a sweet, sweet story

Here we are.

Just steps away from Christmas Day. Lighting candles and humming carols. Spending moments with loved ones. Wrapping and running and spending and spinning.

We are climbing to the pinnacle.

But, let us stop. Breathe. Listen.

I could think of no greater way of celebrating this final week than having the story…in it’s own words..told here.  I hope you enjoy the art I have included. Of course, the story needs nothing else added to it.

But, God created Beauty.  He is Beauty. This is my gift to you this Christmas.

Merriest of Christmas Seasons!

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The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

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29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

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Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed:

“Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 

43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

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Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

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The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a]Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

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10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

1“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

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16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

(Luke 1, 2 NIV, Bible Gateway)

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From the Home of the Crooked Christmas Tree…

May you find the hope, joy and peace you are looking for this Christmas. May your family be blessed. And may your New Year be bright! Blessings from the Reynolds and Sweet Sage Lane!

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Mary’s Wait

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Waiting.

The Christmas season.

Mary.

A young girl. A handpicked maiden. A virgin.

She nurtured within her a sacred promise.

Mary carried dreams deep within her heart. The waiting had begun.

Not everyone understood. People whispered with side glances and shaking of heads.

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The angel greeted her. Startled her more like it. The Presence of God was near. Near to her…her beauty radiated from the inside out.

She was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. This journey was about to change  her forever.  She would always be known as Mary, the mother of Jesus.

One chosen by God to fulfill a most sacred of tasks.  To carry this most precious Seed.

One who had never been touched by a man, much less slept with one. She was going to mother the ‘Son of the Highest’.  She was going to birth a son.

She was going to be Mary, the mother of God.

Her reply, “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (The Message)

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And, then the waiting.  She waited just as we do.  Nine months.

But before all that, she had a lot of explaining to do.

Can you imagine? Put yourself there.

Joseph was not so sure. This was NOT how things were supposed to go. The disappointment and shock were palpable. Honorable Jewish men did not marry pregnant Jewish women. It just was not done.

So, in the waiting, there was difficulty.  

There was the typical pregnancy adjustments and pains and challenges.  She knew the promise spoken to her by the angel in the secret place. She knew this gift she carried would be called Holy. Son of God.

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Such beauty in the hidden promise spoken to this young heart. I imagine this promise was something so sacred and beautiful, guarded lovingly within her heart and held tenderly throughout the years.

Oh, the beauty of it.

In her final days of waiting, Mary and her Beloved set out and traveled many miles where she gave birth. In a barn. A filthy, noisy, smelly barn. There was no gentle midwife with soothing words and no sweet post-birth photo shoot with sweet smelling blankets and adoring faces. No, these parents were sharing a space with manure and hay and animals. No family or support system. Just two young kids. In a borrowed barn.

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Waiting on the fulfillment of a promise. And bringing in the Son of God. A dirty barn and the Most High.

And such is life.  Full of waiting.

We have promises spoken to us in the secret place.  Given to us when the least was expected. We grabbed hold. We took it and planted it deep into our heart. We believed it. And then perhaps the mess came. Maybe a lot of mess came. Too much mess.

 “Let it be with me just as you say.”

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Just like Mary, I have said it. Obviously, I’m not carrying around the Savior of the world.   But, I am carrying around other dreams. Dreams significant to my world. The world God has placed me in.

A different seed. A different gift. Spoken into my heart. Spoken into my life. And life happens and stuff seems to interrupt. My expectations are not fulfilled.

My timeline is off.

And, so the waiting continues. And the waiting is not easy.  Nor are the stretch marks beautiful or the delayed gratification satisfying. But, in the waiting I am growing. In the waiting I am stretching.  In the waiting I listen.

Part of the waiting is sitting quietly. Waiting is hard work. At least that is the best I can make of it.

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Much was bombarding my heart and mind. So, I took a break from Sweet Sage Lane. I wasn’t sure what might come out on the page. I wasn’t sure it would be beneficial to much of anybody.

And sometimes parts of our waiting seasons require silence and stillness.  To be fully transparent, a couple months ago I struggled with depression and anxiety at new levels I hadn’t experienced in quite some time.  Not everyone understands that journey.  But, I am doing much better and God used many sources to bring light and hope back into my heart and mind.

Yesterday, and then again today, I was reminded once again the importance of making the most of the season I am in. 

At the appointed times, Mary did the things she needed to do.  She ministered to Elizabeth and travelled to take care of family business.  And, sometimes our seasons require movement. Waiting requires preparing for the appointed times to come.  Because, the appointed moments will arrive.

Waiting is hard work.

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So, once again in this beautiful holiday season, I am reminded of Mary.

The Lady in Waiting.

The one who prepared for the Son of God to be born. The one with an open heart. The one without an agenda of her own.  The one willing to open her life to an adventure of unknown proportions.

At the appointed times, Mary did the things she needed to do during her waiting.

So, as was with Mary I say, “Let it be with me just as you say.”

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In the waiting I anticipate the fullness of beauty and wonder.

This advent season is a hope-filled reminder of promises kept and wonders foretold. My heart opens with full expectation and renewed anticipation.

In this, my heart is stirred and comforted with a long awaited and much needed peace.

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A Few Beautiful Things

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It’s true. I’ve lived it!

God gives beautiful things.

We all know life throws some crazy stuff our way.

But, more than anything, wrapped in and through and around and over and under is a big bunch of beautiful. The one place you can always count on finding a steady flow of beautiful gifts is Scripture.

Today, as I was reading a great book that focuses attention on Christ in the face of challenges, I was reminded once again of these verses I have heard so many times before.

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I wanted to share them with you.  Perhaps you needed this reminder today–regardless of your situation.  Wherever life finds you; whatever your particular set of circumstances, these Scriptures are for you.

Beautiful art makes everything better, too. So, I thought I would just make this a whole big post on a whole bunch of beautiful! Enjoy!

A photo by Sebastian Unrau. unsplash.com/photos/CoD2Q92UaEg

I will extol the Lord at all times;

            His praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;

            Let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;

            Let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

            He delivered me from all my fears.

                                                (Psalm 34:1-4)

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I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait

For him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to

The one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the

salvation of the Lord.

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The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

            And delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

            Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,

            For those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,

            But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

                                   (Psalm 34:7-10)

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The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

            And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

                                                (Psalm 34:18)

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The Lord makes firm the steps

            Of the one who delights in him;

Though he may stumble, he will not fall,

            For the Lord upholds him with his hand.

                                                (Psalm 37:23-24)

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Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he

will give you the desires of your heart.

(Psalm 37:3, 4)

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I hope this week is one of noticing beauty and marking it in our lives.

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Encouragement, Dear Momma

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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?

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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?

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Four Lessons I Needed to Learn

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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. 

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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–

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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Up and Coming

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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. 

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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. 

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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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! 

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Hiding

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Gifts in Odd Little Packages

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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