Lessons Learned Along the Way

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Have you ever wanted a do-over? 

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time.

It’s time to make the changes.

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

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

Think about that.

Selah.

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

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

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

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

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

But, it is exhilarating!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a deep breath. 

You know what needs to change. 

Inhale grace and walk in gratitude. 

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

You got this!

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Do Over!

 

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017Starting over.

It is exhilarating and terrifying–all at once.

It’s a quirky thing.

When you have no urgent need to start over, well, one doesn’t really feel the urge. 

You might look at your circumstances and see no real avenue for starting over. But, when the moment comes, it’s amazing what you can do.

We never anticipated the opportunity to start over would come so quickly.  We had a long-range goal of changing things up.  A few years out. Making the grand leap.  But, life quickly and unexpectedly launched other plans into our laps.   Plot twist!

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It’s what I think a hot air balloon ride might be like.  We’ve untetherd and now we are gliding…praying and waiting and letting the air gusts take us further and further.  It’s quiet up here.  The view is spectacular! We see a landing spot, but we may end up being a little to the left or a smidge to the right.

Sometimes that feels incredibly amazing and other times it feels more unnerving that exhilarating.  All I know to do is keep our eye on the prize and the God that is directing us home.

It’s cool to be front and center in the hot air balloon.  Not on the ground below watching from a distance.

bXoAlw8gT66vBo1wcFoO_IMG_9181I have no idea what the final portrait will look like.  But, God keeps dropping bits and pieces before us.  This great mystery is ever so slowly revealing itself—one twist and turn at a time.

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Have you ever started over?  

If I am being completely honest, I sometimes dreamed of doing something other than pastoring a church. Making a difference in a new way.

We lived out this calling for 25 years and watched amazing God-moments unfold before us.  And, as life goes, struggles and challenges came, too.  It’s all in a life’s work.  So many miraculous results and some comical failures to round it all out.

But, here we are.

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Starting over.

And, honestly, I am excited!

Someone asked us yesterday if we miss what we were doing before.  And the answer is a pretty simple no.  We miss some of the people.  But, we are looking forward and ahead.  We are not dwelling on what has been, but on what will be.

I don’t know where you stand.  But, it’s a great time to start over. 

I recently read Ann Voskamp’s blog post, at A Holy Experience, about June being a great month to start over.  You should check it out here.  It sparked me to think.  What a joy to be able to have a do-over in life.  To move into new dreams.  Hope and excitement bubble up inside when I think we are actually doing it!  Honestly, there is no room for fear.

People usually think of starting over when the calendar rolls over to January each new year.  A new calendar; a new start. But, June. Now, is the best time ever!

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It’s a fresh new season.  New motivation!  New, fresh drive.  The dark and dreary is behind.  Studies show starting new health habits and changes may actually be easier in the springtime than in January–a dark and dreary month.  The winter often lends itself to hibernating and digging in. Spring brings motivation and new life and busting out!

So, here we are.  It’s a new day; it’s a new, fresh season.

Not just on the calendar, but for your life as well.

If you are ever as blessed as us to have a do-over…take it! 

photo-1445249029690-d729bbc73bcfNow is the best time. Go for it!  See where your passions and the pulling of your heart are. Follow your dreams! Listen to your heart’s desire. Don’t wait another day!

It’s a beautiful day for a do-over.  

It doesn’t have to be a complete, whole-sale do-over like we have done.  Maybe there is simply an area of your life that needs change and a fresh start.  Throw open the windows!  Why not?

Do it now!

Give yourself permission to explore the landscape and the possibilities.

Be brave and courageous!  It’s beautiful up here!  You’ll love the view!

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I would love to hear how you are taking a do-over in your life!  Leave a comment.  Join in on this discussion…life is better together!  Here’s to new beginnings!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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Life is Beautiful!

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

But, really.

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

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

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

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And, now, here I am.  I am ready.

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

Our new beginning is before us.

Given to us as a gift.

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

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

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

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Shepherding.

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

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

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

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

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

No one will be left behind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Where Are You?

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Esther.

Queen Esther.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Do You Think You Are?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Courage, Dear Heart

“I know what I’m doing.  I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

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Why is it that after all I know, I still doubt?

Where do I think He is going to lead me?

What about the time I trusted completely and the wheels came all the way off the bus, landed in the ditch…..and, the bus blew up!?!

Why do I forget who He is and how much He loves me and mine?

My heart screams foul.

Instead of first remembering all the glories and grace, I turn and stare at the cracked and raised scars. I think of what put them there. I remember the pain and the emotion of the broken and disillusioned reality.

  So quick to forget.

What causes this short term memory gap?  Is it fear that causes the impaired vision; or is it the impaired vision that causes the fear?  I know it is a human issue.  It’s not new to me.  Even the wanderers of Israel could never seem to remember the miracles and open hand of God.  Maybe you, too?

It is so easy to rehearse the pain of the past; it is lazy at best and ungrateful at worst.

There.

Sometimes we need to be direct and truthful with ourselves.

Tell ourselves to snap out of it—get back to focusing on the good.  What of this living by the spirit of fear?  How much better would it be to live with power, love and a sound mind?

Interesting how “sound mind” is lumped right in there.  It seems fear has a way of causing us to lose our minds.  Without clarity, we don’t process and interpret life or situations effectively or wisely.  When we don’t work from a sound mind, we lose self-discipline and good judgment.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  But, for whatever reason, I can pick up and move on over and slide in right next to fear.

What do I think fear is really going to do for me?  It is a harsh taskmaster.  Fear ties a noose around my neck and leads me down dark and unsafe paths.  My judgment is clouded and I am not able to hear clearly what God just might say to me.  Fear is relentless and tiring and leaves me frazzled, lying in a heap.

 

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I have to shake my head.  God did not think highly of the wanderers when they did the same thing.  Oh, He loved them immeasurably!  But He grew tired of their faithlessness and their inability to just remember!  In fact, He saw them as ungrateful and difficult.  I really don’t want God to look at me in the same light.

Our scars are left behind as a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient and our strength is made stronger in our weakest moments. 

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God’s grace goes where no human hand can.  The world is a rough and tumble place with countless potential land mines.  Fear points out everything that could possibly go wrong; grace reminds us He never leaves us or forsakes us.

If we are so quick to remember the messes and disasters, why can’t we just as easily remember He has an awesome plan for us—one that is full of blessing, hope and better tomorrows?

Maybe the best place to start is with gratitude.

It seems to always come right back to that.  Doesn’t it?  A daily remembering of all the lovely graces which fill our days from beginning to end.  It takes a purposefulness and strength to look beyond the hard edges.  It takes focusing on the abundance in the simplicity.  Oh my goodness!  The whole of our minds shift and light dazzles the gray.  Why wouldn’t we want this?

Gratitude and grace aren’t gold pavers lining the street and smoothing out bumps and potholes.  They serve to lift our focus from the mess to the savior in the mess.  We see He is for us. This sin of Adam is the problem; not God.  He has never left our side.  And, He can clearly see us all the way home.

So, what do I have to fear?

What do I have to be afraid of?

No scheme of man can ever take me out of His hand!  (And you know some try awfully hard!)  Circumstances or events may not look how we imagined or the horizon may be asking more questions than giving answers.  The answers don’t often come before we strike out on the unfamiliar road.

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When gratitude and grace emerge, you shift your focus to the one who sees clearly and has walked this way before.  

Psalm 32.8 beautifully expresses his heart toward us,

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

He watches over me with loving care.

He is not flippant with my life.

When I stay close, He gives me good counsel.

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When I stay close, I look at Him, see His heart and know—really know—I need not be afraid for whatever

may come.

Fear has no place.

Fear can’t rule.

This is a huge challenge for me today.  How about you?  What is so easy for you to forget?  What situation needs your radical faith?

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Just try it……the air is cleaner up there.