I'm learning, too, that freedom is something I experience from the inside out.
I'm learning, too, that freedom is something I experience from the inside out.
She must keep flying.
I spent some time last night talking to one of the models who works with the same agency as Olivia.
I could tell she needed encouragement.
I could tell she felt insecure.
Beautiful but doubting herself,
she was wrestling with so many different things about her future.
As I looked into her eyes,
I felt her sadness.
As she talked, I listened.
She needed a friend, and for that moment God called me.
Her words reminded me that life isn't easy.
Her words reminded me that we all need someone to talk to as we make our way through life.
No matter who you are or what you've accomplished,
life can still be uncertain and very hard to navigate when you try to make it on your own.
I've spent many nights listening to Olivia pour out her own heart.
Her fears, her insecurities, and her struggles
are just like any other teenage girl who is trying to find her way through a world that often proves to be anything but nice.
She gets hurt.
She feels discouraged.
She feels afraid.
Life is tough.
It's tough no matter you're age.
I'm thankful that along the way Olivia has had great friends.
Friends she can laugh with, cry with, pour out her heart to, and simply hang out with on sunny days and snowy ones.
This week, Todd and I took Olivia and one of her friend's to the lake to take some pictures.
To me, these photos capture friendship at its best.
To me, these pictures represent my wish for every teenage girl.
Whether you are 15 or 75,
whether you are female or male,
don't try to walk this road of life alone.
Be a friend to someone near you today and very soon you will discover that your own journey has become richer, fuller, and deeper.
Right before Nick was diagnosed with his first brain tumor at the age of 7 in 2002,
he was part of a musical at our church entitled,
This music was all about being strong and courageous as you share the love of Jesus.
Nick loved that musical!!
He sang every song with such passion, leaning his head back and smiling as he belted out every line of Joshua 1:9,
"Be strong and courageous,
Do not be terrified.
Do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!"
Nick understood what it meant to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.
Because of this, sharing this love was something he did naturally.
He was a child who lived life fully and loved people deeply.
I was reminded of his smile, his energy, and his love for life a couple of nights ago when we sat down and began watching old home videos.
It was the first time I had watched a video of Nick since he passed away in 2008.
His voice, his smile, his excitement for everything he did (sliding down a slide, hunting for Easter eggs, jumping into a swimming pool) reminded me of why he faced cancer the way he did.
He wasn't afraid of life.
But he also wasn't afraid of death.
Nick knew where he was going, and he loved who he would meet there - Jesus.
So, when Nick heard he had a brain tumor time and time again over the next 6 1/2 years,
he never complained.
He never questioned.
He never become overwhelmed with fear.
I can still envision him sitting on his hospital bed, grinning ear to ear with his thumbs up as he was rolled back for yet another surgery.
He wanted us to know he was good with whatever happened behind those surgery doors.
I learned so much about being brave from this little boy, this gift.
I realized recently, though, how easy it is for me to slip back into my fearful tendencies.
Todd leaves next week for a semester abroad, and I find myself getting nervous about all the details regarding this trip.
Evan leaves in about two months to live in another foreign country, and I can easily become anxious thinking about his next chapter of life so far from home.
Olivia has her permit, and she loves life behind the wheel of a car.
Watching her leave the driveway with Tim in the passenger seat makes my stomach turn to knots,
and I often have to whisper prayers the whole time they are gone.
Some days, I am deeply aware that just because I have already lost two children I am not exempt from losing more.
As I wrestle with that truth, I can almost hear God whispering, "I will carry you through everything your future holds, just trust me."
If I'm totally honest, though, those comforting words often stir up even deeper fear, because I do not want to "need" to be carried through anything else in my life.
This messed-up thought process of an overly-anxious mom can consume me sometimes.
I have to make very purposeful decisions in order to not lose my mind because of fears like these.
I've hidden some verses deep in my heart that help me on days when the fear of "what if" overtakes the reality of "what already is'"
because grief, while painful and hard and lonely and scary, pales in comparison to visualizing a cause for any new grief in my life.
I was recently introduced to a family who is facing fear head-on as they live with the reality of a very aggressive cancer easily returning to take the mother's life.
They have an inspiring website and message I want to share with all of you who are trying to face fears today.
Take a minute to visit:
You will leave inspired and encouraged.
I know I did!
Help them celebrate Heather's life and her determination to live life fully in spite of her fear.
When we embrace our pain and face our fears,
We stop "being afraid," and we begin to live fully.
We begin to notice that every little moment of life is filled with hope and joy!
People notice this kind of fearless living, and suddenly they are inspired to become more courageous too.
Today, if you find yourself fearing today or tomorrow or maybe still dealing with fear from your past,
consider hiding one of these verses deep in your heart.
See what happens when you give your fear to God and say, "I trust you no matter what."
When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me?
1 Peter 5:7
Give all your worries and cares to
God, for he cares about you.
When we choose to walk forward
in life in spite of our fear,
we are free.
Free to love.
Free to laugh.
Free to hope.
Free to live.
Nick reminded me to live with joy as I watched him love life in old home videos.
Heather reminded me to live fully in spite of reasons for fear through her beautiful website.
I hope you will face today with a courage that comes from knowing and trusting Him who holds our tomorrow even when our tomorrows are scary.
There's plenty of reasons today is important.
There's the overly-said reasons like,
"Every day is a gift from God,"
"Today is the "present".....which makes it a gift."
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
But, there's also some other reasons why today is important.
Today is important because everything that happens in the next twenty-four hours will affect everything that happens in the next one hundred years.
Today is important because decisions made today will affect attitudes and actions of tomorrow and the next day.
Today is important because there are people whose paths we will cross once in a lifetime and some of them may be heading our way this very day.
Today is important because the devil will be against us and God will be for us, and we get to choose sides in a spiritual battle that started at the beginning of time and won't end until Jesus returns.
When I think about all the reasons today matters,
I realize trying to hide from it just won't work.
I've been called to live fully today.
You have too.
So whether you'll spend the day at home or at work,
be keenly aware of God's presence in your every action and your every word.
He is the Creator of your today,
and what He creates always means something bigger and better than we could ever imagine.
This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Do you ever feel like your routine is dried out and boring, like you are following donkeys around in the desert in search of grass.
With every step, do you feel the unbearable heat, the need for relief, and the frustration of being surrounded by situations that seem unchangeable?
What do you do when you wake up in the middle of a hard situation day after day after day?
How do you handle the desert-seasons of life?
What do you think about as you trudge through the hot, barren sand?
Maybe your desert is a
an unhappy marriage
Maybe it's something totally different.
Whatever it is that causes you to long for daily relief,
consider the legacy of this one person tucked into one short verse in the middle of Genesis.
The sons of Zibeon:
Aiah and Anah.
This is the Anah who discovered the
hot springs in the desert while he was
grazing the donkeys of his father
Of all the men and women mentioned in the line of Esau,
Anah gets an extra line.
He did something in the desert.
He did something while going about his father's business.
He did something while leading the most stubborn animal created in search of grass.
He discovered hot springs.
His life was probably never quite the same after this particular day.
He must have become a hero as he ran back with news that somewhere in the middle of nowhere there was fresh water!
Anah suddenly had a story.
Anah suddenly had a reason to return to that same desert place again and again.
He had found life in the midst of death.
Green grass surely grew all around this hot spring.
Hope was born in the desert when Anah walked with his eyes open through a dry, barren land.
Today, if you find yourself waking up in a desert,
think of Anah and have hope.
Open your eyes!
Look for fresh water in the middle of your dry, barren day!
Hot springs are there.........waiting to be discovered by you!
Jacob had tricked his brother out of his birthright,
was forced to leave his home in order to escape the anger of Esau,
and was now returning to his homeland with two wives he had snuck away from their father in the night.
I would say every night of sleep had its fair share of fitfulness,
but one night in particular an angel, or God Himself, appears.
And on this night, Jacob won't stop wrestling until he receives some kind of blessing.
As the wrestling match unfolds,
Jacob's hip is injured.
The tendon of his hip (which I've read is the strongest tendon in the human body) was "wrenched" out of place.
Isn't it just like God to break us in the very place we might find our own source of strength and independence?
Finally, morning comes, and Jacob has a new name, a blessing from God, and a limp.
When we wrestle with God, we are changed from the inside out.
Sometimes we wake up to discover we aren't even the same person anymore.
It's almost as if we have a new name.
Sometimes, we realize we walk differently, we're weaker on our own, we have a true sense of just how much we need God in order to make it through the next day.
But the one thing about wrestling with God that I love the most is this,
"When we have the resilience and the courage to keep wrestling through all of our doubts, questions, and fears,
He is faithful to bring about a blessing from our struggle."
I don't know about you, but I have wrestled with God.
I still do from time to time.
And I love the fact that God is big enough to handle our struggles with heartache,
our questions about His plans,
our wrestling with our past mistakes.
I love that at the end of all of our spiritually tossing and turning God promises a blessing.
I'm leaning on the story of Jacob today.
Even if I walk with a limp at the end of my struggle,
I know I won't walk alone.
He is with me.
And He is with you too.
You can read the story of Jacob's wrestling in Genesis 32:22-32.
I've started about five different posts this morning,
and I've found myself backspacing and deleting every single one.
Social media of any kind gives us room to vent, room to share, room to have a voice.
Sometimes I have plenty I could say or I'd like to say about life, about hurt, about pain that's simply better left unsaid.
Do you ever feel this way?
Do you ever feel your humanness rise up and almost overtake you?
Do you ever feel the weaknesses of being a wife, a mom, a friend, a woman, a human being.......
Sometimes, I feel the bite of the sharp-toothed enemy,
and I want to react by biting back.
I feel the sting of unkind words or the ache of unsaid words,
and I want to step in and fill the air with my own.
But, I'm slowly learning.......oh so slowly.
I'm learning that my silence allows God to speak.
I'm learning that my silence forces me to listen for His voice and His alone.
I'm learning that my silence is His invitation into my heart, my soul, and my mind.
So I backspace.
I get quiet.
And I listen.
Suddenly, I hear Him.
But I do hear Him.
He speaks to my soul.
He speaks grace.
He speaks mercy.
He speaks love.
He speaks peace.
He speaks into every ache, every doubt, every fear.
He speaks hope.
He speaks patience.
He speaks victory.
So, today, if you're feeling frustrated or hurt or angry or lonely or sad or any other emotion that may cause you to type or speak words that you may later regret,
I encourage you to do the same.
Backspace, delete, stop talking, pray, and listen.
Allow God to fill your empty space with His grace.
Because His grace is beautiful, its unending, its powerfully fulfilling.
His grace is big enough to wash away every ugly thought and cleanse every open wound.
I'm soaking in His grace this morning,
because I need it.
I need His never-ending grace all over me, so I can offer that same kind-of grace to others.
I need His love running through me veins, so my heart can beat with His unconditional love.
I need His mercy in spite of all of my flaws, so that I can be a mercy-giver when others occasionally have them too.
We live in a world filled with messed-up people,
and the quickest way to NOT become overwhelmed with the messiness around us is to remember just how messy we are ourselves.
I need a fresh start today.
I need to let go of some things I cannot control.
I need to love no matter what.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within
Thankful for a God who can cleanse me and renew me when I sit still and get quiet long enough for Him to work.
Feeling freed up to love others today.
Feeling so very thankful for the work He did on my heart this morning.
So amazingly aware of just how empty my life would be without His love and praying you feel His love in a mighty way today too.
I love you all so much.
We all have regrets.
Things we wish we could "do over, forget, erase."
Memories that remind us of our humanness, our frailty, our inability to always choose right.
If these moments that make us blush, or even make us feel ashamed, could be known by all, our reputation would be tarnished, our image marred.
Because of this, there are parts of all of our lives that we don't share publicly.
We don't talk about freely.
We wrap up tight and keep private.
And yet, God sees all.
He knows all.
He unwraps all our ugly and lays it out open.
And somehow, in His eyes, even as He looks at the worst in us, He still loves us.
We are cherished in spite of our sin.
We are adored in spite of our flaws.
We are loved in spite of everything about us that is incredibly unlovely.
That's the power of the Gospel.
The Good News.
And then He rose again.
Because God loves us,
He conquered death forever and became the final sacrifice for sin.
He took the one plan the devil had for destroying the Hope of mankind
and allowed the very people who hated Jesus to nail to the cross everything about themselves that was evil right along with their Savior.
The devil must have felt pretty good for those three days Jesus lay in the grave and the disciples hid from the crowds.
He must have thought he had finally defeated the very Son of God.
But Sunday came!
Jesus rose and suddenly the power of His resurrection set everything about God's plan for this world in perfect motion.
Abraham's journey to the mountain with Isaac became personal.
God providing another way, another sacrifice, a perfect lamb.........
suddenly the disciples must have been scouring the Old Testament and discovering story after story made more sense in light of all that had happened around them, through them and in them.
The power of the Old Testament comes from what happens in the New.
The power of the "old us" comes from what happens in the "new us."
Today, what are you ashamed of?
Let it go.
As you release your past, your mistakes, your shortcomings, your failures, and your disappointments,
thank God for the one moment in history that changed everything about our todays and our tomorrows.
The moment when the power of God brought salvation to all who believe and brought comfort to all who grieve.
Death was nailed to the cross along with our sins,
and that's why I may be ashamed of many things about my past (and even my present many days),
but I will never be ashamed of what Jesus did for me on Calvary.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel,
because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:
first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.
Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
II Tim. 1:8
Proclaim the Good News to Someone Today.
Don't be ashamed.
This world needs some good news!
No matter what you're facing,
I promise there's a bright side if you determine to find it.
Whether you're facing a hospital room, a stressful job, or even a too-quiet house,
you can find a bright side today.
It may take some creativity.
But, it's there.
Light is in that darkness.
Think about this:
A candle that shines in a dark room may think "There is no light here," as it looks around in every direction;
but to the rest of the darkness the candle is the light.
So, today, no matter how dark the day seems,
no matter how dreary,
There is a bright side to every dark place when we take Jesus there.
Because when we take Jesus, we become the bright side.
Take Him with you today........
Suddenly, the darkness of a room will be filled with His light,
and the glow of His love will create the bright side to an otherwise not-so-bright day.
Let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your Father in heaven.
For God, who said, "Let light shine
out of darkness,"
made his light shine in our hearts to
give us the light of the knowledge of
God's glory displayed in the face of
II Cor. 4:6
Here I am.
It's 2:45 a.m. and, once again, I'm awake while the house sleeps.
I really should have been a nurse.
(I could have worked the night shift beautifully.)
I learn this about myself every winter, because
snow days turn me into a bat.
As soon as I hear the words, "No school tomorrow,"
I feel like a little kid who has just been told I don't have a bedtime!
I dive into a cleaning project or read a book or watch a movie or clean a room,
because I know my alarm clock won't be going off at 4:45 a.m.
What is it about the word "snow day" that transforms me into someone who cannot sleep??
I'm not sure, really, but I decided I'd better write a little post tonight while I'm awake just in case my "bat" habits prevent me from having time to write anything in the morning.
I read about Sarai and Hagar today.
What a pair!
Sarai tried to solve Abraham's "heir dilemma" by offering Hagar as a possible mother to his promised son,
and then Hagar tried to run away after giving birth to the only son Abraham had ever had.
It's easy to read this story and think,
"Ladies, please, what were you thinking?"
As soon as that thought zips through my mind, though, I hear Tim lightly snoring next to me,
and I realize I should have been asleep about 5 hours ago;
and suddenly, I'm fully aware that I am always one decision away from making the right one.
And somehow God still loves me.
I think that's what I love most about the stories of these two women:
God didn't give up on either one of them.
He loved Sarai and Hagar all the way through to a blessing.
He still allowed Sarai to have her own son, Isaac,
and He pursued Hagar, bringing her back to safety, when she tried to run away from all her problems.
I love that God works in spite of our bad decisions and our attempts to escape reality and continues to love us right back into His story.
If you feel like you're one decision away from the right one,
God still loves you.
If you feel like you've been trying to run away from your troubles,
God will pursue you no matter how far away you roam.
Tonight, I'm thankful for the stories of Sarai and Hagar because they help me feel normal when I am impulsive, weak, or afraid.
Snow days turn my world upside down,
and I blog when I should be sleeping.
But somehow God still speaks to me tonight.
Not that late-night blogging is quite as bad as giving a servant to your husband in order to have a son or running away from your home because you can't handle the situations there.
But, still, I should be sleeping.
I should be resting before the big day ahead of me-
Olivia's 16th Birthday!!!!
That's a whole other post I'll have to write later!
This morning, I am thankful for the honesty of the Bible.
I'm thankful that men and women made poor decisions and God somehow brought good out of even their mistakes.
I love that just as God was with Sarai and Hagar in their messed-up lives,
He is with me in mine.
He's with you in your life too,
and I hope that's enough to keep you smiling today (or tonight or whenever it happens to be that you read this!)
I love you all so much!
Even at 3:37 a.m.!
Oh, snow days, look what I allow you to do to me!
I was reading the story of Noah this morning and was keenly aware of the lack of information about his wife.
All we know is about Noah's wife is that she was there, watching the ark go up and then boarding it before the rain began covering the earth with a great flood.
Because of her willingness to board the large ship,
we also know that about a year later she walked onto dry ground and shared in the beginning of a new time on earth.
That's all we really know about this unnamed and otherwise unnoticed woman from the Bible.
Today, I'm wondering if you ever feel unnamed or unnoticed?
Do you feel like your voice isn't heard,
your struggles are unseen,
your questions are unanswered,
your fears are ignored,
your doubts are kept to yourself,
your anger is suppressed just to keep peace?
If so, remember Noah's wife.
I have to believe she was an important part of history even though we only get a hint of her presence.
I have to believe Noah wrestled with whether or not he had lost his mind as he continued building day after day even though everyone around must have thought he was crazy.
Surely Noah talked with his wife in the evenings and she encouraged him, kept him focused, made him feel sane in the midst of such a huge feat.
As the rain began, she surely wept for those who were not on the ark.
She surely prayed that even in their deaths God would somehow have mercy on their souls.
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months,
surely she struggled and felt frustrated and wondered how this ever could have happened?
She must have had to keep peace at time between all of her sons and their wives as the close quarters and swaying ship became uncomfortable over time.
Surely people and animals got seasick and she had to clean up messes.
Surely she lost it every once in a while and had to get away from it all.
I can just see her standing on a deck of the ship and crying out to God all alone.
As they stepped out onto dry land and Noah built an altar to thank God for saving them,
what was she thinking?
Was she sad for all who died?
Did she feel guilty that they were spared?
Was she overwhelmed with the responsibility of starting mankind all over again?
Did she ever get depressed and long for a friend?
Did she look at Noah and feel incredible pride for his faithfulness to God's orders or did she feel fear in the face of so much that was unknown?
Today, as I sat and read about the flood and about Noah's righteousness,
I longed for the chance to read about his wife's part in the story.
Someday, I hope to walk with her in Heaven and listen to all she has to share.
I think she will be funny.
I think she will make me laugh until I tell her my ribs hurt and then Eve will walk up and say,
"Speaking of ribs.."
This morning, I wonder what Noah's wife would say to us if she were here?
I'm thinking she would say something like,
"Be okay with being unnamed or unnoticed. Be faithful no matter what. The reward is just the same!"
And Eve would chime in,
"Laugh until your rib hurts......it's Adam's anyway!"
Very little is said about Enoch in the Bible.
There's no great stories shared about his life, his family, or his work.
Genesis 5 shares the genealogy from Adam to Noah and Enoch is mentioned as part of that line.
He's the father of Methuselah and great-grandfather of Noah.
And all we really know about his life is this:
He walked faithfully with God.
(Gen. 5:22, 24)
Hebrews 11 includes a verse about Enoch,
For before he was taken, he was
commended as one who pleased God.
And without faith it is impossible to
because anyone who comes to him must
believe that he exists and that he
rewards those who earnestly seek him.
(Hebrews 11:5-6, NIV)
Of all the great men and women of the Bible and all the great stories of their courage and great deeds for God,
I love that Enoch is mentioned so little and yet pleased God so much.
Enoch was happy to simply be in the presence of His Creator.
Walking with God was enough.
No need for fame or fortune or accolades.
No great list of accomplishments.
No trophies or plaques for heroic feats.
Enoch simply placed one foot in front of the other and drew closer and closer to the throne of God.
I am thankful for his example this morning as I get ready to head back to work after a very nice break.
Last year, KLove challenged its listeners to choose a word for the year.
My word was
I learned a lot throughout the year about God, about myself, and about life.
I don't want to stop listening,
because I don't want to miss anything God has to say.
But this year, my word is going to be "present."
I want to be fully present with God.
I want to walk beside Him, never missing His Presence in my life.
I want to be fully present with my family.
I want to laugh with them, share life with them, be there for them.
I want to be fully present with my friends.
I don't want to be distracted by the next thing on my list of things to do.
I want to be fully present in my prayer time,
lifting up the hurting to Him who loves them most.
It was hard to pick my word for the year, because there were so many that seemed important.
But for me, this year is going to be a year of simply being "present" with God, with friends, with family, and with whoever else God brings into my life;
and I have a feeling this going to be a very great year!
Today, no matter where God is calling you to spend your time,
be fully present there.
Don't miss a thing.
He is there in the midst of whatever you are facing.
And He longs to share today with you.
Praying for you this morning!