Up and Coming

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I’m not interested in going back.

I choose to live in the future.  Our lives are meant to be faced forward, not dwelling  on past days.

Ahhh, it’s easy to remember the good old days. 

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I find myself tempted by that option. Goodness. My kids are growing up and I’m not as young as I used to be.  There are loads of happy memories and experiences to wander through.  But, I’m not camping out.

What was is done. 

What God gave then–I hold with such fondness so many beautiful gifts.  I love my kids and all their lives mean to me and all those beautiful memories.

But, to stay there is not life.  Life is best lived moving forward. 

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Some folks get caught in the golden memories.  The way things were. 

The answers and miracles and fondness of memories.  I just wonder, though, if by refusing to move forward, what we are really saying is God can not be trusted.  He will not do equal wonders in the future.  They will certainly look different, but they will be no less awe-inspiring.

I choose forward.

God has great things planned for the future.  The future days excite me!

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A new day calls for new ways (Let me be clear—not new truth.) Perhaps to not move forward feels safest and gives a more solid footing. God has future plans that are bigger and brighter than those of the past.  If we stay in the past, we miss the opportunity of bringing along the new people here today. 

The prophet told us clearly,

“God has a plan for our future.  Good plans.  Plans of hope and peace.”

God is always working with the future in mind. 

That was the whole point of Christ’s coming.

photo-1440999189875-aec750e026f4It’s easy to get caught up in the swooning over past memories.  We tend to clean up and spruce up many of our memories.  Sometimes we revise the history in our minds.  Time is an equalizer.  Anyhow, it is no longer with us.

I choose a forward moving life.

It’s a new day.  What was is over. 

Hopefully, I have learned what I can from the past and will be able to carry it into the future. There is such beauty and peace walking into the future knowing God has me.  I am His. 

Give me forward facing folks anytime. 

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They understand the path is not charted and could get bumpy. 

We don’t live in a utopian frame of mind.  We know, because of experience, God is present regardless of bumps and roadblocks.  If I have learned anything over the last years is God never leaves.  Never.  I fought that battle in my mind years ago, and now carry that hard-won truth with me into the future.

I wonder.  Do people not think God will be present if they move forward?  I imagine there could be that fear.  But, that truth has to be won…even fought for…in our hearts.  Better to learn this sooner, rather than later!

Forward.

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It is the seeking of what lies ahead. 

Refusing to be held back by what may have worked or not have worked in the past. Not insisting I do it my way.  Holding firmly to the belief that God is a God of wonders and mystery. Actively seeking a forward moving mindset.

It isn’t saying the past is invalid. 

photo-1444011283387-7b0f76371f12It is saying, “I am good with the past.  I am at peace with the past. But, I am excited at what God yet has for me.”  Pretty simple.

I won’t be defined by the past, but merely informed by and beautifully shaped by it. 

The gifts I carry into the future are beautiful and costly.  Rare and exquisite gifts.  Gifts obtained by tears and prayers and even some sweat and blood.  And, I hold dearly to these gifts as I move forward. 

I am moving forward! 

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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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Withering Cherry Trees!

 

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Sometimes I look around and become, well, unhappy.  Dissatisfied.  Discontented.  Ungrateful.

Do you ever do this?

I see the laundry still hanging out long after its dry.  I see the messy rooms just begging for me to put some order back to them.  I look at my vehicle.  It’s not the newest or shiniest—it has driven my family a lot of miles.  It has some scuffs and little scratches and even a dent someone put in it and didn’t bother to leave a note.  I have some drawers that are sticking and not closing right.  And, gosh, the to do list.  It could use some whittling down.  Due to all of those many miles I taxi, and my own responsibilities, I can’t seem to figure out how to cook healthful meals as much as I want.  And let’s not mention, a few pounds may have been added.  I have a pile, or maybe a couple, that house several “to handle later” items.  I hate those.

You get the picture.  Life.  It is going mighty fast. Some days stuff just falls through the cracks.  Maybe it’s just us.  But, I’m not thinking so.  My husband has a favorite saying.  I have to admit, it can drive me crazy.  God love the man.  He’s right.  We don’t always want to hear it.  But, he’s right.

Here it is.  “You are going to have to reframe.” 

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God bless this man of mine.  Yes, sometimes, I think if I have to hear that again, I may fall over dead. Right there, right then.  One time I told him I already knew that.  I knew all of his tips and tricks, but I just needed a good cry. Dr. Husband let me have that good cry.  All of that minutia and wounded-ness from self-criticism had taken its toll.  I had hit the tipping point and had NO interest in reframing ANYTHING!! (It may not have been said in an inside voice.)

Well, he’s right.  In life, we are faced with stuff.  The detritus of this crazy life.  In the natural life, too much stuff, too many cracks for things to fall through, it all piles up.  In the emotional life, we are faced with the constant refrain of “not good enough.”  And it all seems to add up to “NEVER good enough.”

I have a passage of Scripture that I love.  I think you will, too.  Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted.  Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty.  I’m singing joyful praise to God.  I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.  Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer.  I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

I know this passage is talking about seasons of life when provision is low and they are depending on God to save the day.  But, it sure seems to fit life when things are not as we would like them and we just desperately need His help to reframe.

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So, look at the line where the focus changes.

It says, “I’m singing joyful praise to God.  I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.“  And from there to the end of the passage, the writer has done some major reframing.  Dr. Husband is right.  Imagine that!  It’s true, you know.

Reframing is the key to taking the ugly and untidy, worn and used and shining them up to beauty. 

I can look at any given situation—whether it’s the ginormous mess or the task overlooked, again and again or the critics who are unkind and careless—and look at it in ugly, harsh tones.  Or, I can do some editing and enhancing, shifting the shading, perhaps zoom in or zoom out.  It’s my choice.  I can put the frame around it in a new and pardigm-shifting perspective.

We can look at the mess OR we can look at the blessing that caused the mess.

Our choice.

I’m choosing to look at the blessing that caused the inconvenience or mess or extra work or busy-ness.  It’s amazing how my heart takes strength and God gives me just what I need to keep going.  Many people don’t have the blessings I do and would appreciate a little inconvenience.  I’m afraid the things I complain about, someone else may be praying for.  Reframe.

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We are going into the beautiful holiday season.  My very favorites of the year!  Many are clued into the “30 days of Thanksgiving”.  I’m all for it.  It’s important.  But, honestly, gratitude and joy are the gifts of reframing any time of the year.  God has these beautiful gifts waiting for us and we bypass them every time we choose the lifeless, flat perspective of not reframing.

I’ll repeat Dr. Husband, “You are going to have to reframe.”

Ugly shifts.  Hard softens.  And gratitude and joy slip in and sidle up next to you.

It really is all in the reframing.

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Two Random Thoughts

 

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Whew!  Life has picked up its speed! My feet are tired and so is my brain.

I have a couple thoughts rolling around…unrelated really, but stirring around nonetheless.  Here it goes.

This morning my alarm went off and I rolled over to snatch up my phone. 

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As has become my habit, I opened Facebook to see what had transpired while I was asleep.  (Because we all know it was probably very important.)   The professionals say you are addicted to your phone if the first thing you do in the morning is look at it.  This  could be me.

 I realized too late this was not going to be a good idea.

It has become a really bad idea.

I didn’t have to work hard or go searching very far without stumbling across the most horrendous stories anyone could read, much less at 7:15 in the morning.  On a silver platter, I had the vilest news imaginable hand delivered right to my mind and heart.

The world is making me tired.

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All the news of horror and evil has just become too much.  Between news outlets, social media and online reporting agencies, it’s just overload.  This all-consuming, 24 hour news cycle, has worn me down.  There is some beauty and bliss in a little less information.  Maybe not ignorance, but a smaller helping would certainly do me some good.

So, after putting my phone down and regrouping, I deleted my Facebook app off of my phone.  “Hi, I’m Amberly and I was addicted to Facebook.”   I know, I could be a little late to the deleting game.  Some folks have already removed it from their lives and swear by it!

This is not some huge, earth shattering action in the whole scheme of things.  It certainly isn’t going to set Facebook world on tilt.  But, I think it’s going to improve the quality of MY life.  Who knows the wonderful things I can experience in real life instead of stuffing my still moments with the constant chatter and noise on social media?  I might even read all those books beside my bed.  Anyway, I have set boundaries for my heart and mind.  Thirteen hours and counting.  So far so good.

My second thought comes from Ephesians 3:20 in the Message version.  

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

I’m focusing on the second half of the Scripture.

“He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”  I think this is pretty awesome.   I have never read this verse in the Message version.  How could I have missed it all this time?

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This is a beautiful passage to me.  I have lived this.  God has walked with me and dealt gently and deeply with me.  He works in me.  During times of deep hurt and grief, He didn’t crush me with harsh demands and cold reprimands.  He sat with me and spoke to my pain.  He breathed life and peace into my brokenness.

This gentleness drew me close and healed me.  He knew I could not stay in my pain, brokenness and ashes.  He knew there was life and there were dreams on the other side of my pain.  And, He knew I wasn’t going to make it on my own.  He was going to carry me to the other side.

I marvel at this verse.

I know it to be true. 

As I dream now and am on the other side of my pain,  I know these words up close and real.  He is giving me His dreams for my life.  He is teaching me to journey close to His side.  I must rest in His rhythms of grace.  Not in my own impatient ways.  And, He will bring the very best to pass.

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There have been so many times when Christ could have beat me up side the head or yelled to me to “GET IT TOGETHER, GIRLFRIEND!!” Yet, He knows the deeper way—the more compelling way.  And, He draws me to Himself.

It’s cool the thoughts God drops in our hearts and the work He does even in our busiest moments.

You know how life gets.

Busy helping the kids, the husband, the church, the dog, and all the other people in our lives.  Sometimes, it’s hard to find time to slow it down.  But, even in all those moments, we have to listen to what He is speaking.

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He knows what’s best.  He is jealous for us—jealous for our well-being.  He knows all the noise and life-pollution is not what is good for us.  He has the very best there is to offer.  He knows our deepest places nobody else may know.

I don’t know about you, but this season of my life is picking up the pace.  This is a good thing.  But, I’m going to be mindful to keep my ear tuned to what He has to say.  I don’t want to miss anything!

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We Can Do Hard Things

You never know what you can do until you have to do it.

12038515_10208120059425782_2205531781384824545_nI used to never really consider myself strong.  I use to doubt my endurance for hard things.  I would think of certain scenarios and think there was no way I could ever endure something like that!  I was young and life had not been truly hard.

Have you ever thought like this?  It’s possible I’m a lone bird on this one.  I get stuck in my head quite a bit.  But, on the off chance you have ever wondered how you’re going to make it, or do THAT, or what if, then maybe this is for you.

One of my very favorite sayings floating around lately is a hefty reminder.  And, you better hang on for it!

“We can do hard things.” 

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I’m not really sure how this fits into today’s culture.  For the most part, we are busy entertaining and indulging ourselves and avoiding uncomfortableness at all costs.  I try to avoid stress and anxiety.  I know my margins and am pretty good at trying hard to not cross them.

So, in today’s “first world problem” culture, the hard, ugly, messy, costly, inconvenient and uncomfortable are usually avoided like the .  If it is out of the carefully crafted comfort zone we have so strategically arranged, it must not be for me.  Check.  Not going there.

But, what about the gift of inconvenience?  What about the gift of hard?

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I’ve had the privilege of knowing women who have done hard.  My mom did hard for over 10 years as she was the primary caregiver for my sweet father as he slowly withered away.  I’ve watched my mothers-in-law take care of grandchildren as their own and nurse a dying bitter man with grace and patience. I’ve seen women pick up family and home and move across the world and endure hardship in order to rescue children and women from slavery.  There are all kinds of hard.

We can do hard things.

In fact, life is more rewarding and satisfying if we do hard.  Perpetually taking the easy road and always choosing the easy leads to comatose living.  If that is even considered living.

Sometimes, we really have no choice.  The hard is shoved at us with the force of a tsunami, and we have to swallow it and keep afloat.  Our world is shoved into another realm and we must adjust our course or be obliterated.  Sometimes, it seems we have had more than our fair share of hard and inconvenient.  It appears all we do is hard.  I’ve been there.

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We can do hard things.

I have a beautiful passage of Scripture you need to hear!  Psalm 16:5-6 goes like this:

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 

You may be wondering how I’m going to take this verse and make it work to convince you that, yes, you can do hard things.  Well, here it is.  I have had a very long season…years even…of doing very hard things.  In fact, it came like the waves of the ocean.  I often felt as if I was going to drown from the unrelenting surge of hard.  Life looked bleak and it was breaking me.  The years of pounding had me convinced this would never end.  This seemingly had become the course of my life.  I was constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for the next wave.  Not a hope-filled, joyful journey by any stretch.  I anticipated lack instead of abundance.  I waited for darkness more than light.  I expected drought instead of blessing.

Now, on the other side of the hard, I realize I have learned some valuable lessons.

1. I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

2. The hard doesn’t last forever.

3. I can’t do it on my own, but with Christ and friends, I can do anything.

4. Christ sees it all, and……now, look back at Psalm 16:5-6.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

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The beauty and grace I never thought I would ever see again, has indeed, come.  He never left me.  And, in fact, He holds my inheritance and the borders of my life are stretched to beautiful places.  Life isn’t perfect.  Not everything works right all the time.  Not everything has been fully restored.  But, I anticipate in due time, all things will be made right.

There is something about going through hard and inconvenient, instead of caving and crumbling.   There are lessons we learn and strength we gain.  Strength begets strength.  By not choosing the easiest, or bypassing the hard,  a rock hard strength develops within you.  One. Choice. At. A. Time.

Every time we choose to do hard, we choose strength.  Each time we don’t give up, we choose spiritual fortitude.  And, it is just amazing to see where we are taken in Christ through the journey.  As we come out through the suffocating, restricting and confining alleyways of the hard, we come upon the wide open vistas of grace and hope that stretch out before us.  We see it is both beautiful and breathtaking!  Oh, the light and stunning grace!  He knows us and gives us beauty for ashes.  Yes, we may lose much, but the inheritance promises to be worth the journey!

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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!

Who Do You Trust?

 

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I can remember sitting on the edge of the bed with each of my children.  Or sometimes it was sitting with them curled up next to me on the sofa.  We were having one of our many heart to heart talks.  To me, those are some of my most treasured moments.  As they poured out their concerns or dreams from their tender hearts, I intently listened.  Sometimes, I didn’t have an answer; lots of times I did.  The one thing I remember teaching them is this,

“If it matters to you then it matters to God.”

Sometimes, their concern was over a lost toy or an unfortunate situation.  Other times, their concern was the bigger-than-life dreams they were dreaming.  Either way, I often brought them back to this one thought.

If it matters to you then it matters to God.

In this life we need hope.  Not a misguided and misplaced hope, but a hope rooted in the strength and care of God.  This isn’t a false hope.  It was never promised that God was our genie in a bottle looking to grant every wish.  They understood that.  We might not get the response we want, but God gives the very best He knows we need.

God looks at our hearts with care.  He sees all the things in future days we can not see.  He sees where our choices lead.  He knows what we need.  But, the really cool thing is God cares about the things we care about.  He created us and knows us.

This is a great comfort for my soul.  Our desires are not petty or insignificant. In fact, if He knew us before we were ever in our mother’s womb, wouldn’t that include what our desires and interests would be?  We are not created out of chance.

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This thought always seemed to comfort my children.  And, in the the process, I was aiming for a deep heart connection with the One who created them.  I know they take this thought with them even now.  Now, they are older.  The stakes are quite a bit higher.  Just the other day my oldest needed a reminder.  I think we all need to be reminded at points along the journey.  When the cost is higher or the dream is bigger and when we aren’t talking about lost childhood trinkets, we need to remember.  Now, we are talking about which paths to walk, which choices to make, which dreams to dream.  Or, maybe it is about provision in the real world—having real needs in this real world.  But, perhaps, it is something you think is small and insignificant, and doesn’t even warrant an audience with God.

If it matters to you then it matters to God.

Fear need not rule the day.  Our Father hears and knows.  He’s got us.  Who do you trust?  I mean, REALLY trust.  Are you trusting in yourself to get things done and to make it happen?  Do you have dreams and desires and believe you are the only one to get it done?  Maybe that is your life track record–“If it is to be then it’s up to me!”  No one ever sat with you and really listened to what was burdening your soul.  Well, I’m here today to tell you it matters.  It all matters.

Does it matter to you?  Then it matters to God. 

He’s not a magic genie looking to grant you three wishes.  But, He does care about what keeps you up at night and aches in your heart.  Trusting only in ourselves leads to a weary and worn soul.

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Things haven’t turned out quite how you wanted?  Things don’t really look like what you dreamed of in your heart?  He cares.  And, what’s even best, He sees the right answer for every situation.  Scripture teaches us to cast our burden on Him because He cares for us.  I’m amazed at all of the times God has revealed Himself to my children.  Children.  He has proven Himself over and over to them.  And, even though they are children, they have experienced some tough stuff.  And so, they are learning He can be trusted.

You may not be a child anymore, but He is waiting to listen.  If He will reveal Himself to a child, He will reveal Himself to you.  What is it that matters to you?  What is aching in your soul?

 If it matters to you then it matters to Him!

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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.

11 

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 …..

stick-to-it-ativeness. 

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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Courage, Dear Heart

“I know what I’m doing.  I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

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Why is it that after all I know, I still doubt?

Where do I think He is going to lead me?

What about the time I trusted completely and the wheels came all the way off the bus, landed in the ditch…..and, the bus blew up!?!

Why do I forget who He is and how much He loves me and mine?

My heart screams foul.

Instead of first remembering all the glories and grace, I turn and stare at the cracked and raised scars. I think of what put them there. I remember the pain and the emotion of the broken and disillusioned reality.

  So quick to forget.

What causes this short term memory gap?  Is it fear that causes the impaired vision; or is it the impaired vision that causes the fear?  I know it is a human issue.  It’s not new to me.  Even the wanderers of Israel could never seem to remember the miracles and open hand of God.  Maybe you, too?

It is so easy to rehearse the pain of the past; it is lazy at best and ungrateful at worst.

There.

Sometimes we need to be direct and truthful with ourselves.

Tell ourselves to snap out of it—get back to focusing on the good.  What of this living by the spirit of fear?  How much better would it be to live with power, love and a sound mind?

Interesting how “sound mind” is lumped right in there.  It seems fear has a way of causing us to lose our minds.  Without clarity, we don’t process and interpret life or situations effectively or wisely.  When we don’t work from a sound mind, we lose self-discipline and good judgment.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  But, for whatever reason, I can pick up and move on over and slide in right next to fear.

What do I think fear is really going to do for me?  It is a harsh taskmaster.  Fear ties a noose around my neck and leads me down dark and unsafe paths.  My judgment is clouded and I am not able to hear clearly what God just might say to me.  Fear is relentless and tiring and leaves me frazzled, lying in a heap.

 

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I have to shake my head.  God did not think highly of the wanderers when they did the same thing.  Oh, He loved them immeasurably!  But He grew tired of their faithlessness and their inability to just remember!  In fact, He saw them as ungrateful and difficult.  I really don’t want God to look at me in the same light.

Our scars are left behind as a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient and our strength is made stronger in our weakest moments. 

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God’s grace goes where no human hand can.  The world is a rough and tumble place with countless potential land mines.  Fear points out everything that could possibly go wrong; grace reminds us He never leaves us or forsakes us.

If we are so quick to remember the messes and disasters, why can’t we just as easily remember He has an awesome plan for us—one that is full of blessing, hope and better tomorrows?

Maybe the best place to start is with gratitude.

It seems to always come right back to that.  Doesn’t it?  A daily remembering of all the lovely graces which fill our days from beginning to end.  It takes a purposefulness and strength to look beyond the hard edges.  It takes focusing on the abundance in the simplicity.  Oh my goodness!  The whole of our minds shift and light dazzles the gray.  Why wouldn’t we want this?

Gratitude and grace aren’t gold pavers lining the street and smoothing out bumps and potholes.  They serve to lift our focus from the mess to the savior in the mess.  We see He is for us. This sin of Adam is the problem; not God.  He has never left our side.  And, He can clearly see us all the way home.

So, what do I have to fear?

What do I have to be afraid of?

No scheme of man can ever take me out of His hand!  (And you know some try awfully hard!)  Circumstances or events may not look how we imagined or the horizon may be asking more questions than giving answers.  The answers don’t often come before we strike out on the unfamiliar road.

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When gratitude and grace emerge, you shift your focus to the one who sees clearly and has walked this way before.  

Psalm 32.8 beautifully expresses his heart toward us,

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

He watches over me with loving care.

He is not flippant with my life.

When I stay close, He gives me good counsel.

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When I stay close, I look at Him, see His heart and know—really know—I need not be afraid for whatever

may come.

Fear has no place.

Fear can’t rule.

This is a huge challenge for me today.  How about you?  What is so easy for you to forget?  What situation needs your radical faith?

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Just try it……the air is cleaner up there.