Sunday, August 27, 2017

it is well...or is it?

the past couple weeks have definitely had me on a roller coaster of emotions.  between sending my kids back to school, both in high school now,  and the events of the world, august has left me feeling all sorts of feels.  

several years ago, our pastor had all the staff do this strength finders test.  it was designed to help us learn about ourselves.  my top 2 didn't really surprise me:  strategic and belief.  they tend to be both a blessing and a curse.  mostly a curse.

i feel big feels.  and when i feel them, i can't shake them.  and i love to find solutions.  and lately i've felt a lot of big feels, but the solutions?  they allude me...

this morning i was driving to church and listening to a sermon.  the pastor has been talking about joshua leading into the promise land.  today he was sharing how the truth is that God has it.  God has everything in His control.  He could have knocked down the walls without any help from the Israelites, yet He gave them strict directions - march, yell, obey, do.  as i've pondered the "church's" reaction to the rampant racism it seems that a lot of us would like to hide behind the "God's got this" idea.

later, as we stood to worship we sang the song "it is well" by bethel.  i've always loved the story behind this hymn.  and i still do.  but i have to confess, that today i couldn't sing the chorus.  i just couldn't.  in my heart,  IT IS NOT WELL.  the author of this hymn lost his family in a tragic accident. and i believe he could truly struggle through the pain to say it is well.  God has got him.  God is still good.  there have been a lot of times in my life where this has been a proclamation of mine.  where that was my anthem.  but today, i just couldn't.

it is NOT well when our elementary kids are excited about Trump building a wall to keep those people out.  it is NOT well when some people still question why i desire to provide food to hungry kids.  

what is going on in the world today?  yes, God is in control.  yes, God is still good.  BUT, i believe just like He called the Israelites years ago, we are not supposed to just sit back and say that God is in control.  i have to believe He is asking us, me,  to do something.  to fight.  to march.  to yell. to knock down the walls of racism.  to knock down the walls of injustice.  to be kind.  to love well.  to serve. to dream together.  to provide hope.  to share Jesus.

i used to think i was a fighter.  that i was willing to take some steps to be the good.  to demonstrate the goodness of God.  then something shut me up.  something started to work its way into my heart that said i wasn't called to that.  and i started hurting.  hurting deep within;  my heart grew cold.

but over the past several weeks that coldness has given way to a fire.  i met with a friend this week for coffee.  as we shared our hearts, my hope was renewed.  i'm not alone.  my big feelings aren't crazy.  my heart is driven out of my beliefs. beliefs that say God is good.  God created every single person in His image.  God loves every single person.  and that God calls us to action.  He calls us to be His hands and feet. and last week i felt like i had actually seen the faces of those who feel some of the same things.

if you remember, strategic was one of my strengths and, honestly, i'm not at all sure what that is going to look like yet.  i like solutions and i don't have one, in fact, i'm not even sure there is one. but i do know that God is calling me to something.  and i'm not willing to sit back and watch.  and i pray that one day, i can look and say again, it is well.  


far be it from me to not believe
even when my eyes can't see
and this mountain that's in front of me
will be thrown into the midst of the sea

so let go my soul and trust in Him
the waves and the wind still know His name

it is well with my soul

*it is well, bethel music



Monday, December 26, 2016

silent

the written word.

that was my word of the year for 2016.  it started out strong.  i read 3 books in the first week of January, journaled, and sent several hand written letters.  i even blogged.  twice.

i read more this year than in recent pasts, but not as much as i had hoped.  i sent letters out well.  but by around march all journaling stopped.  i think i blogged once after march.  maybe.  

through a series of hard conversations i felt as though my voice was taken from me.  its a little hard to explain.  i tried to share it the other night.  i'm not sure i can.  but that conversation played in my mind frequently this year, mostly because every couple of months i got the chance to be reminded.  it was hard.  it stung.  it really hurt.

silence is hard for me.  almost deafening.

as the year went on i watched a world of sadness unfold.  from #blacklivesmatter to the election process. from hurricane matthew to ravaging fires.  from terrorists attacks to shooting after shooting on the local news.  this world breaks my heart.  

i had so many thoughts i wanted to share.  in fact, while driving across country for 10 days i wrote a lot of blogs in my head only to never put them on paper.  for i've learned if it stays in my head it can't be taken from me.

as the year wraps up, i feel i've come to an inner peace with my voice.  out of respect, i will work hard to continue to remain silent more often than not.  but i'm also learning that God does value my thoughts put to words.  it's a delicate balance of learning when to speak and when to stay silent.  and not one i'm good at.  

but i'm okay with who i am.  i truly feel like God has given my heart a unique bent on life.  i see things differently sometimes.  i'm tired of feeling guilty for that.  i'm tired of feeling robbed of things that bring me joy and things that break my heart.  

one of the books i read this year was "Let's All Be Brave" by Annie Downs.  I spent most of the year living in fear instead of bravery.  Thankfully, God has continued to grow my bravery.  You see, the world is LOUD!  oh so loud. and maybe, just maybe, some of the words i share will help people hear the loudness a little different.

Monday, October 10, 2016

the hand of God

the hand of God.  what do you think of?  what images come to mind?  if i can be honest, i've come to dislike this phrase.  i tend to roll my eyes at it.  not because i don't believe in the hand of God.  i just find the use of this phrase saddens my heart.  makes me weary.

last week i watched in great heartache as hurricane Matthew ravaged Haiti.  most of us were more concerned about our loved ones in florida and the rest of the east coast. i by no means intend to belittle that concern.  it is valid and very real.  in fact i have family that now has a flooded house.

but haiti.

have you been there?  i'm convinced more than ever that unless you have personally visited a 3rd world country you can't fathom the devastation of this magnitude.  here in America we can rebuild fairly quickly.  or at least provide decent protective shelter, clean water, insurance help,  we can board up our homes and businesses and head inland.  in haiti:  none of that exists.  sure you can head up the mountain, but you now ride a hurricane out in the open on the top of a mountain.  is it worth it?  if you lose your goats or garden you've lost your lifeline.  and your life savings.

my heart broke for Haiti.  i've come to love haiti and those i call friends there.  seeing the pictures were devastating.  the death toll, the cholera outbreak already starting, the lack of clean water, the number of homes destroyed.

in the midst of scrolling through facebook i saw this image.  i have to confess it made me sick


some people see the hand of God on florida (the good old USA).  i see a slap in the face to haiti where apparently they aren't blessed enough to have the hand of God between them and the storm. i'm sure that wasn't the intent of the artist at all.  or the people who gushed about God's goodness and faithfulness to us here in America.

i struggle with that.

i struggle when i hear a church say that the hand of God is on them.  it is usually in reference to a growing number of congregation.  isn't the small church quietly faithfully serving the Lord just as likely to have the hand of God on them?

i struggle when i hear someone say a friend that has overcome something say the hand of God was on her life.  isn't the friend sitting the midst of a fire just as likely to have the hand of God on them?

i struggle when i hear that the hand of God is on americans.  isn't the christian in syria just as likely to have the hand of God on them?

here's my thing.  the hand of God is for everyone.  God's hand is always outstretched.  it is always protecting.  it is always loving.  it is always gentle.  whether that hand is holding a mom and her baby in their tin shack in haiti while the waters rise around them in the dark, guiding the small church serving Jesus with everything they have, comforting the hurting friend, or holding tight to the christian in syria, God's hand is on them.

God's hand is IN haiti.  it is there in the determination of its citizens to keep pressing on.  it is there in the humaritian aid.  it is there.  i believe God's hand is there.  Just like i believe God's hand was on my friend in the 12 years of pain before healing.  the hand of God didn't arrive on healing day.  it was there each and every minute in the pain.

i've been memorizing Isaiah 43.  this is one of my favorite passages of truth that God is with me in whatever storms i must endure.  this is how i KNOW God's hand is in Haiti.


Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.


i'm sharing this because it is MY struggle.  it is where i'm at.  the place that God is using to search my heart.  what do i hope to challenge myself with?  choosing to see the hand of God in each and every aspect of life- both the devastating and the amazing.  in each and every culture, church, relationship...for HIS hand will pass through the waters WITH  us

.







Monday, May 9, 2016

motherhood - the teen years

yesterday was mother's day.  i've never really wanted to do much for the day.  just kind of be.  i do love to go to dairy queen though.  it's kind of tradition.

i've recently been pondering motherhood.  it is such an evolution.  it really is.  when you first become a mom you have this tiny babe and their world revolves around you.  some days are hard. some days are pure bliss.  some days - well....some days are better left unsaid.  

then they grow up and turn into toddlers and preschoolers.  they bring home cute mothers day poems and hand prints.  you are still their whole world.

then they hit elementary.  they get a bit more confusing to you.  but now they make homemade cards and gifts and tell you how much they love you.

then you enter the preteen years.  and if i'm honest, i wasn't sure that both my son and i would survive those years.  those years brought more tears than i ever imagined.

and now i'm in the teen years.

i have two teenagers.

two.

and i wouldn't trade these years for anything!  

a few moms have said they aren't enjoying these years.  i get that. i really do.  but i think this time of life is the best.  don't get me wrong.  i enjoyed the early years. but seeing these humans grow up into young adults.  there is nothing like it.  

they aren't perfect.  i know that.  and some days are rough.  but i count it joy that my husband and i have instilled values into our kids and are watching them latch on to make them their own. each of them has unique qualities i love.  my son easily makes friends

Friday, February 19, 2016

walk through hell.....

this blog post has been floating around in my head for awhile.  my word for the year has been "the written word."  it's a bit of a different approach, but here are my goals:  write by hand, send hand written notes , read books, dig into scripture , journal. its been beautiful and since writing has always been a love of mine, fulfilling.

this quest has forced me to also listen to words more.  to really listen to them.

it is no secret that i'm a lover of pop culture.  some may say it's anti-christian, but i work with kids, preteens and teens. and i have teens. since my own kids are immersed in it daily i like to keep myself current.

it is also no secret i'm a lover of music.

it is also no secret (hopefully)  that i'm a lover of my Jesus and following Him.

on a rare occasion there is this brilliant moment when those three loves converge and form something that cracks my heart so deeply that it leaves a permanent piercing.  here is one such moment:

  i was driving along singing to stand by you by rachel platten* one day while my heart was aching for a couple of dear friends.  i'd been praying about how to help them.  then it's like i heard the chorus for the first time:

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you


this is the line that gets me:  
even if we can't find heaven, i'll walk through hell with you.

wow.  read it again.  slow down and really read it.  

i'd been just reading the story of lazarus and begging God to bring healing to a dear friend.  i was begging Him to call her out of the tomb of pain and unwrap the binding.  i was begging God to help another friend walk away from the hell she's put herself in.  i was begging God to let my blessings kids know how deeply they are loved by Him.

here's the thing.  there is literal hell and there is figurative hell on earth for people.  as a believer i long to see people set free from their hell on earth; their despair, their pain, their loneliness, their poor choices, their fear.  i also long for people to be set free from literal hell and give their lives to Jesus.  

here's the other thing:  i CAN'T do any of that.  i can't set people free.  only the Holy Spirit can.  but just like i was reading in the story of Lazarus and in so many other glimpses of Jesus in the gospels, He was willing to walk into their hell on earth and sit with them in the mess.  He didn't always provide healing on earth.  He even let Lazarus die.   He would sit with them, grieve with them, love them.  He looked them in the eye and said "I"m here for you..."

as a believer, I know that Jesus also descended into literal hell for me.  for you.  for the entire world.  He went there to pay the price for me.  He went there to pay the price for people that will ultimately reject him.  

Really?  He was willing to sit in people's literal hell and hell on earth knowing some would reject Him?  Crazy, if you ask me!  But Jesus also makes it very clear that we are to live like him.  In fact in John 17:18 Jesus says, "As you (God) have sent me (Jesus) into the world, so I have sent them (US) into the world.

Because of Jesus death i will not ever have to go to literal hell, but i am called to sit with people in their hell on earth.  this is hard.  oh so hard.  it's easier to say, "i tried.  they didn't want my help.  they weren't changing.  i give up,"  than it is to continue to walk through their hell with them.  yet, i am called to do just that, walk through their hell with them as long as it takes - even if they never find Heaven!

so i continue to beg God for those people.  i continue to serve the blessings kids with love that runs deeper than i ever imagined.  i continue to to do my best to not give up on them.  i do my best to be the friend that Jesus was.  and i'm incredibly thankful for those that have walked through my times of hell on earth with me.  for they truly held me through it. and i pray that God will help me to go where love is needed...


*yes, i know the song is not at all about Jesus, but again,  Jesus used pop culture of His day to speak His truth.  i believe He still does.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

in the stillness


it was just a year ago that i wandered our winter wonderland and snapped this picture.  it was on this walk that i knew God was asking me to "be still and know He is God" in 2015.  i remember in that moment having a conversation about how i'm not so good at being still and our year was looking pretty busy.  God drew me to watch the partially frozen creek.  God drew me to listen to my surroundings.  it was quiet, peaceful, and mostly still.  but that creek - it moved.  it moved under the ice, around the ice, and over the ice.  could i know stillness in the midst of 2015?




the first 6 of the months were kind of normal.  we were busy with day to day life.  i hosted 3 showers, witnessed 3 family weddings, and celebrated 3 nephews graduating high school.  life was busy and fun and definitely "flowing."  the sun would rise; the sun would set. but God had asked me to focus on "be still"  so i did.  i learned that that phrase really means "rapha" or to let go of.  for those first 6 months of 2015 i knew i was learning about rapha, about being still, but the world was still carrying me right on by.  

summer was rough.  in some ways it was lonely.  i can't really explain why.  i just felt lonely.  our pastor had taken a sabbatical for the summer and had asked all of us as staff to find a way to "renew ourselves" during the summer.  if i'm honest, i wasn't really into that.  too much needed to be done to sit back and be renewed.  which translates to:  "i'm much too important to be still and know you God."

summer carried on and i continued flowing in the river of life. 

but there was one day i just took some time away.  on that day i knew God was searching my heart and it was very clear that i needed to stop.  i needed to stop a lot of things.  which deep in my heart translated to "rapha."  let go.  

i made a list that very day.  a list of things to let go of.  i was drawn back to that verse.  read it again.  Be still and know that I am God.
read it this way:  let go of _______ and know God as ________

it was clear that day that my quest for stillness wasn't about actually being still.  God had allowed me to become so messed up with myself that i failed to know Him.  here are just a few things from that list:
let go of... expectations and know God as Enough
relationships and know God as Friend
my rights and know God as Sovereign
self and know God as Giver of Life
hurts and know God as Healer

God was definitely shaping my heart in this area of letting go.  of rapha.

fall hit and well, my body literally hit a wall and i was placed on medical leave for 6 weeks.  i spent those 6 weeks reading verse after verse that had rapha in it.  i learned to know God as my healer, redeemer, lover, friend, and enough.

it was a strange 6 weeks.  it was definitely physically healing.  i'm thankful for my friend (who happens to be my doctor) that was willing to sit me down and say enough.  i'm thankful for my pastor/boss who didn't argue but extended grace during that time.  i'm thankful for people who stepped into take my place.  i'm thankful for a few dear friends that prayed hard for me.  i'm thankful for my family that let me be lazy.  and i'm thankful for a husband that humored me with my gilmore girls binge watching:)

i really believe those 6 weeks changed me.  it's hard to explain really.  but i'm changed.   

i thought back to the first image above.  God called me to stillness and showed me that sometimes stillness exists in movement.  while on leave i experienced much more stillness.  days where all i did were walk and journal.  life became full again as i read scripture after scripture about God's provision for me.  rapha was changing me.

i've not arrived.  i've not learned everything i need to about rapha.  returning to work has filled those days again.  but now i sit more.  now i yearn for friendships of depth.  now i savor moments with my family.  now i truly can sit in the midst of flowing water and hear only the stillness.

in late october my hubby and i snuck away for our anniversary.  one day we hiked through a wooded dune.  it was rainy and windy so we were basically alone.  as we crested the dune we saw the lake.  walking through this little path we could see and hear the waves crashing the shoreline.  and it was here.  here in this place that i stopped.  here that i heard.

"my daughter, I AM powerful.  I AM love.  I AM your redeemer.  I AM grace.  I AM strength. 
I AM"


and it was here where i knew i want to forever seek the art of rapha.  
for in the letting go we are found.  in the waves of life there is a place to 

be still and know He is God.

Hosea 6:1-3
Come on, let's go back to God. 
He hurt us, but he'll heal (rapha) us.
He hit us hard, 
but he'll put us right again.
In a couple of days we'll feel better.  
By the third day he'll have made us brand new, 
alive and on our feet,
fit to face him.
We're ready to study God,
eager for God-knowledge
as sure as dawn breaks, 
so sure is his daily arrival.
He comes as rain comes,
as spring rain refreshing the ground.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

beauty

one of my goals this summer was to journal more.  i have a love for writing and know that finding the quiet still place of writing soothes my soul.  summer was a bit of a flurry.  but as the summer came to an end i took some time to head outside with a writing prompt from the best english teacher ever. although this probably isn't exactly what the prompt suggested....

i've sat on it.  for me it is a beautiful piece.  but i couldn't decide if i should edit and rework it or leave it as is.  it is imperfect in many ways.  yet perfect in others. its a glimpse into just that one day.  not my every day. but a single day.  a single day that revealed a bit of what my every day should be.

one thing i'm learning - let go of what others may think and be vulnerable. so here, in all its unedited mess, is my walk to find beauty

8.3.15
today is hard - rushed, overwhelmed, frazzled.  the harsh realities of life that keeps coming at me.  i realize that when my passion is faded my focus is too.  how can i be over committed when all i do is work, mom, wife, volunteer in one place?  i can't keep up.  i can't be all.  i can't even get the school supplies together?

i feel as if my body is screaming.  its squirmy, tense, angsty.  i hate it.  i long to relax, to just simply check things off my list.  but instead the stress, angst, and busyness leaves me paralyzed.

so i set off in search of beauty.  it is not lost on me that the search itself is filled with pests that won't relent.  broken limbs that poke my toes.  the constant whir reminding me that little creatures want my blood.

in hopes of finding peace and beauty i feel even more frazzled and annoyed.  but as i turn i'm drawn again to this old barn.  not just the barn, but the contrast of its faded red, wrapped in climbing greens, perched below pale blue skies and strolling pure white clouds.

beauty

simple, rustic, still

standing with open wounds.  visible ones, yet wrapped in new life.  new life piercing through the gaping wounds weaving its way in and out.  new life finding its way into the crevices opened by battering rains and wind.  storms of life that rip the boards apart.  it would seem that those gaps would cause others to ignore the plea of the barn.  cause them to leave it alone.  and maybe that's true.  the gaps lead to loneliness, isolation, abandonment.  maybe the gaps are a result of those.  

but God doesn't just leave the gaps. He doesn't even necessarily repair the gaps. but He does bring new life to weave its way through.

the setting:  gorgeous.  on top a hill.  held up for others to see from a mile away.  on its perch.  on display.  there are wounds still open.  boards missing.  but that life, the new one, is still growing and stretching its way.  new life weaving in and out finding its way through the gaping wounds; lovingly filling them.  that's the simple beauty of New Life.