for me.

I was thinking back to a time recently where I felt like I was missing out on something. This morning I saw a picture that reminded me of that situation, and I simply marvel sometimes at God’s planning – and His hand on my life. It steadies me in areas where I am still praying and looking for breakthrough.

A few months ago, my husband asked me to accompany him to Hawai’i for a business trip. He was to be working nearly the entire time, but we would have evenings and one day at the end to ourselves. When we were talking about it, I realized that if I did go, I would potentially miss out on being scheduled to sing with our worship team for Easter, as practices would be that week. It had been two years since being on stage for that particular holiday, and I didn’t want to miss the chance at my “turn.” (Easter, to us Christians, is a little like the State Cup to my soccer player daughter – it’s a big deal). But, I went ahead and said yes to the trip. I mean really, it’s Hawai’i.

Sure enough, just a few days later the schedule came out and I was on it. And, I  had to decline. I must say that I seriously considered cancelling my trip. Odd as that may sound to you. I struggled. Add to the struggle that my son was also going to be on stage and moments like that are not promised forever, especially as he nears adulthood, and I was pretty torn. I really love my church, those I serve beside there, and believe deeply in bringing light and hope to all who might seek Him. It’s my heart.

What happened after our plans were solidified was tragic, and quieted all doubts. One of  my sisters from my first marriage ended up in a coma. In Hawai’i. So, the second day we were on O’ahu, I flew to Kaua’i and spent the day with family – some I hadn’t seen since before my divorce. It was so good to see them, and it touched me  in a way I did not expect. (When we divorced, I lost my ohana. It has been a tremendous chasm).

Most of that day was spent in the hospital with another sister, Danielle, and we prayed, sang worship songs, cried, and rested in familiarity once again. There are absolutely no words for how precious that time was. And healing. My sweet sister, Eme, passed away shortly after my visit. I pray with all my heart that she could hear my voice and knew who I was. There will be many more Easters, part of the “team,” or not. But I will never again have such an opportunity this side of heaven, and God knew that. How remarkable that He would create such a moment in time for us.

For me.

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There is a vast difference between being candid &  “telling it like it is.” Candor opens the gates of communication; the possibility of healing, restoration, or necessary change.  It is others-centered. The other is self-centered & self-indulgent, perpetuating negativity & halting all opportunities for true change or  any form of true reconciliation.

good and raw

In my quiet time this morning, praying and reading tea…nursing a cold, I suddenly began to cry. I am still wiping away the tears even in this very moment. It seems appropriate to share my heart. I know someone reading this is going to understand what I am walking through and I want you to know you are not alone. And that God is bigger.

I am struggling with shame. Hurt. Disappointment. But mostly shame. I’ve been seeing it as something else and it hit me just now.

I have not put God first. I elevated my marriage, my kids, my friends and family above the position of God. Situations, loss, brokenness and difficult relationships have been my focus instead of fixing my eyes on  my Savior. I’ve neglected growing in the capacities He has given me. I take a few steps forward then allow life to derail me. Pain to unnerve me. And I stop. Everything stops.

He has given me everything I need to become the woman He has designed me to be, but I have walked in mediocrity.

Oh Lord, please forgive me.

Tears. Tears. Tears. I am overwhelmed. Like the wicked servant who buried his talent, I have allowed myself to only release what is in inside me in small fragments for fear of losing the things that I love. Allowed my own personal boundaries, values, expectations and giftings to be compromised.

This is a deeply personal moment for me, and I pray you would hear my heart in all of this. If it’s rambling, I apologize. Tears and snot are rarely ingredients to awe-inspiring lyrical motivation.

But what they are is real. They are real and they are raw. I needed that today. Oddly enough, I had NO idea whatsoever, but I did. God’s good like that. And I know He forgives me. But it’s time to change the course of my direction. Time to stand up. To fix my eyes on Him, to bind my heart and soul and will to those of the Lord. To step into my calling. Completely with all abandon and willingness to fall, knowing with absolute certainty I cannot fail unless I do not try.

Where are you headed today? Will you change your course with me? Will you lift your eyes long enough to catch a glimpse of His plan and passion for you? I implore you to not waste another moment in shame, but to take a step towards His love. Like Peter on the water, he only began to sink when his eyes left the face of Jesus….

Shalom.

how does your garden grow?

Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we can literally move mountains (Matthew 17:20). A mustard seed is exceptionally small, and yet grows into a very large shrub – large enough to give shade to animal and man alike. If such a tiny amount of faith can move my mountains, push through my struggles, bring forth great things, then what could that much doubt do?

I wonder how much faith I actually have sometimes. Where I actually put that faith. So many times I will turn around and realize that struggles I have wept over, giants I have fought in my sleep, pits I have fallen into, have somehow been resolved. Quietly, over time. Like a small seed that is crushed and broken, begins to deteriorate and then starts as a small green stem…slowly pushing through the soil, reaching upwards towards the light…then slowly breaking through, yet with so much growing yet to do.

It’s never in my time. Never how I expect. Often with moments of anger and frustration because I want answers now. Change now. This deep need only magnified by our microwave society. And yet how can anything worthwhile come in any other way?

The stem divides. Small leaves form. Branches begin to extend. If you have ever watched a seedling tree in the ground, you know how very long it will be until that tree can bring shade. Or fruit. Let alone reach its greatest potential.

Of course, the antithesis to this would be how doubt can grow. Or negativity. Sin. Fear. It starts small; a gentle suggestion. A random thought. Someone else’s opinion. We bury it, but it starts to grow. Without a thorough weeding, and some spiritual perception, we can soon allow something to grow that we never intended to take root in our hearts. Lust. Resentment. Jealousy. Selfishness. Hate. Separation. Disillusionment…

What are you growing? Do you need to do some weeding? Some of the prettiest flowers are weeds – it takes wisdom sometimes to be able to tell the difference…

 

 

it’s in the way that you use it….

Years ago when the internet first became mainstream, there were voices cautioning us that it would be the devil’s tool; that it would bring nothing but trouble and grief to those who used it. Today, it’s true that you can feed your sex addiction, buy elicit material, have an affair, surf porn and violence, and basically feed any unhealthy desire you have. On the other hand, you can also talk to an old friend on the other side of the world, initiate positive change at a grass roots level, discover the answer to any Trivial Pursuit question you might have in a matter of moments, and really access the entire world at any given time, with little more expense than an instant of your life.

Facebook is an interesting little tool. People are walking away from it daily, trying to escape a myriad negative consequences, including, but not limited to, Facebook Envy, which is evidently now a “treatable” psychiatric condition. Again, the voices begin, touting the dangers and evils of Facebook. Or Twitter. Instagram… And yet, I love nothing more than being able to see my friend, Kat, who just moved out of state, in “real time,” or keeping up with my sisters in Hawai’i. Connecting with friends I haven’t seen since high school or college. Or even childhood. Getting daily inspiration from the Lisa Beveres and Joel Osteens of the world…

Ironically, the loudest voices of warning can sometimes be from those who tout the bible as the answer to all and would spend more time than not, pointing fingers at those who don’t do things “right.” But then, the bible itself has been used to support, perpetuate and create endless havoc, death and spiritual destruction. The flip side of that, of course, being those who would take the words of God and spend their lives and freedom sharing the good news of grace and love.

It’s all in how you use it.

New tools often bring with them extraordinary opportunity, for growth or for evil. The more powerful the tool, the greater the potential for destruction. At the end of the day, all a tool does for a person is to magnify what is already in the heart. I think that’s why God warns us to guard our hearts. He calls it the wellspring of life. The tiniest bit of curiosity or lust, unchecked, can easily be made manifest in those things meant to bring the greatest good.

(Insert laughter…) Isn’t man funny?

How do we guard our hearts? We get honest with ourselves. No guilt or condemnation. Just getting real with who we are and choosing to have enough self-awareness to walk out the consequences of any decision to its greatest end. If you struggle with jealousy, choose to count your own blessings instead of longing for someone else’s. Want to keep sexually pure for your wife? Don’t even entertain your curiosity about that website. Desiring to live a fuller life? Set limits on your own screen time. Longing to grow spiritually? Pursue study, quiet time and prayer. Look deep inside at what you truly desire, and who you actually are. If there is a discrepancy, work on it.

It’s really easy to assign blame, but at the end of the day, it’s really up to each individual to use what they have been given, appropriately. Strive to be diligent, to check oneself, to be authentic. Choose your tools wisely. And use them well.

messy therapy and 30 minutes of revival

Over the years, I have seen different counselors during different seasons, or to help me process and walk through a particular situation. Some male, some female, they have all brought their own unique perspective to the table. (Even the wretched one who started attacking me at our very first intake session; she had an issue with people who approached life from a position of faith). Regardless of the level of effectiveness or relevance, each one has been beneficial, and the time, energy and money is always worth the investment. (Even if it’s merely a lesson learned).

The therapist I see now is amazing. Each visit is paradigm shifting – without guilt or shame attached. That in and of itself is a gift. I always walk away feeling like my head is cleared, my soul intact, and the essence of my being; acceptable – all ares in which I need validation at times.

After I got home I had a moment of Facebook envy (I know, you would think I would be over that by now!), and I was so grateful that I had had the opportunity to clear my head beforehand. Such things are rarely momentary and can sometimes linger and cause doubt in multiple areas (Not you guys, just the ladies. Men are waffles, women are spaghetti. EVERYTHING is connected in the female brain).

It’s messy.

My point, I suppose, is that it’s really important we take care of ourselves. Whether it’s eating well, exercising, praying, acupuncture, massage, therapy or…. we all are responsible for making sure we take care of what God has given us. Life will happen to us, but only we get to choose how we respond and navigate  our lives. We can certainly be disappointed at a choice someone else has made, but the only person who gets to determine the outcome is us.

What can you do today to make your life just a little better? What are you sacrificing by not taking care of your own needs? If we walk around empty and someone takes from us, it might be our fault for not keeping our tank full to begin with. I know I am VERY guilty of that.

Take care of yourself. Take a minute. Make it count. Instead of 30 minutes of tv, try taking a walk, reading, writing, stretching, praying, praising… Let the good things in your world fill you up. You only get one shot at this – make it count.

 

make my life

I’ve been puttering all morning. Making breakfast, feeding pets, snuggle time with the littles, Facebook, email, laundry, cleaning up cat messes… And all morning long, there it has sat. Looking at me. Waiting. Gently reminding me how much I love to dive in.

It reminds me of  my treadmill. I always feel so much better when I get a  run in. Or my big soaking tub. What’s better than a bubble bath? Or maybe it’s like my coffee maker. Fewer things are quite as comforting as a cup of joe on a chilly morning.

And now here I sit again. Looking longingly at it. Knowing that as soon as I set everything aside, and take just a few minutes to myself, that my day will go better, I will feel more at peace, there will be more grace in my world, and that a long, deep, healing exhale is waiting for me.

Where do you find peace? How do you get grounded? There is nothing in this world that ever quite compares to my time in prayer. Time spent in the Word. When I pick up my bible, it’s Pavlovian – instantaneous bliss. It’s hard to convey, really, to someone who has never experienced it, or who hasn’t given themselves the opportunity to fully appreciate it. Even if I don’t always understand what I am reading historically, or why it pertains, or if it does, to my life, I still get the same benefit.

Imagine, the God of the universe, wanting to spend time with me. Writing me a love letter. Stories of those who have fought the fight of faith, too. Words of encouragement and gentle reminders of who I am and where I am going. Glimpses of my purpose. A path to pursue. Restoration for my very soul.

So. Off I go. It’s time to make my morning. My day. My life…

May you find yours today as well.

fathers, dads, deadbeats and GOD

I have a lot of thoughts on the subject of fatherhood, and while I usually love to share all my musings, I feel like keeping it simple today.

Not everyone has a good dad. Some have no idea who their father even is. Many are blessed with amazing parental units.

Being a dad is hard. Being a father is even harder. Being a good father takes intentionality. (Not a real word – it’s mine. It works).

There’s a huge difference between creating life, and nurturing it.

Regardless of who your father is, you will be blessed if you honor him for his position in your life. Even if he is merely a donor.

Boundaries are always healthy. You can honor from a distance if needed.

A good friend once told me in my pain that I have the parents I have so that God can mold me into the person He designed me to be.

God is a good dad. When you can’t get what you need from your earthly father, seek your heavenly one.

When you DO get what you need from daddy, thank your heavenly dad. And give an emotional orphan a hug.

If your dad is in heaven, bless you. His love for you  never dies.

An amazing woman, Lisa Bevere, came and spoke a few years ago to our church. She said to the women of our house, “If you don’t have the mother that you need in your life, become that mother to someone else.” Same thing with dads.

Don’t let Father’s Day get you down, or stir up old pain, or new pain, or create a chasm or a list of “shoulds and should nots.” Give honor, give forgiveness, allow grace.

And give the rest to God.

Happy Father’s Day to ALL the dads.

 

got bark?

This morning our landlord came by to put new bark down. He was here earlier than he had communicated and we had honestly woken up only moments before. I threw on some sweats, brushed my teeth and headed out to greet him and just touch base. As we were discussing the yard (and what has yet to be done this spring), he mentioned how their family has gone all organic and they are now talking about getting a goat for milk, chickens and planting their own garden (at the expense of digging up the new yard they only recently put in).

Their youngest has been extremely sickly since birth and nothing so far has worked.

And as he spoke, my heart softened.

You see, there have been some tense emails about ownership of action items, frustration on my part with things not being followed through on, and some general irritations (like not having a new lease for two whole months). But as he spoke today, looking more tired than usual and making an obvious effort to maintain the friendly  tone we’ve always had in person, I began to realize just how much of a weight this past 12 months have held for their family.

And I softened again.

It’s not always easy to be treated in a way you perceive as unfair, unkind, unnecessary, or….  But what I was reminded of  today is that we all have our stuff. I think far less than we realize, offense is only even recognized as negative by the recipient. The other person is more often than not, oblivious, or simply too overwhelmed, to fully comprehend what they are delivering to those around them.

As I he was finishing up, I told him I was praying for his son. He said it’s a good thing he’s such a happy, sweet child – laid back and go with the flow. I smiled and said, “Yes. I believe God does that for a reason. I believe we are all given a special grace to deal with whatever hand of cards life will bring us.” He smiled and said he agreed.

What are you working through today? Have you found the grace necessary to do it well? Do you extend grace to those around you? We are all in this life together, and the more we are willing to just meet people where they’re at, assume the best, and extend grace, the more we will ourselves experience in our journey.

My yard looks great – fresh, new, and smells wonderful. Feels like a fresh start. Like bark, grace covers all the old ick and inconsistencies.

Got bark??

 

bastard

My husband and I recently began watching the HBO television series, King of Thrones. We are starting at the beginning and considerably behind, so we’ve been watching it pretty regularly. It’s really quite interesting seeing the world from the perspective of such a vastly different culture than what we are familiar with these days. One of the main characters is a son who is referred to as the bastard. Back in those times, if you were illegitimate, the stigma was a scarlet letter. It’s hard to watch this young man walk under such a great cloud and accept his horrible treatment as something he deserves.

He has accepted it, as society has taught him it is who he is; it’s his lot in life. His assignment. His identity.

What do you say about your own identity? Who does your family say you are? Your spouse? Friends? And who do you want to believe you are? What are you simply just settling for? Now contrast that with what your spirit says about you, down deep inside?

What perception is keeping you from walking in the fullness of your purpose?

I personally have struggled with some whose opinion of me are based on more often on subjection, and oftentimes, projection. My motives are questioned and  intentions devalued, because of misconceptions of what people like me (Christ-followers), are “supposed’ to act like. Or when I deviate from traditional family expectations and patterns of communication/values. When I fall short of their expectations, or merely deviate from what they would want from me, the criticism and attack is frankly more painful than I like to admit. It’s hard to even have a significant conversation with anyone without hearing the voices of my accusers in my head. Even great accomplishments are overshadowed by those who would happily remind me of who I used to be, what I am still not, or who I will never be.

A bastard daughter I am.

And yet, here is this truth. That is NOT who Christ says I am. Certainly not who God says I am. Never perfect, but always perfecting, those of us who choose to believe we are God-breathed, God-designed, and living with a divine purpose, MUST also choose to remind ourselves who we are and WHOSE we are.

My prayer for you today is that you would discover who you ARE, who you are designed to be, regardless of whatever circumstances, expectations, limitations or perceptions you have lived under up and to this point. May you find the freedom to pursue your life with all  limitations removed.

Refuse labels. Overcome perception. Trust God.  Be free… Don’t be a bastard.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:7

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail…. Deuteronomy 28:13

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you. (Said GOD!) Genesis 12:3

For the Lord is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Those who are redeemed by Him) Psalm 84:11

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 future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18