It’s ok not to be ok…

“It’s ok not to be ok…”

In theory this a great sentiment. It gives us something to say when we see hurting people around us and don’t really know what else to say. It rolls easily off our tongues when the “not ok” person is not inconveniencing us with their “not okness.” But what happens when you are the one who is NOT ok…is it still ok? Or do you find yourself hiding behind the façade of “fine” because admitting you’re “not ok” really equates to some sort of failure, deficiency, or weakness to most people? You see, we like cute little catch phrases like “it’s ok not to be ok.” But do we truly live like we believe it?

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.

Brene Brown

I thought 2020 was a year…until 2021 arrived.

As a pastor I will be the first one to tell you that our God never changes, our circumstances do. God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love are always readily available to us, no matter where we might find ourselves on this journey called life. This is a truth I stand by and the very truth I live by. I have known difficulty. I have known pain. I have known struggle. I have known soul crushing heartache. And through it all, God has never changed. He has never proven to be less than what He promised to be; He is my strength, my refuge, He upholds me with His righteous right hand, and His peace which surpasses all understanding is mine.

However, what happens when I awaken to the harsh truth that it is, in fact, me who is not ok?

Well…I can tell you what I did. I pushed it away and pretended like everything was “fine.” Because it is often so much easier to simply claim “fine” then to unload all the reasons you’re not ok to people who really only want the version of you that they want. The version of you that makes them feel the best…the version of you that most benefits them…the version of you they expect you to be. If we are truthful, many of us, myself included, ask people how they are in passing, but we really don’t want the real answer, the raw answer, the hard answer. All we are looking for is the “fine” that can keep us moving in the direction we want to go.

But what happens when we get stopped in our tracks?

One year ago my family had just gotten over our battle with Covid. My boys and I had pretty mild cases considering the realm of what we have seen over the last 20 months. And while my husband had a much worse case, we all faired pretty well. But did we really?!?! While my case of Covid was mild it produced in me other symptoms that many people now talk about as “long Covid” or “long haulers Covid.” In the month of having Covid and the four months following Covid I was at the ER 5 times with cardiac symptoms. I have had echocardiograms, more EKG’s and heart blood work than I can count, and a stress test. Thankfully, all is fine. The cardiologist simply ruled that my heart “likes to have a party every once in awhile.” His words, not mine. I have seen an orthopedic specialist and a neurologist. I have had 3 MRI’s. All to try to explain why it feels like I have Icy Hot running under my skin. Or why the day after I put up my Christmas decorations I felt like a 95 year old who just went 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. You know I’m old when he’s the most current boxer I know. Simply put, my case of Covid wasn’t bad at all; it was all the extra little treats the virus left me with that had doctors scratching their heads and me coming to terms with the fact that I would forever live wanting to jump out of my own skin. Even as I write this I see so clearly why “I am fine” was way easier to say.

As 2020 came to end I would lose my father to dementia after the Covid lockdowns made our visits with him sporadic at best during the last months of his life. I had so much hope for 2021. It would be better…it had to be better. However, before the ground could thaw in the spring after a long winter, Covid would hit so much harder than the burning coursing through my body…it would take my beloved uncle from us. We were just licking our wounds from my dad’s death when it greeted us again. Blindsiding us; taking our breath away. In the midst of this heartache our oldest son was navigating his first year away at college while we had to advocate for our younger son with autism who was not receiving a proper education due to Covid restrictions in the schools. At this time we were also petitioning the courts for guardianship as his 18th birthday loomed on the horizon. Our plates were overflowing, and not in a good way. My husband and I have been operating in what seemed like a vortex all while maintaining a demanding travel schedule for him and ministry work for me. I was barely hanging on. Then just four weeks ago it came again. Death was on our doorstep once more but this time it literally knocked the wind out of my sails. A message carrying the news that our beloved friend of over 35 years passed away. I just couldn’t fake it anymore…I was no longer “fine” and truth be told, I hadn’t been for a long time.

The hardest year of my life was the year after my daughter Francesca passed away. This past year has been the second. It has exhausted me in every way possible, with the exception of one. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I was on the brink of total burnout. However, spiritually I was in tact. Oh I needed time, a space for God to heal the gapping wounds in many areas but my faith was never shaken. I never doubted God’s goodness nor His faithfulness. But with my head barely above water, I was no longer leaning into Him either. I think in many ways I was like the disciples on the boat when the storm kicked up. I was trying to navigate the storm wreaking havoc with my life knowing full well Jesus was in my boat. I was silently screaming “will you please make this storm end!” All while pretending I had control over a sinking ship. You see, sometimes we become so good at pretending we are “fine” that we actually start believing the lie ourselves.

But here is the point of this blog. I promise its not so I could from 0 to 60 on the vulnerability scale in a hot second. It’s to point out that all around us there are people struggling. People who look fine, but are not fine. People who need to know that it truly is ok to not be ok. Taking time to catch your breath is actually not a sign of weakness but one of great wisdom. We live in a time and a society were FOMO rules our lives and we are only as good as our latest “like” or “share” count. What good are we if we are not producing, not influencing, not being who everyone expects us to be? No wonder so many are silently wounded…time bombs waiting to go off. Our value and worth is no longer linked to the light that shines within us but rather the light that is upon us. Self care falls to the waste side because we are too busy trying to be who others want us to be rather than who God created us to be. Soul care falls to the waste side because we are far more concerned with the external implications of our need to take a break or being honest and vulnerable about where we are at, rather than the internal ones.

We are a society on the verge of burnout. What makes me think that? Violent crimes are on the rise, suicide is on the rise, drug addiction is on the rise, and the list goes on and on. Because when we pretend “fine” for too long, the truth always comes out one way or another…often, in unhealthy ways.

Thankfully, I knew I wasn’t fine and the people around me knew it too. Over the last few weeks I have had time to rest and simply be in the moment. Few obligations and not much vying for my time, other than those who need me most, my husband and my children. A time to simply be. To take deep breaths and regain my footing. For so long God has spoken to me. He has so clearly told me, “you will find Me in the silence.” And here’s the thing, God’s presence has always been with me but the noise of my life was drowning Him out. I needed to go back to the place of silence to wholly see Him again.

The Lord is my strength and shield.

    I trust him with all my heart.

He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.

    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7

Was I weak to admit I was no longer ok, I don’t think so. Did my admission cause me to not live up to some people’s expectations of me, quite possibly. Does sharing this make some uncomfortable, I guess it could. But here is what I have learned. Actually, I already knew this I just needed the silence to remind me of it.

First, in my own strength, I am weak. I am only strong by the One who strengthens me…Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. If my life is so busy and burdened that I can no longer hear Him…I will end up on the verge of burnout once again. Second, I was reminded of this simple, powerful, yet freeing truth…there is only ONE who’s expectations I must meet. Only One whose desires I should fulfill. Only One whose approval I seek. God and God alone. If my life is not a pleasing offering to Him, then I will get it wrong in every other area of my life. Finally, if being vulnerable enough to share this helps just one other person to know they are not alone…then I don’t really care if it makes anyone uncomfortable. God placed it in front of the one it was written for. To remind them of the truth that I know so well…He sees you…He loves you…and a breakthrough IS coming. That was a promise God made me a year ago and He has been faithful to that promise. While my heart still aches from devastating losses, my body has been healed of most of the post Covid symptoms I have had. It took time in the silence to find the joy of every single one of the blessings I have I received in the midst of the heartache. My circumstances changed…my God NEVER did!!!

So my dear friends. It really is ok not to be ok. However, it is not ok to stay there. Maybe you just needed to hear someone say that a season of rest is what you need. Self care is what you need. Soul care is what you need. God didn’t just create you to survive. He created you to thrive; to live in the fullness of His image in which you were created. Oh sweet soul reading this, put down the façade of “fine” and own where you are at so that Creator of the world and the lover of your soul can heal you from the inside out. You are worth it to Him. He loved you first and He loves you most. Find Him in the silence…He is always there.

Questions

Yes, I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

Last week the thought caught my attention that I have not written a blog since December. Honestly, I haven’t felt the need to. This is probably why I am bad at blogging. I am not someone who can write on demand. Writing is not my profession nor is it my craft. I wouldn’t necessarily call it my hobby either. It goes so much deeper than all of the above. My writing comes from deep within my connection with God. The sacred place were abiding occurs. It’s not that my connection is lesser with God in seasons where my writing is less; it’s simply that the Holy Spirit has not stirred up the words inside of me. Last week when my blog crossed my mind it was the middle of the afternoon, the perfect time to write. Yet, I felt nothing. Not a single word popped into my head and no writing occurred. Now I sit here franticly typing; the words overflowing out of me. It’s 2:30 in the morning and this will most certainly hurt when the alarm goes off in 3 hours to get my youngest son ready for school. Who knows…maybe I’ll still be awake, my finger hovering over the word “publish.” Because there are two things that are certain when I blog; 1) the Holy Spirit alone prompts me to write and 2) I am never certain that I will publish it until I actually hit publish.

Writing for me is so much more more than putting words to the page. It’s about giving glimpses of my soul; sharing the thoughts and experiences, the triumphs and struggles on this journey. How do I know which pieces I will share? I never do. Only when the Spirit stirs and prompts do the words flow. It’s almost as if to remind me that apart from Him I can do nothing and only when it will point back to Him should I write something. Because, lets be honest, without the power of the Holy Spirit compelling it and the truth of Jesus woven within it…I am simply another amateur writer littering an already overcrowded blogging field with my thoughts. Instead, I write with the one in mind. The one the Holy Spirit thought of when He ignited the blogging fire within me. The one whom these words are meant for. The one who needs to be reminded that God sees you…He sees all of you…even the parts you don’t want Him to see…and He still loves you. Who is the one? I’m never really sure. Maybe it’s someone I love or a complete stranger, there have been times when it has proven to be me, or perhaps the one is you. Ultimately, it matters not. The need is never for me to know who I am writing for. It is simply an act of obedience; trusting that the One who prompted me to write is the same One who will be faithful to ensure that the right eyes see the words and the right heart is soothed, encouraged, or convicted by them.

Who are You God? Because You are turning out to be so much different than I imagined.

Steven Curtis Chapman

After my daughter passed away music became an agent of healing. Within the melodies and lyrics it was as if I could still tangibly connect to the beauty of God in the midst of the suffocating pain of grief. The album I would listen to over and over again was Beauty Will Rise by Steven Curtis Chapman; a collection of songs he wrote and recorded after his daughter went home to be with Jesus, just 4 months after my sweet Francesca. There was something in the shared experience that made the words he sang pour over me like healing balm. A hurting father to a hurting mother, a son of God to a daughter of God, a singer/songwriter to the one on their mind as the Holy Spirit prompted and compelled a piece of art that would prove to be so much more…to so many more than just the one. Within the artistry came a glimpse into his soul and through the vulnerability of his pain came the still soft voice that would often rise above the lyrics to say “I see you. You are not alone.”

And where are You God? Cuz I am finding life to be so much harder than I had planned.

Steven Curtis Chapman

I often find people’s 5 and 10 year plans ironic. I mean the likelihood of your life plan playing out the way you actually planned is less predictable than a meteorologist’s 14 day weather forecast. Life very rarely goes according to our preplanned agenda’s, yet so many of us still get caught up in laying out the blueprint of our lives. The more detailed the blueprint the harder the wrecking ball of the unexpected hits. It’s in these moments that our faith is often tested the most and the questions swirl. “Why?” becomes the cry of our heart. “If only” becomes the anthem of the dreams that haunt us. One of the hardest lessons some of us have to learn is that we are, in fact, not the author of our own story. Contrary to the lies of this age, we do not “create our own destiny.” Long before the world began, before a single day of our lives came to pass, we were on the heart and in the mind of the true author of our story. Created for a plan and purpose far greater than anything we could ever conjure up. Created for such a time as this, to be part of a much greater story than our own. Yet, it’s often the death grip on which we hold onto our own blueprint that makes us question our Creator when the plan doesn’t go according to our specifications.

Even in the sacred space of abiding questions still come, heartache is still real and devastation still occurs. However, it is in the abiding that a branch can weather even the fiercest storm if the vine it is connected to is strong. In the ache of my broken heart nothing in this world made sense. The blueprint I had for my life was shredded and placed in the cold earth of a cemetery. The only thing I had to cling to was Jesus and who I trusted Him to be. I had to believe that He would bind my wounds and heal my broken heart. Even in grief…especially in grief…I learned that apart from Him I can truly do nothing. God turned out to be so much different than I expected. When life got harder than I planned, that is when I learned that God isn’t my fairy godfather, floating around in the distance, waiting to give me a “happily ever after.” He is a very real and personal Father who meets us in the mess and the pain and the heartache of this life…if we will open ourselves up to Him.

How could You God? How could You be so good and strong and make a world that can be so painful?

Steven Curtis Chapman

In our humanness so many of us make God’s goodness dependent upon our circumstances or the circumstances of the world. The brokenness of sin is what makes the world painful, not God. That is an overly simplistic statement to explain a topic that men have theologized and philosophized for centuries but, it’s simply the truth. The even greater truth is that God has already given us the remedy for sin and therefore He is more than capable to be the remedy for the pain caused by the brokenness of sin. And someone needs to hear this…the brokenness of sin is not just about people behaving badly; it is disease and poverty and natural disasters etc. Sin didn’t just fracture humanity, it distorted all of creation. But God so loved the world that He made a way where there was no way…His name is Jesus. Jesus makes all things new. Jesus turns the ashes of this life into beautiful things.

In so many ways life turned out to be so much harder than I expected. Devastation came…more than once. Yet in it, through the abiding, God turned out to be so much more than I expected, not less. He came alive to me in greater ways, not lesser. Was the road easy, no. But did it show me that God is greater, ABSOLUTELY. My heart aches for the many who will believe that because they didn’t get the ending they wanted that at the minimum God isn’t good and the max, He isn’t even real. Both could not be further from the truth.

Who am I God? That you would raise me from the dust to breathe Your life and Your love me.

Steven Curtis Chapman

It is now almost 5 am, in just 30 minutes the alarm will signal me to awaken from a slumber that never occurred. A slumber that alluded me because God knew someone needed to be reminded that He never sleeps or slumbers. His eyes never stray or wander. He is faithful to watch over His children. He leaves the flock to rescue the one and He waits with open arms for the prodigal to return to home. Who is the one I write for? I don’t know and quite honestly, I don’t need to know. What I do know is that over the years the Holy Spirit has awaken many prayer warriors to pray on my behalf. Tonight, or this morning I should say, I have paid that blessing forward. Someone needs to be reminded that Almighty God has breathed life into you…He gave His Son’s life because He found you worthy of His love. Life may not be going the way your thought it should or wanted it to; that doesn’t mean that God is no longer good or that you are no longer His beloved. Abide in Him and He will abide in you. It is the abiding that you will find your strength and your comfort. In the abiding all the questions may not be answered but the ashes will become beautiful as you experience God in greater ways than you could ever imagine.

Questions

Who are You God
For You are turning out to be
So much different than I imagined

And where are you God
Cause I am finding life to be
So much harder than I had planned

Know that I am afraid
To ask these questions
But You know they are there

And if you know my heart
The way that I believe you do
You know that I believe in You
Still I have these questions

Like How could you God
How could You be so good and strong
And make a world that can be so painful

And where were you God
I know you had to be right there
I know you never turn your head

You know that I’m confused
By all this mystery
You know I get afraid
But if you know my heart
As completely as I trust you do
Oh you know that I trust in you

Is it true
That fore every tear I cry
You cry a thousand more
Cause you weep for those that weep

And are you, just holding yourself back
From crushing all the pain and evil in this world
For reasons we just cant understand for now
But isn’t there a day of redemption coming
Oh Redemption is coming

Quickly Lord, come quickly
Lord, come quickly

So who am I God
That you would raise me from the dust
To breathe your life and your love in me
You know that I believe

Steven Curtis Chapman

Confessions from a season of madness…

When the heart is burdened sleep often eludes the restless soul.

This is me this morning.

Sitting in my backyard as the dawn meets the day. The sound of crickets and the haunting melody of “Ave Maria” serving as my soundtrack. While no longer Catholic, there is something about this particular song that can still bring me to tears. Or maybe it’s the sheer physical and emotional exhaustion finally overwhelming me. Seeking a release or threatening to consume me.

So here I sit, in quiet desperation…crying out to God. Fixing my gaze on the only One who makes sense in a season of utter madness.

The prophet Isaiah asks is anyone is thirsty? My heart cries, yes!! The journey through this dry and dusty land has left me parched. Disillusioned and bewildered by what is unfolding before my very eyes. When did we become a people of such extremes? When did we become a people of such hatred? When did we become so consumed with fear? The moment we shifted our gaze off of God and onto the world, that’s when. For confusion, chaos, fear, and hatred are all attributes of our enemy, who is the prince of this world.

“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised David.” ~ Isaiah 55:3

There is only one source of life and love; God alone. Isaiah boldly proclaims that if we seek the Lord we will find Him. So this morning I cry out to Him. For the burdened and heavy hearted, He is the only source of comfort and solace. He is the only source of truth and hope. He is the only source of peace in the chaos. For only He as the power to turn the torment of the heart into the joy that can be found in every new day.

“The theif’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” ~ John 10:10

The intention of this blog was always to be real, raw, and vulnerable about where I am on this journey called life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not interested in adding to the ever growing “highlight reel” that has us all believing in a false sense of reality, that in all actuality is the greatest lie ever told. Facades are as false as the unrealistic expectations they place on our lives. That is something I will never prescribe to, nor perpetuate.

However, in the spirit of transparency, I will admit that since having the title “pastor” affixed to my name I have been less than forthcoming in my blogs. There is a responsibility that comes with that title and truth be told, it’s suffocating at times. Ironically, its not the expectations of God that are so overwhelming, but rather those of people. Everything said and done is analyzed as if under a microscope. Did I meet your expectations of me? Did I give you what you needed from me? Did I say what you wanted me to say, when you wanted me to say it, how you wanted me to say it? Do you even realize I am still a human being with a heart and feelings and a family of my own?

One week ago today in a staff meeting we did a prayer exercise through Proverbs 3 and this is what God spoke to me out verses 11&12…

The enemy plays on your insecurity. Be secure in who I have created you to be. I am never pleased with an imitation or a false version of you. You are beautifully and wonderfully made…exactly how I made you.

You see, the enemy would like nothing more than to allow insecurity to move me to silence. How easy it would be for him to wreak havoc in my mind as I unrealistically try to please everyone.

Recently…

I have been accused of pushing a far right political agenda. Ironically, I have also been accused of pushing a far left one as well. Not sure how I have managed to accomplish that unbelievable fete, but I have.

I have silently struggled as my son with autism has been so detrimentally affected by school closures. Putting on a brave face that screams “everything is fine.” While silently devastated and weary by how this season has manifested in his behaviors.

I have greater insight into how the lepers of Jesus day must have felt as my family endures Covid19. Because publicly confirming you have this illness is the modern day equivalent to placing a damning scarlet letter on your chest.

Isn’t it amazing to discover what is really lurking behind a smiling face.

“The goal of our life is not people. It is God. Only in Him shall we find the rest we seek.” ~ Henri Nouwen

As I sit here this morning, in the still presence of God, He does what only He can do. He breathes new life into me. He reminds me that the only affirmation I ever need is His. While the world conditions us to please people, the Spirit moves us to please God. As our gaze shifts firmly on Jesus, He reveals that the greatest deception the enemy has ever unleashed upon us is “people pleasing.” Our value, our worth, and our calling is never determined by popular opinion, it rests in Jesus Christ alone.

I have learned in this season, probably more than any other, that I simply want to represent Jesus well. As my Savior never fit into the neat little boxes culture has created, neither do I. In fact, He defied them in every way. He loved limitlessly but His holy nature also demanded justice. He gave freely but He had an expectation that we, as His disciples, would honor Him well by living out His commission and commands. He showed compassion and grace but also experienced the very real human emotions of anger, grief, anguish, and despair.

So here I am…real, raw and honest.

Am I mad that my son cannot go back to school this fall? Yes, I am absolutely furious. Most people will never understand the toll this will take on all of our children, in particular the special needs population.

Do I believe we need to protect our democracy? Absolutely!! I see anarchy on the rise in this country. I see socialism on the brink. And I can’t help but wonder if the greatest fatality of Covid19 will be the United States of America itself.

Do I believe that law enforcement has been demonized as a whole by a few horrible police officers? Without a doubt. I am so thankful that I am not judged by every false teacher and bad pastor that has ever stood at a pulpit. We must never forget these were the men and women that ran into the Twin Towers on 9/11. They are the ones who place themselves in harms way daily for our protection. They are the ones who worked so diligently to bring our daughter Francesca back the day she died, the ones who wept with my husband and I, the ones who came back to check in on us a few years later.

Do I believe that there are hurting and marginalized people in our country? Emphatically, YES!!. People whose voices need to be heard, even if their dialogue makes me uncomfortable, even if I fundamentally disagree with the political agendas that are hidden behind the movement. YES!! Because after all, how does healing and reconciliation ever happen if we are never willing to step out of own experiences to hear the experiences and pain of others.

Have I watched fear grip our nation as our leaders and media have used tactics to insight such feelings? I actually believe I have. It has both paralyzed and polarized us as a nation. We can no longer respectfully agree to disagree. We have lost the ability to honor everybody’s comfort level. We have made public health and safety political propaganda. Drawing the lines between Red and Blue, much like the lines drawn 160 years ago between North and South.

And in the midst of all this chaos and confusion, the prayer of Jesus echoes in my head. As He prayed for His followers this is what He said…

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to this world any more than I do.  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. ~ John 17:13-21

Jesus was leaving this earth and in doing so He was anointing His followers to continue living out His ministry and mission. His prayer was not that we would become political activists or that we would fit into the cookie cutter boxes that culture has created. His prayer wasn’t that we would make everyone happy. He didn’t pray that we wouldn’t suffer persecution, He didn’t pray away hardships, He didn’t even ask that everything would go our way. He prayed that His Father would make us into a holy people, set apart by His truth. A people in this world, but no longer of this world. Citizens of heaven here on earth. A people who hunger and thirst for righteousness. A meek and humble people who are unoffendable. Who can admit the realness of how they are feeling but then submit those feelings to God rather than acting upon them. A people that understand that even in the chaos, and the confusion, and the uncertainty God is still in control. He sees what we do not see and therefore He does what we would not do. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s thoughts are nothing like ours and His ways are far beyond what we could ever imagine. Therefore, we must trust that God is moving in ways beyond what our eyes can see…at least for right now. One day, it will all be revealed. Of that I am certain.

So this morning I am thirsty. The dust and dryness of this land has left me parched. The power of admitting that truth, is that the enemy has no hold over my mind. He cannot create a false narrative about the things I have kept hidden. Instead, the living water of Jesus Christ alone replenishes my soul. He gives the me hope and the courage to persevere even when things are not seemingly going the way I wish they would.

For the heart that awoke this morning feeling heavy and burdened, this blog is for you. I hope you, like me, will take comfort in the words of James,

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” ~ James 1:3-4

With our gaze firmly focused on Jesus we will persevere through this season and be better for it. Of that I have no doubt.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full in His wonderful face…and the things of this world will grow strangely dim…in the light of His glory and grace.

This morning, as the emotions threatened to overwhelm me, God reminded me to let the world grow dim. As His truth settled into my heart, His peace enveloped me. I pray that peace rests upon you as well today and in the days to come. Even this will be worked out for God’s glory if we simply trust in Him.

Love Changes Everything

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1

Words…

So easy to flow from our lips,yet, so much harder to put into action.

Love…

So easy to claim,yet, so much harder to execute.

When words flow without love they wound, they inflict pain, they damage. When words flow without love they fall on deaf ears. When words flow without love their is no evidence of Jesus in them.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:2

Knowledge…

Without love, it doesn’t produce lasting change.

Faith…

Without love, it is shallow and limits our ability to shine the light of Christ

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:3

Generosity…

Fulfills a need in the moment but without love, the moment passes quickly.

Sacrifice…

If not rooted in love, is self-serving.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Over the last several days I have prayed. I have lamented. I have sought the face of God and tonight He brought me here…to love.

The dichotomy of our times is the deep chasm between love and hate. We love what we believe to be right and true and we hate anything that varies. When did that happen? When did we become a people who can no longer respectfully agree to disagree? When did we become a people so fixated on one way that we can no longer open our hearts and our minds to seeing things from another perspective? When did we become a people that in order to support one group of people, you must hate another? Maybe we’ve always been this way and God has finally awaken me to this sad reality.

Where did love go? Did we ever really have it?

In our overly charged political climate, some will immediately say, “It’s Trump’s fault!” Others will immediately say, “It’s Obama’s fault!” Yet, it all reminds me of the Garden of Eden. Everything beautiful and wonderful abounded; there for God’s glory and Adam and Eve’s enjoyment. Yet, God had given them one rule, just one…don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent slithers his way in and…well you know how the story ends. Sin enters the world and the fingers start pointing…”The woman made me eat it!” “The serpent deceived me!” We’ve been playing the blame game since the very beginning.

The reality is this…

In the garden, in the history of humanity, and today a lack of love is always rooted in the brokenness of sin. Where sin abounds, hurt and heartbreak abounds more. Our current issues are not a political battle, they are spiritual one. We have an enemy and he hates us; he longs to steal, kill and destroy. His goal and his tactics have not changed. The enemy wants to steal our ability to love others in spite of our differences. The enemy wants to kill any chance of compassionate discourse that might bring understanding and change. But more than anything, the enemy yearns to destroy unity. Because a unified people, although they might not agree 100%, have the capacity to love one another beyond the differences and truly change the world.

Patient and kind love has a heart to understand.

Love that is not proud, boastful, or rude has the humility to put others first and listen, really listen, before speaking.

Love that is not irritable and keeps no records of wrongs offers forgiveness.

Love that does not rejoice in injustice but rejoices in the truth must be moved and motivated, not by ones own feelings, but rather by the very heart of God.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

What if love motivated us to never give up? Never give up seeking after God’s face and God’s heart in every situation? Never give up seeing people through God’s eyes?

What if we never lose faith in God’s ability to take even the hardest seasons and turn them it something extraordinary?

On social media yesterday I sensed a narrative that I have been struggling with. That narrative seemed to state that in order to stand in the gap to end injustice then you must not support law enforcement. This sentiment breaks my heart.

 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13

While I cannot speak for everyone, I can speak for myself. My participation in yesterday’s Black Out movement was not a condoning of riots. The destruction of property, violence, chaos and mayhem will not bring lasting change. It is criminal and only causes more division. My participation in the Black Out movement was also not an anti-law enforcement statement. We have incredible men and women who serve and protect the citizens of this country. They have an incredibly difficult job and in this season its harder than ever. I don’t ever take what they do for granted. In fact, I am very grateful for them. However, none of this negates the issue at hand, racial injustice is real.

Yesterday was simply an opportunity to say to those who are peacefully protesting, “I see you…I hear you…I seek to understand better.” It was a step in obedience to the promptings God has laid upon my heart to be a part of the solution. It was a recognition that this battle does have a hidden agenda…not ensued by the Democrats or the Republicans…but rather by the enemy who wants to destroy us all.

I cannot change you. But I can choose to ask God to help change me.

I have faith…faith that believes that this could be the greatest hour for the Church as God uses us to bring healing and reconciliation.

I have hope…hope that believes that out of these ashes God will bring beautiful things.

And I have love. Love is our greatest weapon in this battle. It is the very weapon God Himself used when Jesus Christ conquered sin and death. This is not a mere human love, but a supernatural love. Birthed by the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of me. A love that chased me down when I was broken and hurting. A love that made me whole. A love that compels me to listen, to seek to understand, and to be the light of my Savior, Jesus Christ, in a world that so desperately needs Him. Only He can bind our wounds and heal our land. That is what I pray for, would you join me in praying the same?

Lord, Jesus come. Intercede on our behalf. We have come to the end of human wisdom. True change and true healing can only come through You. We humbly ask you to come…we need your peace, your comfort, your wisdom.

In Jesus Name.

Amen!

 

Silence

I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me. ~ Albert Einstein

For the last several years, as a new year dawns, I ask God to give me a word. A word that will govern the coming year for me.  Over the years words like, “trust”, “surrender”, and even “choice” have been noted in my journal. Usually, the word will come to me in late December and or early January, but what is most remarkable is how these words take shape in my life throughout the year. This practice always reminds me that God sees what we do not.

“Silence”

Yes, “silence.” That is my word for 2020.

January 2, 2020

I sometimes wonder if this will be the decade of silence for me…What does silent introspection look like for me? I am such an out loud processor that I am not sure. Yet, I find myself craving more silence.

January seems like years rather than months ago. As I reflect on my journal entries…just 20 weeks old…I am astounded at how God was preparing me for this season.

January 8, 2020

My life is loud…my words are often many…but I need silence. Like a desert thirsts for rain, my soul thirsts for silence.

When God gave me this word for 2020 I obviously had no clue what was about to unfold, but I did know that I would find Him in greater ways in the silence.

Everything we hear is an opinion. Not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. ~ Marcus Aurelius

I have stayed relatively silent throughout the current situation we find ourselves in. Of course, I have had conversations with family and my closest friends, but publicly I have said very little. Opinions flow freely…why litter the already overcrowded pool with yet, another one. However, silence is not a reflection of a lack of an opinion…but rather the pondering of what to do with one’s opinion.

Yesterday we had a small gathering at our house; only 10 people for those who are counting. It was truly one of the most “normal” things we have done in weeks. As I sat in my kitchen with my aunt and my cousins I had a very unguarded conversation. In that moment I let many of the things that I have been pondering over for weeks flow freely. This morning as I awoke before the dawn the conversation played over and over again in my mind. I’m not sure if anything I said even made sense. But what I do know is that in the silence I have wrestled with two things in this season and they both poured out of me yesterday.

  1. What is God trying to teach us?
  2. What does it mean to truly live a faith over fear lifestyle?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~ James 1:2-4

No shame in my game…I’m an extrovert…and a proud American. Therefore, I would be lying to you if I said I have always counted the “Shelter in Place” order a joy. We are the land of the free, we are not conditioned to be told to stay home for weeks with a goal line in reach only to have it adjusted and moved further away, several times. I have learned in this season that if you give me a clear “why”, my rule follower nature will come out strong. But, if the “why” is fuzzy or completely absent, a spirit of rebellion begins to rise up in me.

In this season, more than any other, I have had to wrestle with faith and politics. I have tried the reconcile Nikki, the Christ follower with Nikki, a person with political ideologies. What I have discovered; reconciling the two is easier said than done.

So what is God trying to teach me?

I think in every season God is teaching us something. In this season He has reminded me that His ways are not ours. He sees what we do not see and therefore He does what we would not do. My journal so far in 2020 has been so different than any other I have ever written, a dichotomy of thoughts. Questions and statements, introspection and reflections so all over the place, yet somehow there is a harmony to it all.

In my entries I wonder…a lot! Question after question. Yet, many center around the same thing, are we pleasing God? So many times I have wondered do we, as God’s people, fixate on things that do not actually matter to Him? Have we fallen into the same trap of the Pharisees and created God in our image rather than living in the fullness of being created in His? If we opened Scripture do we look like the people who set the world on fire for Jesus Christ or would Paul, Peter, John, and James scratch their heads wondering what in the world we are all doing?  Unfortunately, this is not the blog where I give you answers to these deeply complex questions. But rather a place that simply poses questions to ponder.

What I do know is that Jesus was never a political crusader. He never spoke against Rome, in fact He didn’t say much about Rome at all. And make no mistake, Rome was a pretty messed up place. The 21st century hasn’t cornered the market on sin and disobedience. Ancient Rome excelled at both as well. So as I wrestle with the political side of my personality I have spent much time in prayer asking God to check my spirit and attitude. Because a rebellious spirit, even if warranted, left unchecked can often leads to greater danger. One must always submit to the authority of God and allow Him to guide the steps that follow, whatever they may be. If I have learned anything in my walk with Jesus, it is that if God has called us to something, He will equip us for it. I have also learned that going rogue and then hoping God will bless it in the end is probably not the most prudent or prayerful approach.

All Scripture is inspired by God and useful to teach us what is true and make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Could this be a season of humbling and correction? I don’t know. But I do know I have spent more time on my knees praying prayers of confession and repentance than ever before in my life.  On behalf of myself, our country, our world, and yes, even the Church. The greatest sin of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day was pride. They thought they had it all figured out and in their arrogance they completely missed the Savior of the world right before their very eyes. Why? Because for Jesus to be right that would have meant they were wrong and their pride would have never allowed for that kind of admission.

I have found myself wondering if we suffer from a pride issue too? Pride of country, pride of political affiliation, pride of intellect, pride of academia, pride of doctrine? But please hear my heart, it’s not wrong to love our country, to have political allegiance, to trust science and learning, or to adhere to a certain theology. However, when those things become our fixation rather than Jesus we are diving into the dangerous end of the ocean. It is in this place that our need to be right and heard often overrules our obedience to being Christ’s ambassadors in our world.

Could it be the very thing that robs us of the peace that transcends all understanding and joy of simply being Christlike, is the fact that our pride often finds us living independent of God? We rely on ourselves, or our government, or our faith in human intellect when in fact, only God can prepare and equip us to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-8

What does it mean to live a faith over fear lifestyle?

When Covid19 began to unfold back in March the future for so many of us was so very uncertain and in many ways, it still is. My husband’s job is heavily tied to the food and restaurant industry and therefore job security was not a premium as every single restaurant across America was forced to close. We watched as people he has worked with for years struggle to keep businesses afloat. Our hearts ached as business colleagues who had invested everything in a dream saw it turn into a nightmare over night. Doors of restaurants we know and love will never open again. And this is just one source of worry in this season.

We worry about health, mental and physical…

We worry about our children who have lost important social interactions and valuable education…

We worry about job loss…

We worry about the political climate; the lack or abuse of leadership depending on where you sit in all of this…

We turn on the TV and there it is. We open up social media and there it is. We listen to the radio and there it is. We have created a culture that has made fixating and obsessing about this situation so easy. We live in a time when the conflicting voices are so loud that confusion and chaos reign.

Yet, in the silence we find the remedy for it all. For in the silence is God.

Instead of fixating on the news and Facebook, Paul says in ALL things pray to God. However, I don’t think that Paul is talking about simply bringing a laundry list of things you want God to do for you. I think Paul is saying, silence the world and simply allow the voice of God to be the loudest one in your life. Silence the world and allow the Holy Spirit to be your guiding force. Silence the world, seek the face of God and as you do watch your worry dissolve into peace.

Peace is not found in a vaccine or a cure for Covid19. Peace is not found in a certain political party winning an election. Peace isn’t even found in “Freeing Michigan” (although, I would like to give it a shot…LOL). There is only one true source of peace and that is Jesus Christ. Only when we fully trust Him, only when we fully surrender to Him can we have this peace the Bible tells us about.

Last night I shared with my aunt and my cousins that for Matt and I, worry isn’t something that consumes us. Not because we are super strong people or not worriers by nature…that could not be further from the truth. By nature I am a hot mess, prone to anxiety and fear. However, the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of me helps to override the tendencies of the flesh. AND…and this is a really BIG “and”…God has proven His faithfulness to us, over and over again. Through our son’s autism and our daughter’s death…God has been proven that ALL of His promises are true. The inevitable is that this life will disappoint us and bad things can happen, but Matt and I are living proof that God can turn ashes into beautiful things. So, when the worry begins to creep in, I return to the well of God’s faithfulness and draw from it. Knowing with full confidence that no circumstance is bigger than my God. That is not said to diminish healthy concern, we should all do our due diligence and be wise. Nor is it to discredit or belittle very really worries that people have. It is simply said as an encouragement; a reminder that where we are weak God is strong and where we fall short He is more than able.

January 8, 2020

Find me in the silence…

Silence is not a reflection of a lack of an opinion…but rather the pondering of what to do with one’s opinion and whom to submit it to.

Silence is the space where we shut off the voices of the world and shut up the voices of our own opinions and emotions…it is the place where God speaks.

If your heart is weary or troubled; if you are consumed with worry and anxiety; if your anger rages because of the political climate of our country…

Can I encourage you this morning…in the silence…to simply be still and know God.

In all seasons, in all circumstances, with a grateful heart know that regardless of what changes around us, God NEVER changes. He is constant, He faithful and He is good…always. He sees what we do not see and therefore does what we would not do. His plan and His timing are perfect…always. When we are slow to speak and quick to listen for the voice of God, He will guide our steps and His peace will rule in our hearts. That is not opinion nor is it a perspective…it is simply the truth of the Gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Not Hidden

light-bulb-lit-among-dark-ones

You are not hidden… There’s never been a moment you were forgotten… ~ Lauren Daigle

Tonight I sat in a room full of people yet I was all alone…

As a parent of autism this is a place that is very familiar to me.

Finding yourself in situations where the circumstances of your journey…all the things that make your family “different” or not “normal” glare at you like a spotlight.

Tonight I sat in a darkened corner. In all fairness, the whole room was dark but when you’re in a corner it feels a little darker. I was in a room full of activity, full of people, yet I felt completely alone. The call for people to come forward, to find freedom in the moment actually didn’t apply to me. As I sat next to my sweet boy, lost in the world of whatever movie he was watching, I was more concerned that in this reverent moment he wouldn’t squeal or scream at the characters on the screen. In fact, as I tried to get into the atmosphere of prayer what I really silently prayed was that my son wouldn’t be a distraction.

All around me prayer and worship occurred yet I was not a part of it…at all. In my darkened corner I simply sat. Alone with my own thoughts, my own prayers, and an occasional kiss from my handsome companion, who was blissfully unaware of what was really happening around him. The spotlight glared and I was once again reminded that autism can often leave you feeling alone in crowd.

As I began to frantically journal my own prayers…I too became oblivious to the events of the room I was in. My focus rested solely on God.

I hear you whisper underneath your breath…I hear your SOS, your SOS ~ Lauren Daigle

As I prayed God reminded me that I am not the only who is living in the struggle. All around me are people fighting a battle…living every day feeling all alone in a sea of people. People who feel the tension of never being able to find freedom because of whatever struggle or burden is hanging around their neck like a noose…attempting to suck the life right out of them at any given moment.

Turning to God’s Word, as I often do when my heart is troubled, I began to read the words of Psalm 138. The words of the Psalmist poured into my heart and enveloped me like the God hug that they were…

As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength…

The Lord will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

I will send out an army to find you. In the middle of the darkest night. It’s true, I will recuse you. I will never stop marching to reach you. In the middle of the hardest fight. It’s true, I will rescue you. ~ Lauren Daigle

In the darkened corner…

Where no one else sees or understands the full extent of the pain or the struggle…God sees us.

We are not hidden, forgotten, or forsaken. Our God sees us and He meets us in that place of loneliness and isolation…if we would only allow Him in.

He is the God who sees us. The God who can carry us above our circumstances and take us to a place of peace that transcends all understanding.

Tonight in a room full of people it was just me and God. He met me in the struggle and reminded me that I am never alone, He is always near. And while very few people I know understand the complexities and ache of being a parent of autism…God understands. It was Him in that moment reminding me that He is my strength.

The musings of this blog are to tell you that God sees you too. Somebody who will read these words needs to hear that truth right now. You are the reason I wrote this blog. God told me you needed to be reminded that you are not hidden…you have not been forgotten or forsaken. God sees you. He is your strength and your protection. Trust Him! He has not abandoned you…

In the darkest night and in the middle of the toughest fight…He WILL rescue you!!! Let go and trust Him.

 

 

 

In and Out of Time

The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance…
our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.

We have loved each other in and out of time.

When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun
and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor
I had always loved you more.
You freed your braids…
gave your hair to the breeze.
It hummed like a hive of honey bees.
I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there….
Mmmm…God how I love your hair.

You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance.
Lost, injured, hurt by chance.
I screamed to the heavens….loudly screamed….
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams…

The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out
in and out
in and out
of time.

Maya Angelou

Love. So simple, so pure, yet so complex and complicated. Four little letters strung together. They have the ability to hold all the treasures of the universe. Yet, they hold the power to destroy the human heart. That is the great paradox of love. While it is a many splendor thing, it does indeed hurt.

When you love so deeply you run the greatest risk for heartache. Which puts us all face to face with a very important question. Would you trade away the chance to love to protect your heart from ever experiencing pain?

The beauty of writing is the art of editing. You can change what you don’t like. The word “delete” has the ability to erase the pain of any given character with a single click. If only life where that easy.

To love gives you no option for delete. You cannot erase the ties of the heart and soul. So when love leaves you, the heart aches in unfathomable ways.

I loved you in and out of time.

Can we ever know what it truly means to love in time and out of time? I am not sure I could have answered that question 12 years ago. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have pondered that question 12 years ago. But then something happens…a moment…the universe flips and everything you know to be true and right and good comes crashing in around you. The moment that death steals the beauty of love right from your grasp.

11 years ago today…how quickly time escapes us. 11 years have gone by since I have held my sweet, precious Francesca. Her baby coos and baby smell where the very essence of love wrapped in a head of brown hair, big grey eyes, and the completeness of our joy. I loved her in time.

But on an eerily warm January day 11 years ago love was snatched out of my hands. As the mourning and weeping began I had no idea I had just been placed on a journey that would teach me the beauty of loving in AND out of time.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. ~ Psalm 139:13-16

I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.

We have loved each other in and out of time.

Oh, how we so desperately want to ascribe every feeling those eloquent words evoke to love in the human realm. And quite honestly, that may have very well been Maya Angelou’s intent when she placed those words on a page for the very first time. But this morning as I stumbled across this poem, one that I had read years ago and forgotten about, I was reminded of the beauty of the relationship all of creation has the privilege to have with Almighty God.

God is the author of love…He is love. It is in His very character, His very nature, in every nuance of His very presence that a human soul discovers the fullness of loving in and out of time.

I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.

Ahhhh…do you see it. From the moment God began to knit us together in our mother’s wombs, we were His to have. And from that very moment He was always ours.

With our first cries on this earth we begin our journey home to the One who loved us in and out of time. To the One who created everything we see with us in mind. To the One who knows our name and knows every hair on our head. To the One who would sacrifice Himself…the One who would suffer the greatest loss…the One who knows that greatest amount of agony brought by the hands of love…because He loved us in and out time.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. ~ 1 Corinthians 13: 7

This morning when I woke up thinking about my sweet baby girl Francesca, I felt a blog stirring in me. However, the words that you are reading are nothing like the thoughts I was pondering. I guess that will be a different blog for a different time. This afternoon what God has pressed upon me is that life is a gift, no matter how short. Our 78 days with Francesca are days I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Which means that love is always worth the risk of agony we may endure to experience it.

How is it possible to come to terms with such soul crushing grief? How is it possible to thrive after the storm has beaten you up, the valley has left  you wounded, and the wilderness has you panting with thirst as you wander? I almost cringe being so simplistic…but the answer really is this simple…JESUS!!!

Nobody has ever risked more to love you than Jesus. Nobody has ever sacrificed more for you to know love than Jesus. And NO ONE and NOTHING will ever carry you through the heartache of lost love like Jesus, because He understands it better than anyone ever has. He has loved you in and out of time. You were always His and He is always yours…if you want Him. But even if you don’t want Him…He never gives up pursuing you. You were on His mind at the beginning of time as we know it and He has never lost sight of you…not even for a second.

To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory. ~ Isaiah 61:3

11 years after her physical presence left this earth I still feel Francesca’s presence in my life…every day. She is in the very fabric of our family. She is the thread that God has used to create this beautiful tapestry that is our life.

The road is often difficult…

You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance.
Lost, injured, hurt by chance.
I screamed to the heavens….loudly screamed….
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams…

However, as heartbreaking as the nightmare can be, it often dissipates into a new beginning. A new beginning that would have never been realized without the ashes of the pain. When we allow God to meet us in the heartache…He changes our nightmares to dreams as He so carefully, so gently, and so lovingly binds up our wounds and heals our broken hearts.

Though this journey is one I would have never chosen for myself, today I see so clearly how it has shown me the glory of my God. Glory that I would have remained blinded to on a different road. Through the heartache and the pain God gave me exponentially more of Himself. And the greatest of all His gifts is that He taught me how to love…in and out of time.

Dedicated to my precious Francesca Isabella. Mommy loves you forever beautiful girl xoxo

October 23, 2007 ~ January 7, 2008

Becoming…

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decided to be ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A new year has dawned and with it comes all of our goals and best intentions to make this year better than the last. It’s funny, a few months back a CD, as in compact disc, surfaced at work. The artist is one that many of you don’t know, but he is a good friend of mine, in fact he’s the worship pastor at the church where I am on staff. This CD had the 1990’s written all over it. I mean down to the Structure suit Jon wore in the cover shot. For those of you not alive in the 90’s, Structure was a popular men’s store back in the day. The title of the CD was Becoming and for weeks after discovering it we teased him. Had he become?  Was he still becoming? That’s what happens when you work with people you truly love…you tease each other like you would a sibling…without mercy.

However, as silly and trivial as that all seemed at the time, the word “becoming” is one that I haven’t quite shaken. Maybe it’s because at 42 I feel like I finally understand that life is one long journey of becoming. Becoming who you are…becoming who you were meant to be…becoming the totality of every experience you have this side of heaven. Perfectly and wonderfully created for this moment right now. The past is the stepping-stones and the lessons learned to uniquely equip you for the challenges and triumphs of the day. The future is what you are currently being prepared to walk into. With that truth I realize that there will never be a point where we will actually become. Never will we reach the pinnacle of what we are meant to be. As long as we draw breath, we are still becoming. We are like clay in the Potter’s hands. Which means that in every season of life He molds and shapes us. In every season we continue to become what we were meant to be…right here…right now.

There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender ~ Oswald Chambers

The older I get the harder New Year’s has become. When I was a little girl my mom always cried as one year slipped into the next. In my childish mind I couldn’t understand why. As an adult, I see things more clearly. There is a certain ache for the things that have gone, the pains endured, the good byes that were said, and the joys that have become memories. It is in the closing of a year that one must assess the dreams that slipped away while leaving room for new dreams to come alive. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Truth be told… sometimes… I find myself wanting to hunker down in my bed, depression creeping in, as I wallow in what is gone and what will never be again.

Indeed, for a few days I did allow myself to wallow…

Then I did the only thing that made sense in that moment…I prayed!!!

In my prayers I reflected on my word for 2018, “choice”

Did I make good choices? Did the year play out the way I expected or wanted it to? Does it ever, really? What choices mattered most? Which ones would I like a do over on?”

These are the ramblings of my own mind as my thoughts hit the pages of my journal…

“In the end “choice” is a funny word. What have I learned? Choice is a word that suggests control. And while it is a choice to practice self-control…at the end of the day 2018 taught me…yet, again…that there is very little I actually control and the only choice that really matters is the one to honor God…to walk in step with Jesus…to be fully surrendered in all that I do. Once that choice is made…everything else falls into place…regardless of how the year actually turns out.”

And out of those reflections birthed my word for 2019…SURRENDER.

Every goal, every dream, every hope for this coming year rests in my yearning to become more surrendered to God in every area of my life; mind, body, and soul

Everyone on earth is carrying an unseen history, and that alone deserves tolerance ~ Michelle Obama

I could give you a whole list of my goals for 2019 but why bore you and why put myself out there for public accountability. Let’s keep it real people, you know I’m going to let at least one of these goals fall to the wasteside. There I said it…now in next year’s blog I can own it.

But here is one I will share with you. I have set a goal to read at least one biography a month. Odd goal? To some, probably. However, as I spent time with God dreaming about 2019 the one thing He clearly laid upon my heart was people. To be more intentional, but not just with people I know or people who are like me…but to open my eyes to the world of people all around me. To open my heart and my mind to see people as God sees them. To hear people’s stories for a greater understanding of why they think the way they do or live as they have chosen to live. God has reminded me over and over again that I cannot speak into the lives of people who I have never even bothered to hear or tried to understand. He has reminded me that in the differences of humanity come the beautiful tapestry of all whom God loves…all whom Jesus died for. How can I ever declare that truth, if I never stop to listen to the story of the human experience beyond the comfort of what I have always known.

So I find myself sitting here. Next to me is a book that just a few months ago I would have never considered reading. Becoming, by our former First Lady, Michelle Obama, is my first book of 2019. For those who know me…pick your jaws up off the ground…I promise the shock will wear off. For beyond what you know or what you think you know there is always a back story, a greater understanding of why. What I have discovered in the first six chapters is that there is a compelling story behind every person, ones we admire and those we don’t. I was never a huge fan of President Obama. Politically, he doesn’t align with my beliefs on most topics and quite honestly, neither does his wife. Yet, I read this book not to dispute political ideology but to understand the humanity behind the position held. To learn about the experiences that molded and shaped our former First Lady into the woman she is becoming. I am sure as I read there will be things said that I will cringe at and vehemently disagree with. But I have also discovered there are things I have a new-found respect for. Michelle Obama is an incredibly intelligent woman who, much like myself, keeps it real and that is a common ground that I can respect in anyone. But the greater gift is being able to see someone through a different lens. A lens bent toward empathy rather than divisiveness.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the new year ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever your word for 2019 is, whatever your goals or dreams may be…may we all be reminded that a New Year is birthed with new opportunity to continue to become exactly who you were created to be in such a time as this. The past does not define you…it was merely the training ground for all that you are meant to do in this season. The future has yet to be written…the circumstances and choices of today will prepare you for all that lies ahead. My choice today and every day will be to surrender my past, my present, and my future to Almighty God and allow Him to author a greater story than I could have ever written on my own. Becoming all that He desires me to be for His kingdom and His glory.

Happy New Year and Godspeed

xoxo

 

Shut it Down

The less time you spend with the truth the easier it is to believe lies ~ Lecrae

You have an enemy…yes, you. I know…you’re sweet, you’re honest, you’re friendly, you live with integrity. How can you have an enemy? Well…you have one for the exact same reason that I do. Because we were created in the image of God. Because the God of universe loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for you. Even if you don’t believe anything you just read…guess what, you still have an enemy.

Now I am not going to write a theological essay about the battle between God and Satan, good vs evil. But if you given up 5 minutes of your day to read this blog then I want to remind you…you have enemy. An enemy that wants to steal the truths of God away from you…an enemy that never wants you to discover them in the first place…an enemy that rejoices when we allow his lies to take root in our minds.

Think it can’t happen to you? Let me tell you a little story…

This morning I sat in my quiet time in God’s Word. As I wrote in my journal and prayed I shared with God that I sensed a season a change either occurring or on the horizon. Honestly, everything was very abstract…just a gut feeling that I was jotting down in my journal, probably in a very non-sensical kind of way. It doesn’t matter…even when I don’t understand my thoughts, God does. As I wrote I found myself in a place of surrender. I was surrendering this “change” or whatever it is to God. And I simply wrote the words “I TRUST YOU!”

Ironically, 10 years ago after my daughter died the hardest thing for me to do was trust God. The year she died I had selected the word “Trust” as my word for that year and just 7 days later I was planning my little girls funeral. To say I had some pretty serious trust issues would be the understatement of the century. I was simply sitting in a holding pattern… waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

8 years ago God, after patiently waiting for two years, God had a serious heart to heart with me. It was in that time that God revealed that fear had become sin in my life because every fear I had was directly correlated to the fact that I did not trust Him. The enemy had whispered in my mind for so long that every time I trusted God something bad happened that I allowed a lie to become truth.  And it manifested as constant fear. The enemy weaved his lies so strongly that even as I was devoting my life to Christ I was still held in bondage. I had been given the gift of life through God’s truth, yet I was still walking around in the death grip of the enemy’s lies. I still allowed his voice to be louder than God’s. I wonder how many of you reading this can relate? Wanting so desperately for the promises of God to come true in your life yet still settling for less because the enemy’s lies are the loudest ones in your ears.

8 years ago God set me free with His revelation. I fully surrendered my life to Christ and allowed His truth to be the loudest voice in my head.

Fast forward to today…

As I sat…READING MY BIBLE AND PRAYING…didn’t want you to miss what I was doing…the enemy came creeping around. As soon as I wrote the words “I TRUST YOU” in my journal that old feeling of dread came over me and in a split second my mind panicked as I thought, “Now something bad will happen.”

WHAT?!?! Where did that come from?!?!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2

Just because I surrendered my life totally and completely to Christ doesn’t mean the enemy doesn’t still come lurking around. He does. In fact sometimes stronger than ever and clearly no time is too sacred for him to try to weasel his presence into. But I learned a long time ago that when you change your mindset…when you allow God to transform your mind with His truth…all of a sudden you have the ability to see the enemy’s lies so much clearer. God’s Word tells me that He did not give me a spirit of fear and timidity but one of power, love, and self-discipline. His Word tells me that through Christ Jesus, I now have the right to call Him “Abba Father.” I get to call God my daddy and all of the treasures of His kingdom have been made available to me and to you too.

So you know what I did this morning? I am so glad you asked. I rejected the enemy’s lie and rebuked it back to the pit of hell where it came from!!!

Overwhelming victory is ours though Christ, who loved us. ~ Romans 8:37

When I trust God bad things don’t happen. Even when we struggle, even when we suffer…God’s love is all around us and the victory is ours. But the enemy wants to snatch that truth right out of our minds. And make no mistake…he is nasty and he fights dirty. And what is so dirty about his tactics is that he uses good things, important things, necessary things to distract us from spending time in God’s presence. He puts up road blocks to try to hinder our minds from being saturated with God’s truth.

But I want you to know the enemy is powerless against those who have the Spirit of the living God dwelling inside of them. When we allow God’s truth to be activated in our lives we hold all the power.

God’s truth is written on my heart and etched on my mind.  How about you?!?! I feel someone today needs this encouragement. Here is a fact check for you…you are loved…you are worthy…God is right there with you in your hurt and your pain…He hasn’t abandoned you or forsaken you…He hides you in the shelter of His presence. Are you seeking Him? Are you pressing in? Because when you allow the truth of God to renew your mind you will recognize the lies of the enemy for what they are.

My friends…SHUT IT DOWN!!!!! Whatever lie has gotten you entangled today, this week, this month, this year…SHUT IT DOWN!! Send it back to the pit of hell where it came from. Activate the Spirit of the living God inside of you and start walking in freedom and in truth!

Echoes From The Heart

There is a price you will have to pay to activate your calling. ~ Levi Lusko

The price was high because the love was so deep…

The depth of a mother’s heart cannot be explained by mere words. A bond that begins in the secret place as the Father knits life together.

Before a breath is drawn love abounds. The quiet intimacy of life growing is one that only a mother knows. The sacred time when the beauty of heaven kisses earth to spring forth so much promise…so much potential.

The first cries enter the air erasing the pain of the journey that brought them here. Love explodes as the heart is awakened by the sight of tiny fingers and toes.

The price was high because the love was so deep…

The heart that blossomed and bloomed shatters in a million pieces broken by the ache of what has been lost.

The piece of heaven the graced the world has slipped back from where she came. The earth no longer spins and the universe tips out of order as what should be slips into the land of dying dreams.

Arms envelope the broken mother…only the Father can comfort the heart that longs so desperately for what has been lost.

As grief and sorrow threaten to consume the Father stoops low and wipes the tears that never seem to end.

Then she hears it, like a whisper on the wind…

” She was mine long before she was ever yours. While you long for her in this life, she is with Me preparing for your homecoming. So while we wait for you to finish your race we will cheer you on from home. Knowing you will do all that I created you to do because she was the gift that awakened you to your calling…”

The price was high because the love was so deep…

In the whisper on the wind the mother’s eyes were opened for the first time to the depth of the Father’s love. For He too had paid the highest of prices for a love that ran so deep.

Tonight I finished reading Levi Lusko’s Through the Eyes of a Lion. As I finished, tears coursed down my cheeks as his words echoed in my heart…“There is a price you will have to pay to activate your calling.” Those words inspired my writing above…the simple yet complex sentiments of a heart that surrendered completely to God and walked out of the depths of despair and into a calling.

Levi Lusko wrote a beautiful book about how the death of his precious daughter radically changed his life. For the first time I felt like so much of my heart was revealed…by a complete stranger. He stepped into his calling for ministry long before his precious Lenya went home to be with Jesus but make no mistake God has used his sweet girl to take him places he could have never imagined going. The beauty of his legacy will forever be entwined with how sweet Lenya opened him up to God in ways that he never would have been had the story ended differently. In so many ways his story mirrors my own with my precious baby girl, Francesca.

In the end the lesson learned is that in this life we will all walk through painful valleys but if we would choose to trust God, He will turn ashes into beauty. In the words of Lusko himself “As we wait on the Lord, our hearts are strengthened, and we see things that are invisible and can do things that are impossible… Suffering isn’t an obstacle to be used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before…”

For now I choose to see a place where Lenya and Francesca play among tulips, squealing with laughter in the presence of Jesus. And until I join them in that beautiful paradise I will continue to praise His name and tell of the hope that is found in Him alone 💖💖