This Crazy Crooked Christmas Star

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lessons Learned Along the Way

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Have you ever wanted a do-over? 

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time.

It’s time to make the changes.

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

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

Think about that.

Selah.

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

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

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

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

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

But, it is exhilarating!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a deep breath. 

You know what needs to change. 

Inhale grace and walk in gratitude. 

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

You got this!

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Do Over!

 

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017Starting over.

It is exhilarating and terrifying–all at once.

It’s a quirky thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have you ever started over?  

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

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

But, here we are.

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Starting over.

And, honestly, I am excited!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a beautiful day for a do-over.  

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

Do it now!

Give yourself permission to explore the landscape and the possibilities.

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

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

Getting Through The Storm

This week we have a friend of mine–a fellow blogger, Nicolette Pennisi, at https://thesoignesoul.wordpress.com–joining in with a guest post. Nicolette is a recent add to my world, but she has quickly found a dear, sweet spot in my heart.  A young adult, a Senior at Regent University, she has a mature, yet sensitive soul. Thanks for stopping by this week. I know you will enjoy her perspective.

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Last week, Amberly wrote an insightful post on the Lord being the Great Designer of our lives. Walking by faith and not by sight is something that even the most seasoned believer has to be reminded of. This involves having faith during our sun-filled seasons and our torrential downpour seasons.

It seems the biggest confusion amongst new (and even mature) believers is the concept of following Christ on smooth road. It seems easy to follow Christ when we’re feeling the blessings of clear skies and calm waves. The minute the clouds cover and the waves clash about, my faith can falter. Often I find myself thinking my salvation is a guarantee for an effortless life, when I find that it’s the exact opposite.

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Your storms are meant to sprout you not stunt you.

Relationships start off positive. Never do we expect there to be any troubles because how could we ever disagree with the person we find wonderful from the start? Our relationship with Christ starts off on a high note: we are diligent in reading, praying, and worshipping.

We are hopelessly in love with our Savior. But just like our earthly relationships, our relationship with God is meant to grow. After I experience a hardship in a relationship, often that relationship is stronger prior to the complication. Christ expects that after our trials.

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When Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8, verse 23 tells us that the disciples followed Him into the boat. The next verse tells us that a storm arose while they were out at sea; the tempest wasn’t present when they came on. It was easy for them to willingly follow when there was no difficulty in sight. The moment the storm came, they allowed their fear to consume them. I bet they questioned why they even got in that boat in the first place. If they had known there was going to be turbulence, I’m sure they wouldn’t have placed a step on there.

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When difficulty arises, I question my choices in the same way. Had I known I was going to face the trials that I have, I wouldn’t have gone into certain situations. Some difficulties derive from bad choices and some are simply the result of following after Christ. What we fail to realize is the minute we follow Christ, a storm arises. That is, immediately, there is spiritual warfare being fought. The last thing Satan wants is for us to devote our lives to Jesus. He will do anything to deter us from our final destination.

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Salvation salvages your eternal destination and your earthly dilemmas.

If Christ is big enough to save us from Hell, He can surely handle our problems. In the midst of the storm, Jesus was asleep while the disciples were freaking out! Jesus knew it was coming. God knows the difficulties we will face, but He uses those to grow us into a beautifully new creation in Him. It’s up to us to choose to “walk by faith and not by sight.” Trusting in Christ is the only way for us to sail through all storms of life. Our faith will be made stronger through these.

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“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

His victorious right hand will lead us through. Just as Christ rebuked the winds and the sea, He will do the same when we put our complete trust in Him. We can’t allow our fears to keep us from doing so.

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Jesus’ glory is bigger than your fear.

“And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:27.

When Christ calms our storm, you will stand in awe of it.

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When we go through the fire, we are purified and are strengthened after it. It sheds away the new to reveal the new and improved. At the end of it all, we have nothing left but to praise our Savior for making it through.

Jesus told us that He overcame the world so that we may have a greater life. To live a greater life is to walk faithfully with Christ, letting Him rebuke the storms that may come our way.

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A Grand Design(er)

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“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.”

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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.

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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.  

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Enough

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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.

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

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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.  

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.    

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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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What’s That Noise?

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There is so much noise.

Everywhere.

Do you ever get tired of it?

Do you ever just wish it would stop?

I do.

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There are opinions from all corners of the globe.  They run 24 hours a day.

Constant, instant, unsolicited and often discouraging.  Anywhere, anytime, about anything.

Oh, there is beneficial and helpful information out there.  But, I dare say, I know I open my heart too often to the negative and non-life giving chants of society.  And it is anything but helpful!

What can we do to protect ourselves from the noise and chaos?

  1.  Set boundaries.
  2. Unplug.
  3. Meditate.
  4. Focus on others.

To be quite honest, I struggle with most of these.  It is almost impossible to shut out this flow of unending information.  But, these are some helpful steps to eliminating the noise pollution in our worlds.

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Setting boundaries.  This simply means guarding your heart and mind. What do you subscribe to?  What groups and people do you follow on social media?  Do they uplift and support your values?  If not, clean out your pages and feeds.  Only allow access into your heart and mind, voices of life and wisdom.  You are going to have to replace the negative with the positive.

Unplug.  I am terrible at this one.  My mother has even pled with me to give it a try.  I unplugged the other day for several hours while on vacation.  I had to be brave and make the jump at my husband’s insistence.  I am way too attached to the constant scrolling and observing and mind numbing. But, I did it and it was wonderful!  And, I learned I could make it just fine.  I will do it again.

Meditate.  We have to make a specific and concentrated effort to stop and listen to Christ.  He has instruction and guidance and wisdom we need each day.  I struggle to stop and quiet my heart.  There are too many times I run through my day hoping to get it right.  I too often fly solo without having taken the time regroup and recharge.  I run on old information.

Focus on others.  When we focus on other people and help them, we don’t have time to feed our souls with junk.  When we serve, we are more like Christ.  When we give to others, we aren’t searching for false validation from voices that haven’t earned the right to speak into our lives.  As we give to others, we will find we need to have something to give away.   We have to take away the negative and replace that emptiness with the positive.

Sometimes the opinions and narratives I tell myself create the chaos and noise. 

When I have consumed a steady diet of lies or negativity, I retell myself this same stuff.  We believe everything we tell ourselves.

A little scary, isn’t it?

I know I am guilty of tearing myself down.  I listen to the stream of negativity as a captive audience.

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Not the right weight.

Not smart enough.

Not strong enough.

Not good enough.

Not doing enough.

Bad mom.

Terrible at homeschooling.

Failure.

Rejected.

Disorganized mess……………………….

And, if I’m not careful, the list runs on and on.  I wouldn’t allow someone else to fill my world, or anyone else’s, with that kind of noise.  Why do I sit by and allow it for my own heart?

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Honestly, it takes hard work to fight and resist. 

It takes following the four steps to bring quiet out of the chaos of our world.  Do the hard work.  We can’t speak life and peace to our own hearts and minds if we are surrounded with negative images and noise.  Otherwise, we won’t make room for the life Christ wants to give.

I need to be mindful of the voices I listen to and allow in my world.

I am so worth it

and so are you!

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Life is Beautiful!

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

But, really.

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

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

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

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And, now, here I am.  I am ready.

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

Our new beginning is before us.

Given to us as a gift.

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

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

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

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Shepherding.

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

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

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

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

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

No one will be left behind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unexpected Graces

 

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Well, here I am sitting in the saddle.  It feels good!  I have missed this place! I’m glad to be back.

It’s been a rough and tumble couple of months since I last sat down.  When I took a break right before Christmas, I never anticipated the journey I would embark upon.  Frankly, it was like someone gave a monkey a match.  It has been quite a ride.

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I needed this time to regroup and set my heart and mind right.  I have been too afraid to write, honestly.  Afraid of what just might come out.  But, it is time.  And, I am grateful.

In an effort to cope with our pain and lighten the mood, our family began to refer to this season as a “plot twist”.   In stark reality, our lives have dramatically changed.  Due to painful circumstances, my Love resigned his position at the church we pastored for over seven years.  Sometimes, it is just time to move on.  There comes a time when you realize the odds are not in your favor and for everyone’s sake, you have to make an exit.  You just hope to do so with grace.

I do believe it has been one of the most hurtful seasons we have experienced in life and ministry.  After 25 years, we have experienced our share of disappointments and set backs.  But, this, by far, was the one of the biggest gut punches of them all.  The only other to compare would be the sexual abuse of our son by a trusted friend and church worker.

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I have learned quite a few lessons in our time here in Virginia.  Some are pretty tough.  But all have been for my good.

Our time in Virginia has been anything but easy.  We have endured some losses.  But, I also can look and see some beautiful gains.  I would be shallow if I didn’t recognize them.

A few years back I began my own One Thousand Gifts journey.  It was a life saver, really. Each day I would count out my gratitude, line by line.  I am beginning a new one.  It’s important to remember the gifts from our journeys.  If not, it could get terribly discouraging!  So, it is time.  Time to refocus my attention.

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One lesson I’ve learned is, “God gives good gifts.”  Some seasons we just have to look a little harder.  Many times they are hard gifts.  I look back at our journey…it is unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever experienced…yet, I still find beauty in the charred rubble.

Light only shines through cracked vessels. 

So, when people ask me if I had known then what I know now, would I still have relocated to Virginia, I’m never sure how to answer.  In the natural, it does not seem worth it.  We have paid quite a high price.  We certainly didn’t know all we were taking on.

Truthfully, I don’t like that question at all.  My first instinct is to scream NO, of course not!

Injustice,

hatred,

jealousy,

abuse,

unfair expectations,

rejection,

financial loss,

illness,

anxiety and depression,

plots and schemes,

abandonment,

betrayal.

Who would?

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When I look at that list of pain, it would seem hardly worth it.  I could easily drown in that sea of loss and hurt.  I do see, however, the gifts from God’s hand that He gave in the middle of such ugly hard.

So, I choose to look at the gifts.  It is time. 

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Friendships,

children discovered their gifting,

memories made,

bound family ties,

new dreams inspired,

spiritual growth,

loyalty,

a sweet canine companion,

hope,

peace,

increased faith,

grace from unexpected places,

deep kindness,

lessons learned,

lives changed,

wisdom,

provision,

protection,

opportunity,

divine encouragement.

I am most certain I have forgotten many other blessings.

I have a sneaky suspicion I am not alone in this listing.  We are not unique.

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We all have experienced our share of pain and loss.  I simply refuse to get stuck here.  I don’t want to live in the muck and mire.  I will not suffer needlessly.  I want free of it.  And, the only place I know to start is with gratitude. 

Christ does not promise a trouble-free life.  No, indeed.

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This world is fallen and is coming undone.  People disappoint.  No amount of dancing can undo that fact.  But, I have learned something else.

Light shines out of my broken places.

God is mending in such a way that light will warmly glow and draw others in.  They will meet Him there.  It isn’t about pretending to have it all together.  No one understands such living.  It is a fairy tale and too great a weight to drag around.

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So, once again, I have picked up pen and tablet and will scribe my gratitude.

I won’t forget our pain, for it has left a mark.  But, mostly I will remember with a heart of gratitude all God is and was to me in the pain.  The strong arms that have held and carried.  I will remember.  All that was meant for my harm, is turned to good.  Nothing can ever take me from His hand.

That is what I will remember.  That will be my focus.  There is beauty to out-sing the ugly.  For it is well with my soul.

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