The Day I Touched the Sky

A photo by Eli DeFaria. unsplash.com/photos/qKXnwCIaULI

The other day I spent some time on some much needed “knee mail.” I confessed my broken heart to the Lord. It was messy and let’s just say I could’ve invested some money in Kleenex stock. Yes, the tears came way too easy and I was overwhelmed. What could possibly cause such a deep emotional response from within?

I let my heart touch the sky and released my pain.

In the last four months I lost both my mom, 91, and dad, 94, to Alzheimer’s disease. We were personally involved in their care for almost three years. I don’t know if you’ve been down this road but it’s hard, specific and each parent required different care.

The details were love-driven but the sentiments were often lost in the details and mostly confusing to my parents. What we experienced as a family was challenging and difficult. But I sit here today to encourage you, if you are looking at a similar situation, there’s peace available to you by the measure of God’s grace that goes before you.

I have many stories I’m collecting in a book which will someday help someone, I just feel it. Role reversal in families is often hard, isolating and intense. However, I learned the most about peace of God who offers this peace by going through it. There are seasons in life only experienced by going through it.

“We do what we have to do.” says every mom.

With any big decisions, and we all face them, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a manual of knowledge with all the answers? You know it would. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know you could just “tube it” to get the answers you needed? The world as we know it is asking “Dr. Google” for everything. I am reminded we do have such a resource to help us figure things out what life sets before us.

We do what we have to do because the Holy Spirit helps us.

Jesus said (in His last few hours on earth) it was best and good for Him to leave so the Helper could come and be our advocate. It is good for man to release what he can’t do and find the Help to cover what man can’t do. That’s not to say you don’t have a part in God’s business, you do. You simply trust God has you covered and He is working out things according to His best plan for you and you do the next thing as He leads. God peace protects you from making wrong decisions. I am grateful today HE is my Shepherd and knows what I need, even before I have need of it.

Yes, He’s so good at being God and our good, good Father.  He anticipates needs before you have any needs. Think about this: God who has NO needs meets ALL of yours. And He knows every one of your needs and is at the ready to meet you and show you. So let us fix our eyes, look to the hills, look up and live a vertical life. Let’s reflect His countenance, and meet Him in the morning and again remind ourselves in the evening. Could it be said if we simply live with God, we won’t be fighting the will of God?

Life is a great teacher and I’m taking many notes. (By the way, I heard a preacher say once there’s a special gate in Heaven for us note takers!) With God’s help, He makes the ways of faith known to you and for you. It’s His grace goes before you and secures your mind. It’s His peace assures you when everything isn’t going okay. There’s comfort in sharing with friends and receiving godly counsel. Encouragement can come in many ways, and God loves to use you to help people too. Hard times teach you to lean upon Him and look to Him to help point the way for others in healing and keeping peace.

Keeping our head up is the challenge, as well as fighting discouragement plus trudging through life on our own strength. There are other times when God loves to grow us through situations which cause us to trust in Him in no uncertain terms, with the eyes of faith. When we believe He leads through adversity by His character, then we see the wonder of who God really is. Only God can give this kind of holy assurance to help us let go of the things we can’t control. And nothing can replace such kind of peaceful assurance!

How have you seen God’s peace in your life?

Learning Joy In Rejection

giraffesdancing

I’ve told the story before about a giraffe named Gerald who dreams of being a dancer with the other animals in the jungle.  Gerald has the desire but his ability to dance like the others isn’t quite up to par.  His knees are crooked and his legs are thin.  All the other animals mock him when he approaches the jungle dance floor.  His swagger  (as they say in jungle-eeze) isn’t zig-zaging like the others.

Gerald took lessons, studied the moves, more grooves, and eventually developed his own style. One day, on jr.audition day, Gerald showed up prepared to zig and zag in a confident direction.  After many hours on the dirt floor, he perfected a secret move all his own and still wasn’t chosen.

As he lumbered off in a dejected fashion, the lonely lanky spotted giraffe felt rejection from his “wanna-be’s”.  Downcast, he met up with his cricket friend who chirped “Gerald, you just need a different song.” Gerald’s heart lightened a little as he took the cricket’s advice.  He retreated to his own little jungle corner to let his heart dance free.

Soon, Gerald was prancing and sashaying once again.

Suddenly, a crowd gathered in amazement and recognized Gerald could dance after all.  All he needed was his own little space be brave and bold, freedom to unleash his rhythm by the light of the moon.

It might seem strange to you to tell you I think about Gerald often.  I know how this kind of rejection feels.  What the story doesn’t tell you is Gerald had a lot of doubt going into dancing.  So much doubt he wanted to give up.  He wanted to do anything else instead of dancing.  Gerald also had a big heart to teach others to dance but he couldn’t lead out because he felt unqualified.

The story didn’t mention how Gerald was faithful to his craft.  There were lots of practices he only watched from the outlying and surrounding undergrowth as the other animals gracefully swayed.  Gerald watched in wonder at their magical skill.  He longed to be included and seen by them.  But shamefully, self-doubt kept coming against him.  Opposition came in the jeers and taunts of his so-called friends.  Provocation came from his inner critic.  He was discouraged and just wanted to give up.

Why does this story move me so much?  It has a happy ending like most children books do and Gerald found the courage to recover a dream.  For me, it also speaks of how we should never give up uncovering who God created us to be.  If you are honest with yourself, wouldn’t you admit you want to belong somehow?

The search for purpose sometimes leads a person to unexpected places.  Michael Hyatt says to do “what makes you cry” in life.  What I’ve found so far is dreams are full of hard work and lots of practice.  There’s lots of pieces to making a dream work.  There’s even more work to get someone to notice your dance in a jungle full of excellent dancers.

So why should we try?  If Micheal Hyatt were here now I would ask him, “What’s the point?”  It doesn’t matter if you are a musician or not, please watch Victor Wooten’s talk. His lessons about life, success, creativity, learning, passion, permission and smiling are profound.

In using my creative confidence, I still have some lessons to learn.  Like Gerald, my dance doesn’t look like others, but mine is a worthy and weighty move .  I have also learned to not lean on feelings but to dance anyway.  Taking action on an idea requires applied practice and a dedication to stay the course.  Dancing takes courage, skill, and ability.  It takes guts to put your best foot forward.  It’s risky, hard and you may lose.  But… you will never know discovery unless you try.  It’s never to late to be what you might have been.

What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Speaking metaphorically, life is a dance.  We all have a unique design made by a God without rival.  And when an incomparable God has placed His uniqueness within, it’s our best response to practice and sing in the octave He gave you.  There’s no two dancers the same, each are unique in every way.  And finally, God just loves it I show up for practice, even with my deficiencies.

So where are you in this dancer’s world?

Finding Joy in the Pruning

cherries

I have two rose bushes growing outside my front door.  Often, I take a little time to cut back the dead blooms.  Last week I cut them so thoroughly that not one bloom remained.  I took a step back to see if the bushes were evenly shaped.  Accomplishing my task and without another thought about them, I turned to enjoy the sunset.

It’s the process of pruning that is needed in the caring of the rose bushes.  If I didn’t cut back the spent blooms, the bushes would only bloom occassionally.  The more you cut the bush, the more the blooms.  It’s hard to cut back a perfectly green stem however, but it’s needed to help the bush thrive.

I’m learning how to abide in this season of resting and learning to have joy in the pruning. The fruit of the Spirit grows us best through the pruning process.  God wants to cut away our inflated view of self and expand the view of Him and protect us from falling into a blown up view of our own importance.  We are so easilty distracted with self-focus instead of releasing what God has put inside our souls.

Even the Holy Spirit does not glory Himself – Only Christ.  It says in John 16:14 “However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you.”

Pruning is part of the rest process and achieves what only God sees.  And this the part of the post where I tell you that it’s easy, and doesn’t hurt and you’re going to be okay, right?  What I can tell you is that you are going to be okay and there is joy found in pruning and letting go, to let the Holy Spirit bear His fruit in you.

From my experience with pruning is our Gardner knows best which branches need to go, which will bear the best fruit or blooms, and what He has designed for each of us.  And just like my cutting back the rose bushes, our Father prunes so that there will be even MORE fruit bearing.  When you are pruined you have an over-arching purpose which matches the vision God has for you.   John 15 digs into this truth down nicely.

Don’t forget the Gardner has a plan in the pruning – to give Him glory and to grow you into His good work and perfect you in the process.  Something we know about pruning is it cuts away the dead branches, and we are good with getting rid of the dead parts but what about the branches that are still thriving?  Sometimes it’s in the best interest of the plant to cut branches that aren’t dead) for the overall good of the plant.

And so it goes, there’s nothing easy about being cut or pruned.  And it hurts to experience a loss of a growing branch.  As His children, we grow in holiness.  Holiness means living set apart for God.  It’s the perfection process of our faith that sets us apart for Him.  Consider it like a spiritual exercise where God stretches you to the potential He sees in you.  Remember the focus isn’t on what we are losing or letting go of but instead for the real reason of our growth in Christ.  What I know about life so far is that we grow the most in adversity and difficulties.

It’s in the adversity, the calamities, the cancer, and the chaos where we seek God the most.  When we have to let go of our own strength and cling to His, that’s sharing His glory.  When we prosper and become the masterpiece He designed, that’s bearing fruit in our lives.

Colossians 1:10 “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”

It’s in the process that we grow.  Sometimes the pruning hurts, and we suffer setbacks but it’s for the overall beauty of the plant and the sweetness of the fruit.

 

Count It All Joy Through Gratitude

joy swing

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11 (NIV)

My last post was about joy, counting it ALL joy, and the gap in between our dreams and reality.  At least finding joy a habit was my intention.  I realize this week gratitude is directly connected to the golden thread of relationships, happiness, and abundance in life. If you’re like me, you can read a post about joy and think it’s all pink and rosy every day.  I hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be more grateful.  It might work for her but she doesn’t live out in my life.  It won’t work for me.”

Oh friends, it’s time to stop kicking the tires on this life and embrace it for all it’s worth.  Let’s all go bravely forward and count it all joy.

I like to go beyond a nice idea or a concept.  It’s one idea to live with joy but it’s a whole new way to live with God’s joy.  I’m all about application and gathering the tools of creativity, words of gratitude, love, applied discipline, to understand and get a hold of the way the concept works in your everyday life. Until you practice and witness your own shifts and awakenings, none of this makes much impact.  Have confidence by faith!  Joy is attainable and is a good idea.  Do you follow me so far?

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 (ESV)

The Bible is a great start to instructing us how to live and how to count everything for joy, but it’s not the whole letter of the law.  You also have to apply joy to your life.

What does living in joy look like?  It’s daily looking and adopting God’s ways into your life. I encourage everyone to keep a gratitude journal. Be grateful when God teaches you how to live.  It’s a way to bring His character into our weaknesses.  For me, when I feel left out or last in line, I go to my gratitude journal and make a list of all the ways I am blessed.  Believe me when I say this, if you think you aren’t blessed to live in the land of the free and home of the brave, travel internationally to suffering and oppressed nations.  You will notice the difference immediately.  Gratitude journals can turn whining and complaining into thankfulness and appreciation.

So, what is a gratitude journal?

A gratitude journal is a blank notebook where you write lists for which you are grateful. Every night, before you go to bed, you take about three minutes to write down a list of five things (or any do-able number).

Some days, you might be feeling particularly abundant, and those five things just fly onto the page.

Some days, it might feel like you can’t think of even two things. Then you remember how you have a roof over your head or food to eat. Next, you remember your cat (again) and you have hot water to get clean and drink.  No matter what you’re feeling, find time to write down at least five things every single night.  And they don’t have to be new and different.

My experience is when I write out what I’m grateful for, those items add joy to my day.  I become more in tune throughout the next day. It’s like turning on an inner-switch, and sets your awareness to look for joys to journal each night. So you might be driving out of your neighborhood in the morning, and catch the flash of a cardinal in the sunlight, and instead of blowing it off, you stop and notice it for a moment. You take it in. And you make a mental note to include the bird in your gratitude journal. Then, when you’re having lunch with a co-worker, she grabs the check and pays it. And not only do you thank her, but you make a mental note again (I carry a small notebook and pen in my purse). Your day becomes a basket where you collect things. The joy habit soon comes to life!  In essence, you become a joy and gratitude magnet. And oddly enough, cool things start to find you. But you have to learn to be grateful now for all what you already have.

When you really try this, you will see how your joy increases.  You see, Jesus is joy and anytime you notice the things He put in your path to bring joy or a smile to your face, His intentions change your intentions.  Now not everything in this world is joyful.  Believe me when I say, you can choose how you see the things of this world and how to respond to the world around you.  When you feel the smile of Heaven, it makes a difference in your soul.

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  John 15:11 (NLT)

(Notice I posted a joy verse in different ways to help you see how grateful I am for reward of seeking joy in all things.  Gratitude shapes your perspective!)

How to Count It All Joy

girl joyful

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:2-5

As Christians we can easily slip into the lie of “life gets easier as we mature” in Christ. After all, it’s the good work of Christ who is completes His work in those who walk by faith.  And on top of the work of completion we are encouraged to be brave through all the changes.  And one more step…count it all joy.

No deeper truth can be said and bears repeating …life is full-on hard! We already know about hardship, troubles, afflictions, and understand those aren’t easy. Life is full of pain, heartaches, and loss of life. Living as a believer, it is often harder to have faith and hope in the midst of doing life, especially when hard problems hit.  So how can you love this life while embracing conflict, hardship, and adversity?  How about when you are in the heat of the battle of shame, pain, and messy habitual sins?  Do those situations have to count too?

By faith, we are encouraged to ask God for everything we need. Yes, we ask for strength to make it through crisis after crisis, strength and endurance to make it out alive.  We ask God for pain to subside, for healing, and even ask for miracles. How many times though do you consider trials with joy?  How is joy really possible when bravely embracing hardships, adversity and problems?

I’m still counting how this works, but I do know life becomes easier with joy.

Friends, it’s taken me years to figure out a simple truth.  When we attack each day with joy, hard things are easy, painful things fade, and our strength is renewed without asking. To count your joy, consider everything in your day a gift of joy and watch your joy unfold.  Joy is second to God’s love in how the Spirit helps us.

Love generates joy.  Did you catch it?  Joy helps in making life’s adversity embraceable.  Joy helps us live brave.  Joy helps us make hard days count.

I remember the funeral of my brother-in-law.  It was a sad occasion due to suicide.  Like most families we didn’t understand why.  We were all heart-broken with grief.   My husband and I were leaving the service, and when it came time to say good-bye to his wife, I was at a loss for words.  All of a sudden, my father-in-law stood up to do the same and his pants dropped to his ankles.  We all stood, the whole family, stood with jaws dropped when this happened. We weren’t sure what to do, given the occasion.

Enter my mother-in-law’s next simple statement, “Well, Lloyd, where is your belt?”  We all burst with laughter at his forgetfulness.  It was a perfect tension-breaker  and now a joy-bringing memory to a very sad moment in our family’s timeline.

Joy is powerful. It helps us navigate through adversity, trials, and hardship.  In using God-given joy, it gives purpose to our pain, helps in our letting go, and heals our hurts.  The joy God bears in our lives enables us to live bravely through each tough occasion.  His love generates this kind of strengthing joy which reaches all the way to Heaven and back.  That’s joy you CAN count on!

No matter what hard thing you are looking at, try to hold to joy which only God can give.  Receive it – no it won’t make sense, but it will surprise you in how easy it is.  This kind of joy will lift your burdens and warm God’s heart.  He can see you smiling right now too!

When You Walk Through The Valley of Death

 

death

“The only thing we know for sure about life is that we won’t get out of it alive.”  Louis L’Amour

We don’t know when or how death will come and most of us don’t consider death until we have to.  In a lighthearted way, my husband and I discuss the worst ways to die.  When it comes to being eaten by a bear, it’s better to be frozen human Popsicle for a polar bear frenzy over a living steak for the Colorado Mountain Black bear.  We take such a light hearted approach to death because we both have the assurance of salvation, a serious matter we secured long ago.

For me death doesn’t hold fear but promise of an eternity with Jesus.  It involves me dreaming of my room with a view in the palatial mansion in a higher place.  An expansive estate my Heavenly Father has prepared for me and my family.  It gives me peace at night to know I have an open reservation for my immediate check in time, and it’s the fulfillment of wholeness which awaits all of us who believe.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”   This one verse connects me to God’s original intention for His children from our very beginning.  When God created the world, He pronounced it very good (Genesis 1:31).  Since the Creator cannot improve on the created order, then the best thing for us to acknowledge is all of creation was made and established in perfect order.  We live to enjoy the life we have, and accept when we die, the same order established in the beginning will usher us all home by His loving care and peace.

Having peace in times of death removes all the scary parts about dying.   Charles Stanley puts it like this:  “Absent with the body, present with the Lord.” Peace comes in knowing where you are going if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.

We spend most of our lives running from death when in actuality we all have an appointed time to die.  Think about all the ways we try to regain our youth from diet pills to spa treatments and tons of quick fixes for our ailments.  All to stop the natural process established by God’s order since the beginning of time.

Okay, so we can accept we all have an appointed time to die.  We, as believers, know our eternal landing spot, Heaven, so what is so scary about death we don’t like to think about it?  It’s how we are going out.  I always thought I would come crashing through the gates of Heaven.  Not from my careless living but as a result of someone else’s carelessness.

All this fuss is over the recent death of my father last week.  I was looking for joy and couldn’t find it.  After all, at 94, he had a full life and handed down a rich legacy of work to his children.  He worked hard all of his life until his health forced him into an “early retirement” at 93.  His life left an imprint of caring for a neighborhood church doing what he loved to do, gardening and mowing.  (Yes, he really did like to mow the grass).  His life statement was “I would rather wear out than rust out.”  Oh sure, he made mistakes like the rest of us but as far as his tenacity and responsibility for family, I find myself grateful and blessed to be one of his children who will carry on his rich heritage of caretaking.

Since his parting, there’s been a sense of urgency in my heart to share the personal perspective on death to lend a more compassionate view of death itself.  There are many who don’t know Christ sitting in the church pews.  Sure, they may know of God, and call on His name frequently but how many really KNOW Him to trust Him unto death?

At some point in life, we have to come to grips we are not invincible and will die.  Even further, our children have questions too, and as a mom I can honestly say I didn’t have the answers when my children were young.  Although as a family, we had to grip the fact of death for real in my husband’s bout with cancer, the subject never came up where we wrestled with the reality of death in his life.  Thankfully, he was healed of cancer and has walked cancer-free for 21 years now.  I shudder thinking about having to raise my two young children alone.  I wasn’t prepared to be a single-mom at any age.

Death should force us all to come to grips with the afterlife and the reality of our eternal home.  Death forces the issue of life in death.  From my personal perspective it helps to understand death is only a new beginning to our eternal rest.  My adult children believe I think about the morbid things too much.  I believe you can’t prepare too much for arriving on Heaven’s door.

I was surprised however when my daughter called and told me a conversation between my 5-year-old grandson, Avery, and his daddy.  “Daddy, are you going to die?” he asked.  I gasped, when I heard her relate such a big question coming from her little guy.  It was obvious he had been churning death around in his mind.  After all, the question came following the death of two of great-grandpas.  Let’s also mention he made a decision to secure his eternal home by accepting Christ in the same year.

My daughter continued sharing her husband’s fatherly response, “No, son I’m not dying, why do you ask?”  Avery replied, “Well, I saw the back of your head today, and your hair looked like great-grandpa’s hair.  And he died so I thought you were dying too.”

I smiled through my tears.   I was able to have joy in the death of his fear and it helped me have a light hearted approach to the death of my father.  Dealing with life and death matters through the eyes of a child are always less complicated.  But each and every time it does hit us by surprise.  Here are some simple steps to help us ALL accept death as a part of life:

  1. Be their “ear” through the pain and grief of loss. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die.”  When it seems like everything is falling apart, remember there’s an order to death ordained by God.
  2. Be comforted through uncertainty and fears. Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance.”   Peace is our anchor in every storm which chases life.  An anchor holds through hard winds and uncertainties, insecurities and fears.  It holds us calm in every storm.  My dad went peacefully in his sleep, it was the best point of entry he could have.
  3. Be God’s love past the hand of death to pass it around.  Ecclesiastes 3:8 “A time to love and a time to hate.  A time for war and a time for peace.”  Confusion is often an adversary in death.  When you understand death is a part of God’s love timeline for all of us, we can accept it as less of a harsh blow and more of a blessing.  In all actuality, death doesn’t steal life, but accelerates our eternal life with Jesus.    As believers, there is no better end than to live eternally with our Creator.
  4. Be time generous – spread joy and peace in the face of sorrow. Ps. 23:4 “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”  Yes, death hurts and we mourn our losses.  We are not alone in death but always (even in the dark days of death – He is with us!) have the presence of God in our lives.  If our loved ones, who go Home before us, could really share with us what they see now and how they are seen and fully known, we couldn’t ask them to come back.  Yes, we miss them but we celebrate they made it home before us.  What a reunion time it will be to see them plus ourselves whole and as we are fully known to God.

Points to ponder:  The reason you are still alive and reading this is your purpose on earth is not fulfilled yet.  There’s more people to love, spread joy to and bring with you through the Heavenly gates.  Don’t be sad when a loved one passes away, find joy in the fact they are whole and fully known now.  Imagine the finest drink from the fountain of youth!  And the view…Oh my…if you could see it….you would be telling your friends about it too.

In what ways have you helped a person through the pain of death?

Do you need to be held?

rope

My friend reassured me there was no need to worry.  “You’re going to LOVE it!” she promised.  I bought into her zip-lining adventure as an exciting one until my fear of heights rose up into my throat.  In a moment I realized it was too late to back out and it felt my heart was going to beat right out of my chest.  Then I remembered, that day, I had left my big girl pants at home!  I became doubly afraid.  Anxiety had secretly gripped my heart.

Not sure if you have ever experienced zip-lining before but it’s an adventure all on its own level.  Don’t even think about it if you are even a teensy-weensy squeamish about heights.  At least you’ve been warned.

My friend kept saying how much fun it was again and again.  Fear of falling gripped my mind.  Seriously, how could a person survive a 5-second ride tethered by a skimpy harness, and hooked to a thin wire which stretched tight over so many trees?  I gulped hard, and put on a brave face for her.

I stepped up to the platform.  I listened to each word of our guide.  I took in his advice and with all the gumption I could muster, I clenched the cord.  I’m pretty sure my knuckles were white.  I said a quick prayer, “God, hold me tight.”

In the woods, atop the trees, where the monkeys go to hide from humans, is where fear is heard.  Echos of the wild and free ricocheted off of the tree tops.  (It resembled a blood-curdling scream.)  If you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about and I bet you screamed like a 5 year old girl too!

Next, something wonderful happened I didn’t expect.

I was held by the harness, secure and firm, with no threat to my personal security.  I was safe and sound at the next platform.  I did come away with one piece of advice:  “You will love this, it’s more fun than you can imagine.”  Now this makes for a nice girl adventure and all, but there’s more.

God spoke the moment I started to let go of my fear and anxiety with His reassurance, “Trust me to hold you!” 

There are some days you just need to be held.  On those days when you feel insecure, unsteady or just flat out fearful of how things are going to work out or what will happen next, there’s power in praying these simple words, “God, hold me tight.”

Trust in His hold and let go of your fears.  In our spiritual journey, there are many circumstances which bring tons of opportunities to trust God.  Recently faced with the unknown, I asked God to increase my faith but quickly realized I was asking for what I already had.  The situation before me was an opportunity for God to lead me into a new level of trust.

Trust always involves making room for an active faith.  To let the perfecting work of faith complete its action, you must push fears out of your mind.  God’s faithfulness and security holds you close and guards against sneak fear attacks which tend to creep into your mind.

God is on your side, and is giving you daily opportunities to put your faith into action.  He’s got you!  Just like a harness, safe and securely tethered by His heart for you.  His love never fails to hold you when life is uncertain.  When you speak or scream, “God, hold on to me!”, feel His strong arms wrap around you.  Close your eyes to silence your anxiety, release your fears, and the place your trust and dependence in His hands.  He is the only One who says, “I am with you until the very end of the age.”  He never lets go of you!

Fears are overcome by faith alone.  As you let go, you’re held by His mercy, strength, and you are kept safe and secure.  You can trust God to keep you where He leads you!  Are you feeling shaky or fearful, afraid to look down?  LOOK UP to the One who holds you tight!  You can trust His hold on you!

When You Need To Love

To every girl who has ever wanted to be a mother…

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One of the biggest pieces of momma guidance my mother ever gave me was, “If everything in life was as easy to do as the dishes, then we wouldn’t have any problems in this life.”  Ironically, she always proclaimed (what her mother probably said too) as she was washing dishes.  As she was doing life she was giving life.  Okay now maybe I get it now.

If I were to tell you one piece of advice to help you be a good mother, I couldn’t contain it into one word (except I can but I am going to make you read all they way through the post to get to it).

What mothers need today is…(because mothering is risky!)…

To the mothers who gave life to your first child or another child, I celebrate a new life with you.

To the mothers who lost a child, no matter the age, I cry with you.

To those who are in the trenches, aka dirty diapers, constant plates of cold food, wearing stained shirts on a daily basis, I appreciate you.  Go get yourself a cup of hot coffee, it helps.

To those who walk the hard path of handicap and/or special needs child, infertility (complete with month after month of frustration) with pokes, prods, many tears and disappointments, I walk with you. (I don’t know how you feel, but would guess it’s more than you bargained for.)

To those who are foster moms, adoptive moms, mentor moms and spiritual moms, I thank you from the bottom of my heart – you’re doing what someone else could have done but didn’t.  We NEED more moms like you.

To those who lost their mothers, I mourn with you.

To those who have an empty nest, or your little birdie is flying off to college soon, you’re going to be okay, even though it feels like you can’t breathe right now.

To the mom who had to hold the hand of cancer (this year or ever in your life), you are brave, a woman of valor even if it was to hold a hand and help someone limp through it.

To the mom who is pregnant with new life, I anticipate with you.

My best advice to you, if you are a mother or want to be, can be contained in one word, however please…take this to heart.  You won’t get today back so…

love…(yes, you will have trouble in your mothering life)!

Love is risky and sometimes without reward but it has a value and a worth that is measured unlike gold or silver.   For some of you it’s all you can do to hold it together.  I feel ya, and might know your pain.

No matter what season of life you are in, love is the common chord in which holds your world together.  You can know all the wisdom in the world, build the biggest spaceship, solve cancer, and cure ailments but “if you have not love” then…

even if you have given it all away, given up all you wanted, or ever dreamed of and “have not love” then…

Love… is what Mother’s Day is all about.  We, as moms, love you, right now, right where you are. Even if you don’t see it, we work hard for you for a little hug.  We sacrifice for those few words once said…”I love you.”  One thing we don’t do is assume.  We need to hear that we are valued, appreciated, and worthy.  I know…we are needy like that.  Might I just suggest that you are too?

You may not know this, but we measure ourselves with you.  We don’t like that about ourselves but we do.  And if you could just walk a mile in our shoes, we only want what’s best for you.  We want the best for you over our own needs.  There are some days that inadequacy gets the best of us, even on those days we feel silently weak.  We want to be brave and courageous, and it’s hard to do this mother thing day after day.

I wish my mother would have told me how hard it was going to be as a mom.  On the other hand it’s best she didn’t say a word, except love me when I was the most unloveable, very needy for a hug, and gave it all away without condition.  She wasn’t perfect, but I can say she wanted more for me than she ever had.  It’s not until you are older do you appreciate the nurturing kind of love a mother gives so readily.

To experience this you have to have love, lost love, and hold to a love that “bears all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” (1Corintians 13).  To know an endless love or a deep love, or a love that doesn’t pass away, makes a difference in your life.  Now that I am older, I am beginning to get a fuller picture of a love in which I am fully known.

So this Mother’s day, I have more “faith, hope, and love” that abides, endures and bears a love that brings a life of renewal more than once a year.  Pursue love, friends, it’s risky to find it, to enjoy it, to let it be the greatest, but it’s the biggest and best to give love when it’s the hardest.

After all, you are here because of love.  Don’t forget that.

 

When You Need To Let Go

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Recently I’ve backed off of my running habit for about 6 weeks as a result from my left hip shifting out of place.  There was a part of me that wondered if I would ever run again.  The pain was so intense that I wanted to just give up.  I was also afraid that if I returned to the road that a re-injury would occur. So I choose to rest the habit for a while and return when I had given myself some time to heal.

During this time, I lost my drive to try.  All I recall was how much running or even walking hurt.  I wanted to protect myself from pain.  Thankfully, over time, the drive returned and I overcame the fear, encouraged myself, embraced the process and tried again.

I talked myself into pushing through it.  There were many days I only walked but felt like I could handle a little more pain.  I had my hips adjusted and let my body heal more.   Yesterday it happened that I broke through a threshold of pain to run free.  I wasn’t calculating the pain, counting the cost nor considering the toll it would take upon me later.  I just pressed through the ache to run.

It was marvelously liberating to bring change in my perspective.  Often we look at changes as painful or from a place of fear when really it only takes a different run at the process.

This can go as deep as you want to take it, as far as success, failures, motivations, growth and destiny.

It’s the same with our spiritual walk with God.  This is not a race but a journey where sometimes changes come slow and steady, sometimes it’s an immediate turnaround.  Both perspectives matter, but the process is important.  Some are heart painful, other changes only need a few small tweaks.  The perspective of the process is termed by God as pruning in John 15.

When you think of pruning, you understand it’s needed to get rid of a bad habit or something that is non-producing.  But who of you would would be first in line when a good thing needs to be cut?  How about several great things?  How can cutting several good producing branches be seen as a benefit?  Some great questions that need a different perspective.

I have always thought of pruning in a negative sense as cutting out a dead place that needs to go or something that is painful.  Think how hard it is to let go of a tree which is still producing fruit.  How do you decide which branch to prune, for the benefit of the whole orchard?  Intentional focus is an important part of producing, bearing fruit  and must take on a strategy.

Pruning could be termed as training, practice, or correction of a habit. God is changing my perspective of cutting and training of habits.  I am learning to bear more patience with change and transitions, and bear through the pains in the process.  I still have a lot of grace to realize in this to help me find freedom in the pain.

As believers, we are changed little by little to reflect Jesus as we let go of those non-producing branches.  But also in the process, there are some good branches that might be caught up in the cutting.  It’s okay to let them go as well.  Remember not every branch should be a fruit bearing branch, some are supportive for strength or a preparation to the fruit production.

It’s all about your perspective really.  It’s painful to remove good parts of our lives for the good of the whole.  We can’t see that something good causes damamge or pain until it’s removed.  Often those branches need to go for the greater good, and it’s often to prevent a deeper pain or futrther damage in the future.  God sees our harvest and knows how many bushels of fruit that He wants to bear in your life.  He also sees the non-producing branches that need to be cut and those which are weighing us down, or will do so in the future.  He sees our greatest good from His best perspective.

Consider the greater good of change, pruning and training.  Even though sometimes painful, from God’s point of view it’s always for THE greater good considering THE bigger picture of perfection of our lives.  Even if we can’t see it right now, you must  keep training, practicing, or pressing through the aches and growing pains.  Be teachable.  There’s fruit to bear, and a potential harvest of goodness awaits on the other side of your growth.

When You Need Rest

It often takes the darkenss of a storm to show us the light of God’s presence. – Tony Evans.

rowing

Rest.  This one word has such a non-productive vibe to it.  It makes me wonder if there’s more to the idea of rest than a fat Sunday afternoon nap.  Who out there is in a stormy situation or in uncertain place of where life has put you?

As it occurs to me, God gives us permission to rest, but personally I find it very hard to do.   In God’s perfect idea of paradise, on the seventh day of creating, God stood back and left a day of margin for rest.  He said, “What is accomplished is good, and I rest from creating.”  God saw everything before Him was good and gave Himself permission to rest.

If God says it’s okay to rest, to not produce, and stand back appreciate what His hands made, then it’s fine for us to do the same.  Did He obsess over it’s perfection?  No, it was already perfect the way it was.  Of course, this is God we are talking about.  The takeaway I get from His kind of rest is the need to let what we create have a time of margin or rest.  Also,it’s okay to celebrate the good, the right, the produced, the gifts of His hands in our lives.

 

I challenged myself with resting God’s way this past week.  Whenever a worry or stress-filled thought came to mind, I just stood back from it and released it to God.  My mind was filled with more peace and trust.  My questions were quieted.  My mind had more understanding about the care of God than ever experienced.  And I didn’t stew or fret over the details.

I had to choose rest over worry and fretting.  It’s easy to loose sight of the margin God wants in our lives.  I find myself desirous of the filling in the gaps in my human understanding or reasoning, and resort in worry or looking for purpose.  God is teaching me a new area of trust, dependence, and awareness of His security and supply.

In Rest, God reminds me I am not alone.

The more I learn about how to rest, the more intentional I’ve become in standing under His hand of rest.  Resting doesn’t mean laziness or doing absolutely nothing.  Rest brings an intentional action of behavior, based on the awareness and stillness, with a silent trust before the Lord.
Rest says God goes first in our daily conversations.  I believe God works in every problem or circumstance released to Him.  Praying in faith includes all of what God wants to do in our particular circumstances.  Faith includes timing, provision, results or fruit, every unknown, and all details unseen.
His rest covers all the problems you haven’t worried over yet!

With every problem, it brings an opportunity for God to attach provision and His promise to it.  As I was reading in Exodus 33:14 and God showed me something I missed in my hurry through Moses’s desert journey,

“The Lord replied, (to Moses) My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Rest in the journey!  Friends, this kind of rest isn’t just a long Sunday afternoon nap, but a spiritual place where you can release anxiety and worry.  Don’t let your mind fret about the things might not happen!  He has seen your days ahead and knows what you need before you live them.  It’s time to believe God thinks about the kind of rest you need too!

Rest in God is a lifesytle born out of intimacy with Him.  The best “Rest” is yet to come!  What have you found to help you rest better?