Road trips

Every summer my parents, brother, and I would go on a road trip. It might be fishing and camping in Minnesota, camping and canoeing in Missouri, or camping our way from Illinois to California to visit family. I loved the preparation, the excitement as it built toward the day we would leave.

My dad built special boxes to store the fishing poles and paddles which went on top of the van next to our canoe. We also had storage boxes that were built to hold the dry goods and kitchen items for meals. It was a fine tuned process.

When we traveled we knew that we could relax and enjoy the scenery, stop and take pictures, collect stones along the way, and even nap because we knew that my dad was at the wheel. He knew the routes we needed to take and where we were going to have to stop. We could trust him, we were safe and we knew that wanted the best for us.

All these years later, as I journey with God, I look back to those road trips. Just as my earthly father cared for us, I know my Heavenly Father will do the same. I know that my Abba Father has had the best in mind for me since before I was born (Psalm 139:16). I know many who do not have a positive relationship with their earthly fathers. I imagine trusting a Heavenly Father you cannot see is difficult because of that strained or missing relationship.

O Best Beloved, would you be able to have enough faith to believe that the same God who knew my very thoughts before I had them, loves you just as much?

Psalm 147:3 says, He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 91 describes how God will protect you from dangers and the enemy. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge–no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague will come near your tent (Psalm 91:9-10).

Our Heavenly Father wants you to trust Him. By giving Him the keys to your life, you will be allowing Him to take you on a journey you could have never imagined or planned. One with winding turns, wonderful views, amazing experiences, and a precious, abiding love that will grow between the two of you.

Dear Ones, are you willing to lean into God and allow Him to map out the routes you take together?

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him (Isaiah 30:15, 18).

Trust Him, Best Beloved, He is waiting for you, longing to take you on the road trip of your lifetime.

xoxoxo

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Bank books

I often hear people tell me that they wish they had the winning lottery numbers, as if the numbers would offer all of the answers for their struggles. It is a comment I must hear three or four times a week and it makes me wonder why money has become the key to fixing a person’s problems. I realize money is needed to live, but I am always saddened when it is treated as the only thing worth living for.

In my years I have experienced the comfort of knowing that bills would be paid and the struggle of how to find enough money to fill the gas tank. Even while wrestling with worry and anxiety I knew that material things were not the most important thing. How I would approach my battles, who I would stand by and who would stand by me, and keeping the struggle in perspective were the important parts. I learned that what I had was not as valuable as who I loved and who loved me.

My faith is the same way. I may have a bank book with six figures in it, but if I don’t have my heart full of the Fruit of the Spirit, I may as well be penniless, because my soul is empty.

First Corinthians 13:4-8 is often read at weddings, but in the case of day-to-day life, I think it’s the first three verses that count more.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV).

If we have more in our coffers than in our heart, we have missed the point entirely. When we get to Heaven we aren’t going to be asked about our bank books, we will be asked if we loved one another as Christ loved us. If we gave sacrificially of our time, our love, our lives, to impact the world for Christ. Degrees on the wall won’t get us into Heaven, even if we could speak with the language of the angels.

I overheard a conversation recently, where the speaker mocked another person for choosing to take Bible courses to help them grow in their faith. The reason for the mocking was because it wouldn’t end with a college degree or some other accolade. Best Beloved, that is not what we are to be about! My heart aches for the brokenness of the mocker. They have missed the very calling of the Christ they say they love and serve.

I may never have six figures in my bank book, but I do pray that my heart will be full to overflowing capacity with the love of Heaven for my brothers and sisters in this world.

Ephesians 3:14-21. Amen.

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Little things

Being married is not for the faint of heart. As much as I enjoy a romantic comedy I know the truth that you don’t see on the screen. The passive-aggressive behavior of doing the very opposite of what your spouse asked you to do or not to do. The tenderness behind a stolen kiss before taking the kids into bed, for the third time.

I know the feeling of surprises during the day, when your spouse picked up your favorite chocolate bar or presents you with a pint of ice cream as a treat. The little inside jokes, the flirting that happens when no one can see the spouse’s face, but they can see yours.

After nearly three decades together, friends and spouses combined, I like to think that my husband and I have a pretty good grasp on this adventure. But recent events made me take a deeper look at the marriages our parents have and I realized we have a long way to go.

Both of our set of parents have been married for 50 years and 49 years respectively. They have had the struggles, the arguments, the compromises, the consoling due to loss, the celebrations for success. Our parents have trained up sons and daughters to become well- established, capable, hard-working adults. They also know the joy of being called grandparents.

It’s in this current season though, that I have watched our parents as they come to terms with health issues, some that are inconvenient, but others that could have been life threatening if they hadn’t been caught.

The love these two couples have is woven into the very way they breathe, talk, listen, help, and go about their day-to-day. The silly way my parents tease and joke about stories that are well worn, yet still funny. Or the way my in-laws spend time working together in the yard or sharing novels to read.

It’s the little looks, the familiar touch when they hold hands. The way they say I love you without saying a word. When the groceries are put away and his favorite chips go into the cupboard. Or how my mom makes sure my dad’s favorite BBQ sauce is ready to go on the dinner they have that night.

All these years together. The stories they know from before the kids were born. The early struggles and heartaches that are shared just between the two of them. These are the stones that built their legacy. The laughter, the strife, the celebrations, the sorrows. Standing by each other’s side when it was time to leave a home, a job, a friend. All these little things make up what is marriage.

Each of our parents have creaks, aches, some have hearing aids, some wear glasses now instead of having perfect vision. There have been surgeries and adjustments to how they live their lives.

It’s the living, breathing example of Genesis 2:24, This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh (HCSB). They have chosen each other again and again. It may seem like a little thing, but this little thing is what helps them through the big things.

Years ago, there was a song sung at weddings that has been playing over and over in my mind. Paul Stookey of the trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, wrote the lyrics. Well, a man shall leave his mother, and a woman leave her home / They shall travel on to where the two shall be as one / As it was in the beginning is now until the end /A woman draws her life from man and gives it back again / And there is love, there is love.*

*Wedding Song (There is Love) lyric (c) Warner / Chappell Music, In, Music & Media International, Inc.
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The bee and me

The weeks of summer are often busier than the other nine months of the year. It is as if we are on a race with the sun and weather to accomplish all we can, while we are still able. It is these same activities that prevent us from taking in all the ways God is moving around us.

There are always dishes to wash, dry, put back on the shelf. Items in the kitchen/living room/dining room to put away in their designated places. Lawns to mow, gardens to weed, the list goes on and on. Like the busy honey bees flitting from flower to flower to gather the pollen, we continue to gather and carry with us the where we have been.

The difference between the bee and me is that the bee will release the pollen at the hive. I am more likely to continue to carry my burdens with me into the next day. It is completely contrary for me to let go of the things on my back. I have mentioned before that I tend to live with fear and worry and doubt nipping at my heels like a hungry dog.

This is the very place where my battles are fought.

Will I let go of my burdens, dropping them to the floor like a pair of worn jeans? Will I cling to them for fear that something will happen if I let them go? What is the root of my life with Christ? Is it my works or is it His grace?

I need to remember my work is in His name because of His grace. I need to lean into His truth more and more each day. To be listening to His Holy Spirit and hearing the sweet love song He sings over me daily (Zephaniah 3:17). It is now when I close my eyes, when I silence my thoughts, and begin to breathe in and breathe out the gentle breeze caressing me.

Like the bees who settle into their hives at twilight, my soul begins to settle into place again the more I am with my Lord, one moment at a time. As each breath is exhaled, I begin to let go of the burdens and soon they are scattered on the floor.

I step around them and come to place my head on the pillow. The bees will buzz again at daybreak, just like me. But at day’s end I will be letting go of the burdens and concerns, placing them into the very hands of the God of the Universe. He will be awake throughout the night, watching over the bees and me (Psalm 121).

And I will rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

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Turns in the road

All of my life my dad has had a bit of an adventurous spirit. When we were in the car for a drive he would get to a T in the road and ask, “Left or right?” We would say whichever direction we thought he should turn, and we would go on down the road taking in the scenery and enjoying the trip we were on. I learned a lot on those drives how to keep my sense of direction, how to appreciate where were, and to look in anticipation toward what was coming.

It is the same with my Spiritual Father.

Last night at a cookout, my husband and I were sharing our story of how we met, why we moved to Nebraska, etc. As we spoke, I was reminded of the different ways God encouraged and challenged us. From the moment I said, “Yes,” to my husband we have watched how God has orchestrated things. We have not experienced what some would call a typical marriage. We rely a lot on faith and prayer, but we also see that those moments when others might turn around and go back home. Our individual stories have a distinctive handprint of God on them and it only makes sense to follow Him now, when He has held us so closely since our beginnings.

In the Jesus Calling devotional that I have mentioned before, today’s entry speaks to this point of view. “I long to make your life a glorious adventure but you must stop clinging to old ways. . .Be on the lookout for all that I have prepared for you.” Add to that a prayer card I have from a Beth Moore series, “Glorious God, how I celebrate the fact that . . .my mind has never conceived what You have prepared for me and all others who truly love You,” (ref. 1 Corinthians 2:9).

It only makes sense that any grand and glorious plan I have ever thought of or will ever think of, cannot come close to the shadow of what God has had planned for me since before time began.

Jesus told His disciples to, “Come follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19). He didn’t say, “Come follow me and I will make all your paths smooth and straight, simple and serene.” The disciples could never have imagined standing in from of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin speaking with authority and power through the Holy Spirit. They couldn’t have believed being rescued from prison by an angel or healing the sick and raising the dead.

The only thing they knew, the only thing they believed was that a life by Jesus’ side would be worth far more than a life without Him. A life without being in His presence. It was a decision that had eternal consequences and influences and they decided immediately and without hesitation. They simply put down their nets, left their boats, and followed Him.

Their lives were never the same again.

That is the life I am choosing every time I stand at a crossroads and can choose left or right, I look to see where Jesus is leading and I follow Him. Every time. No matter where He leads.

Best Beloved, the question then comes, where are you going and who are you following? Are you seeking the quiet, serene life? Are you choosing to follow Jesus knowing your steps will be all over and the terrain will not be the same? Is time for you to come to the T in the road and choose to follow Christ?

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So much more

One of my social media feeds offers a look back at previous posts. Today’s memory was from the final days before my family and I moved to Nebraska. I had been reading through the devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young* and the entry for June 27th gave me the very words I needed.

Rest with Me a while.

I felt exhausted from trying to sort, pack, donate, pitch, and store a household’s contents, not knowing where exactly we were going to live, what we were going to do for employment, and striving not to lose myself completely in my then undiagnosed anxiety. The idea of resting was a bit of a joke, but also a sweet image I needed.

Trust that I will equip you fully for whatever awaits you on your journey.

Looking back I can see the ways that God did exactly that for our family. We found a hotel to stay at for the first few days of the journey. Two days after we arrived at the hotel, my husband was offered a job, a week later, we found an apartment. With each step, God met the need was met before it was even known.

Refresh yourself in My company, breathing deep droughts of My Presence.

We made contact with the church we planned to attend and they immediately came along side of us, helping with gift cards for restaurants, etc. Standing in the meeting room at the church that Sunday, I finally cried over all that had been happening. Dear Barb, the woman we had been in contact with, hugged me as a mom would and allowed me a chance to catch my breath again. She was Jesus for me at that moment.

I am with you, watching or you wherever you go (Genesis 28:15).

And so He has throughout the journey. He is even with us now as we restore our home. This restoration has been more than just the four walls of our house. It has been the communication and even the community within our home. As our sons leave to begin their own adventures, my husband and I are now looking at a restored home, but an empty nest. We are now preparing for the next leg on this amazing faith journey.

We can see where God has shown up and we can see where He has shown off during these years. We can see how He has helped weave together the frayed places in our marriage. Grown our sons into well-spoken, talented, amazing, young men. God has shown us so much more that we could ever have imagined we would receive or experience.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than a we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 4:20-21).

Amen indeed.

*Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, 2004.

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Great fish and barley

Decisions, decisions, decisions. When my husband and I were younger, I was trying to make a point about something and I said, “You don’t have to, you choose to.” All these years later, we keep this perspective when deciding something.

Ruth chose to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel after they were widowed. Ruth wasn’t from Israel, she was a Moabite. Following Naomi wasn’t something she had to do, it was a choice. The decision Ruth made in Ruth 1:6, 8-9, 16 was not a light one. It was a decision that would impact the family line of Jesus Himself.

Out of the obedience of following Naomi came the blessing Naomi was able to return to Ruth. Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you that it may be well with you? . . .But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do,” (Ruth 3:1, 4-5).

The passage continues with Ruth going to the threshing floor where the barley was being winnowed and laying at the feet of Boaz, her kinsman redeemer. When he woke up she told him who she was, saying, “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” The words of Boaz show the blessing she would receive, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.”

In four chapters there is grace, obedience, mercy, kindness, and redemption. What a blessing to me as the reader, knowing that God moved throughout the story of Ruth.

Now, take a look at Jonah.

God speaks to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me,” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah is commanded to be obedient to God and he chooses to take a ship to Tarshish, instead of going to Nineveh. Jonah plans to hide from God, if it weren’t for the weather. When the storm comes up and the ship is about to go down, Jonah confesses to being the reason for the storm. “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you,” (Jonah 1:12).

Only after Jonah is in the belly of the great fish does he turn to God. Praying for God to save him and how he was wrong to seek his own ways. God had the great fish spit Jonah out and then Jonah went on his way to Tarshish. It was only after he was corrected did he obey. Chapter three goes on to tell of Jonah’s message from God to the people of Nineveh, “Repent or die.” In the end of chapter three, the king and the people of Nineveh are repentant. God sees them turn from wickedness and He spares them, giving them grace instead of justice.

But Jonah was bent on fire and brimstone from Heaven to fall on Nineveh. He even acknowledges God’s goodness, for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. (Jonah 4:2b, 3). Yet he misses the point. The same grace and mercy that God felt for Jonah when he was in the great fish, is the same grace and mercy God offers to the people of Nineveh. In the end, Jonah is full of bitterness, when he could have celebrated the blessing.

That is the choice we each face throughout the day, Best Beloved; we can choose bitterness or we can choose the blessing. In the end, it’s up to you. I know what I will choose. Not because I have to, but why would I choose not to?

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And …ACTION!

One of the verses I see posted a lot is Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. It’s the verse that is often given to the graduate or the parents of a newborn. While it is encouraging and a blessing to know that God has plans to prosper us or as one translation says “plans for welfare,” there is more to the text.

Jeremiah chapter 29 is actually a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon to let them know what God had told him. He writes to the exiles, thus says the LORD of hosts the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there and do not decrease (verses 4-7).

God wanted His people to know they would be in Babylon for a long time. In verse ten it says, For thus says the LORD; when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. The Israelites would be in Babylon for longer than it took their ancestors to follow Moses to the Promised Land.

The letter doesn’t tell them to mourn, to whine, to fret, or complain. God is clear, they are to go forward, to continue to live, to get married, to have kids, to grow crops and harvest them. To have grandkids, to be actively engaged in the life they had right where they were. They were to take action. In the middle of this exile the Israelites could have even passive, waiting for something to happen to them. But God told them to fully engage where they were, they were called to action.

Many of us who claim Christ fall into the habit of waiting. Waiting for the job we believe we are supposed to have, for the spouse we are supposed to marry, the house, the car, the situation, to come to us. But God says clearly, engage! We believers didn’t accept Christ to immediately be beamed up to Heaven like an episode of StarTrek. No, we are called to engage with others, to share, to teach, to love, and to forgive during each day we are with those around us. And as we are acting, we are also listening actively to God for the places and steps He is calling us to take next.

Jim Elliot said it best, Wherever you are be all there. This is much like the call to action God gave to the Israelites. Jeremiah 29 is full of action verbs, reminding us that we are to be intentional and purposeful in what we do. Just as we are being equally and simultaneously obedient to God’s call for us and to us.

Best Beloved, I challenge you to spend some time in Jeremiah 29, reading God’s call to His chosen people. While you read, circle the verbs. See if you are not challenged to be fully engaged in the life God has you living, right now, in this very moment. Not later, not where you used to be, but where you are is this season. Until He calls you to the next one, be all there.

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A tidy, structured life

Today would have been my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, it’s hard to wrap my mind around that idea, but it’s true. When I was barely twenty-one I fell in love with a tall redhead from Dallas and we quickly believed God had brought us together for forever.

We planned out what we would do for a living, the names of our dogs, the names of our five children. Where we would live, where we would vacation. We had everything laid out on a checklist to mark off when completed. It was going to be the perfect life. I loved having it all organized in front of me. Then three weeks before the wedding, he phoned and said he couldn’t do it. I was hoping he meant couldn’t wait to see me and start this structured life together. But the tone in his voice told me that wasn’t what he meant.

All of my elaborate plans came crashing down like so many cards and suddenly I was lost. I had no events to plan for, nothing to look forward to as the days went on. My extended family chose to come anyway and we had an impromptu family reunion. Cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, came together and we boated, played softball, had cookouts, and went on walks. It was a wonderful few days.

When it was silent again, I called out to God. Trying to figure out the reason for such an abrupt end. It was then I heard Him say, My Precious child, you ran ahead of Me. You became so focused on your plans you forgot to seek Me about My plans for you.

Ugh. He was right. So I focused my attention back on Christ. I read books about growing my faith. Sought leaders who spoke the Truth from Scripture and with my hands full of these new lessons I didn’t dwell on what I had put down.

I found verses that reminded me that God was the One who created me, Who knew me, and Whose plans for me would be unlike any I could imagine. Now, all these years later, married to my dearest love and best friend, mother to two amazing young men, living in the middle of the United States- not the middle of Texas– I can see with clear eyes and a honest heart, the old plans I had made were counterfeit.

The love, the purpose, the part I was to have in God’s story was to include chapters in my own life I would have never written. If I had been left to my own tidy, structured life I would never have seen the mountains and the valleys, the vistas, and the dark places that I have travelled through since I gave God the controls.

Sure, I feel safe when I have structure, who doesn’t? But when I see the God Who loves me calling me to the adventures He has in store for me- what else could I do but follow Him?

Joshua 1:5b says, I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Jude verses 24 and 25 states, Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

As much as I am surprised to say it, I would rather the unstructured life with God than a life that is laid out before me. One that is safe, but offers no unexpected highs and lows, no opportunities to be stretched and grown in my faith. This is the life described in Ephesians 3:20-21, Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen indeed.

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Filling or draining

Words are vital to my job. They are used to explain information, clarify questions and answers, and respond to requests made throughout our hours of operation. Often someone may not like the answer they are given and they respond with their own words. Their response may be full of unkind, even cruel choices that are meant to damage and injure the person with whom they are speaking.

My co-workers have been trained to meet these escalations with neutrality and while still striving to meet the overall needs of the customer, to not increase the anger during the interaction. That doesn’t mean that the words didn’t cut deeply. If the words spoken were actually cuts made into us we would all be in need or emergency medical care.

We each have the ability to fill the heart or to drain the heart of a person. It’s all about the words we choose. Proverbs is full of verses that speak of the fool and his words, or the righteous and theirs. We can speak words that destroy (Proverbs 18:21) or bring us joy (Proverbs 15:23). As we speak with our parents, children, classmates, employers, the custodians, clerks at the store- we hold the power to speak life or death.

Our social media feeds are full of acidic words, vile names, and so much more that makes my heart break. Why is this the legacy we want to leave behind? No, we may never meet the person we speak to or respond to face to face. Would you talk with them that way if you did?

Scripture is clear, when we stand before God we will be responsible and held accountable for every word we spoke or didn’t speak, for every action we took or didn’t take (Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:12, Hebrews 4:13, 1 Peter 4:5). Let us be careful that careless or callous words not leave our mouths, Best Beloved.

May our words uplift, encourage, and bless those we meet during our daily activities.

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