Friday, December 14, 2018

Ellie Claire 365-Day Devotional Journal Review

Even though this is an incredibly busy time of year, often with calendars so overflowing with little breathing room, there is something soul restoring about sitting down with a journal or devotional.  Grabbing just a few minutes to pause, reflect, read or write can bring much needed renewal.

I love to read.  I love to write and journal.  Ellie Claire (gift and paper expressions) sent me some new products to review that combine my love of both.

They have a new line of 365-Day Devotional Journals available now for purchase on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Just as with the previous art journals I reviewed, they are incredible!  I was so pleased with those, but I'm honestly even more so in love with these.  Not only are they aesthetically beautiful, the content is perfectly balanced.  It includes a short devotional, Scripture, and a few lines to journal your thoughts, prayers or praises or even answer a thought-provoking question.

With the new year rapidly approaching, it's a GREAT time to start a new purposeful daily task that helps strengthen your faith.  These new daily journals will be perfect for that! Whether you order one for yourself or give as a gift, you won't be disappointed.

I love that the covers are durable and the colors and designs are beautiful to look at.  They all have ribbon place markers and some have elastic band closures as well. Where they truly show off is the inside pages.  The pages are thick and crisp.  My favorite feature is that the pages carry on the cover design in full color.

For review, I received:

Peace Begins With Me

The Earth Is the Lord's and Everything In It

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

I'm so in love with that last one, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, that it is already in my personal stack waiting to begin January 1st.  It's something I'm going to treasure!

Thanks, Ellie Claire!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ellie Claire Art Journals: Review

It's been quite a long time since I've done a product review here on the blog, but when presented with this opportunity I couldn't say no. Ellie Claire / Worthy Publishing sent me three of their new art journals to review. As soon as I realized that one of the items they were offering was already in my Amazon wishlist, it was a DEFINITE yes!!

As my season of life has been changing as my roles have changed as my kids are getting older, I've been finding ways to rediscover some of the things that brought me joy that for many years were set aside as I was deep in the trenches of mothering little ones. I will absolutely never regret those years of giving them all of me, but there is something amazing about having this opportunity to find moments to refuel my soul. Scrapbooking was MY THING for years, but that has transitioned more and more towards faith journaling in recent years. Combining creativity with my deep love of Scripture is perfection in my book! But, honestly, I need a little help, inspiration and some "how to".

I recently started taking an online Bible journaling art class and Krystal Whitten happened to be a guest teacher one week. I fell in love with her style and her Faith & Lettering journal immediately went on my wishlist.  So to be offered the opportunity to receive it for review, along with two others, was a true blessing to this heart (and tight budget!).

First off, speaking of all three art journals, they are amazing quality. The covers themselves are works of art that are beautiful enough to be displayed.

They are all thick heavy covers with fabric binding. Some even have grommets, pen loops, elastic bands or ribbon markers. They all have foils and amazingly detailed debossing. Seriously stunning. I was in awe before I ever opened a page.

Speaking of pages, they are thick and just perfect for whatever medium you wish to play around with!  That's so important!

The Illustrated Word: An Illuminated Bible Coloring Journal 

This one is exactly what it says. It has many pages for journaling and pages ready to be colored. Your typical adult coloring book with the addition of lined journaling pages. Very old world style. Though this one isn't quite "my style", it is absolutely a perfect gift. HIGH quality. Not just a cheap journal or coloring book.

Illuminate Your Story Journal 

This one is a great learning tool for taking basic drawn letters and bringing them artistically to life with detail. Step by step instructions. Practice and journaling pages. Fantastic gift for those artsy types on your Christmas lists. Starts with a brief history lesson and ends with a keepsake pocket in the back. Not overly faith driven.

Faith & Lettering Journal

I saved my favorite for last! I've got many of these type books on my shelf, but this one is now my top favorite. The quality makes it stand out. The content is a perfect balance of beautiful full color pages with journaling space on the opposite page, step by step basic skills, and putting words together artistically.  The cover itself just makes me smile because it's PHENOMENAL. Don't laugh, but I've found myself just touching the cover over and over. The colors, the words, the handlettering.... just beautiful. This one is a treasure for sure!

Ellie Claire, these art journals are some of the highest quality I've seen. Whether given as gifts or kept for my own enjoyment, they are top notch!

All available for purchase on Amazon.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Piercing Through

God never fails to show up and will always show His presence IF our eyes are open to look for Him.  If we are seeking, He WILL be found.

Our lives are FULL of transitions EVERY where we turn lately.  Yes, we've gone through the process of seeing our oldest move out on her own and start her own life and that is an obvious transition that is hard on the heart. Easier than we thought in ways and much harder in others. But behind the scenes there have been many others, some small and some life-altering. Some that are REALLY great and some that have left us a bit off-balance.  

There's no doubt that I am a huge fan of the fall season.  I love when the air is cool, but not freezing (those days are soon to come and I'm not a fan to say the least.) I love the smells and the coziness of the season.  I love how there's something about this season that draws us into being connected with one another, holidays celebrating gratitude and just the shift of the season.  Hello, introvert much??  Most of all, I love the leaves and the colors.  The symbolism is HUGE to me and the vibrancy of the colors are just something that makes me come alive.  Perhaps, irrationally so. :)  I know that the fall ushers in a VERY difficult season of winter, but I do my best to cling to the few weeks of absolute beauty and soul reaching moments of true fall. 

I've talked often on social media and some here on the blog that this has been a BEAUTIFUL year in our lives, but it's also been so very difficult.  We've found our hearts banged up and gone through struggle after struggle to keep our faith intact.  It's been an excruciatingly hard year physically for me and I know that's played heavily on my emotions.  Our faith, especially together as a couple, has been through the ringer. BUT we've FOUGHT and FOUGHT to keep it intact.  To not let the weight of the world break us.  We didn't always succeed.  We've had some really deep scars this last year.  


His light always penetrates.  Even in the seasons that you REALLY have to look for it.  Our emotions may say He isn't near or He's out of our reach.  Oh, how we get that!  Yet, we KNOW without a doubt that He is HERE and NEAR.  

The last month we've really been purposeful in seeking Him.  We've been stepping out of our broken places and weak places and asking for renewal and for our dry bones to come alive. 

And there are no words to describe all the ways He is doing that in our lives right now.  Not every chain is broken, not every cloud has lifted, but we ARE ALIVE.  His light is penetrating deeper and deeper.  Layer upon layer is lifting.  His pruning has been painful in our lives, but we can begin to see the direction He was going with that process.  He's provided so many miracles and started so many changes in our lives in GOOD ways in the last weeks and days.  I can't even begin to make justice of it with words. 

Just this morning I was sharing with someone very dear to my heart how today was a fresh new start regarding an issue we'd been dealing with that was HEAVY.  We'd been walking through a situation the last three months that had really broken me, but God had carried us through it.  The stress was real and heavy in the moment, but today the situation itself was resolved and over. Today I woke up with the weight of it off my shoulders. The wounds might still be there and still need some working through, but the issue itself was complete. Think of it this way, though this had nothing to do with a financial issue, it felt the same way as when we made stupid financial decisions in the past and the relief that came when that bill was finally paid off or we were able to make a needed purchase that had stressed us for the previous months.  You know how that lifted weight feels?  Today was such a day, though a very different issue.  Almost like a debt was paid in full. 

Just as I was sharing with this precious lady in my life how I felt today, I looked outside and I saw His light. I had just hit send on a message to her telling her that I felt thankful for this hard season that was ending.  I absolutely did not EVER want to go through it again.  It highlighted some of my failures and shortcomings, it was difficult, etc.. BUT now at the end of it,  the lessons learned, His grace revealed and seeing His hand in the process made me thankful for His goodness.  Even through dark seasons, His light has power.  It has power to change our hearts. It has power to redeem.  And darkness just has to be pushed back when He shows up.  

I saw these two trees out our front window. The one on the left is GORGEOUS.  The colors don't even begin to show up just in the picture I quickly snapped. Not at all.  (Let's just say, mismatched pajamas, slippers, hair every direction and contractors next door working and trying to sneak the picture doesn't make for taking the time to get it just right!) Just the size of the true is GINORMOUS ( yep, that may not be an actual word!). The tree on the right is our well loved tulip magnolia that shows off in the spring.  It hasn't quite given into the transition of the season and is still mostly green. But it was the light intersecting them both that took my breath away.  It was just the right angle.  The brilliancy was like nothing I'd seen before.  (Plus, when the skies are so often gray and dreary, the sun is always a welcomed sight!). 

His light intersecting the seasons.  Bridging from one to the other.  Showing Himself clearly.

Our dark season has been long.  It's been painful and uncertain. We've held on too tightly to some things and had to eventually let them go.  Some things we had to let go of though not by choice.  We've ached through transitions.  

But His light has remained.  

Both of the trees are beautiful. They are just in different stages of the season. They've reached their peaks at different times.  They've weathered the same storms and been through the same conditions. But His light has connected. 

We're just like these trees as the seasons change. Learning when to let go, when to hold on.  But truly connected as His light bonds us and hold us. Changing inside and out. Releasing. Vibrant. 

I was overwhelmed with emotion to see that little sign that He is right here. I'm so thankful I was looking.  I'm so beyond grateful He's been breaking down our walls and lifting our heads, turning our eyes and ears to Him.  Because those days you feel His presence run all over you, are the days that you know He's never going to leave you.  No matter how dark.  No matter how difficult. 

We've been pleading with Him to pierce through the dark.  And that is exactly what He is doing.  

The lyrics of Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship has been running through our veins and changing our lives, especially after being able to see them live last weekend together as a couple.  A life changing moment that lifted such weights from our hearts. Piercing through the dark and restoring us to Him. 

"I need you to soften my heart and break me apart. I need you to open my eyes, to see that You're shaping my life. All I am, I surrender. Give me faith to trust what you say. That you're good and your love is great. I'm broken inside, I give you my life. I need you to pierce through the dark and cleanse every part of me. 'Cause I may be weak, but Your Spirit is strong in me.  My flesh my fail, my God you never will."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fighting Battles: Stepping In or Stepping Back

Christ has been the Lord of my life now for over three decades. Looking back over my faith journey there have been countless seasons of learning and growing, stalling out and searching, dry seasons and on fire seasons.  But looking back it's been in the season of parenting, most especially in parenting older kids as they've matured and gained independence, that has taught me the most and allowed Him to reveal His character to me most vividly.  It's like this season of life is a "connecting of the dots".  And as anyone that's been a parent for more than five minutes knows, parenting will drive you to your knees more than any other thing in this world! Well, if you are wanting to raise warriors for Christ that is.

We've been deep in a parenting situation now for many many months, more than likely well over a year. In this situation we've watched one of our children really struggle.  In our parenting, we don't like to jump in and rescue.  That was a different story when they were very young, but not so much as they have gotten older.  We guide, most definitely, but we don't rescue.  It's our focus that sometimes the greatest lessons come IN THE struggle.  If we are constantly jumping in, paving the way for zero conflict or making their paths smooth and easy, we set them up for adult failure. Absolutely there are times that this doesn't apply and a rescue IS the right choice.  But in this scenario, it hasn't been.  We want our kids to be prepared for REAL LIFE.  Really, that is one of the top reasons we've stuck with homeschooling for 17 years now. 

In this situation, one of our kids has been struggling with not liking how something has been handled, directed and managed.  Over and over throughout the months, we've listened and encouraged, but we've not jumped in and run off to complain or demand changes.  We've greatly pushed that you stay committed, you respect authority and or leadership, and you work on your own heart in the process.  If we fail to teach these values, we raise a generation of "wimps" that can't handle real world pressure.  Some day they may have a boss that isn't all warm and fuzzy, the may not want to go to work because they "don't feel like it".  They may not have the skills needed to press through hard seasons.  They may not ever learn to work or live side by side with someone that doesn't believe as they do.  They may not ever know how to submit to authority or voice disapproval appropriately.  They won't know how to work through difficulties in marriage when their own struggles come.  All in all, if we rescue ALL the time, we cripple their futures. Look around and you'll see what damage that type of parenting has caused in this generation.

On the other hand, there DOES come a time that you DO step in.  You do go to bat.  You do take action.  You realize that a line has been crossed and your child needs you in their corner. Or maybe what was a small issue in the beginning grew out of control. Maybe handling it is beyond their capabilities or beyond what needs to be their responsibility. It's a balancing act of knowing when to step in and when to step back.  Sometimes you pray them through a situation and sometimes you have to take action.

Maybe it means you have to have the hard conversations with them or for them. Maybe you have to put your own reputation on the line. Maybe you have to be more demanding than you are typically comfortable with.  Maybe you have to take a stand and allow no compromise.  Maybe some of that Mama Bear (or Papa Bear) protective mode has to come out.  Maybe you typically avoid conflict at all levels, but you can no longer stay quiet because it matters. Or perhaps you see the damage it's causing and you can't just sit back and let it. 

Maybe you do it on behalf of your child and they never know.  Maybe you do it with your child by your side.  Different scenarios, different approaches.  

As we've found ourselves in such a scenario in recent weeks that has caused us to have to step out of the shadows and move from stepping back to stepping in, it's been HARD.  It's created a great level of stress.  We've seen it affect both our faith and our child's.  Sometimes THAT is the defining moment that moves you to action. Spiritual implications cause us to have to fight and fight hard. 

This morning I was reflecting on so much that has been going on recently.  Both the situation that we are fighting for our child in and situations in my own life.  I feel the heaviness.  I feel the faith moments as heavy, both those that require me to be still and those that require me to take action. Deciding between the two.  Parenting as I've already said, drives you to your knees.  When do you step in, step back, fight from the sidelines, or go full armor battles guns blazing? 

As parents, we've been in all those positions.  We were doing what we felt best in each individual situation.  Right or wrong, we did what we felt was best. Out of love.  Sometimes "sweet" and nurturing love.  Others as tough love. 

This morning as I was reflecting on different issues I'm in the midst of, I admit that I have been angry at God for not stepping in.  Why hasn't He rescued? Why hasn't He stepped in?  Why the hard things?  Why not provide stable paths clearly marked instead of the rocky? Why do wounds keep being ripped wide open?  Why? Why? 

Be Still. 

That's what He keeps whispering to my soul, either in His Word or in countless other ways EVERYWHERE I turn. Be still and let me fight for you.  

Being still and waiting IS HARD.  I've been so grateful for the confirmation that He's in control, but there's been a part of me that has NOT been liking that so much.  I mean, I want justice in some of my situations.  I want wrongs righted. I want what I've been needing provided.  I want the hard things solved.  I want...I want....I want.... I want anything except to wait and be still.  Surely I'm not the only one that feels this way at times, right? 

Why God are you making me wait? 

That's when the dots were connected this morning.  

He's my Heavenly Father.  There are times He, just like us as parents, chooses to not step in.  He has the power to.  But, yet, there's a reason He's waiting.  Ok---yes, sometimes hard things happen because we live in a fallen world AND the Bible tells us that we WILL all suffer.  Not  a " just maybe" we will.  But sometimes, He is waiting because He needs me to TRUST Him.  Or He needs me to LEARN something invaluable that will help me down the road. Or maybe, just maybe, He is going to bat for me and I'm just not aware of it. Just like at times we may go to bat behind the scenes for our kids and they not know it. Maybe in His infinite wisdom He sees the entire picture that I only have the smallest glimpse of.  Maybe He's God and I'm not. He is good and He is God and that means He is good at being God.  I'm not. 

Today that whisper to my heart grew again, "Be Still".  Just "Be Still".  Today He may make me wait longer.  Or today He may move to action .  Maybe in my own situations, just like the one we are in with our child, a line may be crossed and I MAY see His actions clearly as He takes visible action.  Or maybe He is working behind the scenes.  Regardless, I need to rest and be assured that it's for my good.  We parent for the good of our children.  They may not always like it, but we do so out of love.  

The dots were connected.  

Be Still.  

Whether He's stepping in or stepping back until the time is right, Be Still.  

Monday, September 24, 2018

But I'm Here

If you know me, you know that I am passionate about words.  I read far more than the average person and I'm a WORD freak. I literally surround myself with words.  My walls are covered in them, I'm seldom without a bracelet or necklace with something my heart needs to hear, I'm a "writer"in all I do, and I permanently have a book attached.  I may not SPEAK often, even to a fault some think.  I'm a deep feeler and introvert to the extreme, especially the older I get. It doesn't mean I'm a snob or don't crave connection, I just process it and express it differently. 

OFTEN that means I turn to writing.  Whether in old school letter form (SELDOM EVER short), social media posts, or this little spot in blog world. It's how I process, think, and connect.  I don't write for an audience.  I'm just me, writing for me.  My quirks and all. I share life and experiences through words.  When life is hard or beautiful, words are my outlet. My gift and a curse some say.  That's ok.  It's who I am.  And I'm just writing because He's put it on my heart to do so and because there might be just that ONE needing a heart whisper of hope. And for me, until I write what's in my heart, I get crippled from accomplishing anything else on my list for the day.  The pull to sit down and write just distracts and begs attention until it's done. 

Yesterday, we celebrated our 23 anniversary.  It was a VERY special day for us, especially in regards to the fact it had GREAT meaning to our hearts and we were able to do some things we don't normally have a chance to do. We were able to dress up and go to brunch at a restaurant that isn't in our typical price range thanks to a gift certificate I'd literally been holding on to for the "perfect" Sunday morning for over 2 years.  The weather was amazing and I didn't feel held back by lupus and it's been a HARD year in that category, so we were able to spend LOTS of time walking through parks and downtown. It gave us a change to really talk and relax, let so much weight go. We then were able to end our special day at a Danny Gokey concert that was more than "just" entertainment.  It was worship.  We encountered hope.  Well, maybe that's why they call this tour "The Hope Encounter".  

At some point in the day, I felt a shift in my heart. You see, just like ALL of us, I carry wounds. Wounds that shaped me and that were hard to heal from. An ongoing process. Words said by others that HAUNTED and I allowed to define me.  People that left my life by choice that should have loved me the most.  People that left my life far too soon either by death or circumstances out of our control. People that should be in my life today, but are too busy caught up in theirs to see what they are missing. We all have those, right? Just these last few weeks EVERY single day someone in our lives has lost a loved one.  A child far too soon, grandparents, several fathers, multiple miscarriages, and a husband.  Heartache has been all around. Behind the scenes we've had some really significant stressful situations taking place within our on hearts/faith/marriage, the calendar rolling around of the reminder of our miscarriage and how that still hurts and this year perhaps more than ever and we walked it alone, our children going through some hard things in their lives and faith, the transition of  our oldest moving on her own, medical and relational issues of many near and dear. Hard and busy seasons at work.  You know, REAL LIFE.  Not the dressed up version that we all try to show the world.  The real stuff. But that shift, started small and began to grow.  A shift that brought new strength and hope. 

Through out the day, just that getting to REALLY talk and share life together with my husband, without interruption and in real honesty, my heart began to open again.  It feels like I've been holding my breath for awhile. Breathing "just" enough. It's been a hard season: many transitions, LOTS of pruning and releasing. It's like I forgot how to REALLY just breathe and feel.  Granted, everyone thinks I'm a sappy mess, very free with sharing my emotions (in writing), but really, I've been holding back.:)  I've felt shackled, weighed down and easily thrown off balance. I've had many days of anxiety and depression creeping back in. And I write because I know someone else feels that way.  

I've often talked about life in my 40s and how I've grown into my own skin. I've loved that freedom and how it has given me new life.  I've been far less wrapped up in people pleasing, perfectionism, and trying to measure up to impossible standards (usually ones I placed on myself even from the youngest age).  I've learned to walk in grace and I've learned to look in the mirror more and more and see who God sees.  It's not been an easy change, but it's been a season that has allowed me to heal in countless places. 

But, there are days, just like yesterday, where if I'm not careful those old habits can sneak in and try to grab hold.  Just waiting to derail.  Just waiting to drag me back down into a pit that I've fought my way out of many, many times. Satan just wanting to take a small bit of wiggle room and cause it to erupt and spiral out of proportion. 

I was mentioning yesterday how my feelings were hurt that certain individuals had not wished us well or how when we are going through hard seasons, we don't receive the same level of help or encouragement we give to others.  This is not meant or directed to anyone specific AT ALL, I was just sharing MY heart then (and now). As a couple, we at times struggle with not feeling as if we matter as much to others as others do to us. We have spent MUCH of our marriage, fighting alone deep in the trenches. Others are celebrated freely and openly and we are often on the outskirts.  Sometimes during holidays, special events, hard seasons, those days really illuminate some of that wounding. We both get hurt to experience it, but I'm just more likely to express it. Sometimes it concerns our marriage relationship, sometimes it's our personal relationships, and sometimes it's our kids being overlooked. 

 And that's when he said it ....and HE said it. 

"But I'm here."

My husband said it.  And I felt the Holy Spirit deeply imprint those same words in the deepest places of my soul. 

My husband was reminding us of the incredible gift of having a soul mate that is willing to go to the deepest places and the highest mountains and everywhere in between. Someone that will go there with you and for you. We spent much of our day recommitting to each other that we are in it for the full journey.  Whether life is easy and we are walking with countless others beside us or if we are just walking seemingly alone. We recommitted our hearts to following Him, both separately and together.  That's what anniversaries are to us.  A time to grow forward. A time to reflect, but to go much deeper.  

But those words imprinted on my heart from the Holy Spirit as well. "But I'm here." And you know what, that's enough.  MORE than enough.  In Him we have all we need.  In Him we have exceedingly more.  Sometimes I get my eyes off of that.  I think we all do. What matters is what we do then.  We can't always control how we feel.  Our wounds and emotions are raw and real, we can't stomp them down and keep them from ever showing up. Even ones that aren't rational and are only half truths. We can feel something that isn't really true. Or our emotions can be a true reflection of our circumstances, but we have to be purposeful in reaching for the strength He provides. His comfort and His promises. The enemy can whisper to us "you don't matter" (which is a big lie and one that I was expressing yesterday) and we can let that whisper turn into a voice that screams louder than truth if we aren't careful. 

But those negative voices have to be stopped. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves we aren't going to that rabbit hole and instead carve a path towards wholeness and hope. Sometimes we have to tell Satan to return to the pit of hell where he belongs because our God has given us the victory. We can wallow or we can have victory.  

I was reminded that in places I had victory, I had begun to wallow again.  I'd been allowing other situations to cause me to worry instead of worship. I was becoming bitter instead of  better. 

Danny spoke/sang DIRECTLY to my heart last night and made that small shift quake open my heart. Songs I'd heard time and time again felt fresh and new. ("Stronger Than We Think" and "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again" have such powerful lyrics.  Look them up if you don't know them!  They will speak such healing and provide such strength if you're battle weary today.)  

The best part is I came home feeling 100 pounds lighter.  (Too bad it didn't actually affect the scale!!! THAT would have been miraculously amazing!).  Some of those shifts starting yesterday were confirmed in multiple places this morning to see that Kev and I are on the same page with some heart issues and have a refocused direction. So many God whispers and winks today. 

Hope renewed. 
A Hope Encounter.

If you're one of the very few still reading at this point and your heart is hurting, if you're going through a hard season, forgetting to breath, feel alone/unseen/overlooked/unloved, or have wounds that just keep breaking open, can I tell you this.  Can I whisper something gentle to your heart?

"But I'm here." He is there.  Always.  Even when your emotions say differently, He is. Even when others hurt you or make you feel insignificant, don't give up.  Keep moving forward with your eyes focused on Him.  Remember that.  We all need to feel that we matter.  My heart hurts for you if you are feeling anything less than.  I get it. But in those hardest moments, don't lose hope.  Don't let the enemy cause you to wallow. Look towards heaven.  Give Him the pieces.  All the pieces.  All the anger, bitterness, frustrations, and brokenness.  Let Him create beauty from ashes.  Let your heart beat again. No matter who overlooks you or the wounds you carry, He is FOR you.  He sees.  He knows. You're never alone is you think you are. Ever. 
You're shattered
Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


HE did it again.

He showed me an answer, exactly what I needed, in such a unique way that it could have only been Him.

In the last couple of days and most specifically the last 24 hours, there has been quite a focus in conversation with myself and my spouse, a neighbor/friend, and a few friends that near or live more than a few hundred miles away about being in that hard place of feeling disconnect with God. Of feeling in a dry season.  With a faith that just feels lifeless.  I honestly shared that though I wasn't feeling it to the deepest level they are currently experiencing, I am in that same struggle or I HAVE been in that depth many times before. It's a reality we all face if we choose to be honest.

I don't think there is a problem with being in that place.  No shame in it. I think if we are living and breathing on this earth and not at home in heaven, we will find ourselves at times at a loss for "feeling" the connection.  Maybe there's some out there that are so holy and spiritually that they just always feel alive and as if He is sitting so very close with no gap and no silence.  But, I think they're lying or too afraid to be vulnerable. 

We can and do FEEL that way.  We have different seasons of life that it feels harder to find Him or that we have to work at it HARDER and LONGER than we want to maintain it. We think it should feel effortless, but we find it takes extreme effort.

Here's the thing...

Experiencing it and staying there are two different things. To walk through it is one thing.  To lay down there in that desert and give up is an entirely different thing.

What do we do in the middle of it? How to we get to the other side of it?

We remember that our feelings lie.  They are indicators not dictators. We don't have to act on what we feel. 

We CLING to and CLAIM the promises of His truth.  We get in the Word.  We listen to worship music, contemporary Christian music, hymns, or even classical/instrumental.  We let the words wash over our souls.  We let the music calm our spirits or we let it revive our souls.  We turn off the TV shows we probably shouldn't be watching anyway, the ones that keep our anxiety stirred up or fill our minds with images that don't belong.  The ones that have words or attitudes we don't need to see or hear.  We get picky about the books we read and the places we go. We turn to a trusted few friends that we know have our best interest at heart. We all need community and let me be the first to say your tribe doesn't have to be large. Just this past week, I've gone through some REALLY deep hard valleys and NEEDED some of my tribe.  It only took TWO people to gather around me (and they can even live miles away) and pull me up and out of the pit I was sinking in. Two women of faith, one that is ahead of my season of life and one that is not quite where I am yet. Those praying and encouraging hearts were VITALLY priceless.

We must allow our minds to have margin to HEAR.  If we are so busy going and going, we ARE going to feel disconnect.  It's hard for Him to get our attention if we never stand still long enough to listen to Him.  Truly listen, not just hear.

"The Son of God saved my life, but the Word of God saved my mind."

Those are some very powerful words.  If we don't have the Word IN us, it can't flow FROM us.  We won't have anything to sustain us in those periods of disconnect.  Then that place we were meant to just pass through becomes a place we are stuck. And then we get paralyzed by our doubts and that is exactly the place where Satan can really come in and destroy so much.

It's like I'm constantly having to remind one of my children to brush his teeth. Seriously, why is that always a battle?! He doesn't seem to think it's as necessary as we as his parents and his dentist continuously tell him.  Why do we stay on top of it?  Because WE KNOW the results of what happens if he continuously doesn't. Surely, I don't need to create a visual of what happens if he doesn't.  But it comes down to this, his teeth will rot out or a whole host of other problems.  So we tell him it's important and expect him to follow through.  He may not can see it's something that's needed every day, preferably more than once a day, but we KNOW it is.  Getting in the Word is the same concept.  You may not THINK you need it every day, but you do.  Anyone that is lovingly reminding you of that importance KNOWS how vital it is and is only trying to help you to prevent more problems.  They know and they want you to know and experience firsthand the changes it makes and how it truly helps you hang on through the hard seasons and dry spells.  His Word isn't limited to just 30 minutes in the pulpit on Sunday morning.

I also look at it like this...

You come home late at night and for some reason the house is completely dark. Someone forgot to leave the lights on or you expected to be home before dark. You can't see anything or you might see a faint outline.


Because it's your house and you've made your way around it time and time again, you can pretty much feel your way around and manage to get to the light switch.  Because you've spent enough time there, your brain has memorized the path, even if you weren't specifically sitting down and trying to do so.  If you close your eyes right now, I bet you can, in general, describe your surroundings especially if it's a place you visit often, like home or work. In the dark, you can still get to that switch and turn the light on. Yes, you may trip a bit, your steps may not be steady, and you might even knock over a few things (especially if your a klutz like me....sorry's in your genes!).

In those dark seasons, because you've spent other times saturating yourself in His Word, YOUR lifeline, you CAN feel your way through the hard season until you are fully connected back with the light.  Back to Him. Because those words have imprinted on your heart, they will speak to your soul in the faintest of whispers, giving you the courage and hope you need until your spirit feels alive again.

But, if you haven't spent that time in His Word, your spiritual tank will be empty.  It will have nothing to draw from.  You can't cling to His promises if you don't KNOW His promises.  You can't cling to the truth He says about you to silence the lies of Satan, if you don't know what He says about you.  You can't draw water from an empty well.

When you feed yourself from His word today its power isn't limited to today.  It will be available to your heart when you need it the most.  Most especially in those times that your emotions and feelings can't be trusted.  Because they lie. They really do.  They'll tell you no one cares and that He has forsaken you.  Lie upon lie.

Back to the beginning and how He answered me today in a way only He could...

I was praying this morning for some very specific hearts struggling with either disconnect or just overwhelming situations.  I asked for Him to give me wisdom to encourage their hearts.  I'd already shared a few things with them, but I wanted to make sure there wasn't something else that I could share.  Straight from Him. Beyond the urging to not stop praying for them and to keep letting them know they weren't alone, I didn't quite have any "big" answers to share.  No real wisdom.

However, a couple of hours later, I had this overwhelming urge to pick up a Bible study that I had put down unfinished many months ago.  I'm in a rush to watch a list of videos a page long that coincide with studies I currently have because I have a subscription ending that I chose not to renew. I'm pouring every spare minute into watching those while I can.  There was NO REASON for me to search for this particular one and pull it out.  In my mind, I really needed to stick with those on MY LIST.  Instead He kept pulling my attention to the one HE had in mind.  So, I sat down with it.  Reluctantly I might add in honesty.  I had some technology issues getting the companion video to play.  But He kept urging me to watch it.  I started it and there just wasn't much being said that I felt I needed to hear.  Perhaps I wasn't listening very well or was being stubborn.  Perhaps I was too busy wanting my own way and wanting to get to my list.  I decided it was a waste of time and paused it with the intention of pulling another one up as soon as I finished with a question one of my boys had about one of his school assignments. When I cam back it was REALLY pressing on me that I thought I'd give it a few more seconds, reluctantly, and BAM..... what He wanted me to hear was smack dab in a video that I really didn't think would apply. 

The valley of dry bones, Ezekiel 37, was the context.

And then I knew.  I knew the reminder He wanted to give my own heart, but more importantly I knew that message He wanted me to share with those specific individuals that had been sharing their heart with me. And perhaps (and the whole reason for writing this novel...) maybe YOU need this reminder. I need this reminder today and I might need again and again down the road.


You shall live. He can breathe new life into you.  If He can breathe life into DRY BONES, He most definitely can breathe life into you.  If He can give life to a BONE, He most definitely can take your heart that is still beating, even though raw with emotion, and GIVE YOU LIFE. That bone was just a bone, but upon the word of the Sovereign Lord, breath entered, life was given, tendons came together and flesh covered them.  They came to life and stood on their feet! Why? Verse 6 says, "THEN you will know that I AM THE LORD".

That's it, dear ones, He brings life back to us for His glory. To reveal Himself. To bring Him honor.  Maybe as a reminder for the next time we doubt or the next time we feel lost.  We will remember. We will remember that His Spirit is within us, therefore it CAN'T be that far away and out of reach. "I will bring you back."

Cling to this, especially on your hardest days that you feel like you just can't find Him and that you feel just like that dry bone....

"HIS specialty is resurrecting people from the dead."

It's time to come back to life.

Today is the day. Remember these words, YOU WILL come to life.  Not if.  WILL.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Just Hang On

The strangest thing happened this morning. My phone started beeping incessantly, the tone indicating I had a messenger message. Lots of them. In abundance.  I instantly grumbled wondering who had included me in an annoying group message that was getting constant replies. Or I was frustrated that I had forgotten to turn off notifications for a Facebook live with one of my book launch or Bible study groups.

But it was neither case. Technically speaking, I have no explanation, but it seems like a massive amount of conversations dating all the way back to early 2009 suddenly showed unread or no longer archived. It was as if I was receiving many of those old messages for the first time.

As I spent time clearing out the notifications, deleting, skimming, etc... I just got completely overwhelmed and emotional.

I obviously didn't have time to read them all,  nor did I want to, but many caught my eye. It's so strange to get a glimpse rather quickly of the last almost full decade of life in words. I don't know about everyone else, but much of my messenger consists of deeper conversations, follow ups, or more details of things read or posted.

I saw lots of "ordinary" things like reminders for church activities, lots of VBS planning sessions, homeschool group or parent's morning out reminders and interactions. Here and there were "hey, send me that recipe or link". Even saw a few messages arranging schedules for gymnastics meets back when that seemed to be our whole life. Just the ordinary life things. Not really significant, but a reminder of the fullness of life in BUSY trenches of parenting and ministry.

But, it was some of the others that stopped me in my tracks and drew me in a bit deeper. SO much of the depth of life and its many hard seasons were shared behind those scenes. Walking through life with others in the messy places. Multiple divorces, prodigal children, death of spouses or children, miscarriages, devastating diagnosis of many, being notified of tragedies, lots of venting over hard seasons others were going through especially in parenting or spiritual struggles. Real life. Hard.

Some brought much joy. Multiple conversation threads were waiting for updates of birth of children that were greatly anticipated. Or waiting for dear ones to come through medical procedures or court cases in adoptions/ foster care. They were stressful at the time, but all ended in joyful reports.

I even came across several in very hard situations when very close loved ones or friends were in middle of extreme medical crisis. Intense.  I even came across a few that were almost too hard to read, like during my dad's illness and death, my miscarriage, my own difficult seasons of many kinds that were devastating at the time and discussed while raw and with vulnerability. Lots of conversations and great uncertainty while navigating overseas deployments in volatile situations, even when some of those nearest to our soldiers didn't come back home. There were even some that I forced myself to delete permanently instead of reading and getting angry or dragging up things I worked hard to forgive. I wanted to read them, but I knew it would just hurt and serve no purpose. (I think that's a true sign of forgiveness, maturity or healing when you get to the point EVENTUALLY when you can say, "Nope, not going there!")

Though I'm honestly flabbergasted with what in the world caused all of those messages to return in bulk, a great big message reached my heart. Something my heart desperately needed. Maybe the technical aspect was a glitch, but the message spoken to my soul was clear.

Hang on.

Let me repeat that: Hang on.

Most importantly, hang on with faith and hope.

So much of what I skimmed and read was summed up in one word: intense.  I was in crisis or I was walking with someone else through crisis. Or we were picking up pieces after a crisis. Banged up. Overwhelmed. Broken. Not seeing a way out. Incapable.

In the middle of the mess, in the moments of desperation it MOST DEFINITELY can seem like there's no way something is going to work out, get better, or hurt less.  The emotions can be so raw, the anger so justified, the bitterness so thick, that it's suffocating. The scenario may be so unlikely to have a way out. The sting of rejection or loss so profound you don't know how you'll breathe again. The mind and body so overwhelmed, you don't know if you can make it another day or even another minute. The regrets so deep you may feel like you can never forgive the offender or even yourself. The physical or emotional pain may just feel like you'll never get relief.

Just hold on. Just keep clinging to faith, even if the thread is so thin and shriveled it looks as if it will tear beyond repair.

Just hold on.

Looking back in that flash of almost 10 years of hard things, I was reminded that I survived. Even the hardest, most intense obstacles and brokenness. Yes, I have loved ones no longer with me because of death. Yes, many of those hard situations I walked through with others resulted in divorce, ended relationships, their loss of loved ones that God chose to only heal heavenside, and many of their situations remain difficult, unresolved, or with life changing results. Many of mine, too. Yes, there's a constant pull of life being difficult in some capacity. Yes, there's been some real heartache and obstacles that didn't get wrapped up in neat and tidy bows. That might mean that like me you have a dear friend no longer in your daily life and you find it hard with that specific absence. That might mean you also have someone that you can't have in your daily life anymore because of dysfunction, abuse, or toxicity and IT HURTS. Maybe you've buried a child, parent, spouse, friend, etc... and the hole left behind still feels larger than life. Maybe you battle a health issue that affects day to day living or maybe even threatens your life (or someone near you is battling). Maybe no matter how hard you try the financial hits keep coming.  Maybe you long for something specific that He hasn't provided. Maybe you've tried everything as a parent or spouse and the frustrations keep climbing because you're still fighting the same battle day after day. Maybe you're just TIRED.

Don't give up.

As of this moment, you've survived 100% of your hardest days. You've come through. You may be banged up and still wounded, but you came through.

The reminder of those hard things boosted my faith today. Yes, some stung to glance over because they didn't turn out according to my plans or wishes. Some I'd honestly forgotten until today's reminder and at the time they were HARD and reading brought a sudden rush of emotions.

Today, I remember with gratitude. Gratitude that He brought me or someone close through it. Gratitude for the lessons learned though some came painfully. Gratitude for seeing His hand now in a situation that I may not have seen or understood at the time. Gratitude for renewed hope and strength. Gratitude for those that walked together in the trenches through hard seasons, even though some may have only walked a season, but they were vital at the time.

Though today was full of hard reminders, it overflowed with joy filled ones as well. Even some of those hard times had joyous outcomes. Even in grief there are pockets of joy and laughter. Someone's small kindness in a hard season may mean so much to your wounded heart. Maybe someone's kind words or spiritual insight helped at the moment, but helped even greater down the road.

Life is messy, but so very beautiful. Working in the garden, I often get the not so gentle reminders that there are thorns, barbs, "stickers", etc... surrounding beautiful and bountiful things. Those painful things help make the beautiful  grow and thrive.

Keep thriving. Keep clinging to hope.

Just hold on.

Hope remains.

You've got this. Whatever the "this" is that you're battling, scared of, recovering from, hiding from, or trying to claw your way through...

Hang on. Carry on, warrior, carry on!