good, bad, ugly and molding

Growing up, I was a bit gun shy when it came to “church people.” Not only had I been warned about them growing up, but the 80’s were an interesting transitional time for the church. Needless to say, I loved God, pursued Jesus (in my own, ebb and flow way) and steered clear of mumu’s, potlucks and large displays to ‘evidence’ the Spirit.

When I finally acknowledged the chasm I held in my heart, I began to search diligently for a place to belong. Somewhere I could grow in faith, knowledge and relationship. I started to recognize my need for community and was so blessed when the kids and I found our little church in Ellensburg.

Over the years that seed has grown into a beautiful flower. God directed me, through a high school friend to a church in Seattle where He grew my faith, healed my heart, and allowed me to break out of some of my fears as I began to learn the joy and blessing in serving others. By the time God called us to a home church closer to our own neighborhood, I was on the worship team, in the choir, and taught Sunday school. It was a lovely time of self-growth.

We’ve been planted at The Rock for about 10 years now. The ups and downs have been marked and not always easy to navigate, as God has shaken up, stirred, loosed and solidified areas of my life that have needed molding. It has been the hardest, and most rewarding, journey I have taken next to marriage and motherhood.

And it’s been amazing.

One of the most wonderful things I have learned is how much more I want/need to learn. How far I have come, and how blessed I am to have made it this far. Every day is a journey, and I am so grateful to have those days – good, bad and ugly.

Sometimes, the thing we most fear is the thing we most need to face head on. If you have been on the fence in your spiritual journey, take the plunge. Dive in. Do it different. Take a risk. There is nothing to lose and more to gain than you can possibly fathom.

Shalom.

 

 

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signs

There is a house just around the corner from us that has caught, and has been able to effectively keep, my attention. It’s a bit worn down, really pretty trashed, actually. There is usually rubbish in the yard, sheets in the windows, and a dingy, dark feel. I often find myself praying for whoever lives there – it just seems as though there is a need there.

A few months back, we drove by to a yard full of personal items – clothes, shoes, boxes, an easy chair – all strewn across the porch and yard. It absolutely looked like the end result of a domestic dispute and screamed chaos and anger. In the window was a sign –

“You stole from me!”

There were other words but I never stopped to read the whole thing.

Nothing changed for weeks, until about a month ago when the front yard was mysteriously picked up. Same dingy curtains. Same darkness. Continued prayers.

Yesterday we drove by and someone had built a frame and posted a sign facing the street. Big, bold, red letters emblazon a plain white piece of poster board.

“Come home, Mary.”

I began to think about the people involved in that story. Imagined the regret of one, as he began to see what life without Mary was like. I doubt he had given any thought to what he was communicating to her in his anger. And I wondered about Mary. What part had she played? Had she really stolen from him? What signals/messages had she been giving during their time together?

Of course, I have my biased opinions about what did take place, but those are of no consequence. As it pertains to my own life, I choose to ponder what kind of signs are in my “yard.” What kind of messages I am sending. Through my words, actions, body language… I might put a sign out that says, “I love you,” while the smaller sign says, “I have no time for you.” Or, “I have no patience for who you are or what you want to share.” As much as I feel like I share my love and affection, it might not always come across the way I hope.

What messages are you sending? Do they line up with who you truly are? Everybody can use a little tweaking now and again. A fresh perspective. Our relationships are too valuable to leave things up to chance. And I don’t ever want to have to put out a sign begging those I love to come home…

 

 

go karts and trophies

Driving home this morning from dropping the older kids off at school, my 5-year-old shared with me that he’s “always wanted to see a tractor and a race car.” Now, of course, living out where we do, he has seen both in his short life, but evidently his memory escaped him this morning. I smiled and said, “Well, I am sure we will see a tractor again soon. And, we can go to the races this spring and watch Pastor Jeff race.” JD laughed and said “I don’t want to watch Pastor Jeff. I want to watch daddy. He raced a go kart and won a trophy!”

It was so hard not to laugh out loud, and so simultaneously heart-warming, to think that he would rather watch a go kart over a real race car. But a few months ago, he saw the trophy that his daddy had won while at a team building event. He even acknowledged that Pastor Jeff’s trophy was bigger, but he still wanted to watch my husband whiz around the track at the speed of…well…our car in the school zone on a Monday morning…

It just reminds me that we all are “somebody” to someone. We may feel like we aren’t as talented, or rich, or famous, or skilled as another, but to somebody, we are everything. It’s humbling and a good reminder to not only value what I do, but to mindful of who I choose to be to those around me.

Who knows, your little go kart might be just the inspiration your kid needs.

side note.

I was sharing with a friend this morning how I have been feeling with all that has been going on in the lives of my friends and family. Any time we are given the opportunity to face our own, or another’s, mortality, we are challenged to move. Emotions run high and we begin to consider our own beliefs about life, and death. Eternity. Faith. Relationships, meaning, purpose…

Some hide behind work or hobbies. Others seek solace in substances. Still others run in full-force, propelled by faith. Or selfishness.

You see, when we fully acknowledge how fragile life can be, we often begin to relate to other people and situations differently. In my own life, I have vacillated between between motivated to operate from a position of selfishness – pursuing my own ideas, goals and personal interests. And, being propelled by a desire to extend more grace, take more time, choose more patience and pursue God and His ways more than I have before.

In this life, we will be given many opportunities to respond to life, in all its facets. I am grateful for these. There is so much beauty; so many chances at love and hope. Today I thank God for my breath, my relationships, His grace upon my and in every step I take. My hope is found in knowing that He promises He will never leave or forsake me, and that He will bring something precious and good out of every situation; even in those situations that I can’t understand and fight to accept.

 

On a side note. God is big enough for your pain. Your anger. The tears. He knows your heart and understands your grief. Trust Him to walk you through that, love you in it, and grace you to the other side of it.

Shalom.

 

irrevocable.

Those who are close to me are aware of some significant events that have happened in my life recently. Coming out of a very dark season, I have been blessed, and challenged, by new opportunities to exercise my faith muscles. From walking with a friend in crisis, while really just getting to know one another, to sitting watch in the ICU with my closest friend/sister, to reconnecting with sisters I lost for a season through divorce, while walking with them in their own tragedy…the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of faith, hope, fear, pain, love and an irrevocable change in my spirit.

Life is short. It’s valuable. And non-negotiable.

What I mean by non-negotiable, is that I am no longer willing to accept where I have been. It’s time to reach for new heights. My desire to learn and grow and change has deepened exponentially. And, my passion for true relationship, and my contempt for toxic relationships, has brought a fresh perspective and depth to my daily existence.

It’s hard to put into words what all has been changing in my spirit. My grace has deepened, while my patience has in some ways, lessened. I want to slow down, go deeper, experience more and fight less. No longer am I willing to pursue empty promises or surface relationships. It’s not enough anymore, to try and fight to keep the peace with those who prefer chaos. My life is rich, and it’s not worthy of the shoddy way I have taken it for granted.

While I don’t wish crisis on anyone, I do hope that we each get the opportunity on this side of heaven to really live. To really own who and where we are. Live your life in a way that is free, powerful, and irrevocable!

 

it’s settled

Sometimes my head and my heart disagree. Oftentimes, actually. My belief systems clash with my fears, my heart’s wisdom with worldly knowledge and the need to rationalize and explain. Once settled, however, some issues can be put to bed for good.

I know with everything in me that I believe the bible. God’s Word is true and I have seen and experienced His miracles, peace, power and presence more times than I can count. Upon hearing the most tragic of truths and walking through the deepest of nights, my soul finds rest only in the Holy One.

But arguments that elevate themselves against the knowledge of Christ can send my mind in varied directions. Perspectives and facts can send me to places of doubt and inner conflict. It can take time to process information and decide once and for all how I feel about a subject.

This morning, in the loo of all places, I came to a final conclusion about why I don’t believe in even the remotest possibility of a certain belief system (which will be withheld for the purpose of keeping arguments off my blog and honor to those who hold to this system). However, I will say that the natural progression of rational thought took me to a place of indisputable truth. Check one off the old 4-o’clock-in-the-morning-inner-turmoil list.

At the end of the day, I think we all need to take the time to truly analyze and dissect our beliefs. It’s not enough to simply believe something at face value. I tell my kids all the time that it’s my job to “train them up in the way they should go,” and to take them to church and set an atmosphere of faith in our home, but ultimately, they need to discover their own relationship with Christ. Questions are not only accepted, they are imperative.

Where do you your loyalties lie? What are your fears? Your doubts? To walk out a life of faith, sometimes not even knowing for sure you possess that faith, is authentic. But to seek truth and continue to sort through and settle those issues for good – creating harmony between your heart and mind – it is for those moments we most hope for.

 

confession

I have a confession to make. It’s not every day that I walk out who I want to be. I can sometimes be a bit of a hypocrite. There are days I start out with great purpose to be intentional; choosing words and works of peace, hope, faith and love. Sometimes, life throws a few curve balls, or I let my guard down, and this icky feeling begins to grow in my spirit. Other days I simply wake up with that familiar heaviness in the pit of my gut.

It feels like fear. Its root is unforgiveness.

Sometimes we can make the decision to move past a situation, or to relieve a person of their “debt” to us. That doesn’t always mean, however, that there aren’t still feelings and questions and anger that may need to be worked through. And, in that process, we can sometimes find ourselves stuck in a vicious cycle; replaying scenarios and negative dialogue in our heads. Over, and over. And over. And…

This week I was given a prime opportunity to face yet another consequence of an offense committed against me. My reaction this time was to just go numb. Usually a bit more expressive, I was genuinely surprised at my response. It was mingled with faith, a bit of sadness, hope, and the resignation that accompanies the knowledge that it is what it is. Despite endless prayers and wishes, none of us can change the past.

I can tell I am growing. The more I do, the more I realize how much further I have to go. Like a fine wine or aged cheese, it takes time to achieve the richness, depth and flavor that God desires to bring out in us. Maturity doesn’t happen overnight. Or over time. But rather it slowly evolves as we take each new day and make it our own. Sometimes having great success, sometimes replaying old mistakes. But through it all, we find we are never alone. And our “intentions,” over time, do become a part of who we are.

Don’t give up. Keep moving forward. Take each step back as a sign you are still moving. Today could be your day to discover just one more precious lesson learned. Today, THAT is my confession.

 

 

killjoy

Over the most recent months, I have been struggling to heal an issue. We won’t go into detail, but I usually have great success with natural remedies and was really frustrated when my diligence and prayer were not working. (Anyone who knows me knows I rarely will go to a doctor and will avoid the use of chemical treatments at all cost.) That being said, I was a little irritated when I had to go in to see my physician.

Until this week.

You see, while running tests to determine how exactly to treat my symptoms, they found something else. Follow up tests this week reveal a deeper issue I would have not known about for quite some time, and it would have developed into something significantly more dangerous. At this point, the next steps are unpleasant, but effective and nominally disagreeable.

What I realized, yet again, is that sometimes God tells us no. He does not do this to punish us, or to hold us back, because He is a control freak or a killjoy… No, He does this because ultimately He knows everything. Everything! From the beginning of time until its end, and His understanding of what is best for us from an eternal perspective far outweighs our desire for that new job or changed spouse or….

Today, I am so grateful He told me no. Be at peace, regardless of the “yes’s,” the “no’s,” and the “wait.” You’re in good hands.

Shalom.

pushing buttons

It was hard to push that button. Mountains of doubt, and voices silently warning of potential regret, caused me to pause. It seemed so harsh. Like such a really big deal. I felt I was being cruel. Even spiteful. But I took a deep breath and gave in.

I deleted him from Facebook.

His words had been unkind. He spoke deceitfully and with a malice that I had known existed, but few had really seen. Today it was loud and clear – his true colors glistening like ice crystals on a sunny day.

We had never really been good friends, but I was in love with his wife and family. It was hard to feel so torn. At the end of the day, though, I knew any hope I had of not developing a bitterness was to disassociate myself from his opinions and prideful comments altogether. And really, at the end of the day, when did social media dictate authentic relationship??

Of course, things rarely go as one hopes, and I lost a few other friends as well. I suppose it just lets me know where we all stand. Perhaps I could have explained my decision, but the initial attack on those I love was enough to cause me to believe that a pursuit of effective dialogue was futile.

I really hope I never make anyone else feel that way. It’s been an interesting view into the hearts of others, this whole Facebook/social media thing. Words are carelessly flung like dung on a barn wall. Attacks, accusations, assumptions, passive aggressive attacks on character…It’s all quite remarkable. I have been guilty of it, too. Angrily making statements about people I feel wronged me. It’s a tragically easy way to blow steam. And damage people.

Today, I actually pushed the button a couple more times. It was time to set some boundaries in my world. I have often dialed back on what I have wanted to share as I don’t know all my FB “friends” as well as some. Some parts of my heart don’t need to be broadcast to all. And, really, well intended or not, some people just aren’t emotionally safe for me. A peacemaker by nature, pushing buttons is rarely my first response, but learning to establish healthy boundaries is a process I am finding more and more valuable the older I get…

What buttons do you need to push today??

 

open and raw

I had a sudden memory today of a particularly life-altering and relationship-changing moment. Newly separated from my first husband, my kids and I had moved in temporarily with my mom and sister. I was broken, so much so that some days I had to make a conscious decision to breath. There were moments I didn’t know how I could possibly ever feel myself again, let alone be happy.

Just the week before I had, with the help of my pastor, his wife, dad, and a dear friend, packed up as much as I could take with me. It felt I was leaving behind every hope, dream, and value I had ever had. At one point, I literally fell to my knees and couldn’t move. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever dreamed to have found myself in such a place of absolute desperation.

One afternoon someone brought over a movie – it was Hope Floats. I remember sitting there, hot tears pouring down my face, waves of pain flowing over me as I watched the scene when Sandra Bullock’s daughter chases her daddy and begs him to take her with him. Even now, it brings back such agony. Words can never express how it feels to watch your baby beg to have their family restored.

Not everyone understands where you’ve been, and sometimes in their attempt to bring restoration or “normalcy,” can actually pour salt on an already open and raw sore. Whatever season you are in, especially if it’s a vulnerable one, please be wise in who you allow in to your heart/world. Good intentions don’t always bring good results. It is only for a time, but it’s always so important to guard your heart. It’s the only one you have.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.