Friday, February 17, 2017

Sprouts of Hope

Ever had those days, weeks, months, or even LONG seasons of feeling defeated, depleted, and just beat down.

I know I have. Often, if I'm being honest.

But then...

God enters in.

He whispers, "Just hold on", "Don't give up", or simply "I see you."

Just enough hope trickles in to face the day and to keep moving forward in faith.  It doesn't have to be profound or extremely grand, though sometimes He does give us that abundant blessing of something big.  Usually it's just that little bit of comfort that lifts your heart.

It may be something you see, something you read, a note from a friend, a heart-to-heart with your spouse, or just a new revelation in His Word.  Just that "little" something.

Today, that little something came to me in the form of tiny little sprouts.



A few months back, we didn't even have moving on our radar. It was something we had talked about and prayed about many, many times, but the answer was always no or not now. When we did make the decision to start the looking process we didn't anticipate moving until end of March as our target date. We started looking online early October and driving neighborhoods getting a feel of where we wanted to be that would put us in the price range we wanted, but yet give us the most value for our money.  We purposely wanted to go less instead of more to alleviate financial burden should we ever be faced with a financial crisis or job changes.  We've been there, done that, and don't want to walk that path again. At that time, we had no plans of rushing or jumping in.  Two weeks later, we met with a realtor to look at some of the properties we kept coming back to.  Again, just really getting an idea of the market. By the end of that weekend, not only had we found a house we felt "fit us" (despite the exterior being a very unique shade of green!), it was in the perfect location for us (two minute walk to church). Best of all, the sellers had dropped the price that very day, placing it in our price range.  We had discussed it before the drop and had taken it off our list because though it was workable it was above what we had committed to. Our realtor had told us that she had one more property to show us that wasn't on our list to see, but she felt like it met the majority of our "wants" and needs.  On the way to meet her, I asked Kevin if he thought that perhaps the house she wanted to show us was the one we'd been considering increasing our budget for.  Indeed it was! Thanks, God.  We knew that we wouldn't be able to wait several months and the house still be around.  We KNEW that despite it needing some work (ok, LOTS of work!), it was meant to be ours.  So, we took the plunge, knowing it would put us in a rush to move.  Unfortunately, that also meant moving during the holidays.  Even bigger unfortunately, this also meant moving in the winter and winter around here means cold, ice, bitter wind and snow.  Wouldn't you know it, EVERY single day we cleared Kevin's work schedule to move, just happened to be the nastiest days.  But we did it. (Completely on our own somehow!)  We're happy and thankful.  Every day brings us closer to what we envisioned when we walked in those doors the first time.

Back to the sprouts.

Viewing the house in late fall gave us no idea of what the actual landscaping looked like. By the time we moved in, the ground was completely covered in leaves since the property has many mature trees.  Add to that snow and lots of overgrowth and we just really don't know what we have. We knew we were capable of doing the work needed, so we weren't scared away by the condition. We've had a few tolerable weekends of weather and have done lots of cutting back and raking bag after bag of leaves.

Then today, we saw it.

Those little sprouts.


Signs of new growth on this GORGEOUS glimpse of a February "spring". As the first one was discovered, it encouraged digging for more and more as the excitement grew with what we we're finding.

As I was searching, I was thinking about not only how I was excited and GRATEFUL, but I was also thinking of how important hope is in our lives.

It only takes a little.  When you grab on to that little, it makes you just want to grab and grab for more.  Hope, like joy, is contagious.  The more we look for it, the more we find it and the more we spread it, the more it grows. Who can we be hope for today? Who can we encourage?  Who can we forgive? Who can we mentor and teach? Who can we show the love of Jesus?

What if we were like those little sprouts beginning to peak through the ground? I don't imagine they had an easy winter. I don't imagine their breaking through the ground was easy.  Some sprouts probably had a harder path than others and it was a struggle. They all aren't the same size.  They haven't all broken through the ground at the same time.  Underneath the hard ground, there's no telling what else is waiting to erupt and some may not even make it.

We are the same.  We can feel buried.  Dead.  Struggling to break through our problems.

However, do you know what brought those sprouts to the surface?

Looking for the sun.  Soaking in nutrients.  Following their path. Sticking with it.

If we do the same, we can also sprout.  We can look to Him. We can soak in His Word.  We can follow the purpose He has for us and we can follow Him. We can remain faithful even when those around us are falling away or giving up.

We have to throw off the dead debris and the leaves (our chains, our sins, our burdens) and look towards the sun (the Son).

Today, as many of us experiencing a beautiful day of spring like temperatures, may we also allow spring to penetrate our hearts. May we also share that with someone else.  Spread Hope. Spread Joy. Point each other to the Son.

Beautiful reminder that "His mercies are new every morning."

I can't wait to see what the morning brings.






Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gratitude Is the Best Filter

Over and over these last few days, I keep coming back to how perspective changes everything.

Friday I woke up and immediately knew I felt different.  It actually took me a few minutes to pinpoint what "that" feeling was.  Then it hit me that I actually felt GOOD.  I honestly hadn't physically had a "good" day since October.  Over three months is a long time to wake up feeling weighted down and enslaved to lupus, knowing that the flare you are in is just not going to give you any reprieve. Or sick from whatever germs the family has been sharing. It had been so long since I'd felt good that I didn't remember what it felt like. Yucky, in pain, swimming through peanut butter with concrete blocks on your limbs, lack of mental clarity, and depression nagging to take over.  Those things had become the normal and I just dealt with it.  But, to wake up, feeling ALIVE gave me a new found perspective. IT reminded me what good felt like, how much more I could accomplish with less effort, and the need to not have to plan EVERY little moment around what part of the day I'd feel the best, in order to give what best I could.  My perspective is once again changed by gratitude.  The good days, when they come are that much sweeter when you've been through struggles.

Today I was literally overcome with tears to be cleaning our bathroom.  While it's not a task I hate, it is something that is typically done out of habit and need.  I don't necessarily jump for joy at the thought of cleaning it.  However, today, as I cleaned it for the first time since we finished remodeling it, my heart was just extra grateful.  I was reflecting on how God brought us through every step of starting over, providing in countless ways.  I was thankful to have a husband that could tackle such a big project and was WILLING to do so, even multiple nights still at it at midnight despite the fact he goes to work at 4 AM.  Gratitude changes perspective.  A not so joyful task can be filled with joy when you remember where you've been, where you're going, and WHO brought you through it.

Today at church we were reminded of what a PRIVILEGE it is to be able to pray and personally have a relationship with God.  Reminded how God desires that connection with us.  Our Pastor, also with sons in the military, related it to how he felt in recent days of being on base and welcoming his son home from a long deployment.  As much as it was an overwhelming joy, such an overwhelming moment to hug him, it's the same way when we go to God and connect with Him.  It's as if He is waiting there with that same enthusiasm and open arms to embrace us.  Prayer can be just a habit, half-hearted, a quick check mark, or even dropped so low on our priority list that it is ignored until it is a last resort or we're desperate. However, when we frame it from the perspective of gratitude, a new passion arises.  We remember that it is not only a privilege, but it's a life-giving force. WE become changed when we've been in His presence.

I read tonight that "Gratitude is the best filter".  I LOVE that.  When we look at life through the filter of gratitude, our eyes are truly opened and our hearts can overflow with true joy.  Not finicky happiness.  True Joy.

May this week we all look through that filter.  You only need to spend .2 seconds on social media to quickly find yourself overwhelmed with darkness, frustration, division, vulgarity, hatred, etc...  Look away from the screen this week.  It's not about putting your head in the sand or being silent on important matters, but it is about choosing where to focus and remaining in a state of gratitude. Focus on how you are fueling your thoughts.  Be grateful.  Change your filter.

Oh boy---change your filter---I KNEW there was something I was supposed to buy on our multi trips out to the big box DIY stores this weekend.  Ugh.  :)


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Hello, 2017

Hello, 2017, I'm happy to see you.  I really am.

You see, 2017, I saw you roll around and I knew I was supposed to traditionally make some resolutions.  I was supposed to pick apart my life and find those things that I needed to do better or weren't working and commit to a long list, or even just one, and resolve to "fix" it.  Oh yes, I need to eat better, lose weight, exercise, etc...  Oh yes, I need to spend less time wrapped up in technology. Yes, yes, yes.

But, I didn't make any resolutions.

Wasn't setting myself up for failure.  Wasn't going to be one of those January people that pack the gym and then leave it empty in February.

But, 2017, without realizing it, I apparently made some resolutions about you.

The one thing I did do was choose a word focus of the year.  I've done that and blogged about it for many years now.  Some years that word was hard to come by and I wouldn't settle on it until several weeks into the year.  However, this year, I knew my word weeks before the year rolled around.  It just was whispered audibly to my heart in a way that was an instant perfect fit.

Abide.

Five little letters.  Life changing word.

Abiding in Him is changing me.  I had reached the point that everything seemed scheduled, a to-do, or just forced.  I prayed because it was necessary, the right thing to do, or habitual.  I read my Bible or participated in a study because it was what I had always done or what I knew the "wise" women did. Right actions, but wrong motivations.

Reframing everything from the point of "abiding" really has changed everything.  Spending time with Him because I want to know Him, hear Him, see what He has for me has restored vitality to my soul. Reawakening and rejuvenating. From a chore to a deep desire.

In doing so, He is changing my hardened heart.  Showing me things I need to change, let go of, or things I may have been approaching from the wrong viewpoint.  Sometimes He's showing me things about me that others may not like, but He is pleased with.

Along the way, I've noticed that maybe I did throw in some resolutions without actually saying, "In 2017, I'm going to.....".

By "Abiding" and growing closer to Him, it has trickled down into making differences in my life.

For one, He's given me a contentment and peace like never before.  I can now much better focus on today.  Just today.  The to-do list of tomorrow doesn't paralyze me or leave me in overwhelming anxiety.  I am definitely a list maker, have planners and notebooks to the extreme, and plan ahead A LOT.  Probably to the extreme if I'm being honest. Though those things always kept me on track and let me know where I'm going, worry and anxiety still plagued me.  When I'm in a lupus flare mode or life is really busy, I'd get overwhelmed with how in the world I'm a going to pull so and so off, get this or that done, etc... Always worrying about the next day, the next week, or even the next month.  "Abiding" has given me a contentment to just focus on right now.  Get through and conquer today.  He's with me in the middle of my chaos, right now, and I can be assured He'll be with me in it tomorrow.  When tomorrow becomes today, I will focus on it.  Even as we've just finished moving and are in the middle of multiple remodel projects, I have a contentment instead of panic and anxiety. Today is what matters.  When I focus on just getting through what needs to be done today or even just this hour, I have the freedom to do it instead of carrying the weight of the next thing.  "Abiding" in Him has reminded me of His faithfulness, His promises, and His track record.  Plus, when I'm going through a hard day, I can remember this:  So far, I'm 100% in surviving my hardest days. Let tomorrow worry with itself.

Secondly, oh this is a BIG one, I've found the strength and self-worth to let go of one sided relationships and the heavy burdens of others.  Not necessarily "written them off" or turning my back, but releasing them from my grasp.  I'm fiercely loyal, sometimes to a fault.  My tender-hearted, sensitive to the needs of others, and the giving nature of my personality often leaves me depleted and empty.  Because I'm empathetic and deeply intuitive, I often expect that from others.  I've often deeply taken on the idea that it's the Christian thing to give and give of yourself.  Yes, it is necessary and yes it is the right thing to do at times, BUT there is a healthy boundary.  "Abiding" in Him is helping me to find that boundary.  I'm finding it is ok to not be stepped on.  It's ok to not completely give and give of myself.  It's ok to let God do HIS part.  I'm not Him and I'm not the Holy Spirit.  Obedience is my part, results are His.  I can encourage someone in my life and do it again and again, but I can't then put the weight of their actions or inactions on my shoulders.

One sided relationships were suffocating me.  I kept finding myself in the place of being there on demand for others, as soon as they needed something, but then when I would share something on my heart, there'd be no response.  He's been helping me see the difference in supporting a friend or acquaintance through a hard season and needing NOTHING in return from them and on the flip side being in a relationship of only a "taker".  Sometimes you really don't need a response back from a friend because in this particular season they are in NEED and your best gift to them is to just keep encouraging them and lifting them up.  That's perfectly ok.  But in others, you do have to learn to step back and release, when habitually they expect things of you that they aren't also willing to give a fraction of.  Or even those friends that you constantly support in social media by interacting with them, but out on the street you don't exist. Or they can't reciprocate and take a fraction of a second to share in your highs and lows.  What about those that make it obvious that you only exist when they need something, want you to buy something or support their newest fundraiser, or just want to complain.  "Abiding" in Him is giving me the confidence to LET IT GO, CUT IT LOOSE.  At first, my tender nature just couldn't do it.  How dare I step back, change direction, or even completely walk away?  That isn't the right thing to do, right?  Wrong---sometimes it's the VERY right thing to do.  As a result, my joy is getting deeper, the dark voices of defeat aren't as loud, my self-worth is restoring and I'm finding freedom to DIG deeper and invest my heart in the RIGHT places.  When I sit down to work on something that demands attention, I have more clarity and peace in my heart.  Not so weighed down.

You know what else, it's taking the pressure off.  The pressure to be "just right" for someone.  The pressure to perform.  The pressure of unmet expectations.  It's also taking some of the pressure off of my HEALTHY relationships.  I'm finding as each day goes by, I'm less distrustful or looking for the "catch" less often.  More present in the moment. My disappointment in others and hurt I feel from them is not trickling over in my healthy relationships because it's much easier to differentiate the two.  I'm also less likely to expect those healthy relationship to fill in the gaps the unhealthy ones had been creating.  Whoa.  Light bulb, a-ha moment.

So, 2017, I guess I did have some resolutions.  I guess I resolved to live in today, not tomorrow.  I guess I also resolved to find healthy boundaries in giving of my heart and time.

You know, those are pretty great resolutions because they snowball into many other areas.  They also help to keep priorities on track and my heart free to be obedient to Him.

Oh, I guess I also resolved to kick the HORRID habit of a gallon a day diet coke as well.  I didn't plan on it.  I just decided one night to say, "No Thanks", when my husband offered to bring one home while he was out.  Don't know where that came from because my typical response is, "Well, duh!".  As in, do you really need to ask. Apparently that one unplanned "no thanks" was all that was needed to snowball a much needed kicking of a bad habit (once again!).  I think my family has survived my getting over the hump.  One, two, three, four, five....yep, I think we're all here and still alive. :)

So, 2017, I do welcome you.  I look forward to seeing what you have in store and where this adventure goes.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Lost Song Found

"I've lost my song."

There I said it.  They say the first step in recovering is to be honest and admit the problem. 

The last four days have officially broken me.  Broken me in a a good way.

Yesterday, I did NOT want to go to church.  You name an excuse and I was ready to use it.  But, out of faith, I went.  Ok, honestly, it was more like guilt since we'd missed the last two weeks at our church with traveling.  As we were driving those 5 minutes to get there, I just simply prayed, "Make it worth the effort." Granted, that probably wasn't the greatest prayer.  Church shouldn't just be about what we get it out of it, but rather a posture of our heart of worshiping.  Basically, I was saying I'm going out of reluctant obedience, but I'm asking you to reach in and change that attitude.  

Our pastor spoke about God's song in our hearts. He talked about how God gives us the song of hope and joy and how sin can steal our melody. A believer's heart is a singing heart. 

He cautioned about not causing others to lose their song.  He also warned about being careful to not lose OUR song and how to focus on the faithfulness of God and what we KNOW to be true during the times that our song may be lost. It's a choice we must make. 

I lost my song.  Some situations and others in my life may have started the snuffing out of the song, but the reality is, I allowed my song to be silenced. The ball may have started rolling with others, but the results of that falls on me. 

Backing up to earlier in the weekend---

I am an introvert to beat all introverts.  I've had the tendency for years, but the older I've gotten it has become much more pronounced.  I love having deep relationships with people, but being "social", small talk, and stepping out of my comfort zone is paralyzing. Like full on panic attack level. I had the incredible opportunity to attend a small gathering at the home of  Jill Savage: speaker, writer of many books, someone you often hear on Christian radio, and founder of Hearts at Home. She has been a powerful mentor and influence in my role as a Christian mother and wife for MANY years, even before I'd ever heard of Hearts at Home. Having been on her book team for No More Perfect Moms, No More Perfect Kids, and most recently "Better Together", I have been privileged to see even more closely her TRUE heart for women.  No More Perfect Moms was the catalyst for remarkable change in my life. As part of the latest book team, those of us with a high level of participation, were invited to come out and spend a few hours at her home. Dream come true?  Oh yes.  But in reality----a nightmare come true for this introvert.  However, I made the choice that I was going to NOT allow my anxiety to steal this potential blessing.  I'd allowed that to happen too many times AND this was not going to be one such time.  IT was HARD to make that initial step.  

But....

It was one of the greatest decisions I've made in a long time.

The day was heaven sent for me.  

I THOROUGHLY was at ease after the first 45 seconds.  I felt more of myself than I have been in years.  The conversations with the ladies in attendance, with Jill, and with Jill's daughter Anne (co-author of Better Together) were so very much what this heart needed in ways words can't adequately describe.  

Because my song has become silent. 

I stopped blogging because of that silence, despite it being something that I feel so passionate about.  

You see, life has dealt some curve balls leaving me with walls that I haven't felt I've been able to scale, disappointments that have suffocated, and scars that heal and then break WIDE OPEN again.  

But----in those moments of sitting there on her beautiful porch on a PERFECT day, surrounded by a community of REAL women that RADIATE for Jesus and each other, I was hit with the feeling of what community really is. Vulnerability. None of these ladies were without scar and blemish, without struggle or insecurities, or without failure.  

My song doesn't have to be silenced because life is hard.  

I've been in a season of TOUGH motherhood.  That's REAL.  There's no shame in that.  I know that and I BELIEVE that, but I stopped acting as if I believed it.  I stopped giving myself the grace I offer so freely to others.  

Here's where honesty REALLY comes in----and I know I most likely will have repercussions from this honesty--- but I believe today is the day to pull off every mask. When I blog, I'm honest and vulnerable, but this is a whole new level. You see, motherhood is HARD when you don't have a relationship with your own mother. No matter the level of success I might have in my own mothering or the depth of my failures, it's crushing that I am alone in mine. Death took my father away, but choice took my mother away.  I've spent so long feeling like an orphan.  There I said it. The words that haunt. Even in the last months some very painful things have happened that have really cemented those feelings in my heart.  Abandonment, betrayal, those feelings of NEVER measuring up----it's hard.  Simply crushing. I found it even harder to navigate this heartache for so long in the presence of such incredible mothers I've met through this book journey and in my daily life. And I just let wall after wall build. I couldn't share my story or its details, so I let my voice become silent.  My blogging to stop. My relationship building to significantly halt. I did pour deeper into my children (which IS A BEAUTIFUL thing), but my own heart was getting colder and my walls climbing higher and thicker. 

But that message of "Better Together" just kept resonating.  

As I sat on that porch and later as some very powerful prayers were prayed over Jill and her husband and their upcoming book on marriage, (sidenote: you'll want to grab it around next Valentine's day.  I'm crazy excited about the impact this one will have.  As someone that has been honest about our broken marriage and its beautiful restoration and knowing snippets of their story, I know the potential is far reaching.), I felt a wall begin to break.  Sunshine wasn't just beautiful outside that day, the son was reaching in and lighting up this heart as well. We all have a story.  We are MORE than just what we've done, what's happened to us, or the things that hold us back.  

We are His.  

We are valuable. 

Our story matters.

My mind had been swirling and my heart has been wanting to explode since the wonderful time this weekend, but as I'm *sometimes* guilty (often!) of doing, I let moments of incredible growth slip away out of my fears, even sometimes in direct disobedience to the prompting of His Spirit.  I felt it in my reluctance to be in fellowship with others at church.  I felt in my wanting to pull away from those nearest and dearest to me.  I know I wanted to let those walls continue to fall and to build the bridges that vulnerability and honesty facilitates, but I went back to my box, Back to my comfort zone of silence.  

As a result, tension was building.  Conviction was heavy.  Anxiety was building like an elephant sitting on my chest. 

Then this morning, a friend texted a simple "thank you for encouraging me, how can I pray for you?" text.  You know those LIFELINES.  The ones that you know that came straight from God to you from someone being obedient and open to Him.  I typed out my response, but as I was, I knew it was also a prompting from God to just trust Him and allow Him to put that song back in my heart.  Those walls were getting shaky again, but real life called as a priority.  Kids needs tending to, the dog needed out, errands run, and a teen dropped off for church camp.  I didn't get the chance to just soak in the message that He was beating in my heart. 

I did simply pray, "Let me KNOW you are there.  Let me HEAR you. Hang with me, don't give up on me."

As I walked back in from our rushing out the door, my youngest and I sat down to eat a fast food breakfast we grabbed (*shhh* don't tell the healthy police!).  It's just the two of us this week with one at camp and one over 1,700 miles away (yes, I'm still breathing somehow!). By the way, wish I had a video of the excessive celebrating he did when he walked in as an "only" for this week! My phone chimed that dedicated little chirp that indicated I had a message from that daughter that's currently living out her dream on the mission field in the Domincan Republic.  

It was simply a picture.  A picture of a cherished necklace in her hand that she lost six weeks or more ago and her text said "Bottom of my suitcase". She had it made in the shape of the island of the DR and stamped with Adventure Awaits on one side and coordinates on the other. .  She doesn't wear jewelry and is VERY low maintenance, so having this made showed a big piece of her heart.  She had it made when she began the application process for the internship. You see, God fulfilled this dream for her.  We couldn't financially make it happen.  Not even in the slightest.  We even ran into medical, school, and even application hurdles.  But God. He provided.  Losing that necklace was devastating.  She turned the house literally upside down, even taking apart sink drains.  Seriously.  She even decided to bite the bullet and have a new one made, but it wouldn't arrive before she left.  And then, not thirty minutes after I prayed that prayer of "God, let me hear you.  Let me know you're there.", she finds it.  In her suitcase.  In another country.  At a time when both our hearts needed it.  

Yes, God. 

I'm listening.

I'm obeying.

I'm letting that song return.  

Don't just break these walls you are breaking in my heart, oblieterate them.  Crush them.  Destroy them.  Even though it terrifies me.  Even though it will take me further out of my comfort zone.  

Why? 

Because I know we're all Better Together.  I know there are others ready to let their walls break but are afraid of that step.  Let's take it together.  What is He asking of you that you have been reluctant to obey?  Right now, our world needs us Better Together more than ever before.  








Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Empty

That little shiny hot pink bag arrived in the mail today.  It's been coming middle of the month for almost a year now.  It's simply a little $10 monthly splurge treat I give myself.  It usually contains a cute little bag and a few samples of fun make-up, beauty tools, or pampering items.  No big deal.  Just a "little" bit of something fun.

But today it arrived and looked a little different.

It was flat as a pancake.

Light as a feather.

It was empty.

Nothing inside.

Just empty.

I anticipated its arrival.  I even KNEW it was coming today because of shipping notifications.

But it was empty.

It wasn't supposed to be.

A definite mistake was made.  (Yes, it will be corrected.  I just have to patiently what another couple of weeks.  That's not my strongest personality trait....but that's another story for another day!)

Empty.

Deflated and disappointed.

I almost had a meltdown over that simple mistake.  Almost.

You see, I have been feeling just as empty as that shiny pink packaging. (Bubble wrap I might add!  I do have an obsession with popping bubble wrap.  Again, I digress).

Physically I've been in a daily struggle phase since December.  I've seldom had good or "normal" back to back days.  I just can't seem to get over the hump this time.  Pain and physical drain have been hanging around like static cling.  Nothing seems to shake it.  It's like living in a perpetual state of trying to recover from the flu. Many days pain has been intense and nothing "fixes" it.  On the outside, I might have the facade of looking put together, a smiling face.  My house may still look clean and organized.  School is still on track.  Life is "functioning".  But don't let it fool you....

I'm often feeling as empty as that little pink bag that arrived today.

Lonely.  Struggling with the most basic things but ACHING to be thriving, not just managing and surviving by threads.  Swimming through peanut butter.  Wanting life to be OUR normal again. Easily agitated when people don't realize that it takes A LOT of effort and it many times comes with great cost physically or emotionally to keep up.  Just so off balance.

But...

The pity party train isn't going to park here.  IT may stop for a bit. (I'm human. I don't have a real super hero cape hanging around, though a few pretend ones probably can be found.) I may wish the train pulled into the station and a new conductor hopped on and treated me with the red carpet treatment.  But only temporarily.

Because life ISN'T meant to be easy.  We all have our struggles.  We all have battles.  We all have scars. We all have to manage hard times.

Something else was empty.

Something was empty that changed everything.

The tomb.

You see, life just aint' always peachy.  But JOY abounds.

Happiness is wishy washy.  It relies on emotion.  It relies on circumstances.

Joy doesn't.

Joy bubbles up even when circumstances are hard.

Joy comes from knowing that the tomb was empty so we don't have to be.

I can feel empty.  I can feel drained.  I can even feel angry.

BUT.....

Oh my.

Looking to the tomb and cross changes everything.

It doesn't have to be well with our circumstances to be well with our souls.  I've said that often, but it is worth repeating. Again and again.

We can be swamped and bogged down in the harshness of life, situations we don't want to be in, or facing battles we just don't understand.  We may be in the middle of the hardest seasons of our lives, feel broken beyond repair, and overwhelmed with heartache.  That IS the reality of life at times.

However, JOY can remain.  Joy says there is hope in our darkest moments.  Joy says that we can shine from the inside out in confidence because of the cross and tomb.

We don't have to be empty.

We can be so filled up with Him that even though we may be struggling and hard times may surround, we can shine.

Shine on, Sisters.  Shine on.





Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap of Faith Day

Today--it's somewhat of a special day.  It only happens once every four years.  It's leap day.

My nephew was actually due today, but that little sweetness arrived a few days early giving him a normal birthdate! Whew.

What is so special about THIS day? After all, it's really just a normal day.  A Monday even.

But..

Oh....

Just wait.

It's a day for a LEAP OF FAITH.

It always amazes me when God keeps whispering to your heart the same message over and over.  It may come in different forms and be worded a bit differently, but the root of the message is the same. 

And today, I'm finally stopping to TRULY listen to that message.

Yesterday at church, our pastor greatly encouraged us to pray a dangerous prayer, "Lord, do things we're not used to."  Or pray to be shaken up. 

The last several weeks, I've been participating in an online Bible Study based on "Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl".  Between reading the book, listening to conference calls with various God-inspired teachers, and in conversations online, a theme has REALLY been grabbing my attention.  Pray dangerously.  Don't just pray for our convenience.  Instead pray to be inconvenienced.  Pray to get "messy" with our faith. 

In her book that the Bible study is based on, Lysa Terkeurst says,

"Yes, we want the promises, but we don't want to get any dirt under our fingernails in the process.  We want comfortable circumstances, but we resist any transformational changes that might be necessary.  Oh, how we want the gifts promised here, but I wonder if the real treasure is to get to the place where we want the Giver most of all."

Ouch!

This morning, my dearest mentor shared that today was literally a Leap of Faith Day in her life.  All day those words have been running through my heart at warp speed. 

I need to take a leap of faith today. 

I need to start praying those dangerous prayers.  Why are they so dangerous?  Because they might make us step out of our comfort zone.  They might reveal God asking something hard of us.  It might cause us to get dirt under our nails.  They aren't dangerous because they invite danger in, but because they are the kind of prayers that change us.  Isn't that what we really need?  To be changed.  To see differently.  To react differently.  To live and love differently.

It  is important to pray for our daily needs and to keep an open conversation going with God about anything and everything in our lives.  I'm not denying that. 

But....

What if?

What if I actually prayed those few words with sincerity...

"Lord, do something I'm not used to."

or

"Lord, shake me up."

Maybe, today my "Leap of Faith Day" is to pray that prayer.  To be willing to step out on the edge and just jump. 

Having just been to hear Amy Grant and Stephen Curtis Chapman, one of his older songs is on repeat loop in my heart.  (Another Holy Spirit whispering of the same message.)

My heart is racing, and my feet are weak
As I walk to the edge
I know there is no turning back
Once my feet have left the ledge
And in the rush I hear a voice
That's telling me to take a leap of faith
So here I go

I'm diving in, I'm going deep, in over my head I want to be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow, in over my head I want to go
The river's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is alive
So sink or swim, I'm diving in

I'm taking that leap of faith.  Sink or swim.  I'm diving in.

What leap of faith might he be asking you to make?







Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wander/Wonder

When I wander, I wonder.

There, I confess.  I said it.  The truth is out.

Two words only separated by one vowel, but greatly different.

I love how Jennifer Rothschild words it in "Invisible" (an incredible book by the way!), "When our thoughts wander from God, we begin to wonder who we are."

Yep.

Guilty.

Let me say it again, GUILTY.

The moment I look outside to anything other than Christ for my identity, I falter.  I flail.  I sink rapidly.  That downward spiral happens in a flash of lightning.

She asks this question, " If I am in Christ, why am I  in crisis?"...

The beautiful response...

"I know why---it's because I am prone to wander.  I am always one errant thought away from rejecting the truth that God accepts me and instead adopting the lie that He accepts everyone EXCEPT me."

"When we don't see the truth that we are loved, we seek proof that we are loved."

"We often find ourselves in places or seasons of life where we feel like a nobody. It can be hard to see our own value if we are feeling constantly overlooked or we associate our value with our virtue. You know, if we are good, we are worthy of being acknowledged.  If we behave, we merit attention."

Now, I don't know about you, but to me those words are really hitting a raw spot in my own heart.

We HAVE to stop embracing the lie that our worth comes ANYWHERE other than God himself.  Otherwise, we are going to be constantly seeking validation or placing pressure on someone or something to fill us up.  AND. WE. WILL. REMAIN. EMPTY.

Empty.

Who I am is found in WHO HE IS.

It is easy to feel invisible in the world we live in.  Social media, technology, and just the influx of information and inundation of "stuff" overwhelms. 

If we don't pull away and quiet our hearts to meditate on His truth, we can't silence the lies.

As a SAHM, homeschool mom that is CONSTANTLY surrounded by someone ALWAYS needing something, I can't tell you the number of times that I feel like I'm spinning around in a room and just want to scream, "I can't hear you." Some days, it is pure controlled chaos.  The noise, the motion, the lack of personal space. Granted, as my kids have gotten older, it's much less of the physical demands (I'm finally beyond the days of cooking with someone on my hip or don't typically have fingers poking under the door of the bathroom---unless it's one of my "littles") and more of the emotional demands.  (Someone remind me that I WILL live through the teen years!). 

Just as I feel as if at times I can't breathe as my day is spiraling around with loops and dives of a roller coaster and I want to jump off and say "FREEZE".... it's the same way with God. He is right there waiting for me...to just stop and listen.

I DO have to stop.  I DO have to purposely take that time away to just reach for the calm and sit with Him.  Read His Word.  Be in communication with Him.  Learning.  Studying.  Acting in Obedience.  Listening. Repeat: listening!

Because if I don't. 

I wonder.

I wonder if I'm good enough.
I wonder if anyone really cares.
I wonder if anyone sees me.
I wonder if He loves me. 

My husband may make a fairly innocuous statement and suddenly I'm wondering if he meant something else. Which is then followed by, I wonder if he still loves me like he used to.  Or that little comment may spark a pointless war in which there is no winner.

I see a prayer answered for someone else, and I wonder why I'm not good enough to have it answered for me.

I see someone praised for something they did for someone and I start harboring bitterness because someone didn't thank me for the same thing.

I do something for someone and they don't acknowledge it or don't acknowledge it "enough" or with enough thought that I wonder if I'm not good enough for them. This is especially a hot button for me when I spend hours upon hours making something or putting EXTRA thought into a gift instead of just grabbing something off the shelf.

I can't solve this or that problem in my parenting, in a relationship, etc... and I allow it to seep deeply into my heart as it screams failure, you're not enough, etc...

My sins condemn me instead of convict me.

Oh my, how that list can go in.

I'm getting vulnerable and honest here (as I've always promised to do---no matter how scary that is!).

Those things are the reality of what happens when I'm not rooted and grounded in Him.  I become so self-focused and inward driven.  The more I obsess with me, the easier it is to stray from Him.  OUCH!  Did I really just type that out loud? :)

But there's this BEAUTIFUL reality.  When I stop wandering, I stop wondering.  When I purposely spend time in His word, my perspective changes.  Moving from self-focused to soul-focused is POWERFUL. It's where I go from head held low, emotionally in a pit----to head held high and victorious. 

But...

If I don't take that time...

The pit swallows up quicker than walking in mud in flip-flops! OK---think about that image.  Have you ever done that?  It just draws you deeper and deeper.  Every subsequent step feels more and more difficult.  And----if you're wearing those cheapy flip-flops---you'll probably even find that the straps might break.  Been there. Done that. (Ever run out in flip flops to quickly take the dog out and he decides to drag you along on a wild tangent that ALWAYS includes mud?  Maybe that's just our 4-legged crazy creature!)

Today, purpose your heart to not wonder who you are and what your value is.  My value, your value, comes from His inherent value. But to know that, to REALLY know that, we have to be spending time with HIM.  It's not enough to sit through a church service and consider that enough to silence the lies that Satan loves to whisper.  Even if you manage to go every single week or even twice a week, it's not enough. 

It's easy for me to know if I'm spending enough time with Him.  The days (weeks, months) that I'm letting the priority slide perfectly coincide with the same time frame that I'm struggling with worth, negativity, bitterness, anger, etc...  Unfortunately, my family and those relationships closest to me also know.  They are like an instant thermometer of my spiritual health.  It's not coincidence.