Withering Cherry Trees!

 

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Sometimes I look around and become, well, unhappy.  Dissatisfied.  Discontented.  Ungrateful.

Do you ever do this?

I see the laundry still hanging out long after its dry.  I see the messy rooms just begging for me to put some order back to them.  I look at my vehicle.  It’s not the newest or shiniest—it has driven my family a lot of miles.  It has some scuffs and little scratches and even a dent someone put in it and didn’t bother to leave a note.  I have some drawers that are sticking and not closing right.  And, gosh, the to do list.  It could use some whittling down.  Due to all of those many miles I taxi, and my own responsibilities, I can’t seem to figure out how to cook healthful meals as much as I want.  And let’s not mention, a few pounds may have been added.  I have a pile, or maybe a couple, that house several “to handle later” items.  I hate those.

You get the picture.  Life.  It is going mighty fast. Some days stuff just falls through the cracks.  Maybe it’s just us.  But, I’m not thinking so.  My husband has a favorite saying.  I have to admit, it can drive me crazy.  God love the man.  He’s right.  We don’t always want to hear it.  But, he’s right.

Here it is.  “You are going to have to reframe.” 

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God bless this man of mine.  Yes, sometimes, I think if I have to hear that again, I may fall over dead. Right there, right then.  One time I told him I already knew that.  I knew all of his tips and tricks, but I just needed a good cry. Dr. Husband let me have that good cry.  All of that minutia and wounded-ness from self-criticism had taken its toll.  I had hit the tipping point and had NO interest in reframing ANYTHING!! (It may not have been said in an inside voice.)

Well, he’s right.  In life, we are faced with stuff.  The detritus of this crazy life.  In the natural life, too much stuff, too many cracks for things to fall through, it all piles up.  In the emotional life, we are faced with the constant refrain of “not good enough.”  And it all seems to add up to “NEVER good enough.”

I have a passage of Scripture that I love.  I think you will, too.  Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted.  Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty.  I’m singing joyful praise to God.  I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.  Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer.  I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

I know this passage is talking about seasons of life when provision is low and they are depending on God to save the day.  But, it sure seems to fit life when things are not as we would like them and we just desperately need His help to reframe.

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So, look at the line where the focus changes.

It says, “I’m singing joyful praise to God.  I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.“  And from there to the end of the passage, the writer has done some major reframing.  Dr. Husband is right.  Imagine that!  It’s true, you know.

Reframing is the key to taking the ugly and untidy, worn and used and shining them up to beauty. 

I can look at any given situation—whether it’s the ginormous mess or the task overlooked, again and again or the critics who are unkind and careless—and look at it in ugly, harsh tones.  Or, I can do some editing and enhancing, shifting the shading, perhaps zoom in or zoom out.  It’s my choice.  I can put the frame around it in a new and pardigm-shifting perspective.

We can look at the mess OR we can look at the blessing that caused the mess.

Our choice.

I’m choosing to look at the blessing that caused the inconvenience or mess or extra work or busy-ness.  It’s amazing how my heart takes strength and God gives me just what I need to keep going.  Many people don’t have the blessings I do and would appreciate a little inconvenience.  I’m afraid the things I complain about, someone else may be praying for.  Reframe.

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We are going into the beautiful holiday season.  My very favorites of the year!  Many are clued into the “30 days of Thanksgiving”.  I’m all for it.  It’s important.  But, honestly, gratitude and joy are the gifts of reframing any time of the year.  God has these beautiful gifts waiting for us and we bypass them every time we choose the lifeless, flat perspective of not reframing.

I’ll repeat Dr. Husband, “You are going to have to reframe.”

Ugly shifts.  Hard softens.  And gratitude and joy slip in and sidle up next to you.

It really is all in the reframing.

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Check Out The View From Here!

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I’m a crazy walker.  When I go out for a walk, or even when I add in a run, I always look down.  What am I looking at?  I don’t get it.  Am I afraid if I don’t look at my feet they won’t move right?  Or is the sidewalk just so beautiful I need to keep my eye on it?

It’s weird.

I tell myself, “Pick your head up! You look goofy.  Look up and see the beauty around you.  You’re missing out!”  Yeah.  I will pick my head up…my thoughts center on the beauty in the sky and trees.  I get lost in thought—maybe even whisper a little prayer.  And, then, “Look at those feet walking.  Look at that sidewalk.  Yep, they’re still there.”

For goodness sake!  I just don’t get it.  This is a problem, I do believe.  I’m missing out.  Even when I have a walking buddy I do it.  Before I know it, I’m focusing on the road right in front of me, instead of seeing all that is around me.  They have been kind enough to just ignore it!

This has gotten me to thinking.

In life, what am I focusing on?

10168201_10205519276527835_6867101749092095366_nAm I focusing on the challenges and tough-going I have experienced?  Am I looking at the past and wishing circumstances had been different or I had been dealt a better hand?

Where is my focus?

Perhaps I am focusing on how I wish I was different.  Different gifting, different temperment, different anything.

Maybe I look at the ways I could have made different choices and would then be on a different and seemingly better path.

Focus. 

What is my focus?

Too much introspection can lead to too much self-focusing.  Sometimes I just have to get out of my head.  It’s good to remember our past and what we have come through.  It’s important to remember what we have learned.  Gratitude is born out of remembering with grace our journey.

But, we can’t afford to get stuck.  

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 A couple years ago I realized all my conversations were about all the negative things going on in my world.   It was my habit.  I was good at rehashing the injustices and idiocy I was enduring.  My friends were so gracious.  They commiserated with me.  Even though it had to be like nails on a chalkboard, they loved on me and listened—and endured it!

  I finally got tired of hearing myself talk about it.  It was getting old.  And, I knew it was a problem when I couldn’t think of other things to talk about.  It kind of felt like a loser sort of life!

It’s amazing when God starts nudging you in a new direction. 

1473920_10202797628648339_2105884648_nI’m guessing He was tired of hearing all about it too—over and over and over and over—if you get my drift.

I was missing out on all the goodness He was giving.  I was missing out on all the beauty and grace He so lavishly supplied.  He was fully aware of all the injustice and rejection and hurt.  He got it.  He saw it and knew how it hurt.  The Beautiful One was trying to give me beauty for my ashes.  But, it wasn’t going to happen if all I kept focusing on was the pitiful parts.  I was going to miss it all.  What a tragedy—and He knew it.

I had to quit wallowing around in the ashes!

He spoke to my heart.  He opened my eyes to the reality of what I was becoming.  It wasn’t the image I wanted.  I purposed in my heart I was done reliving it all and talking about it.  I was done dwelling on the negative and the pain.

Oh, I remember.  I have the scars to show for it.  But, I was done allowing it to become my focus and driving force.  I was done talking about and rehashing every gory detail of every injustice.  I determined that chapter was done.  I was moving forward.

You know, it made all the difference in the world in my heart and life. 

It wasn’t easy.  I had to think of new topics of conversation.  I had to live purposefully in the here and now.  Yes, I remember.  And, at times there is still pain in those scars.  But, it doesn’t drive me any longer.  I no longer look down and behind but look up and ahead.  This new way of thinking and being set me on a new trajectory.  It is so much more beautiful here!

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Psalm 103 is really great right about now. 

It’s too long to post here, but I encourage you to take a couple minutes to read it.  It helps in the refocusing.

What do I choose to focus on?  Where am I looking? 

Am I remembering all of His blessings? 

Do I remember that He has healed my family and me and has raised us from our ashes? 

Do I recall that He has redeemed me—that He has wrapped me in goodness? 

That He makes everything come out right and puts victims back on their feet? 

Do I focus on His grace and mercy and keep in mind He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but gives us what we don’t deserve? 

Do I relish in His fierce love and His total awareness of me? 

How about remembering His love is eternal–forever and always?

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It brings into proper perspective the flaws of this world.  No scheme of man will ever take me from His hand.  I am His.  Why so downcast oh, dear soul?  Look up to the hills from which comes your help!

Change your focus!  It’s beautiful up here!

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Turning 40 Something

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My goodness.  Well, here it is again.  I have revolved around once again and I’m just a couple days away from the 23rd.  That’s my big day.  Thanks, Mom, for having me!

Life has a way of rolling by.

I can’t wait for the beauty and adventure of this new year in my life to unfold.

But, first, I have a few thoughts about this past year.  Here they are.

I am grateful for my family.  We have faced some challenges head on.  Things unforeseen and scary.  Things exciting, new and stretching.  Challenges—some good, some tough.  Mountains you weren’t sure how to climb. They haven’t stopped us and we just keep moving forward.  We stay together and love each other.  My children have grown and discovered new things about life and God.  He loves them, even more than we do.  God is there and walking with us every day.

I have taken on new adventures.  During our crisis and its aftermath, I really had to unload my plate.  My family and my emotional and spiritual well being were far more important than a loaded plate.  God drew especially near and taught me wonderful truths.  We are at the four year anniversary of learning of our child’s abuse.  I have been in a healing cocoon since that time.  But, this past year has been one of opening up and breaking out of my cocoon.  It was necessary to step aside for a while, but now I’m ready to fly.  God never leaves you—especially when we are hidden away with Him.

I have opened my heart to some wonderful people.  I’ve expanded my circle and it has been worth it.  Sometimes, after pain, it’s easier to shield your heart.  It can be so hard to trust.  But, a vulnerable heart grows more beautiful.   You can learn so much from others when you just open up, look around and see.  God brings special people into your life—you just have to look for them.

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I have some friends who are my ride or die.   They are deep water travelers.  They don’t scare easily.  They have lived my messiness and encouraged me to dream again.  It’s a blessing if you have these sorts in your life.

I often felt lost, but my friends knew I really wasn’t .  They knew I just needed a little push and I could soar.  I’m not sure I believed in myself as much as they believed in me.  I know I didn’t.  It’s crazy how that is.  But, I sure am grateful for their friendly shoves, reminders and words of encouragement which held me to the ledge!

They’ve made me laugh until I cry!  They loved the confidence right back into my heart.  God knows we need cheerleaders.  He gives us just the right ones for our journey.

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I have stepped WAY out of my comfort zone many times this year.  Soaring requires a “look, ma! no hands!” lifestyle.  I’ve tried my hand at several new things.   I’ve done them scared.  Sometimes, really scared.  Most of the time, I wasn’t even sure what I was doing.  But, I have enjoyed them all.  God knows what we need, when we need it.  We just have to cooperate with Him.  It’s been the best adventure!

I am thankful for the growth and stretching I have done this past year.  It hasn’t always looked pretty or perfect.  Sometimes I felt like I was coming undone!  But, God is faithful to complete the work He starts in our lives.

Life is a journey.  Joy is an attainable goal.  Healing is a choice and peace can come.  There will always be questions without answers.  But, even if there were answers for some things, they probably wouldn’t be good enough anyway.  God is my leader.  I just want to follow as close to His side as I can.  Everything else will fall into place, just as He intends.

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Two Random Thoughts

 

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Whew!  Life has picked up its speed! My feet are tired and so is my brain.

I have a couple thoughts rolling around…unrelated really, but stirring around nonetheless.  Here it goes.

This morning my alarm went off and I rolled over to snatch up my phone. 

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As has become my habit, I opened Facebook to see what had transpired while I was asleep.  (Because we all know it was probably very important.)   The professionals say you are addicted to your phone if the first thing you do in the morning is look at it.  This  could be me.

 I realized too late this was not going to be a good idea.

It has become a really bad idea.

I didn’t have to work hard or go searching very far without stumbling across the most horrendous stories anyone could read, much less at 7:15 in the morning.  On a silver platter, I had the vilest news imaginable hand delivered right to my mind and heart.

The world is making me tired.

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All the news of horror and evil has just become too much.  Between news outlets, social media and online reporting agencies, it’s just overload.  This all-consuming, 24 hour news cycle, has worn me down.  There is some beauty and bliss in a little less information.  Maybe not ignorance, but a smaller helping would certainly do me some good.

So, after putting my phone down and regrouping, I deleted my Facebook app off of my phone.  “Hi, I’m Amberly and I was addicted to Facebook.”   I know, I could be a little late to the deleting game.  Some folks have already removed it from their lives and swear by it!

This is not some huge, earth shattering action in the whole scheme of things.  It certainly isn’t going to set Facebook world on tilt.  But, I think it’s going to improve the quality of MY life.  Who knows the wonderful things I can experience in real life instead of stuffing my still moments with the constant chatter and noise on social media?  I might even read all those books beside my bed.  Anyway, I have set boundaries for my heart and mind.  Thirteen hours and counting.  So far so good.

My second thought comes from Ephesians 3:20 in the Message version.  

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

I’m focusing on the second half of the Scripture.

“He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”  I think this is pretty awesome.   I have never read this verse in the Message version.  How could I have missed it all this time?

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This is a beautiful passage to me.  I have lived this.  God has walked with me and dealt gently and deeply with me.  He works in me.  During times of deep hurt and grief, He didn’t crush me with harsh demands and cold reprimands.  He sat with me and spoke to my pain.  He breathed life and peace into my brokenness.

This gentleness drew me close and healed me.  He knew I could not stay in my pain, brokenness and ashes.  He knew there was life and there were dreams on the other side of my pain.  And, He knew I wasn’t going to make it on my own.  He was going to carry me to the other side.

I marvel at this verse.

I know it to be true. 

As I dream now and am on the other side of my pain,  I know these words up close and real.  He is giving me His dreams for my life.  He is teaching me to journey close to His side.  I must rest in His rhythms of grace.  Not in my own impatient ways.  And, He will bring the very best to pass.

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There have been so many times when Christ could have beat me up side the head or yelled to me to “GET IT TOGETHER, GIRLFRIEND!!” Yet, He knows the deeper way—the more compelling way.  And, He draws me to Himself.

It’s cool the thoughts God drops in our hearts and the work He does even in our busiest moments.

You know how life gets.

Busy helping the kids, the husband, the church, the dog, and all the other people in our lives.  Sometimes, it’s hard to find time to slow it down.  But, even in all those moments, we have to listen to what He is speaking.

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He knows what’s best.  He is jealous for us—jealous for our well-being.  He knows all the noise and life-pollution is not what is good for us.  He has the very best there is to offer.  He knows our deepest places nobody else may know.

I don’t know about you, but this season of my life is picking up the pace.  This is a good thing.  But, I’m going to be mindful to keep my ear tuned to what He has to say.  I don’t want to miss anything!

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Who Do You Think You Are?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We Can Do Hard Things

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

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

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

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

“We can do hard things.” 

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

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

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

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

We can do hard things.

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

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

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We can do hard things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The hard doesn’t last forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Disappointment

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Disappointment.

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

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

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

Hope

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

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

Here are 3 thoughts to help us through these moments:

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

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

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

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

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

He is walking through it all with us.

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

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

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

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Where Is Your Life?

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It’s been a really great summer.  Sleeping in (my favorite!), road tripping around the area, reconnecting with friends, reading, watching my boy play ball, and playing taxi.  Pretty much loving life and feeling grateful.  We enjoyed a great day for our anniversary.  We kept it simple and relaxing.  And I am so thankful.  My kids are pursuing their passions, living life and having a good time doing it.  God is blessing their lives and you can see His love for us.

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In the last few years, I haven’t always been able to say that.  Maybe that’s you, too.  We’ve experienced financial reversal, faced rejection, suffered at the hands of people and felt like we were going through hell.  I realize that isn’t the warm and fuzzy thing to say.  Suffering depression, anxiety and PTSD was never on the order list we sent up.  When 4 out of 5 in your family have to be medicated just to handle daily life, I’m telling you, that’s not what you order up.  Who does?

But, it happens.  Life happens.  I remember a couple of years ago, living life with a teenager and   just being thankful we were dealing with normal teenager stuff.  We had come a long way.  Moving from constant crisis mode to dealing with everyday issues was such a relief.  I even found some much needed humor in that.

A few years ago, I was walking the neighborhood, thinking life would never get back to normal.  I just wanted it to so desperately.  Whatever that was supposed to be.  What I thought was normal life, happened to be a private hell for someone most dear to me.  That was an eye opening thought.  A paradigm shift.

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Life changes—often on a dime.  We had more stuff going wrong and our lives turned upside than I had ever thought possible.  But, following dreams and doing big things, often stirs up the waters.  We weren’t living the status quo; life threw not-status-quo stuff back at us.

But, here we are a few years out and life has smoothed out just fine.  In the heat of it, when your neck is being scorched by the fire and heat, life looks pretty much like it is never again going to smooth out.  That seems like a very distant memory.  I got you on that one.  We are looking eyeball to eyeball, and I say, I know it.  It hurts.  It really hurts.

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I was reading some Scripture today and wanted to share it with you.  My heart skipped a beat when I read it.  Yes!  I felt it!  I knew it!  Psalm 16 is a great chapter.  Take a look at it with me.

Keep me safe, my God,

for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

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because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.

11 

You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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Verses 5 and 6 really lit up for me.  Go ahead! Check those out again!  Many of the first years of living in Virginia were beyond hard.  It has been a challenge testing everything we were made of and then some!  But, we’ve come out on the other side.  We’ve fought hard and won!  We trusted in Him and depended on Him to get us through.  We took refuge in Christ.  We kept our eyes on Christ.  I really don’t know where we would have ended up if we hadn’t had Christ.  People will disappoint you;  people will betray and reject you.  Christ is forever the one where our hearts find peace.

So, back to the present.  Life is good.  Life is beautiful.  When you taste the bitter, the sweet is so much sweeter!  When you walk through the darkness, the light is that much brighter!  When you lose things precious, the blessings are that much more treasured.  You have to experience the sad to appreciate the joy.

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Such is life.  My life boundaries are falling in pleasant places.  That makes me happy.  We are doing life.  It’s not perfect, but what is?  But, it sure is beautiful!

Do I Have To?

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I have experience.

Lots of it.  Some of it has come with kicking and screaming, but I have experience, nonetheless.  “What experience?” you may ask.

Well, it is …..

stick-to-it-ativeness. 

Yeah.  It’s not as beautiful as it sounds.  Trust me.  Everyone has one of two tendencies.  That is to fight or flee.  And, actually, I am by nature a flee-er.  Many times the option of “flight” seems pretty alright to me.  So, honestly, I don’t come by this naturally.

But, I am married to….you guessed it!  A fighter.

No, not a fighter, as in, he can’t get along with people and stirs up conflict.  He is the kind that won’t run from a battle.  He knows what is needed and will fight to see it happen.  He’s not a quitter.  His philosophy is, “I may not be smarter or more talented than others, but I can certainly outlast anybody!”  Um, clearly, this has made for some great fun over the years.

I like comfort.  I don’t like to go through the stretching and retching part of life.  I like for everyone to like me.  I want no hardships and certainly no sacrificing.  I want dreams and projects to flow smoothly.  I really don’t want conflict, hate it in fact.  I certainly don’t want to be judged or misjudged.  I like for the tasks I set my hand to to flow without hiccups or roadblocks of any sort.  I want everyone to agree with me and my opinions. And, I certainly do NOT need or want rejection.

It hurts. The hard stuff hurts.

Life tends to bring along those moments when we must choose.

There isn’t any way around it.  Someone or something intrudes into your dream or boundaries.  Something important is at stake.  The life or death of it depends on whether you stay and fight or run and flee.  Maybe it’s your family, a child, a dream, or a way of life. Maybe it’s your calling or vocation.  Perhaps it is fighting injustice or standing up for what or who is right.  Whatever it is, you will have to choose.

Either way, everything hangs in the balance.

I’ll give you 3 examples from my life.  Perhaps you can relate.

First of all, my husband and I started a new church back in 1994.  We were young.  We were inexperienced and truthfully didn’t have a clue as to what we had joined up for.  We were still trying to figure out who we were at the tender age of 24.  We had seen great success stories and figured we could pull off something just like those.  It took 7 years to reach the goal of 100 people.  It took even longer to acquire our own facility.  We worked hard.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of hard work and sacrifice.  We barely survived on the meager salary.

About the third or fourth year in, I was done.  We had faced apparent failure on many levels.  I wanted to quit so badly!  My husband?  Oh, yes, I know he did.  But, we didn’t leave that congregation until 2008.  He would pacify me by telling me to just give him until May.  If things didn’t turn around by May, we would think about going somewhere else.  Well, he knew that once winter was over in Iowa, things always look better at some level, come May.  I figured him out, finally, about the third year of being told that.  I’m slow.

Second story.  In 2008, our family moved to Virginia to our second congregation.  This seemed as if our dreams were answered in one fell swoop.  Not long after moving here,  it seemed as if we had stepped into a nightmare.  This was a very different hard than our Iowa challenge.  We faced intense obstacles, setbacks, reversals, personal attacks, rejection, strife, and twisted plots.  The personal and professional price has been high. This church was in deep crisis and they weren’t in the mood to be helped.  So many times I could have been packing boxes on a moment’s notice.  All my husband needed to do was give me the word.  I was more than done!

Final story.  The first three years in Virginia seemed like they were from hell.  We took a huge financial hit when the real estate bubble burst and we needed to sell our house and move to Virginia.  Then, my son came to us and told us he had been sexually abused for three years by an authority figure.  Then, my other child was diagnosed with a serious medical condition after months of intense, unexplained pain and slow debilitation. Then, my father passed away after battling Alzheimers for 13 years.  This all happened within the first three years after moving to Virginia.  There were moments during those very difficult years I began to question the presence of God in my life.  I wasn’t so sure He could be trusted.

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Here’s the deal.

At any given point in my life, I desperately wanted to throw in the towel.  The pain felt greater than the reward.  And, yes, there have been some serious sacrifices made that only God will be able to make right.  But, we didn’t quit.  There were no magic formulas or bribes to hold us steady. The only promise we had to go on was God would see us through.  It might be painful, it might look ugly, but we would make it if we just didn’t quit.  “Those who quit remember the ordeal.  Those who endure remember the adventure.”  That has become a life value of sorts.

There are many giftings we don’t possess.  There are quite a few things we do well; there have been many mistakes along the way, too.  But one thing which doesn’t require talent or gifting is something we do have—“outlast-attude”.  We can outlast just about anything.

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You have to dig deep.  You have to stare your giant in the face and stare it down.  It’s not easy.  But, find the grit and the depth of character to outlast anything life throws your way.  Needless to say, I’m thankful my Honey had enough hutzpah for the both of us!

Your whole life and legacy depend on it.  Everyone who follows after you, depend on it.  It’s not just about you anyway.  It never has been.

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Stop Hatin’!

Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get it right.

I read something today.  It made me think.

Oh, I’ve heard it a bajillion times before.  Today, though, it came on the heels of a conversation my sweet friend and I had last weekend. I thought I knew it well.   But today I realized I needed to see it from another view—a whole new angle.

We have been created in the image of our Creator.  We have been made in His likeness.  

In I Corinthians 3:16, it states we are the image of God and His Spirit dwells in us.  Furthermore, we should not vandalize and abuse this temple.  In my self-righteousness, I often give myself a big thumbs up on this one.  Clearly, I have this one down.  I take care of myself—body, mind and spirit…not doing the obvious no-no’s.  You know, those things the Church has labeled as “not good for me” or “not temple honoring.”  Whew!  I’ve gotten this one thing right.

But, today.  As I was reading that verse in my new book, it slapped me in the face—and heart.

I’m not.  I’m not REALLY getting this right.

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I beat my self up every day.

Yes.  My soul and spirit and mind take a good hard beating.  I wouldn’t let anyone speak to my friends this way.  Yet, I bet many do that to themselves just like I do.

If you continue reading in Corinthians, we also see God is not too impressed with this world’s wisdom and standards by which it measures things.  To Him it is foolish and stupid.  He sees through it all.

In fact, it says, “He sees through the smoke-screens of the know-it-alls.”  Hmmm.  I’m feeling as if that pretty much sums it up in regard to today’s standards, “heroes”, and measurements of success.

So.  Perhaps you are already a step ahead of me!

Why then, would we ever want to measure our success or failure or beauty by the standard this world has set up as

THE

standard.

Back to the conversation last weekend.

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and, honestly, don’t like what I see.  I wish some things were different.  My body, personality, my flaws….you name it.  Or how about when I look through the lens of social media.

“She is doing what I want; she’s just done it sooner and better.  Look at her accomplishments; I seemed to have misplaced mine.”

You get it, don’t you?

As women, we watch and listen and compare ourselves right up with the celebs and stars and current trends.  Or maybe you just look around at those surrounding you.  You just compare yourself with your friends and enemies.  You clearly know what you don’t like about yourself.

I beat myself up; with every mistake and misstep, I see a giant F!

F is for failure.bampw-black-and-white-cry-eye-girl-Favim.com-255924

If I eat too many carbs or calories, I’m a FAILURE.  If I forget to have all the baseball gear ready for game time—FAILURE.  If I miss an opportunity to say the right thing at the right time—FAILURE.  If I can’t figure out how to be in two places at once—you got it–F.  I’m severely calendar impaired and most birthday cards that have to be mailed….always late.  But, hey!  They get them, right?  You get the picture.  F, F, big giant F!

Instead of seeing the beautiful me, inside and outside, I see the annoying and frustrating flaws.  The beating and bashing continues.

Can you relate? 

So, my point to my friend was, perhaps we have something another person is praying for.

Maybe someone passing me in the mall, watching on Facebook, or down the street sees me and my life and all that I do right, and wishes some of this was hers.  Just maybe?  Because, I know we all do it.  (And because we certainly don’t show the messy parts and neither do other people).

Other people see the beauty we don’t see.

The words from I Corinthians say it even better!

The Spirit of God lives in us and we were created by God in the first place.  That is enough! 

Enough is enough.

What more can be added or taken away?

If we can see ourselves as complete in Him, perhaps we can move past our faults and embrace the beautiful us.  The God of the universe looks upon us, dwells in us, and says we are good.  We are the image of God!

Why would that ever NOT be enough?  

What are we saying when we hate on ourselves?  What are we saying when we say we aren’t enough?

Not good enough.

Not smart enough.

Not deserving enough.

Not together enough.

Just. Never. Enough.

We are saying the Creator isn’t enough.

I pray we see this verse for what it is.  It is a beautiful love note.

As our cultural standards tell us we are not enough, we are reminded we are.

Because of Him…..nothing we have done….but, because of Whose we are, we are enough!

Step up to that mirror and shut off the media.  Remind yourself you are created by the Creator Extraordinaire and He calls you enough!

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