Refuse

So much hurt and pain- loss and struggle- war, natural disasters, dishonest leaders, human trafficking, economic breakdown– it’s all so overwhelming to try to take in.

Standing in church, singing Josh Wilson’s song I Refuse, reminded me that I cannot fix the big things- but God has equipped me to do some things. 

My spiritual gifts have been given to me and I can use them to impact this world for God’s purposes. 

Or I can bury the gifts, selfishly hoarding them to only use them if someone is “worthy” to receive the “gift.” 

O God, help me remember that You did not selfishly hoard anything for us, your children.

You gave everything- including your Son, that we would have the opportunity to receive that ever-living-never-dying-never-ending gift of Grace. 

O Best Beloved, this is the only life you will have on earth. Are you using your gifts to impact those around you or are you storing those gifts for “another day” or “another time” ?

Is it time to refuse to let another day go by without investing your time, talents, and gifts in the lives of your community?

Not sure where to start? Talk with a mentor, your church’s connection team, your pastor. Take a spiritual gift assessment- find out what God gifted you to do and do it- for His glory and purposes. 

We may be the last generation to impact this broken, hurt, and dying world for Christ. 

(See 1 Corinthians 12 for a list of some of the spiritual gifts God has blessed us with).

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Expect it!

A recent devotional entry began with these words, “Expect to encounter adversity in your life, remembering that you live in a deeply fallen world” (Young 241). What a perspective to start my day!

And yet.

Living my life thinking I should be in Disney musical would be foolish. I will not be surrounded singing animals, dancing mice, or jazz-playing fish. Trouble will be around me, has been around me. I bear the scars, the marks from stitches to prove it.

What to do with that adversity is the big question. Will I ignore it? Embrace it? Whine about it? Defy it? Will I become a victim of it?

What to do?

I need to expect it. Jesus spoke clearly, In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  There should be no shock then that there will be some mornings the car won’t start, the baby will wake up sick, you will wake up sick. These things will happen this side of Heaven.

But thankfully the verse above does not end there, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus will always be bigger than our troubles, stronger than our fears, we are not alone. Ephesians 6 reminds us we are in a battle, we should wear our armor and be prepared. Choosing to spend time framing your day with God will prepare you for the struggles that will come throughout your day.

O Best Beloved,  as you dress for your day, remember your armor. This world is a battlefield, we should expect difficulty. At the same time we can embrace the promises of God. We are not alone, He is with us (Matthew 28:20) when we face these troubles.
(Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling.  HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

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you are Mine

I am not a romance-novel-kind-of-girl. I prefer something full of history, wisdom, a strong theme, and if it has a bit of romance that’s okay too. However, when it comes to the romance God has with us, then I am all mush.

When I was a young believer my church used to sing a song based on Isaiah 43:1-3. It was such a wild image, God coming in as the protector of us, His children. That we would not be abandoned, left to our own devices, but that He would redeem us and save us. It helped my broken heart heal, knowing that I was never going to have to walk through my Faith Journey alone.

As I grew in my faith, I learned about the “secret” story behind Song of Songs, sometimes called Song of Solomon. While the story is of two lovers and often seen as being scandalous for the Bible, but for me, I was amazed. The story was also about the love God felt for us His Bride.

God loved us-loves us– like a lover who longed to hold his precious one in His arms, to caress away the cares and worries, and hold us safely through the night. What an image!

Early in my marriage I found a jeweler who took one of the verses from Song of Songs and imprinted it on a his-and-hers set of rings. The verse says, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3). The verse, written in Hebrew, says on his ring, “My beloved is mine and I am hers” and her ring said, “My beloved is mine and I am his.”

I relished the idea of being treasured by my husband that way. The ring was an unspoken way to carry his love for me no matter where I went.

Now, years later, the ring has taken on new meaning. I know the words are about my husband and me, but they are also my words to God. My beloved is mine and I am His. 

God sees me as His beloved. His Word says I am precious (Isaiah 43:4), accepted, adopted, chosen, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:2-14). I belong to Him. My name is engraved on His hand, like a tattoo (Isaiah 49:16). Such an image!

O Best Beloved, do you realize as a child of God this is the Truth about you, too?  Do you?

I know this life is rough, in some ways it just flat stinks. We weren’t created for life here – this side of Heaven’s perfection (Genesis 1-3). But we are here. In a way, it helps us lean into Jesus more. Our desperation for His Grace, His love, His mercy, and His redemption draws us to Him and Him to us. Don’t believe me? Call out to Him to help you see yourself as He sees you.

We are His beloved. 

 

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willing to love

The Bible teaches that all commitment is based on a loving relationship. Being loved leads to commitment and willful decision-making, not the reverse(Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries, (c) 1992. bold mine).

While in college I had a huge crush on a friend. I decided I was going to “make” him fall for me too. I planned surprise picnics, had him over for dinner and served his favorite meals, whatever I could. I would have been successful if our paths hadn’t changed.

In hindsight, I am grateful. Love that is not built on honesty has little chance. We cannot will love, it cannot be forced. Love grows from trust, selflessness, time, and valuing the other person.

Many wedding ceremonies include the reading from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and 13. But it’s the other words in those verses -besides love-  that need to be camped on for the rest of the marriage to make it work.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres Love never fails And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Our hearts may be willing to love another, but our love will never be enough to maintain the relationship. If love were the only thing keeping my husband and I together, we wouldn’t have stayed with each other beyond our first disagreement. We needed our willingness to love to be the foundation for the rest of our marriage.

On top of that love we have built commitment, forgiveness, mercy, grace, kindness, laughter, memories. Through our individual spiritual journeys and our marriage covenant, we have built a marriage that can weather the storms of life. It has not been pretty all the time, we bear the marks and the scars – but I wouldn’t trade it. We have stood side-by-side, choosing to stick together in the rotten moments, celebrating the wonderful moments.

O Best Beloved, I know not everyone has the kind of commitment from their spouse that may be growing in their own hearts. Please know I am praying for you. Your heart may be raw, tattered, even broken completely into a zillion little pieces, but God can do miracles. He can restore. He has restored, He continues to restore. Cry out to Him for help. If you can’t cry, whimper.

He will hear you. All you need to do is be willing to love.

 

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gloriously empty

My day has felt a bit rushed. I haven’t been late or missed something, yet it hasn’t felt very fulfilling. I have talked with people who have been short tempered, angry, and unwilling to see that their actions are the cause of the problem. Or someone who has been too hurried to listen to the answer I have given to their question.

It has left me feeling jaded, with the seeds of bitterness trying to take root. I started my lunch hour trying to motor through my time off when I realized I was running on fumes. I hadn’t started eating, I also hadn’t had my quiet time. No wonder I was empty.

My heart whispered, “I need to be filled.” And my Spirit answered back, “So do I.” I called out to Heaven.

And Heaven answered.

I come with my hands outstretched, heart dry and cracking, a whisper of the roar my soul usually has inside, and the embers of fire nearly out in my heart. And the blessing, the balm of Heaven, the Grace of Jesus comes in. Slowly filling me like warm water fills a cup, saturating the tea leaves, forever changing the elements within the cup.

Slowly filling what is in my heart, my spirit, my mind, replacing the empty with the glorious fullness that comes from God’s own heart. I am able to breathe deeply the peace that comes from God, the joy that comes from God. The patience and mercy that comes from Jesus.

My lungs which were empty are now gloriously full of new oxygen for my life.

O Best Beloved, do you know this kind of feeling? Do you know what it means to be empty and then to be filled by His amazing love, grace, mercy, and peace?

Embrace the empty and be filled with His glorious presence. Call to Him, He is waiting to answer you.

Oh Heavenly Father, only through You will we ever know the blessing, the joy of seeing You and knowing You and being known by You and to have an everlasting relationship- with You. Only if we call out that we need You. We call out to You now. Meet us here.

 

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cutting the strings

I’ve mentioned before that I was surrounded by strong women growing up. They were constantly on the move; cleaning, preparing, cooking, or working in the yard. As I grew, I believed that in order to be a successful woman, I needed to be just as busy.

In turn, I have a schedule many of them would recognize and probably approve. I work Monday through Friday in town, then return to the farm each evening to do household chores like the dishes, laundry, working in the garden, checking and feeding the animals, collecting eggs. Finally heading to bed around 9 or 10 p.m. to wake again at 4:30 a.m. to start again.

This process seemed fine, until I watched someone recently who was just as busy in her home. The thing is, in her busyness, she missed out on what was happening in her house. There were people there waiting to spend time with her, to continue to build relationship with her.

In her desire to control the house and make sure it functioned well, she was now being controlled by the house and her busy schedule didn’t allow her to rest and enjoy her house which felt less and less like a home.

It reminded me of some of the best five verses about resting and busyness. Luke 10:38-42 describes two sisters preparing for Jesus’ visit. One rushed, worked hard, and continued working when Jesus came into the home. The other sister helped, but stopped when Jesus came in. She knew what was important. She took off the apron and sat at the feet of Jesus.

O Best Beloved, Mary knew the value of her company. The value of her time with Jesus.

So I have begun to cut my apron strings. I don’t need to be constantly moving in my house. I need to spend time with the dear ones in my house and make sure we all feel at home. Without the busyness, without the rush, without feeling guilty for not immediately clearing the table.

The precious ones in my life are only here for a moment. My son will be going off to college within the next twelve months. My dishes will still be waiting to be washed whether it’s now or an hour from now. But making memories, spending time, listening, laughing, and loving on my children, my spouse, friends, and family matters more.

So cut the strings with me and let the dishes sit.

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deserving

I startle easily. It isn’t a secret, in fact, it’s a point of hilarity in my house for my sons and husband. The thing is, if I am startled, I may strike out at the person who surprised me. Not exactly something I want to put on a resume, ya know?

Today at work a friend came up behind me and startled me, I had something in my hand that I couldn’t drop which is what saved her from my reaction. When I told her about my “fight” response to being scared or startled she told me, “Go ahead, hit me. I probably deserve it.”

My heart dropped.

Who taught this precious person that she was deserving of being hit? Of being devalued? It was all I could do to not stand on a chair in our break room and launch into a “mom” lecture about her value. My body reacted with such deep anger, protection, and frustration I had to stand still until I could wrangle my emotions.

Scripture refutes my friend’s self-image completely and I wanted to just stop everything to tell her to stop that kind of thinking. But I know telling ourselves to “stop” doing something isn’t as simple as switching off the light. We need to change our thoughts and take them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

O Best Beloved, don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? Hasn’t anyone told you?

God says we are precious in His sight (Isaiah 43:4b).

He says we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

God says we are His children (Galatians 3:26).

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Because of God’s blessings we are: blessed, accepted, adopted, chosen, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:2-8).

Why would we believe that we are deserving of anything less than being treasured? Where do the lies come from?

The enemy.

Don’t you see, if we believe the lies he weaves into the speech of others we begin to doubt who we are in Christ, and what we can do with Him through His power. We become as worthwhile as a deflated balloon.

But, Dear Ones, if we could just hear how Heaven sees us.

If we could just understand that God sees us as His precious sons and daughters, His perfect creation- created in His image. Would we still stand in front of our bathroom mirrors critiquing ourselves?

Would we downplay the God-given talents and gifts we have flowing through our hearts and minds? Would we allow someone else to put us down with their words or worse, their fists, just because we thought we deserved it? That is not our true identity.

This is our true identity- we are Children of the living God, co-heirs with Christ, Who conquered death, defeating it forever, rising from the dead. This same Jesus will one day come back for you and for me (Philippians 2:5-11). Why would we have our heads down, acting like we don’t deserve anything more than dirt?

Do not, for one more minute believe you deserve less than what God has designed and created you to receive. We are created by God for so much more than the enemy would ever want us to know.

We are here to challenge the very gates of Hell through God’s amazing power (Matthew 16:18). We are here to bring the orphans and widows into families (James 1:27), to love and forgive, to embrace and encourage, to teach and be taught by those who know the Truth and are gifted to teach it to others.

O Best Beloved,  join me. Let us lift our heads high, raise our hands to Heaven and allow the sweet Truth of our lives wash over us.

 

 

 

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Sizing us up

While in college, I was in a long distance relationship. During one visit to my boyfriend’s house, I started to iron a dress for an event we were going to that evening, but his mother volunteered to take over the task. She did a beautiful job and I felt like Cinderella that night.

Later on, I learned that she had noticed the dress size while ironing. She told my boyfriend that, “No one should wear a dress that size.” Now, for perspective, my dress size was only a size or two different than the size she wore. I was crushed that she saw my size and decided I didn’t measure up.

Over the years, I have had a number of different people look at me and decide I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t tall enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, quiet enough, smart enough, whatever enough.

I used to wear each comment like a rejection stamp, each comment, each rejection cutting a little bit deeper than the last, until I felt like I would never measure up to anyone.

After I had walked with God for a while, I started to learn about Who I was and Whose I was. Jesus said I was worth His death and Resurrection. I was worth being a whole person, so I sought counseling at various times during my Faith Journey.

Now, at age forty-six, I have been challenged by someone yet again about the size of my body. At first, I felt the “old” thinking start to take over in my mind. That somehow I wouldn’t measure up and that I needed to strive for the other person’s approval. Something in reality I would never actually receive.

Like a whisper to my spirit, I heard, that’s not what I look at. Suddenly my lungs filled with fresh air. I could breathe more clearly, I could recognize the Truth. I am not measured by what the world says, neither are you. Our measurement – our sizes- are measured by what is in our hearts.

“. . .The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

O Best Beloved,  do not allow the broken to mislabel you and tag you with the wrong size. Through God’s love and great mercy we have been given a beautiful garment from Heaven (Isaiah 61:10). We were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

We will face people every day of our lives who will take one look at us and decide the box we fit in. They will never ask how God designed our hearts, what our deepest longings and deepest hurts are, they won’t care. They will only put us in a box and leave us there. But we do not belong there. 

We belong where God has planted us to grow, mature, blossom, and bless those He has placed in our lives. Let His measurements size us up. God will always see us as more than we are and will grow us to be that perfect size for His kingdom.

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Pain and God

 

Pain shows up in different ways for each person. It can be physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.  When it comes into the lives of loved ones we pray, talk, and encourage each other to lean on God’s wisdom when the pain doesn’t make sense.

There are some, however, who do not confess their pain to others in their lives. They wear a facade, claim to be fine, all the while aching for relief inside.

After a while, the pain becomes “the new normal” and they wake and sleep with it. Never realizing that pain has begun to fester like an infection in their hearts. The pain has become bitterness and is now spreading to those around the hurting person.

Scripture is clear that healing is available through Christ (Matthew 4:23). We just need to confess that we need it. Jeremiah 33:6 says, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. 

We we also have the ability to speak words of healing to our brothers and sisters. While it may not be healing through reconciliation with the hurt-er, it can be a balm. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24). 

The ultimate lesson, that can sometimes be the hardest one, is realizing the one who is broken and in pain may never seek forgiveness for the way they hurt others.

Should this happen, seek help with how to handle it. This help may be from a trusted friend, a mentor or pastor, or a counselor. Do not allow the broken of someone else be taken as a mantle on your shoulders. Lay it at the feet of God.

O Best Beloved, only God can bring healing. Only God can reunite broken loved ones, only God can help us release the pain and suffering in our spirits.

Only God.

So, I ask you, what do you need to seek healing for? What do you need to ask forgiveness for?

Join me in praying for the reconciliation that can only come from the Throne Room of God:

Heavenly Father, 

Hear our hearts. You see the pain, the hurt, the anger, the sense of wanting to write off that person from our lives. But, Heavenly Father, we are called to be at peace with You and with others . Help us remember that peace with is doesn’t mean being beaten down by others, but to make sure our actions aren’t causing strife. Help us find healing and promote healing in our broken world. Amen.

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Training Wheels

The moment parents look at their children there is a sense of love, wonder, and awe that comes over them. Here is a new person they are responsible to and for as he or she grows up.

Proverbs 22:6 describes that responsibility, Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Unfortunately, many parents decide that they know who and what their child should be trained up to do. Once the parents make that decision, they strive, push, manipulate, and coerce their child to become that person.

Proverbs isn’t about the parents’ ideas and plans– it’s about God and His plans, His purposes for the child. God may have given talents and gifts to that child that may be 180-degrees from the profession the parent has been pushing.

When we try to force our children to become something they are not created to be, we run the risk of squelching their purpose (Ephesians 2:10). We risk breaking their spirit.

Deuteronomy 6 describes the parents’ responsibility to teach the Biblical truths and instill them in their children.  Praying for our children- listening to God’s response, understanding who our children are, guiding them toward the life and profession God has planted in them.

It could be business, medicine, law, or education, just as easily as it could be working as a chef, or missionary-work in a foreign country, becoming a pastor, or a homemaker. None of these titles or jobs have any more weight than the other- each is necessary.

My sons have been blessed with very different skills- each of the creates- but one does it with hammers and saws, while the other creates with paper and pencil, drawing intricate scenes. Neither is better than the other, both have been given gifts and talents by God.

O Best Beloved, do not squelch the gifts God has given your child out of your own selfish pride. Go and listen to your children. Watch him or her- what are they gifted to do? Once you see these talents guide them with classes, mentors, teachers, and peers who have that gift who will help to hone your children’s gifts to bless others.

Your Christmas letter should not be the measuring stick of success. The Audience of One saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” is what matters most (Matthew 25:21).

**For more ideas check out BoundariesBoundaries with Children, and  Boundaries with Teens by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

 

 

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