Where Is Your Life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep me safe, my God,

for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

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

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

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

I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

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

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

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

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

11 

You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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

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

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

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.

Strong Medicine

I sat on the bed.  Everything I believed was in the middle of a free fall.  This was my parachute.  It deployed and my descent slowed.  So, I sat there and started crying.  Not the gentle tear, but the rolling, sobbing kind.  

 

If you asked me, I would have done away with our current course. There was so much to wade through and sometimes I just wasn’t sure about much.  Trust of everything and most everybody was at a devastating low.

I had picked up a book I had some months earlier stuck in a corner.  I had seen it advertised, it looked interesting, but when it came, it underwhelmed me.  So, there it sat, forgotten, actually.  Until one night in small group, the book came up in discussion.  It rang familiar….I went home, dug it out and started to devour it.   It’s funny how that happens.  Not a coincidence, by any stretch of the imagination.

I had NO idea.  God knew that it would be required reading for the journey I was about to take. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp changed my life forever.

As I was reading, God nudged me and began to un-bandage my wound.  He was always so gentle with me.  His gentleness wooed my worn out soul.  He knew me and the brokenness of my heart.

He was always so full of grace.  And, He began to speak through the words on the page.  What was I going to do with it?

God was there in all the ugly pain.  He was there and heard my child’s desperate cries for help and rescue.  He made a way out.  He was with us in the counseling moments.  The hours upon hours of healing that took place through a dedicated mouthpiece.  The darkness that seemed to hover over the waiting room would take my breath away.  The grief that never seemed to run out.  He was there.

In that moment, I had a choice to make.

I could either trust Him enough to be grateful in spite of the pain and destruction or….not. 

Was I going to continue feeling as if He couldn’t be trusted? Was I going to keep on feeling as if He didn’t know what He as doing and certainly not keeping an eye on my family? He held out the medicine for my soul.  Right there. Within my reach.  Trust and Gratitude.

Gratitude makes my life a sanctuary.

Gratitude invites God into the pain and opens the door to beauty.  Gratitude changes the lens of of our view.  Thanksgiving lifts my head off of the present, shattered mess and on to the One who leads me forward.  I can trust that He will lead me safely on and be right by my side.  I could focus on my desperate thoughts of wishing this had never happened; or wondering where God was on the nights my child had no escape; or the fears of my child never being whole and happy.  At that moment, the view was pretty tragic and desperate.

God knew my life was meant for more than that.  There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances, but I could change my view.  That was entirely up to me!  Gratitude invites grace into the dark and transforms it into light.  The light shines bright and life is breathed back into the dead.

It’s not easy or everyone would do it!

If it came naturally, this world would be transformed beyond recognition.  I’m not saying we have to be grateful for the ugly destruction.  I’m certainly not there yet or sure I ever will be.

But I’m choosing to not focus on it.  It isn’t my daily diet and I am not going to let it eat me alive!  BUT, I am trying daily to focus on the everyday miracles and answered prayers. 

The hand of God moves and reveals Himself in the mundane and in the grand.

Beauty in the sunlight

Chai tea lattes in the morning

Family dinner

Little girls kisses

A Saturday with no commitments

God loves my children even more than I do

Friends who understand

Honest and open conversations

God speaking to my children

A day with lessened pain

Darkness is destroyed

Date night with my love

Libraries!!!

In my brokenness, I can still worship….a sacrifice to the One who is always there

A smile

Love expressed in simply kind ways

Candles on a cold day

Sweet sibling prayers

 

So, here I am….1,122 gratitudes strong….written down.

And it will keep going.

I’m just one woman working to live at peace on this journey I am on.  Unfortunately, at times I’ve bogged down and some days have been very gratitude silent.

But, I don’t want to be that….for what has the Love of my Savior done to be ignored and unrecognized?  He faced darkness head on so that I can have Light in my own darkness.  

 

What gratitude do you need to start voicing?  Where is the mundane or grand that needs acknowledgement in your life? A lack of gratitude will choke the very life out of your heart.  But, thankfulness will keep your eyes off the dark and on the Light!

Gratitude = Great Attitude

Kind of a cheesy title.  Sorry about that!  But it struck me once again as I sit here and love on my four-legged, furry baby!  I’m grateful for Kingsley Rose!

 

 

Gratitude  is  the  one  guaranteed  life  changer ….. or  at  least  change  how you  view  it!

This gal’s sole purpose is to love and be loved.  She is nothing but a lover!  We affectionately refer to her as our PTSD dog.  For years, I was set against getting a dog.  I certainly didn’t understand the super dog lovers.  They were dirty, smelly animals that chewed up things and got into trouble and would probably meet an untimely end like all my childhood dogs.  Nope! Not gonna do it.  I didn’t get it.

When we were going through our crisis, somehow the stars aligned and my heart was softened.  I remember it very clearly.  The door of my heart cracked open and my Honey pounced on it like LIFE depended on it!  Money was exchanged and before I knew it we were the humans to a very cute, very spunky, very fluffy, very loving, little white dog.  I laugh, because God knew what we needed.  And sometimes it is the smallest of things that blesses you the most.  In her small little package comes more healing and laughter and peace than you might imagine of a little, fluffy dog.

It is from the unlikeliest of places that God brings the greatest of joys.  Sometimes the greatest gifts come wrapped in unusual packaging.  During that time, I was learning I had to get my eyes off our crisis and refocus my attention on the many things to be thankful for.  I wasn’t called to be thankful FOR the pain that rocked my family.  But, I was called to be thankful IN the pain.

I took the challenge to keep a running list of gratitude. Whether big or small, it went into my gratitude journal.  If you start intentionally looking for the gifts you’ve been given, you will be surprised how many there really are.

Even in the seemingly starkest and most desolate circumstances you might be facing, God reveals his grace.  journal

In the early days of my journaling of the gifts, it was hard.  Some days were easier.  Some days the page laid blank because I could’t find one single, solitary thing to be thankful for.  As I looked back over my list and neared 1,000 reasons to be thankful, the one thing that popped up over and over was…you guessed it!  Our sweet, loving, lovable four-legged friend. She soothed our souls and made us belly laugh.  She knew when there were tears and she nuzzled up to check on us.  And so many times, she just knew WE needed to play with her.

So, you see, it is quite comical.

When we do what seems to be the most impossible thing to do

—like being grateful in the really ugly times—

God has a way of surprising us with the greatest joy!

In order to get the biggest pay off, you have to find the gratitude in the hardest hard.  It literally saved my life.  It got my attention off of the loss and pain and onto the gifts God had already given in the every day.

I  soon  realized  that  the  simple-magnificent  was  right  before  me.  

 

You too might just save your life, or maybe just your mind, but nonetheless, you can’t lose if you focus on the graces you are given each day.  I challenge you to start a running gratitude list for each and every day.  I think you will be surprised at what you find. I dare you!

I’d love to hear your gratitude!  Please share with me and we can smile together!

 

PS.  If you need further inspiration, I highly recommend this resource.  It challenged me and changed my life. http://www.aholyexperience.com/one-thousand-gifts-book/

Forgiveness…..It Makes Me Sweat

Forgiveness.  The word makes me sweat.  

I am an emotional person.  I feel things deeply. I take things to heart.  My heart gets bruised.  And, it’s not just about me.  I am madly in love with my husband and children.  They are my world.  When they hurt, I hurt. When bad things happen to them, it might as well be me!  I am very emotive….so much estrogen.  Just ask my family.  (Think mother bear!)

The biggest lesson of my life came in October 2011.  Desperate to end his nightmare, our child spilled his hurt and pain to my husband.  We knew this person.  We thought she was safe—she wanted to be a youth pastor and we were mentoring her towards that end.  We thought we knew and understood her well.

Apparently, we didn’t.

The days that followed were full of rage, pain and complete shock.  We navigated the legal system, detectives, and victim advocates in a haze of unbelief.  Not unbelief of our child’s story.  We never doubted him.  Sitting in the detective’s office, trying to answer endless questions, we just couldn’t figure out how we had gotten to this point.

How could someone do this to one of our own and to our family?

I never dreamed, in all my days, I would be sitting

in a courtroom listening to all the graphic details of the abuse.

Who does?

Betrayal of any kind is painful. 

At this level, it was hard to breathe.  We had done so much to better the life and future of this caregiver; providing opportunities for a future that would not have come anywhere else.

We did receive justice in the legal system. We are grateful.  It started the healing process for our boy and for us. We felt heard and understood.  Unfortunately, in today’s culture, male victims of female perpetrators many times don’t receive equal justice.   But, we did. And that is nothing short of a miracle.

But, see, this is where it gets gritty.

As Christ Followers, we are taught to forgive.

  For the longest time I wasn’t in any place to forgive.  I needed  time and space to process and heal.

And I honestly think God was okay with that.  I learned something important.

Everybody moves at their own pace and the journey is cyclical—just like in the grieving process.

FORGIVENESS   IS   NOT   EASY   NOR   CHEAP.

I have to say, there are some days I don’t feel as if I have forgiven very well.  Most days, three years isn’t long enough to pay for the level of trauma, fear and pain he endured.  And, if I am really honest (please allow me),

I can’t understand how God could forgive this, much less me.

 

I know this: If I surrender my deep betrayal and pain to God, and follow His lead, He will walk me through this difficult journey of forgiveness.

I am learning that forgiveness is a journey.

This past week was a perfect example of how much work I have left to do, but how far I have come!  It was a milestone in our journey.  He knows we are human.  We are not perfect in this earthly skin.

I think forgiveness isn’t a one and done type of thing either.

It is a process—a lifelong journey that brings great peace.  I imagine I will work the rest of my life to forgive fully and completely as I know Christ does.  I know God knows my humanity.

He gives me strength and power to do what I can’t seem to do on my own.

As you can see, it makes the top 10 of the hardest lessons I will learn in life.  And I’m still trying to figure it all out.  It is a team effort with God leading the way.  I’ll follow in His footsteps and I know all will be alright.

What about you?  Do you have something that screams for forgiveness but you just don’t know how?  Can you give yourself grace knowing God does when you are walking hand in hand….moving in His unhurried rhythms of grace?

 

My friend, I know it is hard.  I hate the cliches.

But, God is jealous for you and is aware of your pain.

Sit and listen for His rhythm of grace.