In The Garden

In-the-Garden-thumbnailLately I’ve been feeling bad for whoever sits next to me in corporate worship. I never used to. For years, I came to church and sat and stood at the appropriate times and even sang quietly with the rest of the congregation. Somewhere along the line though, it stopped becoming simply singing and became worship. I don’t know how it happened. Really, one day I was reading the words off the screen, keeping my volume to a very respectful whisper and my hands and emotions nicely contained. Then, the next thing I know, I’m standing in the front row, swaying to the music, eyes closed, arms up and “singing” like no one is watching. You see what I did there with the quotation marks? That’s because I can’t sing. This is not me practicing humility. This is me confessing. I can’t sing. At all. Which is why I suddenly feel rather sorry for the people close enough to hear me. This is also why I’m thankful for our more modern service with it’s music equipment that drowns out much of my noise. But, as my family will confirm, my concern for the ears around me hasn’t discouraged me much. Why? Because I was made to worship. I know, it may not SOUND like I was made to worship, but I was. You were too! I understand your confusion as this truth had once eluded me too. I’ll direct you to my first glimpse for a more detailed explanation but here’s a condensed version if you’re short on time.

There was once this fiesty, fire cracker of an old woman that used to walk barefoot through her acre large “garden”, her hair in militant rows of tiny curlers and her apron pulled up as a make shift basket. house-and-rowsBut it wasn’t her appearance that would puzzle me. She seemed to fit in that garden like she was born there. Her first toddling steps squishing dirt up in between her toes. Even at her advanced age she seemed to sway along with the stems as she threaded herself between the rows. And the fruit of her labor gathered in the folds of her apron seemed to bare witness to the fact she belonged there. What seemed to me to be at odds with the whole scene was her “singing”. It was how one could locate her among the produce. You certainly couldn’t miss it. In fact, I’d venture a bet that dogs on neighboring farms a couple miles down the road could lead you straight to her. It was less like singing and more like high pitched yelling. But as long as she was in that garden, she was singing her favorite hymns. When asked, it has been reported that she said, “If God didn’t want to hear me, He’d have made me mute.”. It’s taken me a few years but I’m finally starting to understand. That brilliant lady knew a thing or two about worship. She had figured out that it wasn’t the quality of the voice raised in praise, but the heart beneath it.

“There are some who cannot sing vocally, but perhaps, before God, they sing best. There are some, I know, who sing very harshly and inharmoniously – that is to say, to our ears. Yet God may accept them rather than the noise of stringed instruments carefully touched…When praise comes from the heart, who would wish to restrain it?”

Charles Spurgeon 

I don’t wish to restrain it. Not only because it pleases God but because I’ve found it’s as close to the garden as I can get here. (Now, I don’t have an actual garden. I may have inherited this sweet lady’s voice, but not her ability to make things green. Also not humility. It is a well known fact in my house that the only things I can keep alive have heart beats. Which really, I think should count for something??)

I play worship music in my van, in my kitchen, in my closet before prayer and as I “sing” the rest of the world kind of melts away. It’s just Him and I, walking through the garden. In the garden I’m free to rejoice in His presence, sing His praises and focus solely on Him. And in this place full of distractions, trials, pain and loss, I don’t want to waste a precious second of these opportunities to worship. My soul longs for His presence!

So here is my apology. Sorry, not sorry! And my best advice. Lift your voice and arms like you were made to worship (you were) and dance like no one is watching (or for an audience of One). Because, like a wise woman once said, if God didn’t want to hear you, He’d have made you mute.

Here, try it with this song. You’re welcome! 😊

Love Like A Hurricane

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The blaring music bounced off of slowly filling stadium seats, vibrated the grass beneath our feet and mingled with voices raised to accommodate the volume. Careful to stay on the correct side of the yellow painted line we wove our way among the throng of people jockeying to get a good position to see their favorite players on the field. Even to a non-competitive like myself, the excited, nervous anticipation was a palpable thing. One could almost smell the testosterone mixed in with the concession foods. This was prime people watching territory and for a detail person like me, quite overwhelming. I can only imagine the rush of emotions for Oldest son, the “Wish Kid”.

I’m embarrassing him completely by taking goofy selfies on the 30 yard line and pushing him at a large group of bouncing cheerleaders for yet more pictures because even though he’s taller and wider than I am, I still have some authority and I take full advantage. As we’re doing our best to match names to faces of men covered in football gear on the field and kicking balls into nets, we turn to see Oldest son’s favorite player. And this momma’s eyes fill and spill over at the smile on my man/boy’s face. All of a sudden there are TV cameras and a circle opens up in which he gets to be the center. He and this player he has memorized stats for, watched countless plays of and whose last name he sports on his jerseys. I’m doing my best to snap pictures of a ball and jersey being signed but in truth can’t see the screen of my smart phone anyway. Instead I’m wiping tears and running nose on my sleeve because I know that this particular man/boy knows that being in the center does not always feel good and I wasn’t quite prepared for the look of relief and joy he would shoot me.

Because I’m his momma I know. I know how much this means to him. Being diagnosed with a genetic disorder in Middle School does not generally place one in a position of acceptance by peers. Missed school does not help one to excel academically. Missed practices and extended periods of restricted activity do not help one become the star player of their team. And the differences in the way one’s mind and body function do not make social interaction any less awkward than they already are at this age.

But because his Heavenly Father loves him more, knows him more, He knew what our man/boy needed. And because He is sovereign, loving, faithful and totally extravagant in His grace, He could provide it. Oh, it wasn’t necessarily the amazing trip, the sideline passes or the meet and greet with a favorite player. Nope. He needed to know just how much he’s loved. That even if he can’t see how God’s plans could possibly be good for him or glorify God in any way, God is still very much for him. Present and active in his life. Because when you’re a man/boy with a genetic disorder that creeps into so many aspects of your young life, it can sure seem like that’s not the case. No matter how many times your momma tells you.

Then there are fireworks at one end of the stadium and it turns out this is the signal to vacate the sidelines. It also means that if you’re not quick enough in the tunnel, the opposing team will, in fact, overtake you. We hustle to seats provided, laden with trays of food and bags of merchandise into rapidly filling stands. Over the next few hours I get to watch Oldest son scream, jump and fist pump his way through four quarters of football. Caught up in his excitement and a new love for a team that showed my baby such kindness I will confess to praying for the outcome of a football game for the first time ever. So, if you’re a Jaguars fan, you’re welcome!

But, there was far more than one victory that night. As we got into the relative quiet of the limo (Yes, his Wish was complete with limo ride), and the conversation centered on the events of the night it hit me. Just as powerful as the hurricane that had recently swept through the lower level of our hotel. God’s love for us just about took the wind out of me. The words to David Crowder’s song came forcefully to mind.

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree, bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Palm trees staked up and stripped bare but still standing flashed by tinted windows and this time my heart turned over with the sheer force of His love for us. All of us. Grateful for every moment on this trip that His love spoke louder than any circumstance, good or bad.
And we are His portion
And He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
When heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that He loves us

Tangible reminders of His love for Oldest son litter our entire house. Rather than pick up the tee shirts, water bottles, caps and bags, I am leaving them out. Thanking God for the gifts and praying that each time my confused feeling man/boy looks at them he remembers the Love that gave them to him.

Fierce.

     Relentless.

          Powerful.

 

Plans, Preparation, Predictability… and Purpose.

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I just made an appointment for our sixth surgery in eight months. “Our” meaning our family.  More specifically, there have been two for oldest son and this will be the fourth for baby girl.  I’m not really digging it. Once again, this wasn’t part of my plan.

I really like plans.

Things like predictability and preparation are some of my favorite things.  No joke. I really enjoy schedules,  lists, calendars, highlighters, etc. I get super excited when I get to use my label maker. I know,  some of you are totally cringing right now.  You are likely those people that do crazy things like ride in hot air balloons, jump out of FLYING planes or off of perfectly good bridges with rubber bands on your ankles.  It’s okay, I don’t understand you either.

Yup, you can take your mud runs and your “spontaneity” and I’ll be perfectly comfortable with a nice boring day,  free of chaos, reading a great book.  If this life thing were up to me, that would be my plan.

But it’s not.

So my flesh (every extra fluffy pound) often sits in waiting rooms or on route to appointments re-rearranging my mental schedule for the hundredth time and crying out for just a little bit of boredom. A little less crisis.  My flesh wants to be the Mom that’s at home instead doing the laundry, putting together a nice healthy dinner,  looking up birthday party ideas on Pinterest,  volunteering for ALL THE THINGS, welcoming everyone home to a nice, relaxed, stress free house and never dropping any of the balls. (I am constantly dropping balls. Very frustrating.)

I feel like it’s a good plan. I also often feel like I could really do some amazing things with God with this plan. Just think of how big my mission field could be! I could do the mission trips and serve in all sorts of ways I just can’t right now. I could be that child of God that is running around with the Good News in far away places instead of running around chasing my tail, struggling to serve just the few in my reach. I’ve tried to convince God of the brilliance of my plan but either this sounds a lot like bargaining and whining to Him or He is just pretty confident that His plan is still better.

So my faith will keep reminding me that I may have plans,  but God has a purpose.  On days like today when my flesh just really, really, wants a little boredom, I will instead cry out in prayer and ask my merciful Father to show me just a molecule of His purpose in all of this. To help me re-remember that His plans are for my good and His glory.

Because my best laid plan has nothing on His purpose.

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On Healing, Laughter and Joy

I wonder when August 19th will pass without me noticing.  Some of you can probably relate to an anniversary of something you don’t celebrate.  Two years ago, after searching over a year for a diagnosis for our daughter, we received a phone call with her test results that turned our life upside down.  Honestly, some days I still feel rather out of sorts.  But, for any of you that might be going through some rug pulling out from under you stuff right now, I want to share something with you on our anniversary.

You will laugh again. And if you continue to trust God through this, you’ll find joy in Him again too.

Oh, two years ago I was certain I would never laugh again without it being saturated in sadness.  That it would never quite reach my heart again.

I was also very unsure that I would ever find joy in my relationship with Christ again. For sure, there was a long period where I sought Him solely for comfort and peace I could find nowhere else. But would I ever rejoice in His presence again? Ever bask in His love for me? I just couldn’t see it.

In case you can’t see it either, here’s a story of healing, laughter and joy.

Last fall I traveled out of state for a meeting with the pharmaceutical company that makes the medication for two of our children.  Because of my past, I had a thing about flying.  Lots of things actually,  but mostly panic attacks and a whole lot of anxiety.  It wasn’t until I had made it to the gate on this trip that I realized I had made it sans attack.  There’s a blog post somewhere about it.  So, naturally, I was praising a healing God and feeling pretty good about this whole trip by the time wheels were up.

By the time wheels were down though, I had already forgotten Who I was traveling with and that I could totally do this thing. I looked at the time on my phone and was already calculating how much time I had to make it through the terminal, to baggage claim, procure a cab, check into the hotel and make it to the first meeting in time.

As I was exiting the plane, I happened to hear the flight crew talking about a certain president, major pop star and local baseball game all in this city over the next couple days. I became less and less sure about my timeframe.

Why did this airline decide they needed MY particular carry on to be checked at the gate?! Nevermind.  I’ll hustle.  Keeping in mind I’m only five feet tall,  my “hustle” isn’t as fast as I’d like.  By the time I make it to the baggage claim I’m sweating and out of breath and that’s only partially because I’m terribly out of shape.  Anxiety has returned.

No worries! My bag is one of the first on the carousel.  Hallelujah! Now, to find a cab. I happen to see a sign as I’m frantically reorganizing my paperwork that says something about this airport only permitting licensed taxis in designated areas for our safety,  blah, blah, blah as I head for the closest exit. I look left, then right, not a taxi in sight. Darn.  Where is this “designated area”? I head back in and down the line of baggage claims further, looking for a sign. I see nothing.

Okay,  I’ll try the next door and then I’ll just ask someone. As soon as I step out the doors a suspiciously well groomed man asks me if I’m looking for a cab.  All of a sudden, I feel like I should not tell him that is exactly what I’m doing.  It must be written on my face though because he then tells me he happens to have a cab,  just there across the loading area,  in that nice creepy parking ramp and if I’d just follow him he’s got great rates. Hmmm… what was that sign about my safety??

After politely and quickly refusing I actually do hustle back inside this time. I am dangerously close to a panic attack when I finally see a sign for the taxi pick up line. I make a dash for the line and put as much distance between me and the potential serial killer as I can. Although once in line, I see he has (suspiciously) disappeared.

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I am safely deposited into a “licensed” cab, give the gentlemen that isn’t so keen on hygiene the hotel name and try to take deep, calming breaths. I say “try” because I am suddenly being whipped around by a cab driver that must be practicing for the Indy 500. Every time he comes to a sudden, neck breaking, stop, I need to brace my foot against the seat in front of me and every time he goes, my empty stomach gets splattered all over my backbone. I am anxious and sweaty and now turning shades of green.  He must be color blind because in an effort to avoid traffic he starts cutting off the exits,  looping around and coming back on the freeway.  The fourth time,  my water bottle breaks free of my death grip and is being slammed all over the minivan and my purse takes a nose dive. I catch most of the contents mid air. I don’t dare close my eyes, but this is when I start praying. That I don’t throw up.  That I can start to breathe normally again. That I would survive to the hotel….

And the driver stops the cab.  In the middle of the freeway,  in rush hour traffic and reaches back and throws open the back door. I am absolutely stunned and my poor brain can’t figure out what in the world he’s doing except maybe throwing me out?

Then he points.  And asks me if I want to take a picture.FB_IMG_1503174027370

Of the brilliant rainbow.

Fumbling for my camera on the floor,  crying and belly laughing like a lunatic I squeal, “Yes!”. And I remember that I serve a God that brings healing.  Who also has an amazing sense of humor that has me belly laughing and rejoicing in His presence again.

Oh, and I made it on time, breathing, without throwing up.

 

 

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

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.

When you feel a little stuck

A couple weeks ago I was really discouraged.  One of those weeks when I was finding it difficult to see any growth or heart changes.  When it seemed every evening guilt and shame streaked down my face and parted worn out make up on my face over critical, impatient words that rushed past lips that should have remained closed or selfishness and my own desire for comfort that kept me annoyed and inconvenienced over the needs of a family of five.  Or how about that fear that still pops up? That unbelief after being shown hundreds of times that I’m never alone? So there I’d find myself feeling stuck.  With this frustrating pattern of sin daily confessed, repented, forgiven. To repeat.

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How much longer, Lord? How much longer before I’m complete? Before I don’t have the daily struggle with self?

Because I’m pretty tired of me. And in this world of instant gratification I’d really like to be fixed now. I mean, I was born again, right? I know I have a whole lot to fix but couldn’t the process go a little faster?

Or am I the only one?

If I’m not, keep reading because this gets really good!

Just when I’m almost sure I’m a hopeless case, that I will forever hold onto these chains, He reaches down and… moves me.

Literally.  And shows me that sometimes you don’t realize chains have been broken until you move and don’t feel the weight of them anymore.

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sometimes you don’t realize chains have been broken until you move and don’t feel the weight of them anymore.

Somehow, in my regular, every day life I had become unaware of the sometimes slow healing. The gentle touch of His hand in those unsettled places.

So in His infinite kindness and answer to my prayers, He showed me.  He plucked me out of my everyday Midwest routine and put me on a whirlwind of a Make A Wish trip for our daughter. I was incredibly grateful for the gift to her,  but had no idea what an amazing gift He had in store for me.

I’ve always been a worrier.  Anyone who knows me well knows this. I contemplated officially changing my middle name to “careful” when I changed my last name. What some might not know is that my careful was born of fear. Of just about everything. Oh, some of it was common.  Bridges, roller coasters,  car accidents, etc. But whenever I was out of my comfort zone fears took flight to crazy town. I could actually see horrible, very unlikely,  things happen.  Shoelaces in escalators, falling overboard, TV’s or fans falling off walls, fires in public places and not able to find an exit….I could go on and on to convince you of my incredible imagination but I think you get the picture.

I was crouched down behind Mini Hubby at the bow of a glass bottom boat in The Keys when I noticed it. Cruising along through mangrove trees dotted with birds I’d never seen, laughing in utter joy over the dolphins that came to escort us out, I had never felt so LIGHT. I assure you I’m not talking numbers on the scale.  Turns out vacation calories do, in fact, count. Just ask my jeans. Nope, it wasn’t until I’d moved out of my normal, out of my comfort zone, that I realized the weight of the chains was gone. There were no random,  crazy fears to steal my joy.  To take my eyes off of the beauty around me.  For the first time on a vacation I soaked every beautiful gift in without it being tainted or dulled by fear.  Never has the ocean smelled so amazing. Never has the sun felt so warm and enveloping.  And never has my children’s laughter sounded sweeter. I was free to shed thankful tears of joy for the ability to truly appreciate the beauty of creation. Because I now know the Creator.

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So I stayed crouched behind my four year old, our heads side by side, unafraid, the sea spray mixing with my own grateful joy filled tears and laughed over hair whipped crazy and looked into a bright blue sky and beyond to the One who breaks every chain.  In His own time. Which just happens to be totally perfect. I can wait for that. 

Perfect Storm

God has called us to waters so deep that they are rarely calm. I still often long for the sight of crystal clear, calm seas but am learning that sometimes He calms the storm for me and sometimes He instead, calms me. Just when I think I’m gaining my “sea legs”, learning to trust in His plans, accept His will for us, the wind picks up and I need to learn how to navigate these waters again.

I’m standing on the decks and feel them start to pitch and rock. The skies darken out of nowhere and I can no longer tell which direction the winds are even coming from. Assailed from every direction, the winds are ferocious and relentless; whipping my hair and my heart, covering my eyes. I struggle to see clearly but am buffeted by the salty spray of my own self pitying tears. In an attempt to find shelter I try to move on planks now wet and slippery. Unable to discern which direction to go, my arms reach out, grasping for something to break my fall. My mind so scattered, my heart so weary, I’m unable to even cry out to the One that holds me.

But I’ve been through storms before. This time, I reach for the many hands and feet of Christ that have helped steady me in similar waters. And as my pulse slows and I catch my breath, I can finally hear it. Trying to absorb the frantic rocking beneath my feet, I remember the anchor. The harder the winds pull, the further it’s embedded into the shifting sands below.

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We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.

Hebrews 6:19

As I feel the tug of the anchor my heart grips back and I forget the listing deck and the churning waters. When my gaze is focused on the horizon it becomes easier to maintain my balance. I start to see the beauty of white caps, of the magnificent power that drives the sea, and the light breaking through the solid mass of angry clouds. Though the storms still rage, I’m no longer driven by fear. I stand in the eye of this storm and praise the One who will bring me through.

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Now, this is the pretty, poetic picture gifted to me in the last few weeks but I assure you it came with the perspective of time. It actually looked like this…

Over the course of two weeks Hubby was laid off, our daughter had surgery for cataracts due to her genetic disorder and we received our son’s neuropsychological evaluation. As we were reeling from results that revealed far more than we were prepared for, our oven broke and we had two birthday parties for the boys. Hit from what seemed like every direction I made my way home from the appointment with the neuropsychologist in a daze. Overwhelmed and struggling to take it all in, I found myself in a familiar but not particularly welcome place.

I managed to get the kids fed, escaping to the bathroom to mop up tears as necessary. My mind and stomach would not stop churning and I struggled to even focus on menial tasks such as bath time and pajamas. Anxiously waiting for bed time I was hoping if I could just let loose these emotions, I would be able to pray and find calm.

Instead, I found myself sobbing on the floor of my prayer closet. Once again, I had no words. For an hour I laid there, surrounded by Kleenex, waiting for the words to come. A year ago, I would have given up and given in. To the anxiety and heartache. I would have let it push me to sleepless nights and tormented days. This time I waited. This time I remembered.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Romans 8:26

So I lay in His presence, comforted by the truth that the Spirit would intercede. That God would meet me where I had no words. Then I reached out to my beloved sisters in Christ. Brought to light my inability to pray. And they prayed for me. Sent me scripture and songs of worship. Encouraged me to pray through Psalms until the words became my own. And as I cried and sang, prayed through the scripture and read through Hebrews 6:19, gradually my tears slowed and the words did become my own. In just a year He faithfully taught me to ask, seek, and knock until my heartbeat and breath slowed and He calmed the storm inside of me.

Several years ago if you’d have told me I’d weather a storm laying on the floor of my closet for hours I would not have believed you. In fact, if you’d have shown me a picture of myself that night I would have jokingly asked who made me drink the Kool-Aid. Thank God for the work He has done in my heart. For never leaving me alone and for the anchor for my soul.

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And sometimes He calms the storm raging within me, then calms the storm around me.

Within fifteen minutes of sharing our need for a stove, we were offered three different ranges for free and picked one up two days later. Hubby was called back for a couple of weeks worth of work and it appears that more work is coming in every day. Last night I attended parent/teacher conferences with no small amount of trepidation only to receive some much needed encouragement on our oldest son.

As I was driving home, lifting up praises, I was reminded of what I’d read just a few night before.

Beloved…you cost your Lord too much for Him to lose you. He bought you at too great a price and values you too much to see you broken to pieces on the rocks. Therefore, He has provided a glorious safeguard for you so that when Satan’s temptations, your own sinful nature, and the trials of the world attack you, hope may be the anchor of your soul, both secure and steadfast.

Charles Spurgeon

And for today…..

Here you are today, accompanied by grace, provisioned by mercy, steered by heavenly wisdom, and propelled by the Spirit’s power. Thanks to the anchor, or rather to the God who gave it to you, no storm has overwhelmed you. Your ship is under way for the port of glory.

Charles Spurgeon

Can I get an Amen?!