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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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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Where Is Your Life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep me safe, my God,

for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

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

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

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

I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

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

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

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

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

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You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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

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

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

Do I Have To?

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I have experience.

Lots of it.  Some of it has come with kicking and screaming, but I have experience, nonetheless.  “What experience?” you may ask.

Well, it is …..

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Yeah.  It’s not as beautiful as it sounds.  Trust me.  Everyone has one of two tendencies.  That is to fight or flee.  And, actually, I am by nature a flee-er.  Many times the option of “flight” seems pretty alright to me.  So, honestly, I don’t come by this naturally.

But, I am married to….you guessed it!  A fighter.

No, not a fighter, as in, he can’t get along with people and stirs up conflict.  He is the kind that won’t run from a battle.  He knows what is needed and will fight to see it happen.  He’s not a quitter.  His philosophy is, “I may not be smarter or more talented than others, but I can certainly outlast anybody!”  Um, clearly, this has made for some great fun over the years.

I like comfort.  I don’t like to go through the stretching and retching part of life.  I like for everyone to like me.  I want no hardships and certainly no sacrificing.  I want dreams and projects to flow smoothly.  I really don’t want conflict, hate it in fact.  I certainly don’t want to be judged or misjudged.  I like for the tasks I set my hand to to flow without hiccups or roadblocks of any sort.  I want everyone to agree with me and my opinions. And, I certainly do NOT need or want rejection.

It hurts. The hard stuff hurts.

Life tends to bring along those moments when we must choose.

There isn’t any way around it.  Someone or something intrudes into your dream or boundaries.  Something important is at stake.  The life or death of it depends on whether you stay and fight or run and flee.  Maybe it’s your family, a child, a dream, or a way of life. Maybe it’s your calling or vocation.  Perhaps it is fighting injustice or standing up for what or who is right.  Whatever it is, you will have to choose.

Either way, everything hangs in the balance.

I’ll give you 3 examples from my life.  Perhaps you can relate.

First of all, my husband and I started a new church back in 1994.  We were young.  We were inexperienced and truthfully didn’t have a clue as to what we had joined up for.  We were still trying to figure out who we were at the tender age of 24.  We had seen great success stories and figured we could pull off something just like those.  It took 7 years to reach the goal of 100 people.  It took even longer to acquire our own facility.  We worked hard.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of hard work and sacrifice.  We barely survived on the meager salary.

About the third or fourth year in, I was done.  We had faced apparent failure on many levels.  I wanted to quit so badly!  My husband?  Oh, yes, I know he did.  But, we didn’t leave that congregation until 2008.  He would pacify me by telling me to just give him until May.  If things didn’t turn around by May, we would think about going somewhere else.  Well, he knew that once winter was over in Iowa, things always look better at some level, come May.  I figured him out, finally, about the third year of being told that.  I’m slow.

Second story.  In 2008, our family moved to Virginia to our second congregation.  This seemed as if our dreams were answered in one fell swoop.  Not long after moving here,  it seemed as if we had stepped into a nightmare.  This was a very different hard than our Iowa challenge.  We faced intense obstacles, setbacks, reversals, personal attacks, rejection, strife, and twisted plots.  The personal and professional price has been high. This church was in deep crisis and they weren’t in the mood to be helped.  So many times I could have been packing boxes on a moment’s notice.  All my husband needed to do was give me the word.  I was more than done!

Final story.  The first three years in Virginia seemed like they were from hell.  We took a huge financial hit when the real estate bubble burst and we needed to sell our house and move to Virginia.  Then, my son came to us and told us he had been sexually abused for three years by an authority figure.  Then, my other child was diagnosed with a serious medical condition after months of intense, unexplained pain and slow debilitation. Then, my father passed away after battling Alzheimers for 13 years.  This all happened within the first three years after moving to Virginia.  There were moments during those very difficult years I began to question the presence of God in my life.  I wasn’t so sure He could be trusted.

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Here’s the deal.

At any given point in my life, I desperately wanted to throw in the towel.  The pain felt greater than the reward.  And, yes, there have been some serious sacrifices made that only God will be able to make right.  But, we didn’t quit.  There were no magic formulas or bribes to hold us steady. The only promise we had to go on was God would see us through.  It might be painful, it might look ugly, but we would make it if we just didn’t quit.  “Those who quit remember the ordeal.  Those who endure remember the adventure.”  That has become a life value of sorts.

There are many giftings we don’t possess.  There are quite a few things we do well; there have been many mistakes along the way, too.  But one thing which doesn’t require talent or gifting is something we do have—“outlast-attude”.  We can outlast just about anything.

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You have to dig deep.  You have to stare your giant in the face and stare it down.  It’s not easy.  But, find the grit and the depth of character to outlast anything life throws your way.  Needless to say, I’m thankful my Honey had enough hutzpah for the both of us!

Your whole life and legacy depend on it.  Everyone who follows after you, depend on it.  It’s not just about you anyway.  It never has been.

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The Whole Of It

…..May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.  The One who called you is completely dependable.  If he said it, he’ll do it!!

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There is something that calls to me from this Scripture.  You will find it in I Thessalonians 5:23-24.  This world has a way of pulling us into a million pieces.   Start with responsibilities, toss in a few wounds, mix in unmet expectations, throw in some disappointment and there you have it!  I would never say life is all bad.  But, stuff happens, and there ya go!

As a mom, one of the most important things is to see your children whole and happy—living to the fullest.  When you see one of those cubs struggling  to stay afloat, your instincts kicks into gear.  I’m sure you are familiar with “Mother Bear” syndrome.  I’m really familiar with it!

I do believe I lived in Mother Bear mode for about 3 years.  There’s not a thing that can be said to a woman in full-on MB. Those cubs are the treasures and the way I see it, it’s our responsibility (with my honey) to get them from start to adulthood in one relatively good, solid piece.  They need to be someone people can stand to be with and do something good with the space they take up.  They need to pursue their passions and dreams and be all they can be.

So, when life starts getting in the way and you see your treasures fracturing and losing their handhold, MB mode is on high alert!  My prayers for my hurting child were for him to be whole…. nothing missing and nothing broken in his life.  I didn’t want the pain and anguish he experienced at the hand of someone so incredibly selfish to derail and destroy greatness within.  I prayed and prayed for the wholeness which was rightfully his.

I remember God spoke to my heart that “he had seen it all” and my child and family would be healed and whole.  He cared even more than I did.  I wrote it down.  I clung to that promise as my lifeline.  That was over 2 years ago.  I haven’t forgotten.

images-2 But, there have been times I have felt that the progress just was not good enough.  It wasn’t a complete enough healing.  I remember telling God during a particular season this wasn’t going to be good enough.  Next try, please.  I’m not sure what God thought about that. But, I felt I was exercising my faith.  I knew God told me the broken parts would be healed….this wasn’t healed, as I understood healing!  It certainly was a start, but I was believing for wholeness.  There was a pain and hurt so deep that only God could touch it.  But, I believed.  I hid that promise in my heart.

I’ve watched him on this journey.  Huge steps forward and some hiccups along the way.  He wants it just as much as we do for him.  It takes time and is a long journey that is neither easy nor enjoyable.  But the strength of his spirit is inspiring and one of a true fighter; he will not be labeled a victim.  For all of us, we want quick, easy answers and solutions to the pain and loss.  We know such answers won’t come.  But, I haven’t stopped believing!

Now, here we are.  Three years later, great ground has been covered, healing has taken place, much learning and growing has been experienced.  And, I am still watching and listening.  God is answering and doing what he said he would do.

I just had an incredible conversation with my boy.  He experienced God in a powerful way during his university’s chapel service a couple of weeks ago.  He isn’t one to share his personal pain on a constant basis and has a list in his heart he knew intimately….hurt and pain he had just assumed would always be there.  He was coping.  God said,  “That’s not good enough.”  God promised…..and he is delivering.  God came in that moment….even when my boy wasn’t looking for it.  He met him there and brought more healing and hope to the hidden and private pain.   He talked of joy like he hadn’t experienced in years.  Oh! How a mama’s heart is healed by hearing such things.

When God promises something, he delivers.  Our timetable is rarely correct.  He doesn’t work on Human Standard Time.  When he promises he will make you whole, putting together body, mind and soul, that is what he intends to do. I haven’t given up.  It comes out of nowhere, looking different than I expect.  But, oh my!

A few days before my son’s extraordinary moment with God, God sent a reminder to me of this very verse.  I took note.  He gently reminded me and turned my head toward him.  I knew.  And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he came and amazed us once again.

He’s just cool like that.

Strong Medicine

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In that moment, I had a choice to make.

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

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

Gratitude makes my life a sanctuary.

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

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

It’s not easy or everyone would do it!

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

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

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

Beauty in the sunlight

Chai tea lattes in the morning

Family dinner

Little girls kisses

A Saturday with no commitments

God loves my children even more than I do

Friends who understand

Honest and open conversations

God speaking to my children

A day with lessened pain

Darkness is destroyed

Date night with my love

Libraries!!!

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

A smile

Love expressed in simply kind ways

Candles on a cold day

Sweet sibling prayers

 

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

And it will keep going.

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

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

 

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

Gratitude = Great Attitude

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, you see, it is quite comical.

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

—like being grateful in the really ugly times—

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The Shadowlands

Life has a way of taking you on unexpected journeys.

Sometimes your way is smooth, flowing from one moment full of gratitude to another.  All you see are blue skies and silver linings. Other times the way gets bumpy as you encounter gray skies and thunder.  You are stopped in your tracks…BUT you quickly regain clarity and keep moving.

And yet, there are other times, where the sky is so dark and the terrain so rugged that you feel the darkness surrounding you.  The journey feels overwhelming and unfair. You question how you got to this place. You check your rearview mirror, trying to find what led to this place.  You might even do an inventory of your life choices.  It’s dark. It’s scary and you can’t seem to find any light through the clouds.

I’ve been there, and I’m willing to bet some chocolate you have, too. Maybe you are right smack dab in the middle of it even now.

A year after learning of our child’s abuse, I sat down and thought through some of the lessons I learned while traveling through these Shadowlands.  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I want to share with you what I learned, in the hopes that my pain will help you in whatever you are going through.  So, each week (at least for a while) I will post a blog focusing on these lessons I learned.

My child still faces  emotional repercussions of what was done to him….the abuse, isolation, and fear the abuser used to control him has very real moments of rearing its ugly head.  But he is learning to deal in healthy ways and is not allowing it to control his life. Everyone’s pain looks different.  It comes in all shapes and forms. But, it’s there.  Waiting in the shadows to control and devour.

One thing I learned is not all things can be fixed.  Nope.  Wouldn’t that be great? A simple, easy and quick “how do ya do” and it’s all better.  I have learned that ALL things can be redeemed, however.  The beautiful part is you don’t know how the ragged and torn pieces are all going to fit back together, much less with any beauty and grace.  I know this to be true; time does not heal all wounds. The only healer of wounds is God.  I marvel at how He has chosen to put our jagged pieces back together.

The beauty that comes from pain can be exquisite.  I’m not sure how it works.  Give Him the shredded and broken.  Give Him the messy and stinky.  Give Him the confused and lost pieces. And He takes them, heals them, reshapes them and gives them back to you in the form of something absolutely amazing.

I remember sitting on the counselor’s couch.  My head in my hands.  Life and ministry had been incredibly difficult, unlike anything I had ever experienced up to that point.  Then this was thrown on top of the pile.  We had followed God.  We had given our lives to follow Him.  We were raising our kids to be Jesus followers.  And yet.  I could hardly grasp the depth of our pain and the dark we were entering.  I could only cry.

If I had to go through it then something good was going to come of it!

On our journey through this very ugly and dark place, I decided if I was going to go through this terrible, horrible, no good, hard season then I was going to do something with it.  I was going to be better for it!  I knew someone needed to hear my story and know they are not alone.  It may not even look like my pain.  Pain is pain.

The Shadowlands can be a scary, lonely place. 

But, there is much peace and gratitude to be found if we only look beyond the Shadowlands. 

We may not know what life will look like on the other side of the dark, but we know who will walk with us through the dark.  And He never leaves.

I’ve learned He can take ANYTHING and redeem it.  Not everything can be fixed.  But EVERYTHING can be redeemed.

Where are you? Are you in the middle of the Shadowlands? Are you coming out the other side and all that is left is a broken heart and shattered dreams?  What do you need redeemed?  He will.  I know it….as well as I know anything.  He just needs you to let Him….stop trying to piece it all back together by yourself.  And what beauty He will create!