Just Breathe

Today is my birthday and I expect to be spoiled profusely. Why? Well, because that’s what I’ve grown accustomed to. I have a husband who dotes on me and a family who makes me feel like a queen for the day and friends who lavish sweet sentiments upon my FB page. Social media is certainly at its best on your birthday. #birthdaygirl

I will be receiving some gifts today. Some are special simply because they will be given to me by one of my children. Some are special because of the obvious thought that went into choosing it. Some are special because, they were needed and will be well used (like my new mini-van, I really needed that). Then there are those gifts that are special today and will likely be special for years to come. I’d like to tell you about one of those. 


The photo truly doesn’t do it justice, you’ll have to take my word for it that it is even prettier in person. My friend is the artisan and you should check out her page. @palletcreationsbydarlene

My husband gifted this to me from him and ALL my kids. Let me tell you, that’s a whole lot of kids. #momofmany  So, it is special because my Henry bought it, my friend made it and my children are a part of it. But that isn’t the reason it brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. 

Two years ago today, on my birthday, I had an encounter with the Lord that changed my life. Now, if you’ve never had such an encounter, I hope you will one day. You will never forget it, just as I’ll never forget this one. 

It’s rather personal, so I won’t go into great detail. However, I have been eagerly anticipating writing today’s blog so that I can share a portion of it with you. 

Here’s what I need to tell you. In Ezekiel 37, there is a conversation between God and a prophet, Ezekiel. It’s a remarkable account of a valley of dry bones. 

Please, pause for a moment and HEAR me. No matter how disjointed, disconnected, hopeless, dried up, brittle or sun-bleached your hopes, dreams, health, relationships, finances and even spiritual condition is – there is HOPE! And here is why. 

“Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’””

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

That’s it. That’s the answer. That’s the source of our hope, our strength, our healing, our redemption. The breath of the Sovereign Lord! And when He breathes life into a situation, a heart, a relationship, a ministry – It WILL LIVE AGAIN!

Today, when your heart is gripped with fear or worry, when you feel overwhelmed and distressed, when you’re feeling out of options and depleted of hope – JUST BREATHE and then allow God to do what only He can! 

Now, that’s a great way to celebrate a birthday and every day for that matter. 

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Permanent Residence in a Life of Love 

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house,”1 John 4:17-18 MSG

I like the thought of a ‘permanent residence in a life of love.’

“Permanent residence” is different than staying in a motel for a while or even renting a home temporarily. Which describes your relationship with God? Are you committed to this life of love? Does love have run of the house of your soul? Has your heart been overtaken with the love of God?


How can we know? 

  • Well, if you are doing what you should do but resent it, that isn’t love, that is obligation. 
  • If you are doing what you do to achieve status or influence or reward, that likely isn’t love, that is manipulation. 
  • If you expect to always be appreciated, noticed or paid back, that isn’t love either.

I think a house where love runs things will be furnished with forgiveness, the benefit of the doubt and second chances. I think a house where love is in charge will have strong walls of firm boundaries that keeps those who reside there safe. I think that a house where love rules is a house where growth is encouraged and people are respected. 


Today’s challenge is to make a permanent commitment to this life of love and let love reign.

Rewrites

I’m admittedly new to this author adventure. So, I’m learning a LOT along the way, so very much. Sometimes I learn what not to do by doing the wrong thing and realizing that did not work. I’ve decided that writing a book is a lot like living your life. Here is what I mean. 

I had a lot of down time as I drove about ten hours yesterday returning from a mini-vacation in Florida with my girls. We enjoyed ourselves so much and even though it was very windy, enjoyed our time on the beach. It was so windy that there was a good bit of sea foam. There were dragon kites being flown and kite-boarding being enjoyed. The wind is a powerful force. It can move the water, it can lift a person off the ground if they capture it, it can also, suddenly, change directions. 

  
My daughters both slept a good bit and the van was quiet and I began to think about my current book that I’m working on. It is the second of a trilogy all of which I’ve already written in first draft form. As I contemplated the rewrites that needed doing and the changes I wanted to implement, I came to a startling conclusion. I need to completely change the ending of book two. I am so fond of the way it ends at present that this is a big deal for me. As a matter of fact, it’s the perfect ending to lead to the third book. 

So, why am I rewriting it? Because the winds have changed directions. Because I’ve decided to include a fourth book which must be inserted between book two and three. This changes everything. This means a lot of work. This means extra effort, rearranging, going back to the storyboard, remapping, etc. I don’t have to do it, nobody can make me do it, I choose to rewrite the ending so that I can expand my story. If I am to include this fourth book, a rewrite is required. 

Ok, not sure if you followed all of that, it doesn’t really matter if you did or not. Here’s the point I want you to take away with you today as you read this. 

Life has a way of demanding rewrites. 

Just about the time you have it mapped out in your brain and rather counting on things ending up a certain way, WHAM! Out of no where, things go awry. 

I bet you that almost immediately a moment came to mind as you read that. Maybe it was a grievous loss of a loved one. Perhaps it was a life-altering disease. It could have been a divorce, a prodigal child, a career change, a terrible decision on your part or the spiteful behavior of a person you thought you could count on. Whatever it is, it has changed everything, including the ending of your story. 

Now, you may not have chosen this calamity, this curve ball and you may feel a bit disoriented that things aren’t turning out as you expected they surely would. But you do have choices. You get to decide whether you will stubbornly stand your ground and insist things must be how you are convinced they should be or whether you are willing to rewrite and create a beautiful new story. 

Y’all, listen carefully to your heart. If it is hurting it may be angry, it may be sad, it may be sorrowful. Listen to your heart and then when you are done listening, roll up your sleeves and get busy. Maybe go back to the original story board and move some moments around. Write your rewrites in pencil, just in case you need to make more changes later. Rethink what really matters. Consider what can be changed and what, no matter how much you wish you could, can not be changed. Then, find your courage and find a new ending or a new beginning or a new twist in the story of your life and let the rewrites begin. 

After all, rewrites can be an opportunity to improve your story, make it better and more complete. Today is your opportunity. Today is the day you can begin again, head a new direction, write a different ending. 

  

Easy

Life can be fun and fulfilling and fabulous but, I’ll tell you one thing it isn’t, it isn’t easy. Even though our struggles may vary, the struggle is real. You know why? Well, lots of reasons but, the one that’s on my heart today is this. Life isn’t easy because people aren’t easy. It’s the truth. 

Whether you’re the mom of a toddler or a divorced woman feeling alienated from your friends or a foster-parent or the caretaker of your aging parent or a public school teacher or a nurse or a struggling college student or any other station in life! People aren’t easy. 

I’m the first to admit I’m not easy. If you’re honest you’ll admit the same about yourself. We all have our quirks and our faults and failings. We have our moments and our moods and our issues. People aren’t easy. 

And that means, relationships aren’t easy, ministry is not easy, parenting is not easy, nursing is not easy, teaching is not easy, caring is not easy, loving is not easy. And YET these are the places we find ourselves, right in the midst of people (who aren’t easy). Do you know why that is? I do. 

We were created for relationship, relationship with God first and foremost and then relationship with other people. 

I was pondering all of this and came across this quote in my notes from George MacDonald. I was encouraged and thought perhaps you would be as well, so I’m passing it on. 

If you are really trying to do what you must and be what you must and yet cannot, remember, you are not necessarily doing it wrong because it isn’t easy. Perhaps it is just the opposite. Maybe the struggles you are facing are because you are indeed trying to make a difference in the lives of others. Remember HE knows that people aren’t easy and life isn’t easy. He knows all about our being. He knows. We can take hope and courage. We can ‘faint not’ because we know that easy isn’t the goal. 

  

Good Grief

Grief is guaranteed. When we are separated from those we love, we grieve. I’m no grief expert but, I have experienced grief. As a matter of fact, I am grieving right now. 

Why do we grieve? We grieve loss. All types of loss can result in grief. As with all emotions, there are many degrees of grief. There are many forms. There are many expressions of grief. 

Because we are complicated beings, grief can be very complicated. I don’t intend to imply that we can simplify the process of it nor deny the pain that accompanies it, but, I do think there are some simple steps we can take to survive it. 

First of all, if you are a Christian as I am, there is no greater comfort to be found than in our faith. It changes everything about grief as we are assured that our separation is temporary. This is one of our blessed assurances. This life is only part of our journey. But, beyond our beliefs, there are steps we can take to make sure that while we have grief, grief does not have us. 

1 – Go ahead and cry. It does relieve some of the erupting emotions of your heart. But, after you’ve cried, laugh or smile. Make sure you recall a special memory or funny moment so that emotionally you end on a positive note. Do this on purpose. This will validate your right to mourn and still feel joy. 

2 – Share your grief with others. Join a grief support group or get together with family and friends who have experienced the same or similar losses. Talk about it. Be honest. Encourage another hurting person. Don’t be a closet griever. There is great strength to be found in fellowship with like-minded folks. 

3 – Write it down. Keep a journal. For emotional pain, I prefer a real pen and paper. Something about pouring your feelings out in writing is extraordinarily therapeutic. Burn it if you feel you must when you are done. Use that pen to relieve some of the grief. You can almost feel it siphoning off the pressure of a broken heart. 

4 – Remember them with small intentional acts. My friend introduced me to Chai tea. As I’ve grieved her death, I will often make myself a cup and recall our times at the coffee shop as we pondered Scripture. Every time I make chicken and dumplings for my family, I think of my beloved Grandma making them for me. Each time I crochet a certain pattern I remember the cherished person who taught me and her smiling face encouraging me. 

5 – Give it time. We will never forget. We don’t even want to forget. But, time will lessen the intensity of the pain and make it more bearable. 

6 – Honor their memory. Donate to a charity they supported. Contribute to a missionary in their name. Mow their mom’s yard. Take their husband a casserole. Pray for their children. Tutor a child who is struggling. Help a hurting person. Whatever you do, do it with a smile and in their memory. Invest in others as a testimony of how they invested in you. 

7 – Live your life and enjoy it. Embrace each day with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. This does not dilute your loss or discount your grief. Instead it declares that each day is indeed precious and should never be taken for granted. 

8 – Ask for help if you feel stuck and unable to move on. See a counselor, confide in a pastor, find a therapist. Whatever it takes, don’t slip into a rut and settle down there. Don’t be ashamed to admit you need some guidance. This doesn’t mean you are weak of character or lacking in faith. It means you are wise enough to ask. 

My prayers are with you that are grieving. I’m praying as I write these words that those who read them will be encouraged and comforted. 

  

A Rock and a Hard Place

I know what it means to feel trapped, confused and overwhelmed. This morning during my personal devotion time I read in Isaiah chapter 43 and I enjoyed reading how the Message reworded it.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you:” ‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭2-3 MSG

Y’all, I don’t know about you but this was exactly what I needed from God this morning. Don’t you see? He’s not saying that there will be no rough waters. He’s not saying that we won’t ever be in over our heads. He’s not saying we won’t ever find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. 

What He is saying is we won’t go down (for the count), we won’t face it alone (without Him) and it is not a dead end (there is a way of escape).  Some of you should just stop right there and join me in a little Hallelujah Hop!

Don’t you see? Can’t you understand? There is hope! There is a future! There is strength beyond your own, wisdom beyond your understanding, and a God who cares about you personally. A God who is able. A real, loving, faithful God who is like no other. A true, living God who is watching, listening and acting on your behalf. 

I was recently counseling a loved one who felt as if they were out of options. I told them truthfully that they were backing themselves into a corner. When we feel like we are out of options, we feel desperate and we are tempted to panic and make rash decisions. We decide to quit, throw in the towel, give up and quit trying because we can’t SEE the solution or a way out. Discouraged, we feel defeated. 

So many people are struggling. They’ve done everything they know to do. They’ve tried. They’ve tried again. You may feel as if you spend more time trying to collect the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams than you do anything else lately. 

Lift up your eyes and stop focusing on the brokenness. Stop grieving over what could have been. Let go of the memories that are causing you to sink into the waters of betrayal. Use that rock (hard place) that is blocking progress as a stepping stone to reach the next level of joy. 

Father, we are sometimes so afraid when we are faced with that which seems beyond us and our own abilities. How quickly we forget that we are to rely on You and Your abilities. Oh Lord, You know our hearts. You understand our limits and frailties. Increase our faith. Help us to find our courage. Quiet our spirits so that we can hear Your voice. Strengthen our weary bodies. Heal us. Help us. I ask this in the beautiful Name of Jesus Christ, our Yeshua. Amen

  

Eyes Wide Open

This is the final day of 2014 I have a few things I want to say and as I’m taking time off social media, decided this blog is the way I’ll go about it. First, let me just say that 2014 will not go down on a list as one of my favorite years. Just thinking back on it wears me out. Honestly, I’m glad it’s over.

Tumultuous. That’s the word that comes to mind. Not totally terrible as there were some redeeming moments. But, all in all, absolutely tumultuous. So many changes, big changes, life altering changes. I couldn’t seem to get my bearings from one change before the next was upon me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the new year to come. Mostly I’ve been hoping it would be one of those stellar years where life settled down and we can coast along for a while and catch our breath since 2014 was more like pedaling an old bike up hill (both ways). But, I’ve lived long enough to know that those years don’t really exist. Life is constantly happening around us and to us and it intends to be dealt with.

Oh, we can try to refuse and stubbornly ignore what needs doing but, it doesn’t go away, it just sits and simmers and seethes. No, that’s no solution. We may as well go into 2015 with our eyes wide open. That’s one of my favorite words of wisdom. I say it often to friends and family. “Make your choice,” I’ll say. “But do it with your eyes wide open.”

Too often we just can’t see the truth clearly or perhaps we refuse to. Sometimes I feel like squeezing my eyes closed tight so I don’t see what I don’t want to see. Sometimes I just squint so that the bright light of revelation doesn’t out right blind me.

A while back I was driving and came to a point where I was to turn onto another road but when I tried to look for oncoming traffic I was absolutely blinded by the sun. I could not see a thing. I kept inching forward and adjusting my position trying to see if it was safe to proceed.

That’s a pretty good picture of how this year has ended for me. I feel like I am straining to see what lies ahead and I know that The Lord has indeed opened my eyes to hidden matters but, sometimes I’m just blinded by the light. Sometimes I feel like I’m inching forward when I need to be moving on. Sometimes I’m terrified because I can’t see what is coming next.

You know, if I was in this alone, on my own, relying on myself and my own limited abilities, I don’t think I could be courageous enough to proceed with my eyes wide open. I imagine I’d be leaning more towards the ‘ignorance is bliss’ line of thinking.

But, I’m not alone and I’m going to enter into 2015 the same way I step out of 2014, with my eyes wide open. I’ll see some startling things. I’ll sometimes be blinded by the light. I’ll sometimes be tempted to squeeze my eyes shut and refuse to look at what seems too awful to bear. Other times my vision may be blurred by tears over what I’ve seen. But, I will not look away, I will not pretend I didn’t notice, I will not succumb to the less demanding path of shadows.

For the first time in my life, I think this will be a one resolution year. I think that I will focus my energies and my prayers and my planning in one direction, keeping my eyes wide open.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!”
Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭22-23‬ MSG