Not afraid of the dark

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I found myself thinking, “I can’t do this.” And I heard the reply within my spirit, “But I can.”

I knew immediately that Holy Spirit was ready to help me. He wasn’t ever expecting me to go at life apart from Him. He is not disappointed in my limits, or my humanness. He made me. He sees me, He knows me better than I know myself.

I listen to the words being read from Psalm 139, “but even in the darkness, I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You.”

As I hear those words, I consider how often I try to hide when it gets dark. I hear the lies that I can’t be Debbie Downer, and that they are all so sick of my sad story, my pain. But the truth is, God is not afraid of the dark. He will not avoid the dark seasons of the soul. He is ever near.

A friend told me, “Lately, I’ve been thanking God for laments.” To which I instantaneously replied, “I welcome laments from others, but generally despise them coming from me.” She said, “He doesn’t just welcome them, He delights in them.” With those words my heart stopped beating for a second.

Can you believe that? As I contemplated on that thought, I chose to believe it. God never tires of hearing from me. He knows me better than I know myself.  In fact, He lives inside of my heart. He is truly the only One who can fully KNOW me. Why wouldn’t He delight in me opening my heart to Him, even if when I open it what comes out is sorrow?

Psalms 56:8 says, “You keep track of my sorrows. You have collected all of my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.”

I asked, why? Why would You collect tears? If they are that important, maybe there is something powerful in them. I imagined God pouring out our tears into the gardens of our hearts, it was the very substance that brought tremendous growth, delivering incredible fruit.

As it continued, I saw my tears being poured out into the hearts of my children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. I found myself understanding, just slightly more than before, why my life seems to require so many. Peace and resolve settled in.

Therefore today, I continue to give Him plenty to collect as an offering. I will lament to the Lord if the need arises. I will not try to hide. I choose to ask Him for help. He is showing up, and I’m finding relief.

Resolve to choose joy while simultaneously experiencing what I need to, to be real. Joy doesn’t have to look like happy. Joy is believing in my great salvation in Christ Jesus, and all of it’s benefits, which will never change due to earthly hardships.

Romans 8:18 encourages us, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”  Joy unspeakable, not hiding in the dark, being genuine, and asking for help. Today will be victorious and my future looks brighter than I can imagine. Praise the Lord!

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Just a little more, and then……

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I’m hungry. I’m hungry to create something. Something that matters. I find myself desperate to be a part of something beautiful. To create beauty. To join in. To be a part. I want to write something that will change the world as we know it. I want to paint something that will heal a broken heart and bring the walking dead back to life. I want to be great! I want to do something inspiring and amazing.

I cry out to God! Here I am! Send me. But its more like waving my arms, as in, don’t forget me. I want to be used mightily. And He smiles, turns me around, and shows me the life I already have. He shows me how He has called me and sent me. He sent me to be his wife, and their mother, their teacher, their friend, their daughter, their sister, their confidant. I am called. I am called right here in the place that I’m already in.

Why doesn’t it feel like it’s the GREAT I desire? Why does it feel so insignificant? Why do I always feel this sense of wanting something MORE? It like a constant nagging, that even though I can’t put my finger on it, what I have is not enough. Discontent. Exhaustion. dissatisfaction. He reminds me that all I have right now, began in a place of prayer. I asked for this life, for these callings. And He answered.

You see, I believe this “not enough” sickness is a ploy from our enemy to steal our joy. To steal our moments, to steal our hope. I believe that, at least for me, comparing what I am called to, to what others are called to, is one of the most exhausting parts of this cancerous not enough plague. I have decided to declare war on not enough. I have decided to embrace what I have in my hands and heart, and offer it up to God in thanks.

I choose today to sow my whole self into what is already before me. I choose to no longer wait for the great. I choose to put my full weight into the great that is now. Today, exactly where I am, exactly what I have and what I don’t, is enough. I will honor God by honoring all of the ones He has entrusted me with.

Father, please keep turning me around to see the beauty of the life before me. Help me to guard my heart and mind from thinking everyone else has it better, or simply just easier, than I do. Help me to rejoice in the beauty that is my life, status quo. I trust You with my life, with my present and future. Thank You for covering my past. I admit that all I need more of, is You. Bless me with Your presence and truth all day long today, my daily bread. I see you, and I want more of You. In Jesus’ Mighty name I pray, Amen.

Love is seek and find

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Love is seek and find

I had this funny thing happen the other day. I wanted to spend time with the Lord, but my son and husband were having a “camp out” in the living room where my Bible, devotionals, and journal were. I lay in my bed wandering if I could try something new instead of being stuck in my box of “this is how I do my quiet time.” Upon which the Lord reminded me that I had noticed an old journal and some pens in one of my bathroom drawers. What was is doing there you might ask? I have no idea. Since it was so out of place I remembered it, so I grabbed it and purposed to journal there. As I opened it, I saw prayer request from 2013, and I spent some time in awe of God’s hand as I could see specifically now each one had been answered abundantly. I praise and rejoiced and my faith was once again stirred. Next I noticed that I had written a challenge to myself- get outside more. Funny, that is still, in 2017, the same challenge. Here is what I am learning, to love myself well, which consequently aligns me to love others more, I have to honor what makes me come alive, and one of those things for me is the outdoors. I am making a choice to be intentional about getting outside and doing some outdoor activity multiple times a week.

As I am slowing down to focus on loving myself and others well, I thought it would be a good idea to read the Song of Solomon. It is a book in the Old Testament filled with love poetry between and woman and a man who are deeply and madly in love with each other. However, the book is full of seeking each other out, finding each other, and then having to seek once again. Sometimes, when one would find where other was, the other one wasn’t ready to be found. The book ends with them seeking for each other once again, not the ‘happily ever after skipping down jolly lane’ we expect from a great love story.

At first I thought this was strange but I sought the Lord to teach me something new. He began to show me how love is never finding the one you love and then staying in that blissful place forever. Love is being committed to seek and find, forever. We are always changing and growing and becoming. Along the different parts of that journey, different types of love will be required. I believe this could be a true piece to every relationship, even with myself and with God. As life flies at us, we have to continue finding new facets of God which in turn unveils new pieces of ourselves. Sometimes we find something new and amazing and sometimes we uncover something hard to process. We can choose to show up and love if we choose to invite Jesus into it all. Apart from Him, I think the notion of this eternal game of seek and find would be overwhelmingly exhausting.

I’m just beginning to embrace this notion and trying to live it out. It definitely feels less ‘wrapped up in a neat box with a bow’ than I want it to. But I can tell this type of perspective on love is more genuine than I previously expected and yet tremendously less likely to set me up to be deeply disappointed than what I’ve understood before.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about love or how you plan to love yourself well this year!

Love others as you love yourself……

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Love others as you love yourself……

Moving at a snail’s pace this year helps me to really encounter the gifts inside of the people I get to be near. It is a beautiful gift to see, you know really see, someone. To see their value, hear their heart’s cry, and engage with who they really are. I love people. I mean that. People are my greatest treasure and the only source of true wealth I know. Taking the time to focus my energy on loving others well is such a deep gift to me.

One of those people I want to love better is me. I want to treat myself kindly. I want to say nice things about me. I want to see what is right about the girl in the mirror. I want to celebrate my imperfect progress and cheer on the woman I am becoming. Maybe that sounds strange, I know it certainly feels it. However, I believe this will be one of the highest and most effective investments I can make on my journey.

I  say that confidently because the fruit of small steps I have taken so far have had a broad reach in how I see, value, treat, and honor everyone else. Isn’t interesting that Jesus commanded us to love others as we love ourselves? Maybe that’s the part that has been missing. Everywhere I look, I see the temptation to hate myself a little more by comparing myself with everyone else. Well, I threw that game away a while ago, and now I’m finishing up clearing out all of it’s remains. Comparison- you are no longer welcome here.

I mentioned last time about a few new things I am adding to my life to help me slow down, but now I want to share about a few things I am lessening. Early last year I read a book where I finally learned the importance of non-productive activities. Meaning that we should all spend some time doing some things that are just fun,playful, or relaxing. I’ve shared before that I really like to work, I also love to learn, so before adopting non-productive activities into my life, I thought when people did those things that they could have been doing so much more! It seemed wasteful and wrong. But it was actually me who was wrong. So I began trying. I used that time in my life for browsing social media and watching Netflix. (Ok so maybe binge watching would be a little more honest.)

This year in an effort to connect more through slowing down, I’m purposing to shift my non-productive activities into life-giving ones. Here are some ideas I have so far- taking pictures, looking at pictures, and creating photo-books. Canoeing, hiking, and being outside way more. Painting, writing, and reading more.

I can’t wait to share with you what has come out of these shifts already.What helps you connect with yourself, with God, and with others?

Ready, set, SLOW

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Ready, set, SLOW

As I sit here to write, honestly I feel incredibly rusty. Life has been….busy…that’s a nice word to sum it up. So many good things, some hard, and a lot of new has been unfolding. Sometimes new takes up a lot of emotion, time, space and energy. Funny, come to think of it, having to small children takes a lot of that as well. Oh, and then there’s the whole keeping a marriage alive part. Whoops, let’s not forget about homeschooling. Whew, I just got plain worn out. Somewhere in the bustle, I forgot about myself, my needs, and taking care of me, and you know what? I ended up sick for a month!

As this new year turned, I watched so many receive incredible words for their year filled with purpose, achievement, and accomplishment. Yet me, I’m over here with a different flavor altogether. What I got for my year was, SLOW DOWN, this is not a race. I felt an encouragement to rest in all things, to stop pushing so hard. To relax into the beauty of these moments I get to live.

How in the world do you do that without growing lazy, weary, or complacent? Do I even know how to live life from rest? I like to work and I like to make things happen, would I still be able to do that if I first choose to slow down? I’m really not sure yet, but I believe God always has my best in mind, so I am taking steps to find out.

Here is what I’ve tried so far:

  1. I’m getting outside more. Starting slow by committing to 3x/week walk with a friend.
  2. I’m writing again. Ta da…..this is the first fruit of it.
  3. I’m playing with my children more. (This is my favorite so far!)

I will share more about this next time, but lastly I wanted to encourage you with an acronym I received. Perhaps this will be helpful if you are stepping in a new direction too.

S-tart

T-o

E-ncounter

P-rogress

S-lowly

Let’s step slowly in the direction of our dreams together beginning now. Happy New Year to you. Looking forward to slowly unraveling the gifts this year has to bring!

Rush rush rush

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Rush. Rush from wake-up to the gym. Rush from wake the kids up to get the little one  off to school. Rush from the school to back home to homeschool the bigger one. Rush to pick up the little one. Rush home to make lunch. Rush to have “quality time” before nap time. Oh, I have to work during nap time, rush to get that all set up. Oops, the house is a wreck, quick quick, hurry hurry, clean it up before anyone comes. Rush to clean up after work, and then to get them fed. Laundry, oh theres always laundry. Did you really just spill the entire container of ____________. No we don’t glue that to walls! Now where is my magic eraser? Little brother has a stinky diaper. Is this day over yet? Wait, now I have to prepare for tomorrow. Rush to get it all ready. Rush to fall asleep so I don’t start tomorrow tired.

Rush. Somehow, it has become my lifestyle and I did not even notice the switch. You see, I am not a natural rusher. I like to go slow and take my time. Like so slow, and usually in the left lane, and I make rushing people even more stressed than they were. (It’s ok if you hate me a little more now. I get how bad that habit is. I’m in process people!) Usually, I allow things to go undone so I can cherish the people in front of me (because like all of you incredible multitasking women,God did not give me that gene.) I tend to play on the floor with my kids, create art, build towers, play silly games, and be in the moments. This is the only way I know to be.

But something happened this week. My husband took my older child with him, so I did not have to rush home and get school started. I dropped my little curly headed cutie off, said my, “Good Morning, how are you,” to all the women I wished I had time to get to know, and began rushing back to my vehicle. That’s when the Holy Spirit nudged me, “Where are you rushing to?” I literally just stopped walking, and realized, I had no where to be. (Sure I could always find plenty to do, but nothing I particularly HAD to do at a certain time.) He continued, “Go back to that woman you wished you had time to get to know, and see how she is doing.” So I did, and we had breakfast,and we cried a little (maybe I cried a lot) and it was like finding hidden treasure. I began to ask the question, “Jesus, what’s with this rushing stuff?

He gave me this acronym:

R-esisting

U-seful

S-tillness

H-abitually

He began to show me that He has been trying to teach me to be, “Patient in trouble, and always be prayerful.” Well I’m learning that to me, trouble is anything that feels dangerous because it’s out of my control, which happens to be (ahem) L-I-F-E. So be patient in life, and always be prayerful? He began to show me that rushing through all that has to get done, is a (dangerous) way of coping with the fear that you will fail at it all. He began surrounding me with women who were feeling led of the Lord to “remove a plate,” in their lives so they too, could slow, and release the overwhelm a little. So the next question was a simple, natural progression: What is stillness then?

S-avoring

T-ime

I-nstead of

L-osing

L-ife

So now I’m returning to the land of allowing the Holy Spirit to have control over my moments. I have a plan, but its flexible. Lord, here is what I think I’m doing today and who I am doing it with and for, but You get to write this story. In the midst of these important pieces being handled, if You want to send me help, help me to accept it. If You have a divine interruption, help me to recognize it and let go of my control. If I can let go of something to be more available to my moments, show me and give me the courage I need to lay it down. Help me to let go of the notion of failure/success like those are my only two options. Help me to see, admit, and embrace, that it’s always both. I’m growing, I’m becoming, and that is beautiful.

So friend, I’m not sure if rushing has snuck its way into your life too, but I want to encourage you to ask the Lord. Ask Him to show you where you are missing the beautiful in order to not fail. Or if you are being drained dry anywhere and He wants to fill you up. Maybe see if you need to slow and learn the relief of stillness. I am actually being amazed by how much more I “accomplish” when my rhythm and pace matches the Lord’s. There is no life to be found where He isn’t present, so I’m officially done trying to race ahead of Him. Join me?

The Mind of Christ

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The ocean seems to be a place of rest for my soul. It seems while I walk upon the shore, feel the sand all round my feet, and hear the constant melody of the waves breaking, I can really exhale. I can release the pressure from the day-to-day, clear my whole self, and just be.

In this place of emptying out, I often find myself being filled. It seems as though when I release all of the yuck from the faster-than-the-speed-of-light life stuff, and I loosen my grip on everything I’m inevitably trying to maintain, that I can really receive.

The last time I was in such a position, what I found myself asking for, was for God to take my thoughts and transform them into His thoughts. I was intrigued by hearing myself ask for this. I just wanted to think about the things He was, and to see them through His heart, His perspective. I began to encounter His presence as I asked, and what I understood was that I was asking for the Mind of Christ.

I knew this wasn’t a one time prayer, and I determined to ask and keep asking. This has become quite honestly one of the deepest desires of my heart. But what I didn’t fully expect was how this prayer would begin to change everything about my life. I want to share 2 examples that have marked transformation to me personally.

One morning within a matter of moments, our air conditioner broke, our toilet overflowed, and our vehicle wouldn’t start. The thought arose, “Does this stuff happen to everyone?” And then immediately the truth came, “No! It doesn’t! The majority of people living on the earth do not have air conditioning, indoor plumbing, or their own vehicle. They aren’t lucky enough to have enjoyed these gifts in the first place to have to endure them needing to be repaired.” As my husband and I spoke of these truths, instead of growing overwhelmed, irritated, or frustrated, we began to give thanks to God in the midst of it for all that He has so freely given to us. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! As  I asked the Lord why were we able to have such a different experience than has been our norm, He showed me that it was an answer to the prayer to have the mind of Christ.

Most recently, there was a public attack against my character and as my husband presented it to me, the words that came out of my mouth were victory and love, even though I was not experiencing that emotionally. There was so much power in my response of truth that it totally diffused the anger that was trying to entangle us into being offended. As I later processed through what had taken place, the Lord showed me that again, I was equipped to have this response as an answer to praying for the Mind of Christ.

I share this testimony not to boast about myself, but to encourage you to join me. The reason these were notable is because for the past 30 years I have responded to similar circumstances in much different ways. This is a miracle to me to have reactions that do not devastate myself or those involved. It is growth that I mark personally as miraculous and give God all glory, honor, and praise for.

There have been victories in my life recently that I have never even believed to be possible. In fact, most areas that God is dealing with right now, I have for years just believed it was my lot in life. But as He is growing my vision and perspective to be united with His, I am beginning to really believe everything is possible with Him.

Will you join me? What areas in your life have you just settled into defeat about? Is there anything you aren’t willing to talk about with God and give Him the authority to be Lord of in your life? I want so deeply to continue to grow in His love, His truth, and His purpose for my life. It is so refreshing to actually believe that is possible! Praise God!