You are MORE….

She wakes up in the morning short on sleep because of a late night and a restless sleep. Making her way to the mirror in her master bathroom she stares at her reflection and starts to remove the remnants of the night before that haven’t already rubbed off on her pillow.

There’s an uneasiness this morning that she just can’t shake. Looking at the face sans make up that appears in front of her she critically assesses her reflection. Her face has changed subtly over the years as gravity has worked and shaped the angles but it has done little to take away from her beauty. If anything, it has softened sharp edges and made her more approachable. Sometimes to the wrong people.

No, the nagging unease today is not her appearance.

Perplexed, she shrugs it off and goes to work laying the foundation for another day. She leans in closer for finishing touches to emphasize almond shaped eyes and olive toned skin and for a second sees further than herself. Past her familiar face she can see an equally familiar world behind her. In the glare of the late morning sun she sees her beautiful home and family. She smiles and gazes past them to the luxuries she’s worked so hard to acquire. The fun things that she knew would give her happiness. The hot tub, the pool with bar for entertaining, the right cars and boat to enjoy with friends and acquaintances. The right brands hanging in her closet and stamped prominently on her purse.

I’m thousands of miles away and watching and praying for this girl. Oh, not the one with the straight, white smile and flawless skin, the one inside. I love this girl overflowing. The one that radiates energy and passion that spills out onto everyone around her. Whose surprised laugh rushes forth, straight from her belly, genuine and contagious like a toddler’s. As long as I can remember, people have told this girl how beautiful her reflection is. In jealousy, people have passed her off as just a pretty face. In selfishness, people have told her what she wants to hear. I’ve seen her underestimated and valued for the wrong things. Shallow relationships dot her past. So I watch and I pray.

I pray for the breath of God to breathe life into those dry bones. Real life.

And then, he does.

I’m watching from the corner as her face and her reflection change. In grateful tears I look past her confused face into the fringes of her life in the mirror. I can see it too. The mirror briefly fogs up, then refocuses like a camera lens. Suddenly, her world, the people and things in it, look a little different. This world has something wrong with it. Things once bright and shiny have dulled. Things once exciting and new have started to fade. Mistakes once easily justified have become shame. This world is clearly not what she wanted. What she had longed for. In tears, she is wondering what went wrong. How did she get here?

And I’m rejoicing in answer to prayer; a life awakening. Our tears are different because she only sees the potential loss of the familiar. She is grieved by the thought that what she’s always believed has been a lie. My tears are ones of thanksgiving and anticipation. Thanksgiving to a God merciful and loving. Anticipating the joy of watching this girl learn truth.

That she was made for  so much more than what the world can give her.

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That the happiness she’s been chasing so hard after can’t be found in a party, a place or the next exciting relationship, but in the One that made her.

God who sees me

That she’s more treasured, more loved, than she has dared to imagine. And it has nothing to do with her appearance.

That there is relief and forgiveness for the guilt and shame acquired by living according to the world.

Dear, beautiful, friend of mine,

I pray that you will continue to ask, seek and knock to find the truth. Pour all of that beautiful, passionate, energy of yours into finding the joy everlasting. You’ve never shied away from a challenge or given up the opportunity of adventure. I promise this life of following Christ will be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done. Keep looking in that mirror and let Him show you the way.

i love you in mirrow

I need to stop bailing water…

I’m sitting in my favorite place. My feet and hands buried into the soft, warm sand. My head tilted up to absorb sun filtered through wispy clouds, my hair brushed back by gentle winds. I can hear the rhythmic rolling of waves and the distant begging of seagulls somewhere further down the ribbon of beach. The air is rich with the smell of heat radiating off of warm sand and beached seaweed below. This week has been two years since I washed up on these same shores and I’m amazed at the difference those two years make.

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As I’m reminiscing there’s a commotion behind me. A flurry of excitement and a vaguely familiar voice draw my attention to a group of men making their way to a fishing boat not far from shore. I hadn’t planned on going out on the water today but as He looked back I found I couldn’t resist the invitation to join them. I was not the only one. As I gathered Hubby and the kids and scrambled to find a boat of our own, there was a small fleet of vessels preparing to follow those men out to sea. Out on the water, a quick glance observed many from the beach wondering at the procession. Staring at us from behind big sunglasses and under bright umbrellas, holding fruity drinks in fake coconuts they quickly decide to return to their conversations.

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The day progresses and the shore shrinks on the horizon when a storm whips up, seemingly out of nowhere. Two years ago I weathered a similar storm and it pulled me under, depositing me on the distant shore. Today, I am not as worried about the storm as I am the water the boat is taking on. I’m furiously bailing water, trying to keep up. Our storm is one of special needs and each scoop of the bucket is another need.

Surgery, scoop.
Social Security appeal, scoop.
Medicaid, scoop.
Attorney, scoop.
MRI appointment, scoop.
EEG appointment, scoop.
Neuropsych appointment, scoop.
Leukodystrophy Foundation conference, scoop.
Newborn Screening advocacy, scoop.
Prescriptions, scoop.

Even the “normal” needs add to the rising water in the boat.

School supplies, scoop.
School shoes, scoop.
Soccer registration, scoop.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, scoop, scoop, scoop, scoop….

I know there are many people safely on shore that think there is something different about us in the boats. Still others that believe somehow we have been uniquely prepared for our storm. Even a few that believe we have done something to deserve it.  Or maybe that we have a superhuman ability to withstand this storm on our own.

We don’t.

I don’t.

This becomes crystal clear as the water level increases in the boat until my heart is racing and I’m absolutely exhausted from the fight. I find myself examining my sinking ship. All of the ways I’ve failed. I’m not fast enough, strong enough, skilled enough to keep us afloat, to save these precious souls in the boat.

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So I sit in the rising water, paralyzed with fear, turned so far inward that I almost don’t hear Him. That familiar voice in the middle of the storm. Reminding me that I’m not supposed to be able to do it alone. That I don’t have to. Why do I keep trying to? And despite the storm around me, the storm within me quiets. I stop looking at my own boat and trust the One that calms not only the winds, but the waves as well. I look up and when I see Him I’m reminded why I’m here. I followed Him. No matter what the seas look like, no matter how distant the shore, I need not fear the journey because I know the destination.

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That’s when I see it. I’m reminded of the other boats in the raging sea. Some are much further out into the waters. Some have been tossed ruthlessly and it’s a wonder that they’re still in one piece. I can vaguely make out a much smaller vessel starboard, slightly foreign in its design, it’s battered and falling apart. The screams of the occupants are swallowed by the sounds of the sea as they hold tight to anything close to them that hasn’t been loosened by the ruthless waves.

But it’s their eyes, not their voices, that call out to me. Because I can see it. Beyond the fear, beyond the despair, is the hopelessness. And it hits me harder than any of the waves. They haven’t seen Him! They have yet to hear that still, small voice that calls out to them in the middle of the storm! Suddenly, I’m frantic to get to them. Oh, not because I can save them (no more than I can save Hubby and the kids next to me), but to tell them about the One that can. About the One that can not only make you brave, but fill you with a hope and peace that defies circumstances.

I’ve been doing a lot of bailing water lately. Even though I know where my strength comes from, that I can do all things through Christ, I still occasionally fall victim to lies from the pit. More often than I’d like. It isn’t until my anxiety returns, that I’m in tears and on my knees that I realize I’m trying to do this life alone again. The whispered lies that I’m useless, a failure, not smart enough, efficient enough, organized enough,

not enough,

have me convinced I need to appear more than I am. If everything is okay on the outside, I will be okay on the inside. And the enemy has me just where he wants me. Paralyzed, focused on myself.

Then, God reaches down, lifts up my face, and reminds me that I’m His. And because I’m His, it’s my joy to follow Him out upon the waters, no matter what they look like. And it’s amazing what, and who,  I see when I’m not focused on me.

This last week I had the privilege to hear an update and a sermon (which inspired this blog) from some beautiful people from an amazing organization called Tutapona. They provide trauma rehabilitation to refugees from war torn countries in Uganda and Iraq. Widows and orphans. The least of these. These refugees have suffered unspeakable trauma, the most unimaginable storms. They’re left with wounds far deeper than a surgeon can reach. They have reached refugee camps where they’re provided with their most basic needs. Which is amazing. But they’re left with fear, shame and hopelessness that is crippling. Please take a moment to watch the mini documentary below and consider supporting people who are weathering some of the most violent storms. We all need to be tossed that lifeline of hope.

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You, with those walls….

You, with those walls…I see you.  Fear has kept you behind them but I hope love will draw you out.

I hear the exhaustion in your voice from a lifetime of battling alone. I see the anger burn bright in your eyes and fuel the strength for another day. To wake up again and build and maintain all of the walls of defense that tower so high they block out not just the perpetrators of pain, but any light and joy as well.

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I see the protective prison you’ve locked yourself in and I see the hurt hidden deep within the fortress, nearly hidden by all of the anger, resentment and bitterness blowing outside the walls.

All of this fire, brimstone, bluster and force to protect a heart broken, of course.

I know where you are because I’ve been there too. You and me, more alike than you knew. Have you felt it before? That there’s something wrong with this world and you don’t quite belong? That you were made for more than betrayal, pain and suffering? That it’s all just a bit too much and no one seems to be in charge? So we create our own little kingdom of safety, block out the bad and try to control everything within.

Constantly striving to create that one place where everything goes as planned, in the proper order, in its proper place. No surprises, no disappointments, no pain. No light, no joy, no freedom.

But now I’m outside the gates and my heart breaks seeing you still fighting to stay within them. Because I love you, I’m willing to weather the possible storm and share something with you.

You want to know what happens when the walls are built, the gate is closed? You’re trapped inside. It’s lonely and it’s dark. You exhaust yourself maintaining your defenses; going over battle plans. You have yet to realize that safety is not synonymous with happiness. In fact, those wounds unhealed fester and bleed new because you’re all alone with them, picking at them, making them raw and not letting them heal. I know you’re worn out and I pray every day that you are tired enough to stop fighting alone; that you would realize that what you’re doing isn’t working.

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I long for the day that you will realize that all of your seeking, struggling, wrestling and striving to find happiness has led you to a prison of your own making. That you would see your defenses have kept you from not only giving, but receiving love. Worse, in your need to protect yourself from hurt, you’ve inflicted hurt on the very people you love most. How I hope you would learn that safety, rest and happiness are not found in a climate, a location, a bank account, the condition of your house, but a Person!!

That you would know that the way to healing is straight through the pain with the only One with the power to heal it!

There is freedom outside those walls of yours! A life free of anger, resentment, bitterness and pain. True joy in life! Freedom to remember the hurt inflicted by others but not let it rule your life and keep you from your own peace; to live the life you’re meant to. A life where forgiveness and grace abound. I pray that God would tear down your walls more formidable than Jericho’s. That He would soften the tender heart you’ve worked so hard to shield. I pray that you would see past those walls to the abundant blessings you’ve been given and know that God has been with you all along. That every step of your journey, every heartache, every hardship, every mountaintop and valley has been used to bring you closer to the Father that loves you.

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So, now I pray that the Spirit would reveal to you the God who longs to walk with you through healing and true living. The God who can remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

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Oh! If you only knew the abundant blessings within your reach should you just forfeit your kingdom for His.

**Names of the guilty have been omitted, except myself, which has been one of the greatest offenders of all.

Do you see things unseen?

As Christians we base our eternal lives, our very souls, on things unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:18

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We believe not just in God, but every truth He reveals to us through His word, prayer, worship and Spirit. I believe He raised mountains, parted seas and tore down walls; though I didn’t see it happen. I know people who lived thousands of years ago. Their struggles, failures and the way God used it all to reveal Himself to me. I believe His Spirit lives within me to help and guide me, though it is a still, small voice to which I’ve never laid eyes on.

But I struggle with unbelief every day in a myriad of ways that might not be as obvious. Because I have yet to see. I worry about my family’s future because I have not seen it. Though I know His plans for us are good.

Jeremiah 29:11

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.

I push to the back of my mind the suffering of others because I have not heard firsthand their cries. I have not felt their tears, smelled the smoke, felt the earth shake beneath my feet or the gnawing hunger in my stomach. I have not seen their trauma or felt their particular broken heart and the hopelessness left in its wake.

It begs the question then. Do I believe in God, or do I actually believe Him?

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

What makes my belief different than that of a demon? Do I believe everything He reveals to me? Do I truly believe it as if I’ve seen it first hand? And if I’m truly believing Him, what does that look like?

To truly believe is to follow. It is to take every God breathed word of the Bible as truth regardless of whether I’ve actually seen or known personally the people within it and to respond in a way that I’ve been instructed to. It is to hear the cries of God’s children whether they are within my own home, in my community, or half a world away.

2 Corinthians 1:4

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

It is to give freely the gifts of grace showered upon me by a loving, generous Father because I know that He will provide for me. I have received His comfort in more ways than I can count. But have I given it as well?

James 1:17

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

It is to take up the great commission and share hope to the hopeless.

Some of us are called to the mission field into our own home, serving in a hundred ways no one but God will ever see. Some of us are called to serve our own communities, neighbors written off by the world. Still others are called to mission fields far away from the comfort and privilege of Midwest America. But all of us are called to believe and live a life broken and given to Christ. To live free of the chains of this world. This is great news! But it takes a commitment from us to live a life of belief. Believing the ultimate in unseen suffering, the suffering of Jesus, and staking everything we know and have on that truth.

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Sometimes I am deeply grieved by the products of my own unbelief. Selfishness, pride, worry and fear can keep me shackled to this world without me even being aware of it sometimes. But thankfully there is no need to despair of the condition of my heart! Thanks to Christ’s willingness to live broken and given for me, this condition is not terminal! In God’s infinite loving kindness, He even gives me a treatment for this condition. A way to help me experience the true freedom of the Gospel and sharing that healing freedom with my neighbors. Both seen and unseen.

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Mark 9:24

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

*emphasis mine

Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Please help me listen to and be guided by Your Spirit. Please give me Your eyes to see and soften my heart to feel for all of Your children. Reveal to me these things I’m holding more dear to me than You. Show me how to honor You with the time, gifts and resources You’ve given me. Help me to see beyond me, to hear above the noise and to run hard after You. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you see, and if you are feeling so lead to believe in the unseen suffering in the images above, I’d ask you to prayerfully consider helping! You can find out more about the need, and how you can help by visiting the link below.

http://livebeyondwords.org/

 

Good And Faithful Servant

She lays in a bed, her breath slowing, filled and surrounded by what love built. Love of the Father that filled her and has spilled out to the children and grandchildren currently at her bedside. Love that has fueled a life of joyful service.

A veritable whirlwind of energy, she has loved in a thousand ways of laying down herself. Short on words she has always been long on movement; constantly loving her family by meeting their needs. Before this flesh started to fail, she had a key to every house and on any given day you could find her in one of her adult children’s homes cleaning and doing laundry. Running errands from behind a steering wheel she could barely see over. Ferrying grand-children to appointments so their parents wouldn’t have to take time off of work. Caring for close and distant relatives alike. She delighted in her service and as far as I know, never refused a request that was within her means.

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She lived to serve and lived because she served. Because of the love she had for Christ she modeled a life crucified to self. Some may think this way of life, this selfless love, would leave a person tired and empty of joy. Unless they understand, like this beautiful woman does, that this crucified life brings more energy and joy than a life of serving yourself ever can. Never have I believed her to be unhappy. In fact, you needed only to watch this tiny spitfire of a woman on a dance floor with a good Polka band to see the joy she had in life.

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So, from half a continent away, I am grieving that I can not be there to hold her hand. Hands that worked and loved so long. To whisper I love you and thank you. For the milk shakes after the dentist, the french fries to “hold me over” on car rides home, for so many apple pies and the dozens of other ways she cared for a grand daughter that was often as short of words as she was. And most of all, for showing me what a life as a good and faithful servant looks like.

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Lord, I pray that if these are, indeed, her last breaths here you will fill them with moments of supernatural peace, confident in Your love for her. In the days to come please help us all to celebrate her life over the grief. Bring to all of our minds memories that make us laugh and remind us of how well she has loved. Jesus, please give us a comfort and peace that can only come with the truth that all who believe in You shall not perish, but have everlasting life. In Your name, Amen.

Let this cup pass…

I know that as followers of Christ we are to expect trial and suffering. But I find that expecting it and being prepared for it are two different things for me. Part of me conveniently forgets this truth until I’m staring at it, blinking in shock because it’s happening again.

A dear friend of mine, who has walked through no small amount of trial and suffering herself, recently was hit with more. Her walk through trial has so greatly encouraged my own and her wisdom, support, and encouragement have been such a huge blessing to me. My heart literally hurt to hear she was facing more. Yet through her pain, I was blessed yet again. This time through a conversation we had about cups (Yes, cups) and the resulting picture I was given.

I’m in a large upscale banquet room filled with tables covered in crisp white linen. Rows upon rows of us are seated. Expectantly waiting. Suddenly, there’s a shifting and murmuring as hands start passing along cups. From left to right and around to the other side, each table passes them one by one. Intrigued, I examine them as they pass through my hands.

Some are fine china, light and delicate with gorgeous, hand painted designs and gold rims. The handles so fragile I hold them on the bottom to pass them along. Others are of sparkling crystal creating orbs of prisms as they move along catching and throwing the light from the overhead lights. Still others are ornate goblets with designs that tell stories and inlaid with precious stones the size of robin’s eggs. I’m in awe of the differences, the uniqueness of each one, as I pass it to my right. Eventually I’m holding an earthen cup, more of a vessel. It’s edges are crude and it’s surface so rough and porous I’m sure that it can’t possibly hold anything.images-31 It’s ugly and it weighs far more than I think it should. In no small hurry, I look to my right to pass it along. Only to find their hands are still full. Looking around, I realize that everyone now has a cup. They aren’t moving anymore. Uneasy now, I glance to my left, hoping to pass it back the way it came. They actually lean away, protectively holding the cup they have. Increasingly alarmed, I look for sympathetic eyes, someone who might be willing to trade. I see pity and judgement in eyes averted. Overwhelmed, unable to bear holding it any longer, I place it on the table. My own eyes overflowing, I think if this is my cup, I don’t want one at all.

Head bowed, I rub my hands on my legs to try to rid myself of any remnants of that cup and I feel a hand on my shoulder. A gentle pressure. I look up through blurred lashes and make out an arm reaching in front of me and taking my cup. Startled, I look up into merciful, kind eyes looking straight into mine. “I don’t want it.” I whisper in explanation.

“I know.”

And His understanding kindness undoes me and I weep anew.

“It’s okay. Follow me.”

And because there is hope there, I do. Past curious glances I follow Him through the maze of tables and people and cups and I realize, they don’t even see Him. Puzzled and out of sorts, I follow Him through a doorway, into another room. The light is somehow softer here, but no less bright. There are people here too, but the tables are not covered in linen and they’re seated close together on benches. These eyes look right at me, and shift to my cup. But they’re not afraid. Instead, they shift to make room. Uncertain, I hover behind Him until He holds out a hand, calloused, yet soft, with remnants of clay under His nails. I take it, and my place at this table.

The people here, they lean in close while He dries the tears from my eyes. Through the open doorway I can hear music and too loud laughter. There’s clinking of dinnerware piled high with food and beautiful cups filled with drink. I can smell the abundance and see the chandeliers hanging high and glinting in florescent light. There’s a woman standing in the doorway with one foot in each room, her eyes distracted and pulled to the merriment next door. And I see Him get up, and hold out the same hand to her. Uncertainty and longing flashes quick in her eyes but she remains still.

“When you’re ready, follow me.”

The warmth here is greater than that next door and has little to do with the fire blazing in the hearth. There are no plates piled high with food or waiting in silver warmers. Instead, the fare is simple bread and wine and fills more than my stomach. I watch these people at the table with me as they share what they have and what they know. You see, it’s a work table and they’re looking up instructions in the books at their sides, helping each other. And their cups?

They’re being transformed by a master potter. Expertly washed and painted, they’re made new. Rough lines and crude material are made into the most beautiful of creations. And the fire?images-45 I’m now kneeling with a friend next to it, holding her hand. While He is reminding us that though it burns destructive hot to the wood within it, it’s bringing out incredibly unique colors and patterns. And when our cups emerge they will be more beautiful for the process and hold far more than they did before.

In the waiting, we’ll grow together and closer to Him. And maybe someday, when complete, we will no longer want to pass on these cups?

John 18:11

Jesus commands Peter, “Put your sword away, shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Rest

This last month I’ve been tired. That kind of body, mind, weary that drags at your heart and your soul until your eyelids want to follow. Sometimes at about nine in the morning. It seems no amount of sleep helps. Every morning I wake up and it’s still there. Dragging eyelids down creating fuzzy edges and slowing what seems like my every move. Unfortunately, the world keeps moving at a break neck pace and I’m left with the feeling that I’m never fast enough. Never getting enough done. Never ENOUGH.

I pray for more strength. For more endurance to run this race. For more patience. For more of me to go around. Enough for a family of five. For enough of me.

A dear soul, a sister in Christ, a friend, pointed out to me that I have indeed, been running a race. For two years. With every new symptom, test, appointment, and endless mountain to climb I’ve been running to find an explanation, a diagnosis, a way to make it through the latest roadblock and hold onto Jesus.

I know that our brand of suffering is very rare, but suffering in itself is universal. I know that I’m not the only one surrounded by it in this fallen world. I have only to check my text messages, social media or catch a tidbit of the news for my heart to be further weighted down by the heaviness of broken hearts and broken lives of everyone around me. Aren’t you TIRED?

Does it feel like it’s just too much and we’re just not ENOUGH?

Yesterday I hit the wall. Not literally, but figuratively. Test results came back for our oldest son and he has not responded to treatment. In my beloved kitchen, staring at his results I got a return phone call from the ophthalmologist to make an appointment to check his vision again for signs of damage from the CTX because he’s having vision problems. My toddler is screaming because I cut his strawberries and he wanted them “big”, and our daughter is asking me for the fourth time that morning what day it is so she can figure out how many days to her play date and we need to be out the door for therapy in ten minutes. The dishwasher is running for the second time today and the twelve year old is panicking over a double booked Saturday and can’t decide what he wants to do more. In a stellar parenting moment, I tell the nine year old with the short term memory impairment, “I just told you five minutes ago it’s Friday!”, tell the toddler, “Fine! Don’t eat them!”, and the anxiety filled twelve year old,”I’ll decide for you and you won’t go to either!”. Holding my head trying to hold in the tears I schedule the appointment with the sympathetic secretary and hang up in time to realize the time I picked means I’d have to miss my Bible study that week. We’re five minutes late leaving, everyone is upset and I look down to see a toddler still in pajamas in need of a diaper change I meant to do when I switched the laundry….a half hour ago.

I’m not enough.

I step outside trying to fill my lungs with air, my soul with peace. As chaos ensues inside, I pray. For MORE of me. Resigned to being late, I stare at a yard filled with scattered toys and discarded shirts from a water fight the night before and I’m blessed with a reminder.

I’m NOT enough. I’ll NEVER be enough. I shouldn’t be praying for more of ME, but more of Him. I will never find rest in myself.

Father, please help me to rest in YOU. I am so very tired and on my own I’ll never be able to run this race with endurance. Help me to make more of YOU, and LESS of me! images (1)

I’ve had it backwards lately. I’ve forgotten that He is enough for me, for my family of five, for every chaotic moment. He alone can redeem every parenting fail, every scheduling mistake, every exhausting day. And with that reminder, I can dry my face, walk back in amidst the chaos, apologize to my children and accept the amazing grace poured out on me every day. I can herd unruly cats into a van in five minutes with a bag of “big” strawberries and answer questions again. I can listen to a perfectly timed song, “Just Breathe”, and remember that I can truly rest, just be, at His feet. Thank you Jesus!


images (3)Matthew 11:28

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.


What I Told My Kids Today

As headlines, graphic images and special reports flooded the airwaves today my kids couldn’t help but catch wind of tragedy. Of pain. Of loss. Of hate and anger.images (4).jpg

“Mom, why are so many bad things happening?”

Ugh! How to explain a fallen world to innocent, soft confused hearts?

“I don’t know baby. God tells us we live in a fallen world where bad things sometimes happen.”

“What do we do?” Anxious words from a tiny heart that wants to help. To DO something. Don’t we all?

“We pray. We can pray for protection and pray for all the people who are sad and angry and hurting.”

“What do we do if something bad happens here?” Oh, to wrap them in bubble wrap and bolt our doors. But no.

“We look for God. ”

“But we can’t see him. What if we’re still scared?”

“He’s promised to always be with us. We look for Him in the people we see. Look for the helpers He’s sent. Whenever there’s something bad, look for the people helping. Sometimes they’re a police officer or fireman, sometimes they’re a man in a suit, a man covered in tattoos, or a teenager with baggy pants. Sometimes they’re black, white, brown or yellow. They help people out of fires, pull people out of car accidents, help fix their injuries, carry babies to safety, hold people that are crying, pray with people who are scared. But they’re there.”

“Does God send helpers everywhere?!”

“Oh yes!! He sent us too! Remember? We’re strong and brave because God is with us and loves us! And we love everyone as much as we love ourselves so we will help if we need to!”mms_20160709_001718

“I’m a helper?! God’s helper?!”

“Yes! We are! And there are lots of us. Just remember to look for them, and be one!”images (1).jpg

“Because we can do all things with Christ who gives us strength….right?”

“Right baby.”


2 Corinthians 13:11

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peacewill be with you.


Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.


Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”


Follow Me

I recently had the privilege of hearing a message from one of the founders of a relief organization called Tutapona. Eight years ago, Carl, his wife Julie, and their young family picked up and moved to Uganda to provide trauma and rehabilitation counseling to what would turn out to be thousands of refugees in the area. Carl provided an update of their progress, a victim’s heart wrenching story and the relief she found in the program, and plans for Tutapona‘s expansion to Iraq.

In a sanctuary full of Christians, Carl posed the question of how many Christians were truly followers of Christ. He maintains that to simply believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, is not enough. A true transformation of the heart will cause a transformation of your life. We are called to be disciples. This term implies active participation on our part. An outward reflection of our inner faith.


dis·ci·ple

(dĭ-sī′pəl)

n.

1.

a. One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.
b. An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.

Sharing several verses in which Jesus states “Follow Me”, it is pretty clear that Jesus intends us to, indeed, follow Him. (I searched on my own…and stopped counting at 19)

follow me 2

Often, when processing a message, I am gifted with images that help make sense of, and usher important information to be stored and filed in the orderliness of my long term memory. Over the past few days, I have a clear picture of a classroom full of Christians. All have professed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus silently enters the room and speaks two words.

Follow Me.

That’s it.

Now, there is a person in the front, center. Let’s call her A+Disciple. Her hand wildly waving, squirming in her chair, she’s practically shouting, “Ooh, Ooh, Pick me! Pick Me!”. The Christians in the back are mulling things over. I’m sitting in the middle, off to the left, unobtrusively hiding behind someone taller than I am. I take a couple of deep, bracing, breaths. You know the kind; in through the nose, out through the mouth. And resolutely raise my hand.

If I were to “unpack” my reserved response, I believe it’s not necessarily fear that has me mentally preparing myself. I think it has more to do with the seriousness of the invitation. The knowledge and respect of what this commitment requires. There’s a (not so nice) part of me that wonders if A+Disciple truly appreciates the gravity of what she’s signing up for. At the same time, noticing her unreserved joy at the offer makes me wonder what I am lacking in faith that makes me so somber at the thought of following Him through anymore valleys that I sometimes can’t hold onto the joy of the promise of my final destination?

(This is when I’m reminded of Julie. Bless her beautiful, honest, Christ filled,heart for sharing her lack of joy when first called to uproot her family from a place they’d grown to love and follow Jesus to Iraq. Was she willing to follow wherever He led her? Absolutely. But even she had a moment where she raised her hand without chair squirming, arm waving, JOY. I also like to think maybe she will be saving a seat for me next to her on the bus?)

follow me 6

A+Disciple is skipping to the bus while I am mentally “packing”. Repeating comforting scripture and pondering how many toothbrushes I should bring? After all, God seems to keep His itinerary pretty close to His chest. Now, A+Disciple is, of course, already on the bus, in the front seat, not so patiently waiting for the journey to begin. I see the loving smile Jesus welcomes her with and wonder if I’m worthy of the same reception. After all, I’m not exactly skipping in line, but putting one foot resolutely in front of the other while holding onto the promises written on my heart.

But He does.

He smiles at me with love and understanding. The same invitation. The same reception. Accepting me as I am, where I am.

Follow me.

Okay.

And those Christians now sitting, watching from the curb? He smiles at them with love too. Patiently waiting for them to pick up their cross, and follow Him too.

follow me 3

The disciples on the bus are surely in for hair pin turns, low valleys, some rough roads (after all, the road less traveled is bound to be bumpy) and the most beautiful destination. Sitting in the middle, staring at Jesus, I find the JOY. When I’m focused on Him, and not what’s coming up ahead, I find the joy in the knowledge that not only has He made a way for me, but He’ll be with me through the whole journey.

So where are you on your discipleship journey? Are you dancing with joy ready to leap into anything He calls you to? Are you sitting, prayerfully waiting for instruction? Or are you still sitting on the curb deciding if you really need to pick up your cross and follow Him?

follow me 4

UPDATE:

If you are already on “the bus”, are daring to be a Disciple, please take a moment to view the following video and prayerfully consider supporting the ministry of Tutapona either through prayer or a financial gift and help many more to follow Jesus. ❤

So Close

When your life unfolds like a heart wrenching drama. When you get that phone call at 2 a.m., those test results come back, a uniform shows up at your door, your loved one shudders their last breath and the curtains suddenly close on that life you had and the lights fade to black. You can be sitting in that theatre surrounded by people, completely alone. And the One your soul is crying out to is silent.

I’ve talked with so many people who have walked through suffering and have recalled the same thing. During their darkest moments, biggest trials in life, God’s silence seemed to echo louder than the beating of their broken hearts. During my own darkest moments I’d pondered things I’d heard. The Footprints in the sand poem and “The teacher is always silent during a test”. Neither sat well with me. Partially because neither seemed to have any Biblical backing. I wanted real answers. Real truth. Where was He and why couldn’t I see Him, feel Him, or hear Him when I’d needed Him the most?

I recently read Ann Voscamp’s One Thousand Gifts. And I was blown away by her thoughts on a piece of scripture I’d read plenty of times before but now has been rolling around in my head for weeks.


Exodus 33:22

22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.


What if, when it’s the darkest, you feel the most alone, you could have been so close to the One you needed, you could have practicallyimages (3)

Reached out

And touched…

Holy

Wait. What?

Yes, what if during those loneliest, soul wrenching, heart breaking, moments.

He was passing by

images (4)

And placed you in a cleft in a rock. Mercifully covering your eyes until He passed.

But wait, it gets better.


Exodus 33:23

23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”


Then, when you’ve exited stage left of grief, the curtains open again to slowly reveal your new normal, and you can see. You can see His perfect timing, His masterful weaving once He’s gone by. He’d been there all along. Closer than He’s ever been.

When it had seemed like the world’s worst cliffhanger, you hadn’t been hanging to the edge of a cliff at all, but been carefully placed in a cleft instead.

And if you’re currently in the dark, achingly silent, loneliness of that cleft, patiently waiting for His glory to pass, for the chance to see, feel and hear Him again, know that He is SO CLOSE.

Blessings,

Bobbi