This Crazy Crooked Christmas Star

don258veheu-kelly-sikkema

This is the year of the crooked Christmas star.

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

I can’t bear to part with it!

This year it is perched quite crooked.

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

Such has been our year. 

jp5rutrnaes-mark-rabe

It has been a very crooked and crazy journey.

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

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

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

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

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

Perfectly set and coordinated. 

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

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

And that is life.

But, we love to see the beautiful.

15380375_10211989204711996_9069864355369525463_n

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

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

Life has bumps.

olj_soo152w-natalie-fox

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

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

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

But, it is ours!

God’s grace is always present in the journey.

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

eefmc1ug_k8-ben-white-2

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

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

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

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

voustoiqnmi-jordan-sanchez

He knows our weakness.

He is acquainted with our hurt and pain.

He understands the frustration of the crooked journey.

He knows us and has walked the same way.

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

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

And, He will lead us all the way home.

His grace is sufficient.

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

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

12345402_10208670824554566_2736591417583191709_n

Encouragement, Dear Momma

photo-1469975696786-49748c495f56

Mothering.

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

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

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

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

wVlfnlTbRtK8eGvbnBZI_VolkanOlmez_005

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

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

Endurance.

That is what we learn.

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

14054185_10210855020998112_7515855168696227332_n

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

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

Bullied, abused, isolated and rejected.

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

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

photo-1414759030024-7889df4b20f4

Hurt and healing.

Despair and hope.

But, this young man of mine is a fighter.

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

Back to last night.

14034846_10210854972356896_2482572510453164206_n

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

Sitting there, a realization hit me square on.

This child.

Processed with VSCOcam with b3 preset

This one I grieved over and prayed for.

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

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

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

dPfjQTyJSJ2LpM7D9Yr0_Photo 15-02-2014

But, we did what we do best.

We rallied and fought…together.

Prayer and help and love and care.

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

NO.

He is the God of the very best order.

No slipshod or faulty duct tape fixes here. 

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

her-tears-grey-puddle

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

This is for you, my friend.

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

Sometimes the very worst.

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

photo-1455368109333-ebc686ad6c58

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

If there is pain, our hearts break.

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

You would just like a tiny spark of hope. 

Let this be that. 

12295413_10208592749962750_7471772614596069674_n

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

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

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

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

photo-1451342695181-17c97b85aab4

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

That is all it takes, dear Momma.

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

Why don’t you, too?

photo-1444167827109-712640e22c8e

Four Lessons I Needed to Learn

photo-1452696231812-cab5d362ed14

So far this summer has been simply wonderful! 

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

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

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

photo-1448632055520-5180f82474e2

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

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

I know we all live full and complex lives.

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

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

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

So, lesson number two–

photo-1467043153537-a4fba2cd39ef

Sabbath, solitude and silence are essential to good living. 

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

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

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

Sabbath and solitude are the antidote to chaos.

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

Let’s go for the third lesson.

photo-1466298356323-f84bed7b3475

What you see is what you get.

Literally. 

Are you looking for God? 

Are you noticing He is right in front of you? 

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

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

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

And, here’s numero quatro.

photo-1467510396478-c4680a636614

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

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

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

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

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

Pray,

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

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

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

photo-1467164616789-ce7ae65ab4c9

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

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

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

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

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

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

13559132_10210366717950841_3922217094856848370_o

The Gift of Confession

photo-1460917975071-bcf44881c99e

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

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

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

photo-1447619297994-b829cc1ab44a

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

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

Can we really believe confession is beneficial? 

Frederick Buechner said,

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

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

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

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

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

photo-1460753311952-cf4606955685

Let’s take this one step further. 

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

The Bible speaks of confessing our sins to one another. 

photo-1438030884032-8e6fc76046f5

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

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

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

And, He has the cure.

photo-1423449866043-73b9a34cb270

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

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

photo-1452111380487-b84c8895e191

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

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

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

photo-1435265796918-0e3d3e4af435

Up and Coming

photo-1465489958353-2781afb14b72

I’m not interested in going back.

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

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

photo-1459486208975-05d4c74eff9d

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

What was is done. 

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

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

photo-1465343161283-c1959138ddaa-2

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

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

I choose forward.

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

photo-1447875569765-2b3db822bec9

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

The prophet told us clearly,

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

God is always working with the future in mind. 

That was the whole point of Christ’s coming.

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

I choose a forward moving life.

It’s a new day.  What was is over. 

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

Give me forward facing folks anytime. 

photo-1456964513482-f21a68af77ee

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

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

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

Forward.

photo-1453974336165-b5c58464f1ed

It is the seeking of what lies ahead. 

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

It isn’t saying the past is invalid. 

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

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

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

I am moving forward! 

photo-1429743305873-d4065c15f93e

Hiding

photo-1448216118999-7a3f98dc37f2

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

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

What a loving, personal God. 

photo-1465264232362-381617a86af6-1

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

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

photo-1443994450376-d67ed1937914

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

Vulnerable and available.  

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

Desperate for a loving grace that brings healing.

Truly, desperate to be known, and yet loved.

photo-1447878279155-652113af70d3

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

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

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

photo-1445510861639-5651173bc5d5

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

Why do we feel the need to hide?

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

photo-1461337164761-2124f78ecc21

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

The gift of the cross made right our broken souls.

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

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

photo-1442810030476-6d83b45a1094

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

He does all things well.

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

“I think about the heavens.

    I think about what your fingers have created.

I think about the moon and stars

    that you have set in place.

What are human beings that you think about them?

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

(Psalm 8:3,4)

Yes! That is me!  My human self!

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

  Why in the world should I hide? 

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

photo-1444401045234-4a2ab1f645c0

I’m not a burden or disappointment. Ever.

I am my beloveds; he is mine.

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

photo-1451342695181-17c97b85aab4

I am safest when I hide in his hand.

Not hiding from his hand.

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

photo-1455642305367-68834a1da7ab

A Grand Design(er)

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017

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

Isaiah 55:8-9

Ain’t that the truth?

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

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

photo-1414058862086-136de6c98e99

Your picture is beyond beautiful.

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

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

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

His ways are not ours.  He orders our steps.  

photo-1438211891462-006dc8998ef1

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

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

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

photo-1444807294837-6c4a5293b555

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

And, I’m fine with that.

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

photo-1420802532821-8a885e88e95c

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

His ways are not ours.

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

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

13254630_10209997367917321_1753225866503136646_o

Enough

photo-1453668069544-b8dbea7a0477

Do you ever feel like this?

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

I’m learning to live blueprint-free.

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

Oh, well.  I’m no longer there.

photo-1443996264301-c81a3053d00a

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

photo-1428947667392-649218f955eb-1

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

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

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

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

We are not enough.

We are not enough.  

wVlfnlTbRtK8eGvbnBZI_VolkanOlmez_005

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

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

Then.  And only then, are you enough.

13055781_10209840768642437_803927134573403925_o

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

It’s all nothing. 

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

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

photo-1460687521562-9eead9abe9e8-1

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

How have I managed to slip into law living?

I have nothing.

In myself.

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

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

He isn’t impressed.

photo-1460469235493-43425878ad2d

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

NOTHING + JESUS = EVERYTHING.

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

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

photo-1459631836437-1c2824882e3f

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

Resting is not something I do well.

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

I’m learning to rest.

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

I just need Him.

photo-1461173987039-e3abb8addb9b

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

It is not punishment.  

It is a realigning, calibrating, and refining.

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

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

Don’t long for the past.  Exhale.

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

9XkFhM8tRiuHXZRCKSdm_ny-2

This is divine rest.

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

There is preparation in this separation. 

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

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

Give up the nonsense.

photo-1444011283387-7b0f76371f12

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

I leave that to Him.  And that is enough.    

photo-1460499593944-39e14f96a8c6

 

Gifts in Odd Little Packages

photo-1417008914239-59b898b49382

Rainy days.

Following God.

Trusting Him.

Relying on Him.

Depending on Him.

Sometimes the answers don’t come in the way you expect.  Sometimes the answers are not sounding like what you had in mind.  Sometimes the gifts are wrapped in odd looking packages.  They even come a little banged up and looking a little worse for wear.

Some days come with the rain drops and grey skies.  Some come full of sunshine and gentle breezes.

As a mom, I would give anything for the gifts to always be sunny and blue-sky filled.  What do you do when the answers and the gifts look anything but that?

Needles and IVs and tubes and wires and beeps and clicks. Hospital beds and quiet rooms.  Where is the hope in this and where is the joy in the promises?

12967950_10209723857199724_3808468718745369857_o

Teaching your children that some things don’t look or sound like good gifts, but indeed they are.  That’s the starting place.

How I wish our gifts and answers didn’t require doctor visits and hospital visits and infusions.  Yet, here we are.  Good people given to administer health and care to hurting and tired bodies.

That’s a gift.

Compassionate hands and tender souls working to understand the pain and do something, anything to make it better.  God knows.

I could let myself run free down the highway of fear and burden and disappointment.  A young body feeling older that it should and hurting more than seems fair.

 But, let’s point to God.

photo-1422558068704-1f8f0609e27c

Yesterday, I realized I had lost some very important birthday cards I had bought a few days earlier for two special little people.

I could not for the life of me figure out where I had put them.  All I know is we have had some crazy-wild wind blowing through and everything felt like it would blow away if it wasn’t bolted down.  A neighbor I didn’t even know met me at the driveway, said she found some cards in a sack blowing around the empty lot….were they mine?  She thought maybe they would be.  Yes, yes they are.

This is such a funny, cool story to me. 

No, they weren’t priceless and irreplaceable.  Just a couple of birthday cards for some cuties.  But, I was perplexed at their loss and just moments before had searched the car for them.  She dropped them by, all fine and good and undamaged, although they had taken quite a ride on the wind.

This made me laugh!

Somewhere between being unloaded from the car and before making it inside the house they were whirled away for the ride of their short, recycled-paper life.  Soon to be picked up and rescued by friendly neighbors.

photo-1456587349840-30f5d8581fc8

Now.

This is not meant to be some overly-spiritual analogy or goose-bump-filled story.

It was just a gentle reminder whispered to me in that moment.  As silly as a couple of cards are, and seemingly insignificant in the whole scheme of things, they were needed.  I realized that if God can help me get my missing cards back, He can answer anything and be everything I need him to be.

Please don’t roll your eyes and exit out of this post!  It’ll be worth it, I promise!

photo-1459663148042-6d8cb9340411

Here’s the deal. 

We are well on our way into a new adventure.

Currently, no job.  

The Husband is wrapping up law school with graduation in May. 

Without a job, there is no insurance and no income. 

Fortunately, our insurance is extended into the summer.  But, if I’m not careful, I begin to ask what about after that? 

No insurance–how do I make sure my Love receives the best gift in medicine he can? 

It can cause a Momma’s heart to fret. But, not to worry. 

These last few months, God has been busy showing me in various ways He has a plan.  He had a plan before we knew we even needed the plan.  What men intend for negative, God turns for good, in the lives of those who follow Him.  We can ride that all the way home!

God is helping me understand His shoulders are broader and His arms are stronger than my cares.  He loves me. He loves my children. He loves my family more than I can ever fully understand.  He knows our need. 

He has the plan. 

In fact, He only does things really well, and works to bring all things together in perfect order, in just the right timing.  And, further, He knows what we will be needing BEFORE we even know we have need—long before we are in need.  

So, with our future unknown to us (but NOT unknown to God),  I sit here in this special unit of the children’s hospital watching my child being infused with a medical gift.  This will be a regular occurrence for the foreseeable future.  No, I wish this was not part of his journey.  Surely, to never have this need in the first place would be an amazing gift. But, God’s divine plan is better.

And, I will trust.

photo-1436918671239-a2b72ace4880

This man-size boy just trying to live life to the fullest.

Following his passions…running bases and hitting balls, making music and loving his family. God has a beautiful plan.  Even in this imperfect story, God is weaving great gifts and miracles into the fabric of who this man-child is.

photo-1459149695069-61ac26c142ac

 I am thankful for the gifts God gives and the hope and peace that lies right within reach. 

I only need to focus on the promise of Him never leaving or forsaking. 

So, whether they are little paper-reminders of God’s awareness or flesh on hands or the beeping and clicking of monitors, I choose to see these as extravagant gifts He gives.

My hope is built on nothing less than Christ and His love for me and mine.

Af0sF2OS5S5gatqrKzVP_Silhoutte

Raise Them Strong

photo-1445820133247-bfef6cc162a7

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

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

“Life is severe!”

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

photo-1450084195263-9a8b47617097

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

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

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

11949464_10208016339112839_6410654275708581477_n

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

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

photo-1447939327228-66b1930fc80a

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

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

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

photo-1450151156983-86161cfa704d

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

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

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

photo-1437669514390-0eda00923cc8

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

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

Why do my kids have to experience such things?  

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

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

photo-1418743342338-5ee869c68e95

But, here is the next question.

Why not?

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

Why not? 

Who are we to expect to escape hardship?

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

photo-1416163026265-0bc340a710e4

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

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

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

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

Af0sF2OS5S5gatqrKzVP_Silhoutte

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

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

photo-1443948308135-d57fc66de368