Turn the Page

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It’s the New Year. 

Everyone is posting their great notes and how-to’s for the new year.  All the great revelations for the upcoming year and reflections upon the past year are being posted.  I think that’s great.

But, for me it’s January 4. A normal day. Hump day.

Kids have started back to school. I am getting my house back in order after Christmas festivities and guests and chaos. nhhguo-2ypw-andy-fitzsimon

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I’ve got a wedding to plan.

They needed a wedding planner. My son is getting married to the love of his life in exactly 46 days. I’m calling caterers and bakers and paying florists and receiving wedding invitations in the mail and getting ready to shoot them off to guests in the mail.

And laundry is going and the dog is being walked and I’m helping my Honey roll out the many law group projects he envisions.

 You know how it all goes. We all wear a hundred different hats.

Life just keeps moving regardless of the calendar.   It doesn’t really matter that it is January 4 and great life wisdom for the year needs to be made and written down in a journal.

But, in the middle of it all, I am listening.  I am still listening.

I have no great big introspection to bust out as of yet. I’m working on slowly hearing what I need to hear for my life. You can’t rush great revelation!

I don’t make resolutions.  It only sets me up for failure.  Anybody relate with me on this one? I quit doing that a long time ago. That’s so 1990-something for me.

Probably pre-baby era.

But, I will tell you what I am doing.

I am taking time. 

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In the middle of all the crazy normal (and not so normal) life goings-on I am taking moments to turn on the worship music, make a hot drink, light some warm candles and read Scripture and devotionals and journal my thoughts.

Praying and listening with my spirit to hear what God is saying to me.  Right now I am trying to determine a word or words that might give direction for my year.

Listening for a word or words that would give me focus and that would infuse some faith into my spirit for the days of 2017.

So, I am being more focused, more intentional.  I am being more determined to make the time to listen. I am intent on hearing from God and finding direction.

photo-1447600514716-ca6f3974c346Last year was one for the books.  I really don’t ever need one like that again.  But, as I say that, my heart is quickly hastened to add there were blessings added I never saw coming. And blessings in the works that I didn’t realize I would need at the time I would need them, but God did and orchestrated their timing. So, even though, much rain came, God sent grace and provision.  He had people and resources waiting for just the right moment and season.

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And as I look into 2017, I hold in my hands all the beautiful grace Christ gave in 2016.

So, on January 4, I don’t have great proclamations of how to go about your year and what to give up and what to grab ahold of.  All I know is take time to see what God would say to you. He works personally for each one of us.

2017 is not 2016.

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I have two different Scriptures I am holding on to for my new upcoming year.  That is as far as I have gotten.   I’d say it is a pretty great start. I feel certain they are to guide my new year. Here they are:

Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands. (Isaiah 43:19, The Message)

Get up, my dear friend,
    fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
    the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
    The whole world’s a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
    with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
    and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend,
    my fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove—
    leave your seclusion, come out in the open. (Songs 2: 10-14, The Message)

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I will let these Scriptures guide my thoughts. And let me tell you, they have already been challenged in this first week of the year! But, I am returning to them over and over.  Isaiah 40:8 reminds us , “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”

 I encourage you to take time to listen to what Christ would want to speak to you.  Maybe you haven’t had a whole lot of time to spend searching for a great revelation.  Just take a few moments to quiet your heart. Invest moments in yourself. Invest in your year– it will help chart the course for your year.

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I was feeling particularly low going into the new year’s eve weekend.  I was focused more on the challenges and hurt of 2016.  It was hard. There were deep disappointments—the most being from people.  And that was my focus. I was weary. My heart was heavy. It had become too much of my focus. And a year of reviewing the pain was getting burdensome. In an effort to relinquish the hurt, I prayed an honest, broken prayer laying in my bed.

cse3okq03oq-riley-briggsAs I have begun the new year, my attention has begun to shift. It is as if a literal shift has taken place on a physical calendar in my heart and mind. As in a turning of the page over to a new year on a new calendar, so is my attention.

I encourage you to do the same. Look ahead to what God has for you in 2017.

I press on to what is ahead.

I honestly have no idea what this year holds or what is on the horizon. I can’t even begin to imagine what God has planned. The slate has pretty much been wiped clean over the past year. So, I think I will buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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Change your focus.  It just may change your heart.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Raise Them Strong

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

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

“Life is severe!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do my kids have to experience such things?  

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

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

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But, here is the next question.

Why not?

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

Why not? 

Who are we to expect to escape hardship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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