_n

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.

12345402_10208670824554566_2736591417583191709_n

What Did You Say?

12006188_10208120037865243_1019996952083077666_n

Stuff happens.  People say stuff.  People do stuff.

What I am asking myself is, “Ok, so what are you going to do with that?”

Words hurt.  Words get into your heart and soul.

I am noticing unkind words spoken about me or someone I love leave a mark.  I am getting better at being able to look at what was said and putting them into perspective mentally.  I can look at the situation and logically realize these people speaking have no real consequence in my life.

To put it honestly, they really mean nothing to the big picture of my life.  I don’t mean that rudely.  In relationship to my life, they have not invested in me nor are they a part of the circle of influence in my life.  They have not walked with me or listened to my heart.  They’ve not prayed for me and are not committed to my welfare.

Yet, words can be crushing.

cropped-img_774511.jpg

The Scriptures say there is power of life and death in the tongue.

Proverbs 18:21 says,

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” 

Have you given any thought to the words you speak to others?  I am paying more attention.  It matters.  It’s too easy to quip off something without thinking of the consequences.

But, my experience this past week has been on both ends of the spectrum.

I have heard words spoken to me and loved ones that were more poison than fruit.  Words that had the potential to bring death.  But, then I have also heard many loving words of life.  Words that speak life, hope and encouragement.

10168201_10205519276527835_6867101749092095366_n

Which ones am I listening to?

I have had to do some hard work to properly deal with the hurt that came from the hurtful words.

Logically I understood the place those words have in my heart and mind.  Yet, the words caused a grief I could not shake.  It settled over me like a heavy blanket.  It took a couple of days to shake off the heaviness that covered me.  The words were an indictment against who we are and everything we hope to be.  Cruel and dark.

These words tried to carve a giant, black X over our hearts.  

“Not good enough.  Not EVER going to be good enough.  Broken.  Not loved. Hopeless.  Death.  Rejected.  Inadequate.”  

But, after my Sweetheart and I prayed over our hearts and those we love, the true work began.   It has proven difficult to shake off the death grip of those words.

images-3

It’s not coincidence that hurt follows on the heels of victory or success.

The Scripture talks about a “lion who comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  Lions are stealthy and swift.  The lion worked steadily all week through a totally different and unrelated  interpersonal issue.  This work was meant to distract me and cause me to lose focus.  Then on the heels of great joy and victory, a lethal strike came from a completely unexpected angle.

I began to wonder.

Why do I listen and take to heart more the words of hurt than the words of healing?  Why can’t I shake this?

It takes hard work.  I knew I had a choice.  Either I was going to give up and lose the ground I had fought hard to win, or I was going to army crawl, if need be, through to victory.

What do you do when you don’t want to become the victim of a strategic spiritual attack?  Scripture says we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against powers we don’t see.

 Sometimes it is confusing.  It isn’t so easily recognized.  Hurt is hurt.  Misguided and misinformed people often are unwittingly used to strike and wound.  It sure looks human.  But, really it is a spiritual attack in nature.

look-colors-abstract-art-color-painting

So, here is what I have done this past week to counter attack and increase my strength.  It doesn’t come easily.

It requires a concerted and mindful effort on our part.

I realized I can either roll over and let this disrupt God’s work in my life.  Or,  I can fight, quite literally, the Hell out of my situation.

It’s working.

  1. Pray over the words spoken to you.  God has the power to nullify the effects on our hearts and mind.
  2. Cry.  It hurt.  I am human.  I can’t pretend it doesn’t—nor am I required to.
  3. Remember, actively, who I am in Christ.  He calls me good.  That is enough.
  4. Fill your world with worship.  I’ve been listening to worship music quite a bit lately.
  5. Read the Word and soak in life-giving words.
  6. Turn to a trusted friend to hear your hurt.  Mine was a safe place to bandage my wounds.
  7. Put it into proper perspective.  Remind yourself of the truth.
  8. Keep moving.  Keep doing the good you know you are doing.  Don’t quit.
  9. Keep giving it to God.  We can be slow.  It often takes repeating.
  10. Be mindful.  Be careful not to rehearse and relive the words over and over. They can settle in and take root.

presence-of-god_thumb

I realized something the other day. 

Have you ever felt God reveal something to you?  Well, He did the other day.

He gently spoke to my heart.

 “Who are they to mark what I have declared GOOD, as not good?” 

That pierced my heart and mind!

God has called me and mine GOOD.  He has taken our pain and wounds and broken pieces.  He promised to heal and has done a mighty fine job!  And, then someone declares that divine work “not good enough” and “broken”?  That is not part of His plan.

God does all things well.

We don’t always know all the good work He is doing in a life.  This very fresh lesson gave me pause even today as I sat and talked with a loved one.

There would be no carving of an X today.

love_wallpaper1