Facades

Living in the country gives a person a lot of opportunities to see farmsteads. Depending on the farm, the buildings will be crisp, clean, and often painted the traditional red and white. Other farms have buildings that are dilapidated and slowly falling down, one piece at a time.

One farm in particular has a long dairy barn that once stood tall and proud, sheltering the animals from wind, rain, and heat. But now, stands empty, and the center is showing lack of care and maintenance. The ends of the building are still standing erect, with the appearance of care and concern from the owner. The center, the heart of the building, however does not show anything but neglect.

How often do I look in the mirror to make sure my clothes look flattering, that my hair isn’t askew, no dark smudges from old mascara under my eyes. But I don’t take the time to look within, to see what is really making me feel cranky or short tempered.

When boomtowns were cropping up in the western territories it was common for the buildings to have a facade, a false front, to give the illusion of a larger, more grandiose building along the Main Street in town. Yet, many of these facades really just hid the same makeshift platform building. It was all about the image, the idea of what may or may not be behind the front door.

I will never be able to fix this on my own. I am broken inside, there is nothing I can use to hold up my heart, my mind, or soul. I need Jesus. Let me say that again. I need Jesus. Facades will fall apart, will crumble and break, the truth will be found and then it will be harder to repair.

But if I come to Jesus now, admit how desperate I am for His healing, His correction, His direction in my life- then I will find the courage to rebuild the parts that have been neglected. I will bring them to the Master Carpenter and know that He will build and repair the brokenness in ways I never could. In ways I never imagined.

Best Beloved, it is time to stop building up the fronts we display to others. Let us allow Jesus in to build us into the creation God designed us to be.

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Tracking

We have two dogs, Jack and Sam, six month old Great Pyrenees/ Labrador mix puppies. They are wonderful, loyal, energetic, and occasionally frustrating. We have an electric fence up to keep the goats out of the corn fields. The past two weekends we have had to change the routine suddenly. The dogs snuck out of the fence to follow our truck and let us know that we were leaving them behind.

The first time, a person came through our area from the city and picked them up and eventually brought them to the humane society. It took us two days to track the dogs down and get them back. This past Saturday the dogs did it again. I was home, but hubby left very early. The dogs tried to trail him. They walked to the highway and back, past our house, and then down the next road to an intersection where someone picked them up and took them to the country vet clinic.

I began looking for them immediately when they didn’t greet me at the door. I walked down the road toward the highway, calling out their names, whistling. I watched for any movement in the soybeans and cornfields. I listened for their barks. I was so busy trying to see them in places they might have gone, I forgot to look for the path they had taken.

Had I been looking for their footprints in the muddy road, I would have noticed they went down the road and then back past our house. I may have found them more quickly. I spent my time and energy looking for signs where I thought they would be, instead of watching for the signs already in front of me. The trail I was supposed to be following.

As a follower of Christ, I have spent so much time trying to follow Him where I think He should go, that I miss His steps clearly in front of me. Isaiah 30:21 says, Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left (NKJV, bold mine ).

This is what I was missing. I wasn’t listening or watching for the way I was supposed to go. I was so busy planning what I wanted to have happen, I missed it.

Marriage is the same way. I am married to a wonderful man, passionate about his family, a defender and protector of all of us. He is continuously sacrificing his wants for the family’s needs. But it isn’t the way I sometimes think it should look.

Every single time I start looking for my husband to act, think, or do something the way I believe it should be done, I miss another chance to grow with him.

O Best Beloved, how are you seeking God today? Are you trying to coordinate the path He has laid out in front of you? Are you silencing your thoughts, closing your eyes, and listening for His whisper? Take heed the words of Proverbs 19:21, Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (NIV).

Let us choose to refocus our eyes, to silence our voices and wants, and watch and listen for God’s purposes and directions. He knows what is best for us, each and every time.

Let us follow His tracks today.

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Ripe fruit

I live in the region of the United States that has all four seasons. A clear spring, with it’s rain, bright warming sunshine, fresh sprigs of greenery coming through the melting snow. A summer full of fun in pools, ponds, and water parks. Fresh vegetables and fruit, cook-outs, and parades with fireworks.

Fall is my favorite season. The weather changes, it’s time for flannels, rich soups, warm breads, relaxing fires, and time with my family to celebrate birthdays and holidays. The season has officially become fall here in Nebraska and the weather has gone through a wardrobe change. The trees are bejeweled with bright yellow and red leaves.

As a child this time of year also brought apple picking to the forefront. My folks, my brother, dear family friends, and I would go to the same place every year for as many apples as we could carry in our bushel bags. Then home to my folks’ for stew or chili and a night of fun and laughter.

Each one of those times had something precious about it. the laughter, the weather, the friends, the adventure. Ask any of us and you will find that we all are grateful for the memories. Part of the blessing of that time and the time I am currently in, comes from celebrating the little things. Finding the joy in the mundane, the sweet spot when it could be otherwise difficult.

I am surrounded by crabby, broken, prickly people in my life. Those who would rather pull someone down to their negative level than allow someone to lift them up to a positive level. We all know them. It may be the person in the grocery line, down the row from you at work, and yes, the person next to you in church and even next to you in bed.

I don’t mean to say we should be singing songs and finding foolish happiness that isn’t lasting. But I do mean to look at the struggles from Heaven’s perspective. It is temporary, it is inconvenient, and yes, it can cause pain. But it should never be a surprise.

Jesus told us in the Gospel of John that we would have troubles, but to Take heart, for I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Second Corinthians continues this teaching in chapters three and four, by reminding us that we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

We can choose to carry around the weight of the struggles that are on this side of Heaven, striving to remain angry and bear the role of a martyr. Or we can remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . .(2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

We can choose to complain that the fruit and blessings we want are out of season or we can choose to pick and enjoy the ripe fruit in front of us. It is just that our choice. The amount of energy it takes to remain angry, to constantly act out of our pain and our perceived suffering, trying to inflict others with our negative attitude – who wants to make themselves that tired?

I choose to pick the fruit of Joy, Grace, Mercy, Love, Kindness, Forgiveness. These ripe fruits are always before us. So let us grab a basket and start picking!

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Not the greatest

There are days when it would seem that Murphy is trying to make all the laws, especially the original, “What can go wrong, will go wrong,” be applicable. It can challenge a person who would rather be cheerful and joyful than cranky.

It is this sort of situation, the inconvenience of plans going awry, that can cause a person to throw on the mantle of a martyr and play the victim of a cruel world. The truth is, this is life. We are not in Heaven, we are not going to have things go the way we want them to- most of the time.

It is the question of what does one do when the day is not the greatest, that must be answered. I have felt the frustration of not accomplishing something I had planned, the sense of disappointment. But how does one handle it? The platitudes of “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” don’t help and often hurt.

While Jesus may be at your side, as a believer, there are times when we get challenged to grow in the middle of the troubles. We learn about the faith we have and the faith we don’t. We learn if the Jesus we claim to follow is enough. Or do we think we need more?

In Hebrews we see so many examples of those who believed Jesus is enough and those who doubted. When the twelve spies were sent into the Promised Land they returned to report that the land was full of milk and honey. But ten of the spies also doubted God’s power to lead them into the land because there were giants in the land. Only two spies spoke of God’s power.

Yet all of the Israelites decided to listen to the ten, not the two. Forty years later, when the Israelites entered into the not one of the generation that doubted was alive. They had died in their doubts. Only two men walked into the Promised Land, the two spies who had believed.

We can have days that are full of sunshine and roses, days that are full of thorns and stormy skies. It is how we trust the God we say we believe in at that moment that will determine whether or not it is the greatest. I know that setbacks happen. It’s the fact of life this side of Heaven and the other side of the fall.

My deep desire is to life a life full of belief, of fearless faith, trusting in the glorious grace of God, to know and believe and live out loud that Jesus is enough. Enough for my good days, my bad days, my best days, my worst days. My first days and last days.

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Outside looking in

A friend and I have been discussing a contemporary classic novel often assigned to middle school-aged children. We’ve touched on how the themes and characters were developed, how those themes and storylines would be understood by the younger reader, and the introduction of heavier topics to a younger mind.

As I thought about this novel, I started creating a class assignment for students I no longer teach. However, the assignment is one that can be applied in life, not just the classroom.

What would be different in your life if the people you knew and situations you experienced were missing? Would you be as anxious? Would you be as loving? Would you be as bitter? As unforgiving? Would you be a hopeful? As cynical? Would you be able to love as easily?

How have you been impacted ?

These questions are not meant to be answered with yes or no. I ask them because I have seen the positive and negative impact others have on their children, the people within their family, their circle of friends. The relationships also impact how we relate to our Heavenly Father. Do we believe it when Scripture tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)? Do we accept the grace He offers through the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Do we allow the wounds caused by others to prevent the healing offered by God?

I firmly believe that answer is yes.

Best Beloved, throughout our lives we have had people speaking to us, speaking into our souls about our worth, our value, our importance, and our acceptance. I have watched young women nearly destroy their marriages because of their early training in life. They were brought up by mothers and grandmothers who taught them to distrust men due to their own bad relationships.

I have watched couples instill in their children a profound love and respect for others because they modeled this love and respect in their own marriage. I am confident as the children grow they will in turn, share this same love and respect with others.

A precious friend, of over 35 years, has chosen to break the chains of her family of origin. She grew up with distrust and malicious revengeful behavior among those who had been emotionally injured in her family. Parents who no longer spoke with their children, siblings who tried to edge the other one out of the inheritance. When my friend married, she knew it was her opportunity to show her future children how to love unconditionally, to give grace, to be merciful. All these years later, she has succeeded. Her sons know that life lived with grace can come with heartache, but it is always worth it.

Dear Ones, the assignment I mentioned above is worth the reflection. Are you loving as you were loved? Are you holding grudges and teaching your children how to distrust others? Have you handed all of the pain that comes in your family heritage to our Heavenly Father and asked Him to meet you in the middle of your sorrows- to help you find healing?

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, describes it as the “art of receiving.” We need to learn how to train our heart and mind and soul to accept the perfect, healing love from our Heavenly Father.

His love and mercy, His grace and healing are one word away from being poured into our lives. That one word is Jesus.

Jesus carries the power of Heaven, the victory over the enemy and Hell itself. When we utter His name, the enemy must leave (James 4:7-8). The negative words, thoughts, and memories are all his work in the eternal scheme of things. Do not allow the enemy another moment to tear you down. Allow Jesus in, come into His healing. It is time to stop being on the outside looking in, believing you are not worthy of all Jesus is offering to you.

It’s time Best Beloved, just come in.

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Speakers

Growing up, my parents listened to the oldies station which played 50s, 60s, and early 70s music. The volume would increase depending on the song playing and a lot of singing occurred as we went about our tasks. As I grew older, my music tastes adjusted to classic rock, alternative rock (college/indie), and finally, Christian contemporary. Each style of music was a soundtrack for where I was in life, as well as who I was hanging out with at that time.

What came out of my speakers was speaking not just to my surroundings, but also to my heart. What I listened to what planting seeds, some were flowers, some were noxious weeds. As a parent, I made sure to surround my sons with music full of Biblical truth, encouraging lyrics, and of course a fun beat. I sang hymns to the boys as they went to sleep at nap time and bedtime. I knew well the truth of hiding the Word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11) and took this task seriously.

It is the voices we hear that impact our lives for good or for evil. The serpent used words to twist the truths Eve knew and eventually she doubted the very good of God. Through her disobedience, she and Adam changed the course of mankind. Moses heard the words of God from a burning bush and through his obedience helped change the course of an entire nation.

I have heard the voices of those telling me I am fat, ugly, worthless, and a whole slew of other negative words throughout my life. I also have heard the voice of my Heavenly Father telling me that I am precious, beautiful, perfect, and created for His great glory. I listened to the first voices for the first half of my life, I have listened to my Heavenly Father (for the most part) for the second half. What is coming through the speakers now has healed me, restored my faith during seasons of doubt, encouraged me to keep going forward when I wanted to quit.

Speakers were created to project the sound of whatever they are connected to; radio, record player, live music. What are your speakers connected to today? Is it the broken repeating of the father of lies? Is it the eternal truths of the Heavenly Father? Whose voice is coming through your speakers?

Best Beloved, it is never too late to disconnect your speakers from the liars and connect them to the Heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Allow Him to speak truth to you, to cover you with His everlasting grace and mercy.

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Ants in the mind

I have been very antsy this week. Knitting, reading, sewing, mending clothes, cutting the lawn, doing dishes, washing laundry, cleaning, preparing, working; none of this is satisfying my spirit. Normally, I would find myself feeling proud of the completion and content in a task well done. Not right now.

I have been watching and striving to listen for the whisper of God. Wondering if the antsy feeling is because I am outgrowing where I am and this is my spirit knowing it’s time to move. Much like a child who is no longer content in the womb because the space is too constricting, I wonder if a birth is coming. Not a human baby, but the birth of something new. A concept, a life choice, a dream about to come to fruition.

Did Abraham feel that way when God came to him and told him about leaving to go to a new land (Genesis 12)? When Moses was told to lead Israel to the Promised Land? Or David about being called to be king? The calls on their lives was not instant, it was between ten to forty years for things to actually come together in the way they must have dreamed it would be. And how they could not even dream it would be.

Is there something you are feeling called to do? Called to become? How are you handling your emotions? Are you demanding God to show you right now? Or are you waiting patiently? Or is it somewhere in between?

My husband has been known to do things that are a surprise for our family. It might be tickets to a concert, going to a movie we really wanted to see, out to dinner on week night. As a newlywed, I would get very frustrated that he was not telling me what we were doing. My desire to be in control nearly ruined this side of him. I quickly learned that if I just let him lead, even when I did not know what we were doing or where we were going, I would be pleased with the end results.

In my Faith journey, I find that much of what God is calling me to do, is what my husband is also asking me to do. Follow their lead, trust that they have our best interests in mind, that their love is selfless. As I learn to trust my husband, I learn I can trust my Heavenly Father. Just as I learn to trust my Heavenly Father, I learn I can trust my husband.

And suddenly, I find that the antsy feeling is gone. When my mind stops running and my body is still, I realize that Jesus is all I need. He is enough. Whether He moves in my life today and changes things or calls me to wait and trust Him for the next days, weeks, or even years to come. What matters is that I am aware of what He is calling me to do.

Trust.

He will always love me, work toward the very best for me, call me to exactly where God is calling me. Not an inch to the right or the left.

What about you, O Best Beloved? How well are you listening? Are you following where He is leading you?

Come with me, join me in being still. Listening and trusting Him enough to follow Him, wherever He may lead you.

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Safe places

My social media feed has been full of posts that begin with, Our/My house is a safe place. This past week, I also posted a similar message, one I adjusted to fit our personal home. With loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide becoming more common, I wondered why we didn’t hear of these mental health issues as I grew up.

The house where I grew up had an open door policy. In fact, the only time I remember the back door being locked is when we were gone for an extended time or when my folks went to bed. Otherwise, it was unlocked and anyone could walk inside. That was the point. Anyone could walk in.

My best friend lived across the street and two doors down from me. She would come in at any time, holler, Hello, and know she was welcome. The same thing for my other two best friends who lived a few miles away. Neighbors knew they would be welcome, my brother’s friends, extended family. All were welcome.

My parents’ home was often filled with rambunctiousness and chaos, but it was also filled with those who knew they were valued and precious to our family. I now live over 500 miles away and my best friends know they can still walk in the back door, even though I am not there.

This is the way God created the Church to be. A place where people are welcomed, encouraged, cherished, and loved. Sadly, men and women have gotten in the way. We have put rules where God said Grace belonged. Churches I have loved dearly have come under fire, and they should, for making the walls of God’s house a place that isn’t safe. That isn’t welcoming.

If God’s Word says that everyone is precious and prized and valued and loved and treasured above all things, but we are blockading the doors, we have blown our mission as His ambassadors. To love everyone, always. To make known that God has called everyone to Him, and continues to call them to Him, everyday.

This is a major reason, I believe, why depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicide are rising. We forgot that our mission from God is to be a safe place for the hurting, the broken, the lost, and the needy. I think it’s time to live out loud our “safe place” posts, not just in our own home, but in God’s home.

This church is a safe place. You are welcome here. Your past does not matter, who you are, who you love, does not matter. You matter. Your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength; they matter.

Come in. Sit down. Let someone know your name. Cry, wail, scream if you need to. We won’t be surprised. More importantly, God is not surprised.

Let’s get a cup of coffee, go on a walk, find a chair to sit down. Let me listen to your words, let me hear your heart. You are precious to God, therefore, you are precious to me.

You are loved. Allow me to be the hands and feet of God and show you what that love can be like in your life.

oxoxo

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Here

I’ve been having a lot of weird dreams lately. Dreams about farming and livestock and animals we’ve never had. Pigs, seahorses, reptiles, and sheep, all kept in unrealistic pens. It always makes for a distorted wake up the next morning.

But then there are the daydreams I find myself having at quiet moments. Thoughts of how I would spend the lottery winnings if I won the jackpot. Of the healing that would finally happen for the broken relationships I see daily.

I understand that my mind is sorting things from my day, like the sorting hat at Hogwarts, but I also realize the danger of too many daydreams and not enough reality. I have watched men and women who chose to focus on the way they wished things were in their lives, instead of creating an environment where they could come to fruition.

When we think of Heaven, it is often imagined as that place where what we want will finally come true. That is the wrong approach. Heaven is where we will be whole, fully known, fully knowing, without scar or blemish, without sin or shame, without regret or sorrow. We will know the entirety of God – no filters.

The strength, depth, and breadth of the Trinity’s character and glory will not be hidden from view. We will be fully present in His presence fully. Which brings my heart and mind back to now.

There is only one way I know to prepare myself for that day. It is to be fully here, now. Jim Elliot said, Wherever you are, be all there. That is what I mean. I cannot spend my days wishing for the farm to be pristine or for those who are far from God to be drawn into a relationship with Him. The very changes I long to see and experience must be worked through, worked for, prayed for, in order to have a different outcome.

I long to be all there, but I need to be all here, too. So I will get on my knees for those who are lost and broken, instead of just wishing for their healing. I will work toward the dreams my husband and I have for the farm we live on, to bring them into existence.

It will not be my own power and determination that brings it into reality. It must be done through God’s perfect design and plan. I also know that if those dreams are to become reality, the first and best thing to do is to hand them off to God. To first seek His face, His plan, His purpose. When I seek Him first, the rest will fall into place.

Join me, won’t you, Best Beloved, in seeking God’s wisdom, direction, and instruction?

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This day

As I went to bed last night, I checked my social media feed for any recent updates from friends who live on the east coast. The recent hurricane headed their way has drastically increased power and now looms to cause havoc and devastation in its wake.

As I scrolled down, posts included what may have happened the night before September 11, 2001. Men and women who were preparing for travel, another shift at the station, another day of meetings and work. No one knew what was to come less than twelve hours later.

As Americans, 9/11/01, as it is often written, has become the rally cry to our generation, just as the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was to my grandparents. The heartache, loss, suffering, and grief felt by so many cannot be adequately described, even today.

Many post the question, Where were you when you heard the news? I know of course, just as I know where I was when the shooting at Columbine High School happened, or when the Berlin Wall fell, when the Beirut barracks bombing occurred, when the Iran hostages were released, and when President Reagan was shot. Just as my folks remember where they were when President Kennedy was shot.

These events mark time in before and after moments.

Speak with a person who is a service member in the Armed Forces. Many tell time as pre-9/11 and post-9/11 events, even asking those who are active duty when they joined, before or after.

My sons were only one and two years old at the time. They were still innocent, still secure in their lives because they had their mom and dad who loved them. They did not understand why the skies were silent over our home. Normally busy due to flight patterns for a regional airport, with all flights grounded until further notice, it was eerily quiet.

September 11, 2001 is now a part of my sons’ high school history books. Something that is part of the curriculum and yet still very close to many of the teachers at the front of the classroom.

This day brought so many to churches, synagogues, to homes where loved ones gathered. People hugged, cried, prayed, talked, and watched their television in shock. I sat with my two little boys in my lap watching in my parent’s basement. Just as I had watched in the days following Columbine, the basement was the deepest and closest place I could go and feel secure and like I could exhale.

I do not have answers – even now- for why. Why it happened, why God allowed it, why so many were killed, why, why, why. I can only turn and trust. Turn to God and trust Him and His perfect plan. He loved and cared about each person who woke up that morning and stood before Him before the end of the day. He still loves those who were left behind.

I do not have platitudes or any other word to comfort those who still hurt today. I can only offer to you, what I offered in the past, in 2001 and every year since. I will listen, I will cry, I will hug, I will pray.

Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, they are the only offering I have. In my own trials, pain, loss, and sorrow, they have been enough. Even in this, they can still be enough. If you allow them into your pain. Your anger, your sorrow. Your apathy. Say their name, invite them in. Allow them to hold you. Even today, even now.

First Chronicles 16:11 says the same thing, Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Seek Him this day. He is enough every day.

xoxo

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