Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words "They" Say

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

Though I definitely agree that a picture can speak volumes, I sometimes think the greatest stories are in the words untold.  The behind the scenes.  The rest of the story.

We've recently been talking in different Bible study groups, online book discussions, and in ministry/relationships about the affect of seeing everyone else's "perfect" life on social media. How it traps us in the comparison game and we walk away often feeling less than.  We try to caution others, especially us women, to be careful not to compare our behind the scenes with someone's highlight reels.  Scrolling through someone's newsfeed doesn't give the FULL picture.  Though a picture may show they have it all together, we don't see what's outside the frame.  We don't see the rest of the story.

This morning I opened up my newsfeed and, as it often happens, the first thing that I saw was something that facebook chose as a memory to remind me of. It typically randomly chooses one photo from this day of things I've posted over the last 10 years or so.  I'm not sure what parameters and algorithms it uses to decide on the "one", but today's stopped me and just caused me such pause.
It goes right along with the conversation that's come up time and time again recently. The rest of the story is perhaps the greatest story.

When it was posted 7 years ago on Facebook, it comes across as just a cute, cherished family picture at Kevin's annual family reunion.  Our happy little family. All of us together and "almost" looking at the camera. Our sweet kids.  Our restored marriage.

The rest of the story...

No one knew, aside from Kevin, that at that very moment, it took all I had to physically stand up, gather my family, and smile for the picture.  The picture speaks a thousand words about a family, but it also speaks thousands others unsaid.

Just a few hours prior to leaving to make that 2.5 hour trip, I suffered a miscarriage.  Though it was a very early one, it was still a loss of life, especially for those of us that fully believe life begins at conception. We had barely even wrapped our minds around the concept of child number 4 and we'd not told a single person at that point. We wanted to make and get through some initial appointments and get a feel of what was expected for this pregnancy.  Though I GREATLY, almost OBSESSIVELY wanted a fourth, Kevin was VERY hesitant to make that choice. After Adriana was born and I was diagnosed with lupus, I was told absolutely no more children. It would either be very difficult to conceive and if so it could be dangerous. I didn't like that answer and my faith that God had a larger family in mind for us, baby #2 easily came. Though he was considered high risk and that entire pregnancy was driving two hours each way every week to be monitored at a specialty clinic, everything went well.  That gave us confidence for #3 and though he was born healthy, some complications left me on complete bedrest for over half my pregnancy.  Getting through that season was HARD, harder than even our closest family knew. Hard in general, but harder still when your husband's work commute was an hour and half each way and trying to maintain homeschool with the oldest and a bouncy 4 year old.  Eek.  Because of that season and how progressively harder it was on my body, Kev just wouldn't jump on board with us having another child, no matter how much I wanted or begged.  Eventually (a very long path) I came to the same conclusion as he did and we were on the same page. So to say we were surprised the day that stick had two lines (and repeated a second time) was a major understatement. But, the shock was instantly replaced with joy and acceptance.  No "oh no"or "ugh" about it.  It was considered a gift and our faith knew that whatever was ahead, we'd handle.  We figured if God had allowed us to conceive, it was meant to be. But, that news was gone in a flash and quickly replaced with deep sorrow and questioning. Still belief that God's plan was perfect and He was in control, just not the path we expected.

But at that moment, as we stood there for that family picture...

No one knew the heartache.

No one knew the "secret" still playing out.

Even Kevin didn't realize how hard it was going to hit me emotionally and for years to come.

No one knew the physical struggles taking place or the ones to immediately come as my body was about to go through a season of flare up that nearly broke me in countless ways. No one even knew in the coming days, other than a couple of close friends that jumped into help with my kids as that flare overtook and I couldn't keep up. We decided we'd share our news when we felt the time was right and to who we wanted to. A decision made together.

Everyone around at that moment just thought I was physically fighting a flare and we just left it at that.  It wasn't like I was going to shout from the rooftop what was actually going on! We needed time to process in our hearts the roller coaster of emotions.  Even though I was barely 6 weeks and we had yet to share our news, our hearts embraced that child. Even now, I find it very difficult this time of year, as I think of what was, what life would be like, and how different things might have been. I often even find it very difficult to attend his family reunion because of my emotional baggage that hangs around that time and place. Going back the next year was just almost too much for my heart to handle and since then it's been a "war zone" on my emotions, many times resulting in me staying home even if I could have gone.  (Though this year none of us could go for multiple other reasons as well.)

That picture also showed no indication of what was to come.  It would be just a few weeks later that we would get the news of my Dad's cancer diagnosis and that whirlwind.  It was then that I knew partly why God had walked us down that path, though this side of heaven we won't have the full answers.  I do know that had my pregnancy progressed, I would not have been able to spend that time with Dad and my family. A very difficult time as it was, would have been exponentially more difficult.  There's no way my body and mind could have handled being in both places, most especially if I'd ended up on anticipated bedrest again. It was in sharing those thoughts of how God sometimes does things in His timing and His way because we can't see the whole picture that He does, created a whole other realm of heartache.  Certain individuals didn't like how and when we decided to share our news of the loss we'd experienced.  As a result, it was a catalyst that resulted in some that are no longer even in our lives because of their reaction and believing that Kevin and I didn't have the right to share on our terms.

With all that said, today, I see that picture that says one thing and to the world may reveal another.  I look at the picture with joy because it always does something to a Momma's heart to see pictures of her children a few years back.  To be reminded of how sweet they were and how "little".  I do see a happy family.

But, now....

I see a family that has weathered many more storms and that has come through many battles, some the world saw and many more they didn't.

I see a Mom that held it all together when it was falling apart. I see a mom that learned to dig deep and get through some hard days. Many.

I see a new depth of faith that came about from the storms that were about to be unleashed. You sometimes don't know how deep your roots are until the storm hits.

I see a husband and wife that had already been through the deepest battles and had been restored and redeemed through some dark seasons (which is why REDEEMED remains prominently displayed the moment you walk into our house), being prepared for more storms.  The rocky past and lessons learned carried us through the next hard seasons.

I see joy and hope about to resurface, even though not quite visible at that time.

And...I see short boys.  :)  Those no longer exist.  One now towers far over us and we aren't short...and the other isn't far behind!

Though it did leave a catch in my throat this morning to see that picture and the emotions wrapped up in it (as the last few days have also been), I do look at it with joy. It reminds that when roots are deep and anchored in Him, they sustain.  Had our faith been shallow, we would have been blown away.

No matter what you see on social media, don't fall into the comparison game. A picture never shows the full picture.  Someone may have a big smile or look like life is wonderful, but can be falling apart on the inside.  You may see their travels to exotic places and just a one tank trip a few hours away may be all that you can afford.  You may see well-behaved kids or outstanding athletes, and you might pay the one pulling yours off the shelves at the grocery store or have children with zero athletic ability.  Their house may look pinterest perfect or their meals may be straight off a magazine cover and you may not be able to step over the mountain of laundry and gourmet to you may be another box of Hamburger Helper.  At the end of the day, you must just feel like you don't measure up. Remember: they may have had to take a hundred pictures to get that ONE, they may be so in debt to afford that lifestyle or have to sacrifice somewhere you aren't wiling to compromise.  For every pinterest success, there are dozens and dozen of fails.  That well behaved child in today's picture, may have been the grocery shelf climber yesterday or tomorrow.  That spotless looking picture, may just be cropped of all the clutter behind it. No one has it together ALL the time.  WE ALL have our strengths and weaknesses.  And, I guranatee, YOU have something that THEY are looking at and saying, "I wish I had."

Pictures do speak a thousand words.  But they also have many many stories untold.

Just like mine that showed up today.....






Thursday, August 10, 2017

In the Green House

In the green house at the end of the cul-de-sac...

It's where we've found HOME.
It's where we've found COMMUNITY.
It's where we've found HOPE.
It's where we've found GRACE.
It's where we've found JOY.
It's where we've found FAMILY.
It's where we've found PEACE.
It's where we've found LAUGHTER.
It's where we've found REDEMPTION.

Today marks 8 months exactly of waking up in the green house.  The place that instantly became home instead of house.

That first morning living here we woke up in the floor because our bed wasn't moved in and put together.  This morning we again woke up on a mattress in the floor because after about 20 years our bed bit the dust. As in broke and done for. We literally bought it in the middle of our first big move. Stopped in Nashville and loaded it on the U-Haul as we were headed to live several years in Arkansas. It served us well.  We did everything possible to get more days out of it because I just didn't want to let it go.  Lots of memories wrapped up in that bed.  (Yes, "those" memories matter, but I'm really referring to memories as a family. :)  All of my babies shared this bed for a time.  Our family grew up together on it.  Gosh, I spent 4.5 months of not being able to get out of it while on bedrest with #3.)  I had grown quite sentimental to it. However, Kev just couldn't find anymore places to screw in more support boards or hold it together with bolts, zip ties, and nails. Every single time you moved you wondered if you would fall to the ground. THAT day came.  Kaput.  Plus, SOME of us had grown quite out of love with its sleigh design and wanted more contemporary (that "some" was not me and I was in the definite minority!).

But today, though we find ourselves sleeping just on a mattress, I'd rather be sleeping nowhere but here. We see countless projects left to be done and a bank account pretty much empty for awhile and we are determined to not add debt so we can't get as many done as we want. WE are ecstatic with all that we HAVE accomplished and restored.  We know the rest just has to wait. While we wait, we know we are HOME. It's been an adventure, but honestly seldom stressful.  Isn't that crazy? We literally have had to rip apart something in every room and have worked tirelessly to clean up landscaping.  Even just last week we had a bathroom flood a SECOND time.  Every single day there seems to be something else added to the "list" of need to.  But we just smile.  Because we're home.  In the little green house at the end of the cul-de-sac.

It's here that we truly know we are home.  We've LOVED living in Central IL (aside from HARSH winters!).  The town gave us the roots we desperately needed and were searching for when we moved here almost 11 years ago.  Living in one place was not something that had ever happened in our marriage, so to finally be able to do so was a priceless gift.

Don't get me wrong, we LOVED a few of our neighbors in our old neighborhood and MISS seeing them on a regular basis.  However, from the first moment we moved here we knew it was HOME. Yes, it has partly to do with ownership versus renting, but it goes FAR beyond that. We waited MANY long years for God to say "NOW" instead of the "NOT NOW" we'd been hearing over and over.  When that day came, EVERYTHING fell into place and in so many ways we know that it was PURELY His hand. Admittedly, we weren't so patient in those waiting years and our faith was shaken quite often, but we stayed obedient and waited for His timing.

One of the most remarkable feelings of home has been the building of community. As much as we loved where we lived previously and had no complaints, we just didn't fit.  We struggled to find our place.  Honestly, many times we felt less than.  I felt frowned upon for being home with our children instead of pursuing a career.  Many of our belongings didn't "measure up" because we refused to buy bigger and better on credit. Living on one income, buying second hand, or re-purposing something old into new just wasn't the "typical".  We felt like life was a rat-race and we never got on the spinning wheel.  It was about keeping up with the Joneses, but we never wanted to be a Jones so to speak.  We've always lived differently and nothing about that was going to change.  What we observed with many (VERY much a generalization, so please don't take offense!) was that marriage was a chore and raising children an inconvenience and if you could pay someone to do something for you instead of doing it yourself you did. We just didn't fit with that mentality.

Here---feels like home in every capacity. We're surrounded by EVERY background and yet it feels like true community.  We're building relationship with neighbors and are enjoying doing so.  (Even though this introvert still has to be purposeful about not 100% hiding out!).  I know that I can call one of many with a need and they'd jump right in.  Ok, that should probably say TEXT a neighbor since I still refuse to talk on the phone and I've come to notice I'm not the only one! :) We've recently been experiencing a great spree of home and car break-ins and individuals wandering around on private property.  Yes, that has been unsettling and we're hyper aware, BUT I don't have fear or anxiety because I know that we're surrounded by a great group of people keeping on eye on each other.

In very recent days we had new neighbors, immediately behind us sharing part of our backyard, move in. That brought some temporary anxiety as we waited and wondered if they'd be good neighbors or "challenging".  As soon as the sweet older couple put their for sale sign in the yard I began to pray. Though we've had limited personal contact so far, the conversations and observations can only be described as "But God." Today, I witnessed a sweet moment that really touched my heart.  It was seemingly ordinary to most passerbys, but for my heart it was a direct confirmation.  I shared with Kev and he agreed that it was definitely a God nudge.

Besides each around us "just" being neighborly and courteous, each particular one seems to bring something special about them to the table.  Something our hearts were needing or something our hearts can offer.

In the green house at the end of the cul-de-sac, we've found many great things.  Hope has been restored in multiple ways, laughter seems to be more free flowing, we feel redeemed in so many ways as we feel He has been restoring the years that the locust had eaten (in reference to Joel 2), and joy in the simplest things. The kids are happy and feel the decision was great on countless levels which brings peace (except they still fight like cats and dogs). They love (and SO DO I) the freedom to walk to church,McDonald's, or to meet up with friends. Our family unit as a whole is growing and thriving. This home has also been a place of grace.  We've needed lots of it and had to give lots of it, but it's been free flowing.

It's HOME.

The green house at the end of the cul-de-sac.

*Well, as I reflect on this being home I suddenly realize there is one thing that has been missing that needs a remedy.  Fast. Dancing has to return to this kitchen.  We've more space than ever before with its layout, but yet, we've not taken advantage enough. We used to dance around the kitchen and living room OFTEN. It was commented on more than once that someone would drive by and later tell us that they saw us dancing. The to-do lists got longer as the projects were many and that became our focus.  Time to change that.  Time to get back to embracing the little things that matter.  Get back to hearing the kids say, "Ugh, there they go again". Besides that, they're gone more than ever anyway.  Plus, they need to be reminded of the beauty of marriage and not the picture that the world tries to paint. They need to know that even after 21 years and counting, that love still grows and matters. Yep. Kevin---that's your reminder, not a hint. I'll get back to my obsession of lighting candles and make our home a haven---you get back to taking your wife on a spin around the kitchen.*




Thursday, July 27, 2017

BE ONE UNTIL YOU ARE FOUND BY ONE

I am purposely spending significant amounts of time in Bible study, devotionals, and reading books that encourage me to live a life of faith. I'm just very hungry and thirsty for it right now.  For quite a long time, I've felt spiritually attacked and just trying to keep my head above water. But as I began to pray for Him to move my heart from survival mode to thriving mode, I'm finding that happening through the pages of Scripture, inspired and honest authors, study groups and pen and paper. Yes, this girl is notebook and journal obsessed. It's addiction level! ;) I also know that in just a few weeks my attention span greatly takes a nose dive as we start year 16 of homeschooling.  I need extra "stored" in my tank so that I have enough to pour out and still sustain my own needs. Each day will have its own manna, but let's get real... it's harder to attain when you're spread thin or distracted.

Today I was working in Beth Moore's "Entrusted study.  Technically the study just ended and I'm only half way through, but I'm still pressing forward. It's an in-depth study of 2 Timothy. I already loved this specific book (letter), but her incredible teaching ability has illuminated so much more than I thought possible. She doesn't just do a study that says fill in the blank. No spoon feeding! Honestly, many times I feel like I don't know the answer even though I'm looking straight at the book and the Bible. But that's ok. That's why we keep learning and being a student. Later this week will mark 32 years of my personal relationship with Christ and I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of knowledge.

But, today's teaching...

Spoke directly and plainly to my heart.

Honestly, it moved me to tears.

"And, while you're at it, don't give up on humanity. There are still Onesiphoruses in the world. Be one until you are found by one. "

BE ONE UNTIL YOU ARE FOUND BY ONE

Let me back up and explain in case you aren't familiar with Onesiphorus.

Onesiphorus searched HARD for Paul until he found him Scripture says. He wasn't ashamed that Paul was in chains. "He refreshed me," Paul says. For Onesiphorus to get to Paul took extreme effort. Travel from Ephesus to Rome wasn't just a quick hop on a bus. Though getting to the city itself was hard, Paul was imprisoned in an undisclosed location. Hidden away and under guard. I just finished reading the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers and though it was a fictional work, scripture really came alive as I was reading it because I could just picture the journey. Though this is a great understatement: it took work and commitment to find him.

Beth writes in her study that we all long to be earnestly searched for and found by somebody wonderful.  We may not admit it, but even those with the toughest exteriors have that longing. "We yearn to know there are people who'd diligently search for us if we are missing. People who'd swim the ocean to get to us if we were stranded on an island. We want to be worth looking for. Worth not giving up on."

Even rereading and typing those words has tears streaming. Again.

Haven't you felt that way at times? Even, perhaps, right now. Many of us carry deep wounds of being abandoned, deserted, not fought for. Maybe we've felt so invisible or alone, even while surrounded by a crowd. Oh, dear ones, I understand those scars. Whether by a parent, a family member, a spouse or a friend, it hurts.

I love how she reminds us that with Christ, we are "audaciously searched for and passionately found." Yes, that is beautiful beyond words. His redemption and love for us knows no bounds.

However, our hearts might ache to have a physical being, someone we can physically reach out and touch, feel that way about us. We all want to know that we have an Onesiphorus in our lives. That ache may run even deeper when we've felt the opposite from someone. Most especially someone that should have loved is unconditionally but didn't.

What do we do when we aren't sure we have someone like that? Or when we wish we had more than just one?

BE ONE UNTIL YOU ARE FOUND BY ONE

Recommit to being a friend. Reach out to a neighbor. Serve someone in need. Show kindness to someone that is rude. Look for the lonely. Encourage. Build bridges. Let someone know they are seen and valuable. Forgive. Get off a screen and look someone in the eyes. Get in touch with someone that matters to you---maybe you've been using the I'm too busy excuse --- reconnect. Put your spouse as a priority.

Just be one.

It's why I'm so PASSIONATE about "happy mail", sending handwritten cards and being an encouragement. We often don't realize how much our "small" effort might make an enormous difference to someone else. If the Holy Spirit puts someone on your heart, be obedient, even if it feels awkward or even "not enough". Our words may seem trivial, but we might be that Onesiphorus for someone at a crucial life point. And I've often said it and will say it again and again, when you care for and encourage others, you will find yourself encouraged in the process. Guaranteed.

And while you're showing someone they are worth fighting for, you might find that someone is fighting to get to you. Without a doubt, Christ most definitely finds you that valuable. He moved heaven and earth. He inscribed you on the old of his hand. Cling to that.




Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wake up! Suit up! Rise up! Fight!

This last week must have really left Satan giddy with excitement as he watched powerhouses fall. One after another. I can imagine he was smug and his chest puffed full of pride.

It came in the form of hard hitting, gut wrenching situations attacking some of the most faithful individuals I know. A relationship crisis. A devastating medical diagnosis.  Financial collapse. Overpowered by addiction and its path of destruction. Just a few of the "headlines" going on in the lives of some close fellow believers.

It came in the form of one of the most respected and powerful speakers/authors/ ministry leaders in women's ministry announcing her marriage was ending in divorce. The pain of her words in her announcement was clearly evident. A choice not taken lightly or without trying everything possible to avoid. A choice that become no longer a choice.

And then in the last 24 hours, the announcement that my most treasured ministry geared toward the Christian mother dissolved over financial issues . It's a devastating loss to many. Not only those of us that benefited greatly from its conferences, blog encouragement and interactions with speakers, but also devastating for the employees and volunteers. Personally speaking, this ministry rescued me at a crucial time in my life. Without a doubt, I credit it for being the catalyst of restoration and healing many times. My heart aches today. It aches for my own loss, but most importantly for that mom needing a lifeline and not getting it like I did. My heart hurts for the founder that has come to mean so much in my life. Though she changed her role and focus in the last year, it was still the vision of her heart. Over the years and multiple book launches with her, I've come to really know her beautiful heart and passion for mothers and marriage. I've sat on her porch and eaten at her table, feeling first hand her belief in loving others through hardship and pointing them to Christ and His grace and fullness.  

Each of these individuals or ministries didn't just claim to be founded on faith, they lived it out. They didn't just talk the talk, they walked the walk. They lived the gospel. They embraced the broken. They pointed to Christ, always. None were perfect, because that isn't possible, but their hearts and actions reflected Christ.

What now?

What does this all mean?

Should I feel defeated?

Should I throw in the towel on trying to live a "good" life since it's obvious that some stronger, better versed, and with a greater support system are falling or hurting?

After some introspection, prayer and multiple conversations, my heart has an answer.

(WAKE UP!)

Realize NO ONE is immune to hardships, failure, or extreme difficulties. It can happen to you. The moment you think it can't is the moment you're truly fooling yourself. Even the holiest, most faithful, and strongest face battles. Perhaps, they face even more. Satan doesn't attack the weak. He has no need to fear them. He also attacks at the point of greatest negative impact. If he can weaken our marriages and our families, he can do unlimited damage. Marriage and family is our core, our backbone.

(SUIT UP!)

Putting on the armor of God isn't just a Biblical suggestion. It's a necessity. Every day that we fail to purposely be connected to Him is a day that we are walking unprotected. (Key: we must be purposeful or we'll find ourselvest too busy or distracted). If we aren't in His Word for ourselves, in communication through prayer, spending time in worship, surrounding ourselves with other believers in community, or protecting ourselves from temptation and evil... we are walking through fire without even as much as a breath of oxygen. Would a fireman enter a burning building without his gear? Do we stick our hands in a hot oven without some type of hot pad to wrap around the pan? Would you jump out of a plane without a parachute? (Ok,  I still wouldn't jump with one. Just sayin'!) In other words, it's not logical and even downright stupid to enter a battle without armor or weapon. We still run the chance of not coming out unscathed, but our chances of survival greatly increase. That armor also helps us make better choices and avoid danger in many cases because of the Holy Spirit. Fully suited in our armor, we find that the ploys of the world don't chain us down as much. We can't shack up with the devil and expect God to pay the rent!

(RISE UP!)

We have to choose to live victoriously and full of hope. Love and support others through their defeats. Help bind their wounds. Don't add daggers to their already battle scarred hearts.  Build community. Decide that we've been given a wake up call and that call isn't to lie down and give up. Yes, it seems others have been defeated or wounded at least. We can lie down and say, "Go ahead, stab me. Take me down, too." Or we can remember who lives in us  AND....

(FIGHT!)

NO Satan. NOT TODAY! You can't have my marriage, my child, my finances, my peace or my hope. You can't have my joy. You can't have me. I belong to the chain breaker, way maker... and He bought and paid for my victory. So, I fight. I go against what the world says is normal. I tell my flesh and pride no. I invest in my marriage. I put priorities different. I remember that in my weaknesses, He is the strongest. I guard my heart and mind. I fix my eyes on Him. And fight on.

Carry on, Warrior, carry on.

You may lose a battle (and it may look like warriors are falling EVERYWHERE), but we win the war.

Wake up. Suit up. Rise up. Fight.




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rerouting...

Five little words.
None over four letters.
19 letters in all.
Such little words with a BIG impact.

Several days ago, my husband and I (along with our oldest and her best friend, though they had a different seating area) had the wonderful joy of attending a Casting Crowns concert (also featuring Unspoken and Danny Gokey).  CC has been one of our favorite groups for many years and this was I *think* our 4th to attend as a couple.  The night, start to finish, was phenomenal.  Not only was the music, worship and performances TOP NOTCH, but each artist took the opportunity to speak from their hearts, to bring the Word or encourage, challenge, and even convict.

It was during one of those moments of sharing that I heard those five little words.

STEP BACK INTO HIS PLAN

Those words have taken deep root in my heart and God has been completely at work with His whisperings of what those words mean to me.

It's like when you're driving around and relying on GPS to get you where you need to go.  Perhaps you miss a turn completely.  Perhaps you couldn't change lanes quickly enough.  Maybe you come upon construction and detours.  Maybe it's the annoying situation of driving in a city and coming upon a one way going the opposite direction of what you need or it's one of those situations where the direction changes according to traffic needs.  Or maybe you see somewhere else you want to go first or your kids (or husband!) needs a pit stop.  It always results in that little voice and words on the screen showing...REROUTING. A new calculation is made and with some little tweaks and changes, you're put back on the correct path to your destination.

Do you need a reroute today?

In what areas do you need to step back into His plan?

Are you walking a path you know is leading you AWAY from instead of TO Him?  Maybe you're walking in sin and you know it. No denying it.

Maybe you've just made some little wrong decisions here and a little there.  You didn't mean to get off course, but those little gray areas caused you to deviate more and more until you no longer know where you are.

What about some of those other areas of being out of His plan?

Did you give up on a dream or calling He gave you because it was too hard, others doubted you, or you doubted yourself? Did you give up on those dreams because they may have needed a temporary wait that you turned into never fulfilling. As a mom still in the middle of raising children, I know I have dreams that may be on temporary hold in this season, but in my heart, I may have completely stifled them in the waiting season. Even in the wait, there are ways to still be moving forward and keeping those dreams alive. They don't have to die when God gives us a temporary wait.

Are you walking in bitterness, have an unforgiving spirit? Those aren't in His plan.  Those are like weeds out of control.  They can wrap around anything and everything good in your life and suffocate them if you don't cut them down and fully remove them.  Stepping into His plan means letting it go. Then you can truly be walking in His plan for your life.  Bitterness and unforgiveness are chains.  So are jealousy, anger, comparison, and lack of gratitude.  They all just keep you locked in place and not in a place of growth and productivity.

Maybe, oh this is a tough one, maybe you've got on the track of go, go, go.  We tend to glorify busy in this day and age. Are you going so fast and have so many things on your plate that you just can't find the time to SIT at His feet and just soak Him in.  We can even be out of His plan in over-serving and over-doing. Ouch. We can be completely investing in good things, but even good things can be too much if we are losing sight of the one we serve.  Are we serving for accolades? Are we serving out of duty or thinking we can cover an empty place in our heart? Are we serving as a result of saying yes when we knew in our heart we should have said no? Has serving become our idol?  Is our level of busyness our gauge of our spirituality?  That's a dangerous place to find ourselves in.  Sometimes stepping back into His plan means letting some things go. Sometimes we can find ourselves so busy (either doing good things or doing things that have the wrong motivations) and we can't even hear Him whispering to our hearts because we have no margin to listen. Or we find we've been neglecting the nearest and dearest in our lives because we didn't have time to give them our full attention.  Ouch. Double ouch.

Maybe God has been asking you to do something and you have been walking down a different path, one of avoidance or denial. If He is asking something of you, you can run as far as you want, but it will never be far enough.  His calling will remain. That avoidance and disobedience will lead to such discontentment in your life.  Until we surrender, FULLY, we never know just how amazing it is to be in His plan.

I don't know about you, but my heart needs some rerouting. I need to be taking some steps BACK into His plan.

You know what, it's ok to not know what that plan is.  It's ok to not know where a particular request is taking you. Perhaps your path is very painful right now or uncertain.  Maybe He's asking you to walk with Him in faith down a path that you can't see an illuminated destination.  Maybe you don't know the coordinates to enter in for GPS to lead the way.

We trust anyway.

We keep walking.

We let His Spirit convict and redirect when we stumble.  His mercy and grace welcomes us back even when we've taken the most defiant steps of running the opposite direction of Him.  We've found ourselves traveling in unfamiliar areas and GPS lost its signal.  We never have to worry about that with God in our lives.  If we ask, He answers.  If we are lost, He finds us.  If we are broken, He fixes us.  He's our chainbreaker and gap filler.  Only a whisper away. In His great love, He gives us the opportunity to step back in.  Forgiving and merciful.

Today, ask yourself "Am I in His plan?"  If you know that answer is no or you've taken a few wrong steps or lost sight of what the path He has for you is, just reach out to Him.  Simply surrender.

One foot in front of the other.
Step back into His plan.
It may be a giant step or it may be a series of small steps.  Just step.

He'll be waiting!








Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Work in Progress

I can't adequately express the feeling of getting up every morning and seeing little changes happening around our home.  More evenings than not, a reno project is tackled.  Some nights it may be as minimal as changing out some outlet covers or rewiring a switch.  Other nights it may be replacing a door or rebuilding some frames (seems like nothing in this house has been plumb or square!). Some projects have been much larger such as a complete bathroom overhaul.  MANY, MANY nights have been spent painting walls or dark trim white. I'm loving seeing every single surface being touched by our hands and made our own.  It's what we wanted (even with the headaches, stress, and overwhelming days). We wanted to make something old new again, even on a limited budget. Even our oldest son came home from a weekend trip away and walked around looking for what was different. He says it's like a game of hide and seek every time he comes home from being gone for more than 24 hours.

This morning the change was walking into our schoolroom and it finally being painted.  Everything hasn't been put back in place since we still have touch up to do and baseboards to replace. However, just seeing the walls done was a source of joy, even with everything now disorganized again. It was also the smile that came from walking past the first replacement door completely finished.  Seeing the final result of ONE gave me excitement and encouragement to hang in through the chaos and the days of everything being mismatched as we do one by one.

As I was looking around this morning and just seeing how far we've come, what's left, and everything in between, there was a whisper to my heart.

"I'm at work in you, too."

My heart is like our home renovation.

When we began looking at houses, we saw many that we thought were beyond repair.  We saw some that were too perfect or lacking in character.  When we walked into the one we bought, we didn't buy it for what it looked like at the moment.  We bought it for its potential, knowing it had solid structure and no major hidden issues that were of safety concern.

When Christ looks at my heart, He doesn't turn away because I'm too much work.  He doesn't see me beyond repair.

I'm a broken mess.

He sees my beauty despite the flaws.  He sees my potential.  He knows I have the right make up to create something worthwhile in.

But, do I see it?

Recently I saw a facebook drawing of a body completely covered in words.  Though I don't remember the exact caption, it was basically asking a question.  What if every word we said was written on our skin? In that particular case, it was referring to how we speak to each other and the division our nation has been facing.  In other words, watch your words.  Watch how you speak to each other or about each other.  Though I thought that was VERY powerful, I though of it from a different perspective.

What if every single thing I said about myself on the inside was written on the outside? Would my skin be covered in beautiful encouraging words or negativity?

Ouch.

Would I want to walk around with those negative words and feelings I hear myself speaking in my head? We can be our own worst critics.  Things we would never say out loud, we can park our thoughts on and absorb. We can say them so often we believe them to be the truth. They are lies. The lies have to be replaced with the REAL TRUTH He speaks over us.

I'm not good enough.
He says: You are more than enough.

I'm fat, ugly, old, or this or that is too big, too small, too wide, too skinny, too floppy, too bumpy....
He says: You're beautiful.  You're made in MY image.

I'm incomplete, unseen, unworthy, alone, etc...
He says:  In me you are complete, I see you ALWAYS.  You are worth every sacrifice I made for you, even to the cross. I'm ALWAYS with you.

I'm weak, incapable, not worth the effort.
He says:  Operate in my strength, let me teach you and mold you.  Let me equip you.

I've messed up too much.
He simply and powerful says:  You're forgiven.

And so many more.

IF we are willing to submit our lives to Him, He can change us from the inside out.

It's an ongoing process.

Just like in our home reno, we are finding some things take MUCH more time than we thought. As we begin to pull back one layer or remove one part, we find there is something else lurking underneath. We can't just leave it, it must be fixed underneath or the outside fix won't last long. The same in our hearts, we HAVE to let Him go deep.  Just a little patch on the outside of our hearts may be a temporary fix, but if we don't get to the root, we will still rot.

House renovating just like heart renovating isn't quick, easy, or without mess. It's downright chaos and filthy.  You can get one thing accomplished and cleaned up, but as soon as you start something else that mess just spreads.

We can feel like God is at work in us so much that we can't get one change in our hearts rooted, established, and "cleaned up" before another one is overtaking and leaving us all over the place again. Our hearts are complex and messy.  I dare say that none of us have just one single area needing work.

THAT feeling drives me crazy.  I can easily get discouraged knowing that I have so many things to work on at once.

So what do we do when we have a long list of things for God to change in our hearts or tasks at hand?

I have to apply the same things to my life that I'm applying in home reno land.

Prioritize-
We can't do everything at once, either financially or with our time. We have to decide what makes the biggest impact, be logical, and be willing to wait on some things. We aren't giving up on the other projects, we just realize that they aren't immediate.  They make take extra planning or extra prep work.  Some may take multiple steps.  No different with our hearts.

Expect mess. Be willing to get dirty. Be willing to fail and try again.
Enough said.


Keep a goal in mind and remember why you started in the first place-
In the middle of the chaos, when you're stepping over paint cans and supplies, when your clean floor or your fresh laundry or dusted furniture is now covered AGAIN, or when something you just got unboxed and organized has to be moved AGAIN....you HAVE to remember why you are doing what you are doing and keep looking towards the finished project you have in mind or YOU WILL LOSE YOUR MIND.  When you're making heart changes or working towards a physical goal (like fitness or weight loss), you have to keep looking towards the results you are wanting or you will easily give up on the hard days. Know your WHY and WHERE you are going or it's easy to get lost.

Focus on the positive changes-
Today I can look at the finished door and be proud of what's done.  I can look at the schoolroom's walls and be excited.  OR I can look at the undone and things left to do.  Which do you think brings the most peace? Focusing with gratitude and accomplishment or getting bogged down about what still isn't right or in process.  When we are allowing God to shape us, we can look at what He's already done in us and let that encourage us to keep on the path.  Or we can choose to focus on the negativity and drown.  Our choice.

Embrace the flaws-
It's ok to have imperfections.  We will never be perfect.  God doesn't expect perfection.  He knows our hearts and motivations.  Let me add, some things we see as flaws aren't actually flaws.  They are things that make us unique. We aren't meant to be identical to someone else. We bought this house despite it being a very unique shade of green.  To some it's a "flaw" that needs to be changed.  To others they love it because it has character and uniqueness.  We all have some things that might annoy us or make us self-conscious, but they really are a part of us and a part that makes us who we are. For example, I'm extremely introverted.  For so long, I saw that as a flaw.  In reality, that same personality trait makes me more intuitive to the needs of others and gives me a deep level of empathy. Some things aren't flaws at all and just need to be embraced.

Work as a team-
No project in our home has been done alone.  It's taken each and every one of us.  Some of us have more vision, some of us have more skill, some of us have knowledge and some of us have hands on experience.  We all have our talents and gifts.  It takes all of it. When we don't have the skill, tool, or know how:  we ask, we borrow, we research, etc...  In our heart reno, we have to ask for help when needed.  First of all we ask God for help. We ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We also ask for help from others that can rally around us and help us. A friend who has walked our path, prayer warriors, encouragers, etc...

Above all, we don't quit when we don't see the progress we want or when the task is taking MUCH longer than we thought.  When it gets more complicated we don't run away.  We dig in. We try harder. We try a new approach.  We step away and regroup, take a break if necessary.

Renovation is time consuming.  As I'm learning first hand, it's a constant work in progress.  One task leading to another...

But...

When you see a finished project you KNOW it was worth the blood, sweat, and even tears.  (Yes, there's been all of that involved at some point or another).

When you reach a goal, you know it was worth it.

When you see your heart being shaped to be more like His, you know it was worth the uncomfortable refining and pruning.

So beyond worth it.












Thursday, February 23, 2017

Getting Back Up

As we were doing school this morning, I looked across the room and saw my 10 year old's knees. This week's spring teaser has given us the daily joy of getting outside. If you have children, especially BOYS (or active girls!) you know that outside play comes with scraped knees, bruises, and constant need of TLC.


Have you ever noticed that kids just seem to go for it.  They give it their all.  They play hard. They have gusto about life.  They are daring and willing to try things.  When they fall, they typically get back up and try again.  

This week we got outside A LOT and that meant lots of bike and scooter rides.  Along with that came new lovely shades of blue and purple on his knees and scrapes on his hands. Inevitable. Both knees also sport scars from previous accidents. 

What if?

What if we attacked life with the same attitude?

What if I we were more like a child and lived life with gusto, willing to try new things, and be risky?

I know that with being an adult comes wisdom, knowledge, and responsibility.  We can't quite be dare devils and may be beyond climbing trees, riding downhill with no hands, or jumping curbs on a scooter. 

But what if...

What if we applied that same attitude to things that might feel risky in other ways?

What if we stepped out of our comfort zones and risked our hearts being bruised? 

Have you ever really watched a toddler learning to walk or climb, a young child learning to ride a bike or a skateboard? They fall often.  They end up having to get up time and time again.  But, that's what they do.  They get back up.  Try. Try and try again.

Have we fallen down so many times that we've stopped getting back up and trying?

Have we decided being risky is just TOO risky for our emotions?

What about just trying new things or recommitting to things we put on the backburner because we failed too many times before?

Maybe we've given up on restoration in a relationship.  Maybe we've given up on making better choices for our health. Maybe there's a skill we really want to be able to do, but we've given up after a few tries.

Maybe there's someone in our lives that might feel a bit risky to invest our time and hearts in because they've hurt us.  Or because they do life differently than we do. 

What if we lived willing to take some occasional bruises?

Today I'm asking myself what do I need to try again or try for the first time because I wasn't willing to risk enough?  What have I fallen down doing too many times before but might succeed at if I give it one more try?

Where might you end up if you took off downhill riding with your hands off the handlebars? 

Might you crash.  Yes, Yes and yes.

But what if...

What if you reach the bottom and find it was so freeing?

Who might we bless, encourage, and inspire?  What might we change in our own life?  

I'm a chicken little.  I definitely like my feet firmly on the ground, low speed, and in control.  Total understatement. 

But what if...

What if I tried something new? 

More importantly, what if risked going deeper, walking in more faith, or being obedient to something God has asked but I've been too afraid of? 

Our hearts might get bruised, we might fall before we stand up tall, but...

Look who is there to catch us.  Walk with us.  Strengthen us. 

Just like my son comes back home knowing we'll take care of whatever bumps and bruises he's acquired. Whatever battle wounds need attention, he knows we're there.

No matter who has failed us.  No matter how many times we've messed up. No matter how deep our battle wounds.

Our Father awaits us.  

Maybe we should start living a bit more risky and living life like a confident child that gets back up even though they've crashed over and over. 

I know I do.

Just by looking at my child's knees.