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?

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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.

Facing off with Fear

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A year ago I prayed a simple prayer that reversed a lot of negative feelings into positive ones.  This past year has been one full, absolutely brimming and chocked-full of spiritual stretch marks. What knowledge I’ve gained isn’t really about the answers but about the process of trust and how I’ve learned to apply trust in God in the face of uncertainty and fear.

Living free in this deep spiritual knowledge has brought me long the way in my healing. It took a lot of courage to get outside of the box.  God has all the courage we need to make life changes. Courage is basic to living free and is composed of three parts:

…fierce hope, fearless faith, and God sized love that takes our breathe away.

How do you start this kind of ripple effect that can propel you out of your state of feeling stuck and towards building momentum with God in a positive way? You simple lay your soul before God and ask how you need to change. In praying, a few simple words, you are opening yourself up to what takes more of the Holy Spirit to accomplish.  The Holy Spirit has been waiting to have His way in you. You have to make the first move to step out to find out. If you have to, even use your hands to reach out, stretching them towards heaven.

There is a part in a movie, “The Croods”, that hits me every time. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. It’s all about breathing in courage and conquering fears one step at a time. The story line is of a caveman family where the dad leads a survivalist trek across unknown territory.  At first he is fearful to step out, but finally musters up the courage he needs but never knew he had until he uses it to save his family.

Here’s the deal, the Crood dad has to go way out of his comfort zone to find it by conquering fears.  The good news that he finds that he has the ingenuity, the where-with-all strength, a sound mind AND along the way, he gains confidence!  I’m inspired by his tenacity to hang in there when the going gets tough.

Often, courage is not found until you have to use it.

Since we all face off with fear at some point in our lives, we tend to think that each fear builds momentum to work against us.  Often, we hide behind what we term our inadequacies and those insecurities stops us from moving out of our comfort zones. Friends, let’s just get real for a few moments here.  The best way to live free is to breakthrough in the face of fears and do it anyway.  What you find at the end of your fear is more courage than you could ever need.

It’s one thing to know freedom, but it’s a whole new level to live free, and trust God in the unknown. Sometimes, the unknown looks daunting, uncertain, and like a whole bag of fears and tears.  Trusting God with these areas allows God’s answers to invade your circumstances.  Your praises of His faithfulness will always open the door to what He has for you!

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

There’s nothing to fear when the Lord is near!

His ways will help you out of the darkest places by the light of His love.  What I have found in the uncertainties of life, there’s a strength that shines brightest when faced with the unknown.  Love and fear can’t co-exist.  We lose so much to fear when it renders us powerless.  So remember…be encouraged, you’re not alone!   You have nothing to fear, Love is here!

 

When You Are Disappointed

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“Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always.”  Romans 12:12

There are times when life is full of one disappointment after another.  Or so it seems.  Disappointment comes in all shapes, sizes, and at different times.  There’s worry, fretting, and anxiety.  When reality actually shows up and doesn’t meet our expectations, it often leaves us with the lack of contentment.  Disappointments are hard to navigate through, so here are three heart-hitting questions:

  1. Are these just your unmet expectations?
  2. Have you forgotten to be thankful for what you do have?
  3. Is there something to change to turn your disappointment into a God-appointment?

Ever been disappointed and said “me too?”

Usually after self-examination, it’s best to look for what God is teaching through the unmet expectations.  Asking for wisdom and anticipating His better good, plan and purpose helps get you back on track.

Our good, good Father really does know you best and the best for you.  No matter how many disappointments emerge, there is always hope.  There are times to surrender your need to understand to override the doubt.  There are times when we don’t need to understand, but just obey.  There are times we need to trust more.  Often, God’s purpose isn’t realized until a later time.

There’s a little project on my heart right now that is finally birthing life.  It started with a simple thought but took a lot of hard work to pull it out and off.  Bearing the fruit took guts, courage, and a whole lot of prayer, but loaded with hope for the next generation.  It also came with many disappointments along the way.  I just kept focusing on God’s purpose.

I’m grateful that God had a purpose and a promise in it all.  We have a Savior that is in the business of reconciliation and hope.  Jesus never promised it would be easy.  While walking this earth, even He encountered many trials and troubles, but He died so we could be overcomers of disappointment and have joy and gladness in all things.  Disappointments often don’t feel joyful or make you glad, but the purpose may still be for your benefit.  I’ll never forget,  in the middle of searching for answers, those great conversations with the One who holds the plan in His hands.

So grateful that His love is undeniable and His peace is unspeakable.  We have a good, good Father and nothing is wasted in His purpose for you.  People can disappoint you but God never will.

 

The gains of 2015

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I don’t know how to get into a summary of this year.  You see, “she” said it couldn’t be done.  Let’s just jump right into that thought.  I had connected with someone years ago on Twitter who was a writer.  I told her that I just wanted to discover God in my life and then write about it.  She said, “Everyone wants to do that!”  When she gave me that response, I assumed that “my name wasn’t on that assignment list”.  If everyone was already doing that there “would be no reason for me to attempt to even try.”  If I was successful in a similar venture, “then why would it matter, no one would read it anyway.”

Today, I know that these were all lies to get me to not believe in the way God has built me to operate.  At last, I’ve come to the conclusion I must accept this journey for what it looks like and what God has given me to make of it.  Many of you know that I have a dream of becoming a published author.  Now, I know that this idea falls in line with God and what He has placed on the inside of me.

I have come to accept that.  Now I’m learning not to criticize my own work.  Many of you have said my dream will come true, but up to this year, I couldn’t accept that it would actually would become my reality.  Therefore by not seeing the talent that God has placed inside of me I suffered from what is called “hope deferred.”  Admittingly, by my own denial of God’s handiwork.  I can see now that I wasn’t ready to accept it.

Accepting gifts is one thing, using them is another.  It has taken several stabs at this blogging thing to realize a lot of what I am built to do and what ideas are NOT mine not to do.

All I can say is “me too”.  I sense I am not the only person out there searching for God’s plan in this troubled world we live in.  I have gained a lot of wisdom about a lot of things but things about the Internet, relationships, and loving people where they are, basically  are hard things to tackle on a daily basis, and I, like you, don’t have all the answers.

Once I realized that I was in denial and forgotten what I was capable of, I simply asked God what I was made of and why this the tendency to write was so strong within me?  Just imagine yourself asking the Lord that power-packed question!  All I got back is “Do you trust Me?” from God.  What I got from other people are these phrases about their own doubt.  “No one reads blogs anymore.” “Everyone wants to write about God.”  “What do you have to say that hasn’t already been written?”  I’ll let you figure those statements out.

Can you see how doubt is one of the biggest enemy’s of a writer?  I started looking at the people I was hanging out with and then changed my set of friends.  So before I go on and on about what I am not, I accepted this year that I am an honest writer that seeks to write about my faith, my faith process, and where God is in the middle of it all.

When looking back at my year, I see lots of gains and a lot of confidence.  I see a lot of growing and stirring.  Perhaps the biggest measure or gain that happened is found in the fact that I finally wrote my first book in four weeks time before going to Africa in October.  Now yes, there is a major amont of editing that needs to be done.  I also realize there will be changes to the orginial manuscript.  But I got it out of me and that was a process for sure.

A process worth waiting for (said with tongue in cheek) but by doing it showed me a lot of personal growth.  Just knowing that I can is HUGE to a writer.  You don’t know how many days I wondered if I ever could.  I’ve sent it to an editor who messaged me back to say “Congratulations, you have done what only 10% of people do.”  I said back to him, “What’s that?”  He replied, “90% only talk about what you have already accomplished.”

I was pleased momentarily.  There was a tinge of regret that it took so long.  By writing the book God reconciled my past issues with food and rejection.  I cast off a lot of shame, guilt, and self-blame in those pages.  Because of going through the struggles, I am more free than ever before and have a stronger voice for what I have been through.

Losing weight requires hard-work and focused dedication to a goal.  Writing about it requires the same kind of hard-work and focused dedication.  It’s one thing to only apply this to the physical side but a whole new realm to pursuing reconcilation with God about your past.

When I see what helps me, I want to keep on saying, “me too.”

I don’t have to share my struggles but its in our weakest places can we discover God in them.  My wrestling may be same as yours or completely different, as you don’t know the doubt and denial I live with.  But it does help to share in those times, where we can all say “I feel you.”

Life is full of those opportunities to quit and say “that’s not for me”.  Or we can choose to come alongside another and say “me too”.  It’s just that, a journey and any time we can connect with others and say “I feel you”, it opens the door for God to work His reconciliation power in us and through us.

That’s a good place to be and something I’ve been dreaming for.  What would you say your biggest gain of 2015 is?

 

 

 

 

 

Three tiny wisdoms I didn’t learn in High School

We all need a little direction in our lives

I’ve been thinking about graduates given the month we are in.  In my church we celebrated new beginnings and student’s accomplishments and the youth minister said something that was so profound.  It made me think about what I would have said had I the opportunity.  It’s good to think about these things before speaking.

Sometimes my mouth gets me into trouble.  Like the other day I asked a widow of 12+ years how her husband was.  Ooops!  Does this ever happen to you too?  Yeah, it’s just that way isn’t it?  We speak before thinking.

So on the back row of church, I was thinking about what I would have said to students looking at so many new beginnings.  I came up with three ideas I can encourage you with.  If you are facing any kind of new thing or uncomfortable thing or exciting journey, here’s what you need to know.

1.  Don’t take any wooden nickels.  The world is full of fakers and you are about to meet many of them.  My warning to you is to know what you believe in these moments.  You will need the real God to help you through this next phase of education.  Simply said, your beliefs will be tested, so know what you believe and why.  Your faith will be challenged.  A strong foundation of faith will travel with you into the journey ahead of you.  You can’t rely on your parent’s faith, nor someone else’s beliefs.  Faith is just that, a personal journey and a perfecting process.  In the many ways God works in us for our perfecting of faith He never fakes us out or changes.  His word is true and real and authentic.  Fears come disguised in so many lies these days and there are many people who love to tell you about God, but honestly, it’s better to go to God Himself and ask that intimacy of Him directly.  He will always talk straight with you and keep you going the right direction.  I don’t care where you are today, we all still need direction.  Trust the process of learning about God and your faith in this next phase but get to know God on a deeper level.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

2.  Drop your ego at the door.  You’ve graduated, you’ve gotten some honors, you are at the top of your class.  That’s great, but this next phase isn’t about you.  Oh you thought it was?  Heh…heh…nope!  Your awesomeness has been noted but it’s really just evidence of the works of your hands.  It shows you are good at something.  That’s great, now that you know what you can do, now you will learn your limitations.  This is where responsibility kicks in, accountability, and life will meet you in each nook, corner, and cranny to do the right things, every time.  No more skating by on your good looks.  You’ve got some skills, now you get to use them or fine tune them to make a difference in this world.  What you have inside of you is God’s gifts to you, what you do with what God has given you is your gift back to God.  Use them wisely and you can do more than you think you can.  If you don’t have it figured out, it’s okay, you don’t have to know all the answers.  But knowing the Answer is doing the work that matters.  Once you see that God is with you and directing you He will take you the rest of the way to discover the gifts He has placed inside of you.  Commit those gifts to Him and let Him educate you and promote you for His purposes.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:10

3.  Nothing in this world is free.  What people can tell you is that you are awesome, but what only God knows is the steps between where you are right now and awesome.  I want you to know that you are going to be okay but you are going to sacrifice something.  Your future looks uncertain, scary, uncomfortable, exciting, interesting, intense and different.  Every day is like that in the real world.  There will be twists and turns in this daily walk that will throw you for a loop.  You will have to work hard, sweat often, and love much.  But you must know Who has your journey planned for you and you will need your “why”.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

This verse is the most used scripture this time of year.  Yes, the Lord has plans for us.  But prospering doesn’t mean walking on the easy street of life.  Life is our schoolroom and many lessons often look like failed tests or mistakes to us.  But in the Lord’s eyes they are tests of our obedience in His classroom of prosperity.  He created us to need each other, He created us to live in unity with like minded people, He created us to love everyone.  He created us to reflect His image to a dark world and shine the Light of Jesus Christ.

When I think about how the Lord prospers our faith, it always involves Him perfecting what He has started.  He is our beginning and end, so why wouldn’t He care about our lives and what happens to His creations?  He does, in such a personal way!  God is with us every step of the journey, and He never leaves us out here to handle life by ourselves.  Often I have to back to my “why” to remind me of what to do next.

The Lord knows what He’s put inside of you.  And He hasn’t forgotten where He put those gifts or where you right now either.  He sees you!  When it’s time for you to give the gift back to God, then surrender all that you are with honor and love.  God made us from His deep love for us, so it is with everything we are and do, that we should give what and who we are back to God in the same manner, love and honor.

I wish I would have known then what I know now.  My mother used to say, “If wishes were fishes the sea would be full.” I’ve learned learned wisdom by being on the front row of God’s classroom, in my own personal journey of life itself.  Don’t waste your life!  And if you do?  God gives second chances and He doesn’t waste anything!

So what was the profound advice given by our youth minister?  She said,  “Keep in touch!”  Advice well received.  We should always talk to God before, through and during the process.  He is the only one who will keep you straight, upright, and fully equipped for the steps ahead.  He started your process, He’s in this to win this.  And there is only one thing in this life that is free and for the taking…God’s grace, which is more than enough for everyday you have left.

Philippians 1:6 “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

A word for graduates

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Let’s face it.  We are all on a journey to find our purpose.  Some of you are just beginning to look, like the graduates who are pressing their caps and gowns at this very moment.  Some of you don’t know where you put your diploma.  Some of you have your shingle hanging for everyone to see.  Yes, some of you know what you were meant to do and are doing it with intention.

This post is for you.

If you know, I offer you a high five!  That’s awesome, incredible, and amazing.  When you know, I say RUN with the flow!  I think I heard that on a beach somewhere.  It’s really cool to be in the right place doing what you do and you loving it.  Most of the people I know, though, are unhappy in doing what they do.  They hate their jobs and wish they were doing something else.

I have found the secret to knowing a purpose driven happiness in life.  It begins in your head and your heart.  That’s right you heard me, it wasn’t a assignement from school.

There was a little boy who served in his church day and night.  As it happened one late night, the little boy was still serving and became tired, so tired that he fell asleep on the floor.  There was only a small lamp lighting the room.  All of a sudden from a deep sleep, the little boy heard his name being called out.  He woke up and went to his pastor to see why he was calling him.  His pastor was asleep and sent him away.  The little boy returned to his place again.  His name was called a second time and yet again he inquired of his pastor, “Did you call my name?”  No, the pastor had not said a word, but encouraged him that if it happened again to respond to the voice speaking, “…your servant is listening.”

Confused, the boy laid down again in his place.  The Voice came again and the boy responded as he was told.  It was on this day the purpose of this young boy knew what he was designed for.  The boy’s name is Samuel and he was visited by God.  This came in a season where people didn’t recognize who God was nor did they hear Him speak.  You can read the story in 1 Samuel 3.

I find this fascinating that this young man had heart intentions of serving God from his very beginning.  That is due the prayers of his mother who was longing for a child, as she had been barren for years.  One day she cried out to the Lord from her spirit’s language in church.  Her pastor spoke a prophetic word over her and she her faith increased to know that soon she would be blessed with a child.  She gave birth to a son and named him Samuel.  When her desires were fulfilled, she didn’t take the blessing of her child’s life for herself.  She dedicated her son’s life to the Lord first and in doing that, the Lord established Samuel’s course.

We don’t hear about Samuel again until later when he’s old enough to serve in the temple.  Because of the prayers of a mom, a child knows his purpose.  Because of the actions of his parents, a child is trained in his life’s calling.  Because of the devotion of a momma’s heart, the Lord honored her request.

Why is this such a big deal to discover your purpose?  Because somewhere in the world, be it your parents, your family, your adopted parents, caregiver, whoever, they are all all speaking life and love over you right now.  All the parents that pray for the kids please raise your hand?  What are we praying for our kids?  To discover their purpose in this world!

What causes parents to pray? Honestly, we feel like most days we have missed the boat on what God has for us, and want better for our children.  I don’t pray success that comes from a person’s hands, I pray for God’s promotion in their lives so they could know Jesus as Lord and Savior first, then that their relationship would prosper according to the plans that the Lord has set for them.

“The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

It all starts with a relationship with your Holy Parent.  Our Father in Heaven wants to impart His direction on your life.  We have a relational God who loves us infinitely and more abundantly that our earthly parents.  To know and discover your purpose in life, what your calling is, what you were designed for, and what your next step is, you have to know God who established His design in you before you were conceived.

Recently I overheard a conversation from outside a closed door.  There were several men gathered in a white design room.  I heard them talking about making a daughter and it was if they were all standing in front of a shelf filled with drawers with specific gifts, emotions, talents and characteristics.  They were getting handfuls of this and that.  One of them came to a drawer labeled “writer”.  One of the men said, “She’s going to need ALL of this gift.”  There was a holy clattering.  All that was heard was the entire contents of the drawer being emptied into the soul of the person they were designing.

Think about the holy conversations that have been said about you, your children, your children’s children, your generational line.  Encourage them with life and love and certainly God’s promotional design that has been established in their lives.  It’s the best words of encouragement I can give to a graduate.

What words of advice do you have for graduates?