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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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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Christmastime–Oh Holiest Night

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Christmastime is a great reminder.

The candles are lit and sparkling beside the nativity.  They focus my mind.  No doubt we have fancied and freshened that holy night so long ago.

My nativity.  Each piece set in just the right spot.  I love these earthy colored pieces I have collected over the years.  I have several Christmas collections, from Santas to Nutcrackers to reindeer.  But this one?   It speaks to my heart in such a deep way.   Recently, I have begun adding my Advent candles to the display.  I’m so glad I have!  There is such a deep, beautiful peace residing in this scene.  It draws me in.

Have you ever gone through something so challenging you felt as if you lost God?  Or, maybe you thought, He just left.  Circumstances and pain erect a barrier so dense it is hard to sense any Presence?

I have.  It was the darkest, scariest period of my life.  Everything I believed seemed in question and the pain threatened to choke all hope from my heart.  Sometimes that happens in life.  He warned us it would come.  We all face trouble at some point.  We are often surprised, shocked, and even, disabled by it.   I was struggling.

But, here today, I don’t want to focus on that.  Just believe me when I say it was a dark night of the soul.  Even in that darkest moment, a miracle flicker of light began to shine through.  When I was feeling God had left me, He spoke to me loudly and clearly.

I knew then and there He does not leave us or turn His back on us.  Our pain in the darkness often hides the light, but He remains by our side.  Where was I looking?

I was distracted by the pain.  I lost sight of Him.

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He is amazing that way.  This giving of the greatest gift.

Christmas is the greatest reminder of the greatest love.  Yes, He came on that holy night for us.  But, it is a beautiful reminder to me He came and He never leaves.  Joy and hope flutter to life in my heart when I sit and remember how He is forever with me.

Our lives crash into the world’s agenda and, inevitably, pain and hurt comes.

Real, life-altering pain.  Chaos and crises run rampant.  But, we can rest in the knowing He is with us.

Ann Voskamp said in her book, The Greatest Gift “No matter what intends to harm you…God is never absent, never impotent, never distant.  You can never be undone.”  That thing that was meant to destroy you and make you think God no longer sees or cares, will not be your end.  In fact, He has a great way of taking all the broken, ugly bits and turning them into the most beautiful creation.

God will use it to set you apart from the crowd.

Yes, the lion roars and speaks lies of hopelessness and desertion and death.  But, God.  He intends no such thing.  I don’t believe all things happen for a reason.  It just doesn’t work.  But, I do believe He takes all things thrown our way and will redeem them for our good.  Now, that works.

And, while He is at it, He stays right there with us.

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The JOY to come from such a realization is priceless.  So, sitting here looking at my nativity and thinking of days gone by and the ones yet to come, I can rest in the knowledge I am never lost, forgotten or abandoned.

His very coming is proof.  Proof of His abiding love.

Such joy comes from realizing no matter what comes my way, He’s got me.  No scheme of man or evil plan will ever remove me from His hand.  So, allow this Christmastime to set this truth in your heart.  Every time you see a nativity, allow it to remind you of His never-ending presence in your life that was made possible because of that holiest of nights.

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Hope-filled Christmastime

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Christmastime.

It’s my favorite holiday.  Life becomes really hectic, but I love the traditions and the connection of family.

I was decorating this past weekend in preparation for our staff open house we host each year.  In a matter of a couple of days, our home is transformed into all things Christmas!  Sometimes I feel the stress and pressure.

This  year I was feeling old.

That’s really the only way I can describe it.  My oldest is in college and home for the holiday.  I have a teenager and another that isn’t, but sure seems like it.  I don’t have the little littles running around anymore.  The memories are running like a movie through my heart.

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As I was working with my smaller artificial trees that light up our office, the branches were looking tired and drooping kind of low.  I realized I have been using these trees for 11 years, at least.  No wonder they are looking a little tired.

That’s pretty good…artificial trees being used for that many years!  Especially after all our moves!   But, that served to make me feel OLD.

This all combined to make me feel like a middle-aged frump.  Now, I know you are trying to figure out how I made that jump.  I’m not sure…maybe it’s hormones.  But, I began to realize, many of my decorations and collections I have had for or started 25 years ago—some ornaments, longer than that.  My one tree only holds the beautiful ornaments from my childhood.  When you are newly married or a young momma, you don’t always think about such things.  But, alas, I am neither.

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So, as I am surrounded by so much history and memories I have to stop and think.  And remember.

Christmas has always been such a big focus for us.

We love this season passionately.  Just ask anyone who has helped us move over the years.  Friends tease me each November about the many Christmas boxes I have and the work that means for my guys.  I can’t help that we love Christmas!  Each one is different.  But, each have been special.

Some Christmases were during times of waiting for dreams to come to pass.  Some years were leaner than others.  There were a few where the stress got the better of me.  After a while, though, I learned how to set the boundaries I needed in order to make the holidays the best I could for my family and me.

Most have been years full of blessing and joy.

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Over the years, I have learned a beautiful rhythm.  It requires flexibility and letting go of the “perfect shiny ideal” of what Christmas should look like.  Each year there is an underlying rhythm that guides our holiday, yet, they are different and beautifully unique.  However, we do keep some constants with our traditions.

Christmastime is an amazing opportunity for traditions.  Our traditions are important for keeping each other connected.  Traditions are not chaos-inducing schedule fillers.  Children need them for a touchstone.  Ours aren’t incredibly elaborate, just constant.   So many chances for making memories!

The last two or three years I have endeavored to add in a focus on Advent.  Keeping Jesus as the focus isn’t our problem, He is the centrality of our holiday.  But, sometimes it is challenging gathering everyone together at the same time to stop and sit for a while.  But, yesterday’s focus for this Advent season was hope.  I began to think about the power of hope in life and the holidays.

I have had seasons of life where I lost hope.  Lost hope that things would get better or ever turn around for good.  Following my firstborn’s birth I struggled with postpartum depression.  We had very little money and times were difficult.  My hope meter was rather low.  Just a few years ago, we were facing insurmountable odds and it seemed our enemies far outnumbered our friends.  My hope quickly dwindled.

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I am convinced we can face anything if we hold on to hope.

Hope doesn’t come from our circumstances or our finances.  Hope comes from our belief that Christ has our back and will not leave us or forsake us.  We are able to keep an eternal perspective in mind.  When challenges are bombarding us, if we keep an eternal focus, we can hold on to hope.  Without hope, people perish.  He came that day so long ago to bring us hope.

HE is our HOPE.

This blog post has been a challenge to get published this week.  Whew!  The holidays, decorating, doctor’s appointments, homeschooling, oh my!  I missed my personal deadline for getting this posted.  We all have high demands on our time during the holidays.  But, I decided to offer myself some grace and knew you’d understand and probably can relate to the hustling and bustling!

It’s a busy, but hope-filled season in our home. 

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The years have come and gone so fast.

My firstborn is now a Sophomore in college and my others are quickly growing up.

My Christmas collections and ornaments are getting older by the year.

I decided the other day, I can either get really sad as I’m feeling older, or I can focus on the fact that really I’m not and there is so much life and hope in my future.  Sure, my babies aren’t tiny littles anymore (and oh, how I loved those stages and what Christmas looked like then), but life rolls in stages.

And, this stage is stunningly beautiful.  It has been hand-crafted by God for me and mine.  Such beautiful hope lives in that!

Take a few minutes to sit down, light some sparkling candles, drink something comforting and warm, and reflect on the goodness you have experienced and set your sights on the HOPE of a beautiful tomorrow!

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Merry Christmastime!

What Now?

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“Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.”

OR

“People with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.”        

  Proverbs 19:11

 

I am amazed!  Maybe that’s not the best word for it.  I am troubled.  I think that is more appropriate.

The offense of this week is the red cups of Starbucks.

I’ve noticed something.  Christians are too good at being offended.  Trust me.  I know.  We are all subjected to it.  I’ve lived it personally.  Up close and in living color.

I wonder.

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I wonder what it must say to the world.  We are having high-speed come-aparts over a red cup.   A secular company.  Their great commission is not concerned with reaching people with the gospel.  Their commission is serving great coffee and creating a comfortable place for folks to gather.  Which they are fulfilling.  God is not depending on Howard Schultz to spread the real reason for the season through Starbucks.

Unfortunately, I think Christians are living out their reputation of being angry, spiteful and opposed to everything.  We are experts at being offended and being angry.  This isn’t what is going to invite in the hurting.  And, why would it?  Why would they want to subject themselves, their mistakes and regrets to the scrutiny of Christians?  I’m sure a root canal without anesthesia holds more attraction.

It doesn’t have to be a red cup.

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Just pick a topic.  Ahhh, and just think about all the wasted time boycotting.  For the most part, we would not have any place to eat, shop, or entertain ourselves.  Maybe we should boycott movies and theaters—maybe television.  Let’s not go to movie theaters or subscribe to Netlix, Direct TV,  Amazon or Barnes n Noble (shouldn’t support the book publishing industry).  For goodness sake, we probably should all become self-sustaining and walk everywhere.  That way we do not support or even concern ourselves with anything that could possibly be of the world.  We won’t sully our hands this way.

How about this one?

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We are really good at bashing our own.  Take your pick of national ministers.  They offend someone theologically or maybe it’s just the size of their home, and God bless them.  I wouldn’t want to be them.  And, don’t forget, it always has to be a public scathing on social media.  Who are we to feel so superior to judge so harshly and diminish a person’s ministry over differing viewpoints?  It does more damage than good.  (I won’t even get into the hurt it must cause their families.)

“People with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.”

Christ followers should be the most joyful, grateful, grace and hope-filled people around.  But, it sure seems like sometimes we only know how to be offended.  I’m not talking just about on a national scale.  But how about our average every day, in and out?  It’s living in our local churches and communities.  It’s no wonder discouragement is the number one hazard of ministry.  Those who are involved in ministry often feel they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  It’s often never good enough.

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I think my biggest concern is that we are often times too easily and too quickly offended.  We are too quick to call each other out.  What has happened to just overlooking an offense?  What has happened to civility?  Why can’t we realize people make mistakes or are just different than we are?  Where is grace?

Graciousness is an art form that is all too easily neglected.

Let me be very clear.  I am not talking about ignoring and condoning sin.  I am not talking about being lazy or lassez-faire in guarding our own.  But, first, the right to speak into someone’s life must be earned.  That is only done through relationship and commitment.  Gossip or slandering on social media, or just among ourselves, is not the responsible way to handle issues.  I’m going to use a southern term—it’s ugly.  Why do we want to be ugly?  It doesn’t compel anyone.

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I can be too easily offended.  I am constantly working on giving the benefit of the doubt.  I know life is more peaceful and joyful when I am not allowing myself to give in to offense.  Offended people are not happy people.  It only leads to bitterness.

The greatest fight we can engage in spiritually is to refuse to be offendable.

Let’s live out of a life-giving mind and heart.  Not everything must be confronted or called out.  Not every offense even needs to be acknowledged.  Sometimes, we just need to shake it off and give it no other thought.  That takes discipline and strength.  But we are all better for it.  Not only between each other, but in the eyes of those who watch from a distance.  And, quite frankly, we all won’t look so ridiculous!

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Yes!  Keep up the good fight.

But let it be done from love—not offense.

Fight against injustice.

Fight against a culture of death.

Fight against poverty.

War against evil and it’s ravaging.

But, do it from an un-offendable heart.  

Fight for justice and life.

And through this, we will be known by our love.

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Check Out The View From Here!

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I’m a crazy walker.  When I go out for a walk, or even when I add in a run, I always look down.  What am I looking at?  I don’t get it.  Am I afraid if I don’t look at my feet they won’t move right?  Or is the sidewalk just so beautiful I need to keep my eye on it?

It’s weird.

I tell myself, “Pick your head up! You look goofy.  Look up and see the beauty around you.  You’re missing out!”  Yeah.  I will pick my head up…my thoughts center on the beauty in the sky and trees.  I get lost in thought—maybe even whisper a little prayer.  And, then, “Look at those feet walking.  Look at that sidewalk.  Yep, they’re still there.”

For goodness sake!  I just don’t get it.  This is a problem, I do believe.  I’m missing out.  Even when I have a walking buddy I do it.  Before I know it, I’m focusing on the road right in front of me, instead of seeing all that is around me.  They have been kind enough to just ignore it!

This has gotten me to thinking.

In life, what am I focusing on?

10168201_10205519276527835_6867101749092095366_nAm I focusing on the challenges and tough-going I have experienced?  Am I looking at the past and wishing circumstances had been different or I had been dealt a better hand?

Where is my focus?

Perhaps I am focusing on how I wish I was different.  Different gifting, different temperment, different anything.

Maybe I look at the ways I could have made different choices and would then be on a different and seemingly better path.

Focus. 

What is my focus?

Too much introspection can lead to too much self-focusing.  Sometimes I just have to get out of my head.  It’s good to remember our past and what we have come through.  It’s important to remember what we have learned.  Gratitude is born out of remembering with grace our journey.

But, we can’t afford to get stuck.  

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 A couple years ago I realized all my conversations were about all the negative things going on in my world.   It was my habit.  I was good at rehashing the injustices and idiocy I was enduring.  My friends were so gracious.  They commiserated with me.  Even though it had to be like nails on a chalkboard, they loved on me and listened—and endured it!

  I finally got tired of hearing myself talk about it.  It was getting old.  And, I knew it was a problem when I couldn’t think of other things to talk about.  It kind of felt like a loser sort of life!

It’s amazing when God starts nudging you in a new direction. 

1473920_10202797628648339_2105884648_nI’m guessing He was tired of hearing all about it too—over and over and over and over—if you get my drift.

I was missing out on all the goodness He was giving.  I was missing out on all the beauty and grace He so lavishly supplied.  He was fully aware of all the injustice and rejection and hurt.  He got it.  He saw it and knew how it hurt.  The Beautiful One was trying to give me beauty for my ashes.  But, it wasn’t going to happen if all I kept focusing on was the pitiful parts.  I was going to miss it all.  What a tragedy—and He knew it.

I had to quit wallowing around in the ashes!

He spoke to my heart.  He opened my eyes to the reality of what I was becoming.  It wasn’t the image I wanted.  I purposed in my heart I was done reliving it all and talking about it.  I was done dwelling on the negative and the pain.

Oh, I remember.  I have the scars to show for it.  But, I was done allowing it to become my focus and driving force.  I was done talking about and rehashing every gory detail of every injustice.  I determined that chapter was done.  I was moving forward.

You know, it made all the difference in the world in my heart and life. 

It wasn’t easy.  I had to think of new topics of conversation.  I had to live purposefully in the here and now.  Yes, I remember.  And, at times there is still pain in those scars.  But, it doesn’t drive me any longer.  I no longer look down and behind but look up and ahead.  This new way of thinking and being set me on a new trajectory.  It is so much more beautiful here!

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Psalm 103 is really great right about now. 

It’s too long to post here, but I encourage you to take a couple minutes to read it.  It helps in the refocusing.

What do I choose to focus on?  Where am I looking? 

Am I remembering all of His blessings? 

Do I remember that He has healed my family and me and has raised us from our ashes? 

Do I recall that He has redeemed me—that He has wrapped me in goodness? 

That He makes everything come out right and puts victims back on their feet? 

Do I focus on His grace and mercy and keep in mind He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but gives us what we don’t deserve? 

Do I relish in His fierce love and His total awareness of me? 

How about remembering His love is eternal–forever and always?

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It brings into proper perspective the flaws of this world.  No scheme of man will ever take me from His hand.  I am His.  Why so downcast oh, dear soul?  Look up to the hills from which comes your help!

Change your focus!  It’s beautiful up here!

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Turning 40 Something

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My goodness.  Well, here it is again.  I have revolved around once again and I’m just a couple days away from the 23rd.  That’s my big day.  Thanks, Mom, for having me!

Life has a way of rolling by.

I can’t wait for the beauty and adventure of this new year in my life to unfold.

But, first, I have a few thoughts about this past year.  Here they are.

I am grateful for my family.  We have faced some challenges head on.  Things unforeseen and scary.  Things exciting, new and stretching.  Challenges—some good, some tough.  Mountains you weren’t sure how to climb. They haven’t stopped us and we just keep moving forward.  We stay together and love each other.  My children have grown and discovered new things about life and God.  He loves them, even more than we do.  God is there and walking with us every day.

I have taken on new adventures.  During our crisis and its aftermath, I really had to unload my plate.  My family and my emotional and spiritual well being were far more important than a loaded plate.  God drew especially near and taught me wonderful truths.  We are at the four year anniversary of learning of our child’s abuse.  I have been in a healing cocoon since that time.  But, this past year has been one of opening up and breaking out of my cocoon.  It was necessary to step aside for a while, but now I’m ready to fly.  God never leaves you—especially when we are hidden away with Him.

I have opened my heart to some wonderful people.  I’ve expanded my circle and it has been worth it.  Sometimes, after pain, it’s easier to shield your heart.  It can be so hard to trust.  But, a vulnerable heart grows more beautiful.   You can learn so much from others when you just open up, look around and see.  God brings special people into your life—you just have to look for them.

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I have some friends who are my ride or die.   They are deep water travelers.  They don’t scare easily.  They have lived my messiness and encouraged me to dream again.  It’s a blessing if you have these sorts in your life.

I often felt lost, but my friends knew I really wasn’t .  They knew I just needed a little push and I could soar.  I’m not sure I believed in myself as much as they believed in me.  I know I didn’t.  It’s crazy how that is.  But, I sure am grateful for their friendly shoves, reminders and words of encouragement which held me to the ledge!

They’ve made me laugh until I cry!  They loved the confidence right back into my heart.  God knows we need cheerleaders.  He gives us just the right ones for our journey.

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I have stepped WAY out of my comfort zone many times this year.  Soaring requires a “look, ma! no hands!” lifestyle.  I’ve tried my hand at several new things.   I’ve done them scared.  Sometimes, really scared.  Most of the time, I wasn’t even sure what I was doing.  But, I have enjoyed them all.  God knows what we need, when we need it.  We just have to cooperate with Him.  It’s been the best adventure!

I am thankful for the growth and stretching I have done this past year.  It hasn’t always looked pretty or perfect.  Sometimes I felt like I was coming undone!  But, God is faithful to complete the work He starts in our lives.

Life is a journey.  Joy is an attainable goal.  Healing is a choice and peace can come.  There will always be questions without answers.  But, even if there were answers for some things, they probably wouldn’t be good enough anyway.  God is my leader.  I just want to follow as close to His side as I can.  Everything else will fall into place, just as He intends.

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Turning 20

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He just turned 20.  How do these things happen?  He was 2, I blinked, and now he is 20.  Good grief.

I think I should receive gifts on my kids’ birthdays!  I think you should, too!  Why not, I ask?  We’ve done all the work.  Kids…they just live.  We keep them alive.  We work hard to keep them from bodily harm and get them to adulthood!  There’s teaching and training and sleepless nights.  There is sacrifice and tears.

Think of the embarrassment.  Just when they are supposed to mind their manners they bust out some tightly lipped family secret.  Some folks know just the right questions to ask and these kids fold!

Oh, the rigors of mothering!

We’ve been pooped on and thrown up on.  If you’re like me, you got really good at catching vomit.  Yep, right here in these two hands.  We’ve been stretched—figuratively and literally.  For many of us, our bodies will NEVER be the same.   Let’s not even talk about the checkbook.

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But, oh, the joys of mothering!

The sloppy, jelly kisses.  The tiny hugs as powerful as any bear hug.  The “I love you’s” and “thank you, mommy’s.”  Or maybe the snuggles and warm bodies tucked up next to you during a midnight storm.  Perhaps it’s the saving of the day or heroic chocolate chip cookies after a wrecked bike or hurt heart.  The paper hearts and handmade gifts.  These are the treasures of motherhood.  I have crates full of my children’s childhoods.

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So many snapshots and memories rest in my heart.  My heart is intrinsically intertwined with my children’s hearts.  How can a mother’s heart be anything but?  Our happiness is hopelessly linked with our children’s happiness.  We are only as happy as our saddest child.  We long for their joy and peace in this life.  We see in them what they sometimes can’t see in themselves.  We believe the world is at their hands.

They look to us to guide them and see them through.  They need us to ride the waves with them and stay steady.  Ready to call them down from the edge.  They want us to be there and hear their hearts.  So many late night chats when hearts are open and walls are down.  So much 24 hours a day being on the ready…on call.

Here are some things I’ve learned with 20 years of parenting on the books:

  • This is a tough job with wonderful rewards.
  • Of all the things I do, almost nothing is more important than mothering.
  • I am investing in the future as I mother.  I am lengthening my life through their’s.
  • It matters how I parent when they are little.  It matters how I parent when they are bigger.
  • They are important, but my marriage and relationship with their Dad is even more important.
  • I may not be able to do everything I want to do right now, but this is a season.  Someday, I will.
  • After they have grown, they need a coach.  I am still making an impact. 
  • As the parent of a Big, it’s my responsibility to keep the relationship open, alive and healthy.

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He is my firstborn.  He was the guinea pig.

He deserves a gold star for surviving the young, inexperienced, often irrational parenting skills I was working with.  I apologized for said craziness as he graduated from high school.  He laughed.  He has great memories.  He doesn’t remember all the mistakes I have cataloged in my brain.  He knows I’m human and make mistakes.

He laughs as he clearly remembers the crossing over to this realization moment all too well.  The one where our kids realize we are not Perfect.  We laugh.  Apologies and “I love you” go a long way to righting the mistakes and healing the hurts.  We work hard to do the best we can with what we have at the time.  Life together is a beautiful ride.

If there is one thing I can look back and see, it is this.

As we take the imperfectness of our human parenting and pair it with the perfectness of God, we can lay our children in His hands and trust for the very best outcome.  No, it won’t always look clean and pretty.  And, there will probably even be some stink.  But inviting God into our parenting journey ensures spiritual consequences we could never create on our own.

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Further, not being a perfect parent, requires our full trust in God.  I’m not sure how parents do this thing without God.  I have to rely on Him to lead the way with each beautifully unique child.  There is no other way to go.  That’s a risk I’m not willing to take.  My shortcomings are miraculously shored up by the One who leads the way.

So, maybe you are still on the upswing with Littles hanging on to your legs.  The days are too long and your energy is running short.  A break would be good right about now.  I hear ya!

Just know, it matters.  It matters a lot.  And, when you get 20 years out from now, your heart will know it for sure, too.  It’s amazing what being on the flip side, at least with one child, will do for perspective.  And, thankfully, I can say I don’t really have too many regrets….other than the insanity that may have taken over from time to time.  But, hey, none of us is perfect….right?  As my father used to say, “It builds character!”

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