Where Are You?

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Esther.

Queen Esther.

Before she was queen, she was a humble and exquisitely beautiful woman plucked from a nondescript life.  A woman minding her own business…an orphan raised by an uncle.  In that part of the world, in that day and age, women were not destined to really be anything of consequence.  They were property at best.

Maybe you are familiar with this story from the Bible.  She was plucked from her home and taken to the king’s palace with hundreds of other women to win the contest of the most beautiful, most alluring and charming female.  The king was done with the current queen and was ready for the newer and more malleable model.  Queen Vashti was on the outs.

Esther was vetted and prepped and sent before the king.  To make a long story short, he picked her.  He was smitten.  God was at work to preserve His people…her people.  God is always at work.  Even if we don’t see it and aren’t picking up on it.  He often works below our radar.  He has a plan.

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There was one man in the kingdom who despised the Jewish people and Esther’s uncle in particular.  His goal was to annihilate them.  But, due to Esther’s great courage and God’s favor, she prevented this atrocity and saved her people.  And, as a twist of fate, this vindictive man was put to death with the same gallows he had planned for Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.  Talk about irony.

God doesn’t play.  He had redemptive plans far bigger than man could see. 

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The amazing point of the story is this:  Esther was willing to be used and stepped up to the plate.  She prepared herself physically, intellectually and spiritually to carry out this audacious responsibility.  She knew the risk involved.  Death was a high possibility.  God knew he could count on this one humble, Jewish woman.

What does this story have to do with my blog post this week?

obedience and risk

As we journey through this life, we enter different seasons.  Regardless of the season, we have choices to make.  Will we be obedient to what God is calling us to do?  Are we willing to take the risks this might require?  What is God calling us to do that is risky?  Perhaps it doesn’t look as glamorous as the potential of becoming queen.  But, you know there is a cost.

Submission isn’t really submission until you have to obey in something you don’t want to obey.  Life is a series of choices.  Each choice to obey Christ and his invitation makes us stronger.  It becomes easier with each choice.  Esther willingingly stepped up to be used for a greater cause.

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Or, it could be, right now you are in a waiting season.  Maybe He isn’t asking you to be in the business of doing a particular assignment at this moment.  Then your time is now!  There are some tasks at hand.  This is your time to prepare.  Like Esther, there is much you can do to prepare for the assignments in the future.  Take a look:

Be patient.  It’s hard sometimes in the waiting.  It often feels like being stuck.  It isn’t glamorous and isn’t always easy.  You may have dreams, but God isn’t bringing them to fruition until you are truly ready.  It won’t happen until His good time.  Now is the time to get ready.

  • Learn.  This is the perfect time to learn and grow.  Find a mentor.  Read and study.  When God is ready is ready to send you out, you need to have grown deeper and wider.
  • Listen.  What does He want to say to you?  What treasures in the secret place does He want to reveal.  There are things you need to know.  Choose quiet instead of complaint.
  • Praise.  Gratitude is the key to growing deep in the waiting.  It makes the waiting a lot more enjoyable as well!  It opens our hearts to His possibilities.
  • Keep the heart right.  This is probably one of the hardest tasks in the waiting.  It’s easy to doubt, get anxious, become frustrated, or maybe even turn bitter.  Just don’t go there.  Rest in the knowledge that no season devoted to God is ever wasted. Realize the beauty that will come  if you allow it.

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I’ve lived through many seasons of preparation and waiting.

At first glance, these seasons seem mundane, trivial and unproductive.  But, if they are devoted to Christ, they are anything but wasted.  The depth and strength developed through those times grew me to the level I needed, in order to properly handle the next task and season.  Never despise the seemingly insignificant and ordinary days.  The world calls for “doing” and “busy-ness”.  In that paradigm, doing and busyness is the sign of importance and accomplishment.  Not so in the paradigm of Christ.

Just like Esther, be ready!  When the season of waiting and preparation is done, God has an assignment for you to join.  He will call to you.  Be watching and waiting.  Keep your ears close to the heart of God.  He will call.   After all, isn’t this what you have been preparing for?

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Disappointment

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Disappointment.

Who isn’t familiar with it?  It’s a part of life.

Walking through disappointment with kids will wrench your gut and wring you out.  As a mom, I know life happens.  There is no way to protect them from disappointment and do them justice.  In those hard moments, there is so much wisdom to be poured into these sensitive hearts.

I really love those moments of teaching our young ones to process pain and disappointment in a healthy way.  I certainly don’t love the circumstances that bring the pain, though.  But, what shallow and weak human beings they will be if I don’t shepherd them through their difficulties.

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Today was such a day.  Another disappointing report crushed a young heart.  I could see it–a beautiful face fighting hard to hold back the tears.  A heart full of dreams and faith.  Lots of believing and praying childlike prayers.  It was in that moment I had to close my mouth and say a prayer.  I prayed for the right words to ignite a fire of faith.  My first thought was, “Lord, what do I say to another disappointing report?  What are you going to do about this?”

I know all too well these times come.  We don’t hear the answer we want to hear, we are passed by for what we deserve, people don’t live up to our expectations and wound us, or there is another delay in our answer.  And, we ask, “What am I supposed to do about this?  Where are you, God?”

Here are 3 thoughts to help us through these moments:

  • God sees and knows.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • God works all things out for our good.

I absolutely believe God sees and knows all that is going on in our lives.  I know He never leaves us or forsakes us.  I know for a fact He works all things out for our good.  I know these three things to be true in my life.

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We have walked through some incredibly severe and trying situations as a family and I remember sensing God speak to me that He had seen it all and knows it all.  What a comfort that was to me!  Just hearing that affirmation of love still brings hope to my heart.  You know what that means?  He had never left me and He truly understands my pain like no other.  He would vindicate and heal the wounds in His good time.

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I told my disappointed one yesterday that God does not always answer in the fashion in which we envision in our minds.  Our small box of plans can’t even begin to hold the answer He has for our situations.  And further, if our disappointment and need hasn’t been answered just yet and we’re still breathing, then the answer is still on the way!

Big lessons for a young one.  Better to learn and solidify your faith at a young age and know for yourself this great big God of the universe than have to wait until your older and have no clue who He is!  Yes, I would love for this life to be smoother sailing, with more positive reports, but, I know He is with us even in those moments.

He is walking through it all with us.

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By the way, lots of love and hugs help, too!  God isn’t shocked or offended by our pain and questions.  Take some time to grieve and process the loss or disappointment.  Talk it out and then move forward.  By the end, a little ice cream hit the spot!  There are no callous “stop crying and suck it up” talks in this house.  But, we are learning to not wallow in our pain.  Eventually, we were able to laugh a little and hug it out!

So, what disappointment have you swallowed lately?  It is sure to come.  But, you can stand strong when you remember this:  He sees and knows; He certainly hasn’t left me;  And, I know good is on the way—it may not look exactly how I planned, but His perfect plan is at work in my life.

Hey….maybe you should even have a little mint chocolate chip ice cream to top it off!

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Would you like to read more about this wonderful journey through this one beautiful life?  Sign up to receive a post delivered straight to your inbox each week.  I would love to have you join me on this journey of hope!  Here’s to a great week!

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!

A Letter To My Loves

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To Our Loves,

As your Dad and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary, I hope you have witnessed a growing, deep love.  It’s hard to believe we are at 24…..next year is 25 and we will be celebrating in fine style!  But until then….

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Your Dad and I met in 1988.  I know it seems so very long ago.  We married in 1991 while we were young and full of dreams.  I suggest you marry when your heart is full of love and bright with dreams.  Young love can be challenging, and I often say older is probably better.  But, here’s what I know, your dreams grow together and you figure out life with someone close by your side when you start out younger.  Life is good in pairs.  That may not work out for you exactly like that, but if your heart is open, your head is solidly on your shoulders and feet are firmly planted on the ground, run through this life together.  You won’t have all the money you need (and money is really good!), but God will provide if you listen closely to Him.

You will never find the “perfect” Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Everyone has flaws.  You have to decide what you can live with and what is non-negotiable.  Nobody you love will be perfect.  Absolutely nobody.  So, if you find love and depth of character, decide whether you can live this life without them.  Some flaws are obviously worse than others.  Run!  Run, like the wind!  But, you know I have taught you, they need to love Jesus, serve Him and love their family.  Of course, each of you have things you love and desire and things that won’t fly.  Listen to your heart!  My sweet girl, if you can find someone like your Daddy, you will be a woman most blessed.  My strong men, I hope in some way I have shown you what a Jesus-loving wife should represent.

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Love hits bumps and gets bruises.  The real beauty comes from walking out whatever life has to throw at you.  Not running away.  It’s the living out grace and faith through the rough patches.  It isn’t always pretty or easy, but marriage isn’t just about you.  The other person doesn’t complete you—you are whole just as you are.  One goal of marriage is to help your Love fulfill their dreams.  And together, if you both do that, you will achieve more than you ever could on your own.

As you journey together, you will change and grow.  So will the Love of your life.  That is good.  When you are Jesus followers, He will change you and grow you.  So, encourage them to grow.  Life is a journey; and, no, you will not know what you or your Love will look like 24 years from the day you walk down the aisle.  But, if you open your hearts and journey together, you come out on the other side even better than when you started out.

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Our journey has been filled with so much fun!  Trips to Walt Disney World, the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.  Trips to the ocean and visits to opposite coasts.  Trips to other countries and close to home.  So many fabulous memories!  Life is what you make it.  Marriage is too.  Don’t wait for the golden years or someday to live life.  Do what you can, when you can.  You aren’t promised those yonder days.  Make the most of now.  It may mean you have to do it with some financial finesse, but do it nonetheless.

Remember, the children don’t run the corner office!  Teach them there is something out there bigger than them.  They can’t survive without that!  And, that, my dears, starts at home.  Your marriage is first.  Your Love is first.  Yes, there are seasons in which the children’s activities will dominate the schedule.  But, remember your love comes first.  Do what you can, when you can!  Date nights and time and moments have to be taken.  Learn your Love’s love language and do what you can to meet it.  It may be a stretch for you to think outside the box of your own idea of love, but do it.  Try hard!  Give it all you’ve got!  Children need to see their parents in love.  That is when they are most secure.  Oh, they will complain and be grossed out—gross them out anyway!

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Many times, you will be called upon to sacrifice.  That is life.  Sometimes you will have to give more than you think you have to give.  Many times you will have to set yourself aside for the moment and give out of yourself so your Love can have what they need.  And they will have to do the same.  I know this flies against the current culture.  Often times you will find a godly marriage will.  Many times, a godly marriage will have to go counter-culture to survive and grow.  In fact, I will say, most of the time you will find yourself needing to live counter-culture to protect your family.  Do it!  Make the sacrifice!  Your home, your family and all that is to come will depend on it.

There is so much more to say that comes from 24 years of marriage.  But, I’m sure that will come in time.  I wouldn’t change it for the world!  Yes, I wish I had done some things differently.  I wish I had loved better and understood more. But life and love is a journey.  Your Dad is a great example of loving—many times I feel he has done it better than I.  But, we are in it for the distance!  We’ve been through a lot, but we’ve also experienced so much laughter, joy and love.  I wouldn’t do this journey with anybody else.FullSizeRender

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Choose wisely, my Loves!  But don’t be afraid!  Love and marriage aren’t perfect, but definitely worth the effort!

 

Fits and Starts

 

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Life comes in seasons.

Dreams and their fulfilling often come in fits and starts.

It feels like taking two steps forward and one step backward.

Sometimes, it might even feel as if nothing is happening at all.

Or, maybe it even feels like your dreams are unraveling before your eyes.

I continue to come across this quote,

“Sometimes when things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place.”

I like it.

I’ve often found this to be true in my life.

Maybe the waiting and wanting isn’t the problem.

Maybe that’s all part of the plan.

Sometimes, I get this picture in my mind of God sitting and watching and chuckling.  Maybe He even looks at us and gives a wink. He watches us, you know.  He didn’t just throw us out and leaving us flailing and falling, hoping we would find our wings and catch the wind.  No, He is much more benevolent and kind.  I imagine He must wonder at times why we take so long.  Circling the same mountain over and over and over again.  All the while, He is ready to reveal something super amazing!

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We have to get out of our heads and out of the way.

So, on this, maybe I finally have.

My season of focusing solely on my family is slightly shifting.  Nothing extreme or world shattering. Just a slight shift.  Ever subtle, but it is enough to teach me something.  For a while, I realized I didn’t have any dreams.  Maybe life or crises or anxiety or depression does that.  But, I found myself in that place.  I found it nearly debilitating.  It made me freeze in fear.  How can I not have a dream?

I’m an “all in” kind of person. If I do something, it requires me to be all in. 100% full throttle in.  So, that is how I mother and support my husband.  A husband, three kids and a dog.  Big life changes came with our firstborn stepping into college.  So many things to keep up with and love and do.  Thinking up a dream wasn’t really on the “To Do List”.

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But, all the while I knew God had something for me to do in addition to my love of home.  I kept circling and circling the mountain of purpose.  It just led to discontent and sadness.  It came in cycles and started coming with more and more frequency.  It was just enough to unnerve and unsettle me and knock me from a place of contentment.

It’s cool how these moments force you to make the next step.  It is almost like walking up a staircase…with the constant bumping into the step above you, but never able to rise up to it.  

This is where I had found myself in the last couple of years.

But, life and dreams work slowly.

It isn’t a fast journey.

It takes collecting experiences and learning what is needed.

It is stopping and starting.

It is waiting and walking.

It is leaning in and pushing away.

And, if you are wrapped up in Christ, He is right in the middle of it all.  Right there.

Watching and speaking.

Calling and loving.

Gently coaxing, and calmly pulling us back.

It all feels frustrating at times and even discouraging if we are honest.

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The fits and starts and the collecting of experience—painful and beautiful alike. 

It all serves to bring us to the place we need to be.

Slowly by slowly, the edges soften and light begins to shine through.  Maybe not much at first.  Perhaps, so faint you are afraid it will disappear if you turn away.  But, oh, how journeying through the desert and circling the mountain teaches you so much!

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I’ve learned a good deal about myself in all of this.

I’ve collected memories and thoughts and, most of all, some wisdom along the way.  So, here I am.  Seeing a very faint but distinct shimmer.  I sit and listen quietly, searching and looking for signs and signals, hearing the wind blow and stir.  My heart knows.  New days and paths are leading me to what lies ahead.  My heart knows nothing is wasted or useless.  My heart knows its priority and first love.  Even when circling a mountain I had grown entirely too familiar with, God was watching…and waiting.  He was listening and shaping.

It doesn’t matter how hard you scream for your dream. 

If it isn’t time for the dawning of the dream, it isn’t going to happen.  God knows you.  He knows your dream.  He knows His dream for you.  You are far too important to prematurely birth your dream.  And besides, the birthing in and of itself is a long process.  From the first glimpse of shimmer to full blown reality is often longer still.

But, keep this in mind.  It. Is. Coming.

So, journey around the mountain.  Listen and call.  Watch and seek.  Learn and release.  And, wait.  But, just do something to prepare for your dream.  Waiting doesn’t mean being idle.  Waiting is work.  Wait and seek.  Only He knows the real outcome for your dream.

I’m sure I will circle more mountains on my way.  One dream is maybe not enough for my one, magnificent life.  Here, though, is the lesson I am learning on the way.

I am doing great things with my life…even now.  I may not be notable or noteworthy, but I am doing what I should be doing.  And, as the time comes I will be ready to step into the dreams I am now dreaming.  It’s time for me to dream.  I think I’m getting it…and I think He is chuckling.

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Forgiveness…..It Makes Me Sweat

Forgiveness.  The word makes me sweat.  

I am an emotional person.  I feel things deeply. I take things to heart.  My heart gets bruised.  And, it’s not just about me.  I am madly in love with my husband and children.  They are my world.  When they hurt, I hurt. When bad things happen to them, it might as well be me!  I am very emotive….so much estrogen.  Just ask my family.  (Think mother bear!)

The biggest lesson of my life came in October 2011.  Desperate to end his nightmare, our child spilled his hurt and pain to my husband.  We knew this person.  We thought she was safe—she wanted to be a youth pastor and we were mentoring her towards that end.  We thought we knew and understood her well.

Apparently, we didn’t.

The days that followed were full of rage, pain and complete shock.  We navigated the legal system, detectives, and victim advocates in a haze of unbelief.  Not unbelief of our child’s story.  We never doubted him.  Sitting in the detective’s office, trying to answer endless questions, we just couldn’t figure out how we had gotten to this point.

How could someone do this to one of our own and to our family?

I never dreamed, in all my days, I would be sitting

in a courtroom listening to all the graphic details of the abuse.

Who does?

Betrayal of any kind is painful. 

At this level, it was hard to breathe.  We had done so much to better the life and future of this caregiver; providing opportunities for a future that would not have come anywhere else.

We did receive justice in the legal system. We are grateful.  It started the healing process for our boy and for us. We felt heard and understood.  Unfortunately, in today’s culture, male victims of female perpetrators many times don’t receive equal justice.   But, we did. And that is nothing short of a miracle.

But, see, this is where it gets gritty.

As Christ Followers, we are taught to forgive.

  For the longest time I wasn’t in any place to forgive.  I needed  time and space to process and heal.

And I honestly think God was okay with that.  I learned something important.

Everybody moves at their own pace and the journey is cyclical—just like in the grieving process.

FORGIVENESS   IS   NOT   EASY   NOR   CHEAP.

I have to say, there are some days I don’t feel as if I have forgiven very well.  Most days, three years isn’t long enough to pay for the level of trauma, fear and pain he endured.  And, if I am really honest (please allow me),

I can’t understand how God could forgive this, much less me.

 

I know this: If I surrender my deep betrayal and pain to God, and follow His lead, He will walk me through this difficult journey of forgiveness.

I am learning that forgiveness is a journey.

This past week was a perfect example of how much work I have left to do, but how far I have come!  It was a milestone in our journey.  He knows we are human.  We are not perfect in this earthly skin.

I think forgiveness isn’t a one and done type of thing either.

It is a process—a lifelong journey that brings great peace.  I imagine I will work the rest of my life to forgive fully and completely as I know Christ does.  I know God knows my humanity.

He gives me strength and power to do what I can’t seem to do on my own.

As you can see, it makes the top 10 of the hardest lessons I will learn in life.  And I’m still trying to figure it all out.  It is a team effort with God leading the way.  I’ll follow in His footsteps and I know all will be alright.

What about you?  Do you have something that screams for forgiveness but you just don’t know how?  Can you give yourself grace knowing God does when you are walking hand in hand….moving in His unhurried rhythms of grace?

 

My friend, I know it is hard.  I hate the cliches.

But, God is jealous for you and is aware of your pain.

Sit and listen for His rhythm of grace.