Monday, July 31, 2017

Good From Bad.


How has your summer been? Full of so many summery things that you wish it could last forever? Full of so many summery things that you have actually had your fill and are ready for fall? Too short? Too long? Not what you expected? Mine falls in that last category.

I had a certain type of summer planned out in my mind back at the end of May. Then…I’m sure you know what happened next…life happened. Family things came up, ministry things came up, all sorts of things came up! Some good, some not so good, and all unexpected. The hardest thing was definitely my husband breaking his ribs in late June. Boooo. And hissssss. And booooo again. Obviously the boos and hisses are for all the pain he has been in, but also for all the plans that had to be put on hold. But you know, that is only part of the story.

The other part is that I had my husband home alone for a couple of weeks with—wait for it!—nothing to do. Nothing. To. Do. This is unheard of! And it was doctor’s orders, which of course makes it official! And it was something unexpectedly bad that was turned to an unexpected good. I love when that happens. You start to be so mad at a circumstance or situation, so angry that it happened to you, then God starts to show you the good that He can bring from it. He is so great like that. He can turn things around.

Romans 8:28 tells us God does that exact thing. I realize this sounds like a pat answer to many people. “Going through a hard time? Hey, its okay! God will just turn that sucker around for good!” Of course we don’t want someone to gloss over our hard times, toss out a Bible verse to us, and move on thinking it will fix all our ills. Or to imply that our hard times aren’t that hard because one day it will be better. Of course not. We are called to love. Love is action. Love is getting off our high horse and getting into the ditch with people. But I really do want to be loved with God’s Word. I really do want you to bring His Word in the ditch with when you come for me.

In case you don’t know the verse, it says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” And it is absolutely true. And I absolutely need to be reminded of it over and over and over. He does this, this bringing good from bad, for me because He loves me. And I need to be reminded of that.

Certainly my husband’s broken ribs are not as heartbreaking and life-draining and breath-stealing as what many of you are going through. I, however, have walked through other kinds of hell these past couple of years. Dark times. Hard times. Feeling like my nose is just barely above the water while the rest of me is sinking times. And that verse? It gave me hope. Reason to breathe. What a reminder that HE IS HERE. He is real. He sees the horrible times, the somewhat horrible times, the laughably horrible times, and the good times as well, and holds all of them in His hands. I need to remember during all of these times that He’s watching. He’s gonna love me through it. He knows.

A few chapters later in Romans we get these words in verse 9:Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” And then verse 15 tells us, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” We’re called to act like God, so I have to believe this is how God is to His children. He is happy with us in the good times. He weeps with us in the bad. And, yes, He works all of the times out for our good in the end. That doesn’t mean it will all tie up with a bow and a happy ending. It doesn’t mean every event will be explained to us. But it does mean that, as the Message Bible puts it, “…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” He can work unimaginable pain into peace. He can heal emotional wounds. Scars that no one else can see can be soothed. It's possible, but only with God.

I understand that people want others to keep cliché sayings to themselves. Sometimes we just can’t help it in hard times. We want to say something, but don’t know what to say. Our motives may not be bad, but our words can be questionable. Not so with the Word of God. The motive is always His love for us. He only thinks good thoughts toward us, never evil ones. He sees us through the eyes of His Beloved Son Jesus if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior. If you haven’t, you can ask Jesus into your heart right now—give your heart to Him and ask Him to forgive you for the ways you’ve lived your life wrong, ask Him to lead you from now on. It's not complicated, it's not a religious thing. It's entering into the relationship you’ve been waiting your whole life for. (And if you want a little direction for what’s next, click here.)

So the motive. It's always good. And God’s Word? It can never be reduced to a cliché. It is living and active. It is for our good.

The summer was different than I thought. At first glance, not good different. But it sure turned out to be pretty amazing. Good from bad. I’m thankful for the reminder.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Through A Child’s Eyes


Jason and I had a wonderful few days with our grandson this week. So fun to see the world through a child’s eyes! Things that are a part of my everyday look different when I see them through an 18 month old’s eyes. The big yard. The extra large dog that must look like a horsey to him. The wide open beach. The vast ocean that seems to have no end. So much to explore and see and touch and, for him at least, to taste! It was an absolute delight to see things anew, with a spirit of adventure and curiosity.

It made me think how God made this whole big world for us to explore and enjoy alongside Him. He must delight in us as we have new experiences He created for us. He must be thrilled as we curiously journey through this life He has given us, led by the Holy Spirit. The wonderful outer world of yards and horseys and beaches and oceans, of course! But also the inner world of living by faith and walking in love and joy and peace and looking to His Word for life.

You know what else? Jack never wanted to explore apart from us. He always wanted to hold onto our hands or our pants leg. If he ran ahead, he would look back, just to make sure we were still with him. So precious. I want to be that way with God. What good would it all be if He weren’t with me? I want to hold onto His hands, keep close to Him so I know He’s there on this giant adventure with me.

Jack doesn’t know this yet, but we would never, ever leave him! Our eyes are glued to that little sucker!! He just needs to reassure himself sometimes. You may not know yet, but I assure you that God will never leave you. Hebrews 13:5, “I will never abandon you.” So when I reach for His hand or turn my eyes up to make sure He’s there, it is not Him I am doubting. I am well aware of my wanderings and how easily I can forget about Him. And I don’t want to forget about Him. I want Him to be involved in every single part of my life. He wants that, too. I want to immediately look to Him—“Hey God, did you see that?”, “Wasn’t that so cool, God?”, “Whoa! That was amazing, God!”


I want to follow the Leader right into that abundant life He has promised me. I hope you follow Him, too, this week and that you have a fun, adventurous week!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saturday Shenanigans


We are empty nesters. Still getting used to that, though it’s been a while now. It’s hard to put on the brakes after you spend your whole adult life doing a particular thing, hard to shift to a new season. But—spoiler!—its also FUN. So much fun. Jason and I had our daughter before we were married and our whole married life was raising children until recently. We’ve never lived alone, just the two of us. It has been an adventure of the best kind to learn what that’s like. It has led to many shenanigans! We are trying new things, learning, growing into this new season. Seeing what sticks, what we like as a couple without kids in the house to fill our time. Again, so much fun.

Jason surprised me this spring with paddleboards! We’ve talked about this forever and tried it out once in the Keys. When you live surrounded by water, it seems a shame to not take advantage of it, and paddleboarding is just one way we can.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because life with Jesus is meant to be full. Meant to be abundant. Meant to be full of possibility and hope. I never thought I would love to paddleboard, never been one for sporty kind of adventure. But Jesus knows me better than I know myself! He made me, can see around corners of the future that I can’t, and knows what will put the abundant in my life. My part is to let Him.

How many times do we tell ourselves and others, “No—I couldn’t possibly do that. I’ve never been that kind of person.” From traveling to trying new foods to sharing how we fell in love with Jesus to speaking to a group of women to writing to leading a Bible story to paddleboarding! So many times we shut off avenues that God has specifically put on our path because we just won’t open our mind to new possibilities. And we figure it's probably not God anyway, so what’s the big deal?

It can be a very big deal. It can be an avenue of rest and renewal and revitalization and revival. Think about a long road trip. You’re headed from one part of the country to the other—coast-to-coast. You know you’ll only do this once so you want to make it count. You don’t barrel through, nose to the grindstone, just getting it done. You want to see things, you want to rest overnight, you want to take a few back roads that you’ll never have the chance to see again. You want to have stories to tell! Souvenirs to show!

God didn’t put you on this earth to barrel through with your nose to the grindstone, just getting it done. He put you here to know Him, He gave you life—and then the life of His Son Jesus—so you could have abundant life. John 10:10: “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”

Hey friend, He knows when you need rest and renewal and revitalization and revival. Maybe it’s in your mind or your spirit or your body or your marriage. So He puts a little off-ramp for you to follow. It’s not taking you off your purpose. It’s adding to your purpose. You’re picking up little things that will enhance your trip. You’re appreciating your Creator more as you realize just how well He knows you. You’re going to be able to share this part of your adventure with others—how you didn’t even realize you needed this avenue, but it appeared, and you followed God right onto it, and amazing things have happened because of it. “See this souvenir of joy? I got that on this particular side road! Hey—look at this peace I found on this dusty new road!”

I have no idea what this looks like for you. Maybe a certain avenue will lead to new friends, new opportunities, new knowledge. But you have to be willing! Don’t be afraid of new. And don’t dismiss “non-spiritual” things as having no spiritual value. God is an all-encompassing God. He so wants to give you what you need, even if you don’t know you need it.

I could’ve said, “Nah. I’m not a paddleboarding type of girl. Watching someone paddleboard in a Netflix show is more my speed.” And really, I’ve said similar things to a myriad of offroads. But I didn’t this time. And because I said, I’ll try it!, I’ve picked up some pretty cool souvenirs for my life and my marriage. I highly recommend it.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Waiting.


I have a friend who is house-hunting. On a deadline. That’s just double trouble. Ever been there? I feel for her. I scour the homes for sale for her. Not because she needs my help, but because I want it to happen now for her. Because I know what’s it like to wait on a house to appear because you need a house to move into! I mean, if not—the questions accumulate so fast: Where will we live? What will we do? Where will we put all our stuff? How will we ever pay for all this? You know, all those things that follow the original question: What if ______?

We say we believe in our hearts that God’s timing is best. We say we know He will provide for us. We say we know He will direct our paths. And then crunch time comes. Oh boy. How does all that belief crumble so quickly?

I have found that waiting on God is the hardest thing I have ever done on my spiritual journey. It could be huge, monumental decisions I am waiting on wisdom for, it could be smaller things I am waiting for Him to provide for. The actual thing doesn’t seem to matter. Waiting is just stinking hard. Waiting is where the rubber meets the road in the faith department. Here I am, saying for years that I believe He is all powerful and nothing is impossible for Him and now I get a chance to walk out that belief. Hold on, hold on! Isn’t really, truly believing it enough? I mean, do I really have to live it out?

Yes. Yes I do.

And in the end, when the impossible thing materializes, when the house appears, when the right decision makes itself so clear, when the prodigal comes home, when the relationship is restored, when the ____ you have been waiting for so long happens, you will be so very thankful that you went through it. Now, I know this. I tell you this from my own experiences with waiting. And yet I have never, not once, raised my hand and asked God to have me wait on something. Isn’t that something? I know the joy and the high and the pure revelation of God’s power and the possibilities that reside in Him alone. But my self—the one that dislikes being uncomfortable, the one that hates when all the loose ends aren’t tied up neatly, the one that abhors not knowing tomorrow and the next day and the next remembers the pain and discomfort that comes from waiting. And that self tries to push all of those feelings to the front of the line.

But the Holy Spirit is right there with the joy and the peace and the revelation and the remembrance of how my faith grew by leaps and bounds when He showed up, bringing the impossible with Him—just for me.

God is so good. He will allow you to wait because it will grow you into what He wants you to be. It will strengthen your faith in Him. It will help you to rely on Him more, rely on Him first, rely on Him only. It will cause it to be easier for you to share your hope with others, because He is just that good to you. It will cause tears to roll down your face and quite possibly for sobs to rack your body when you sing “Good, Good Father” in church.

Oh, it's love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love
You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am…”

You’ll realize how utterly true it all is. His Word. His Promises. His Love.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to take my word for it. You will go through a season of waiting sooner or later. And when you do, He gave you this promise:

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31


You will wait. But you will also have new strength from the waiting. You will fly and run and walk. The waiting makes you feel paralyzed with fear and all those pesky what if’s. But God is greater. He will most certainly give you freedom to move and grow and have supernatural strength during this season of waiting. Because He is a good, good Father.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Oh, Those Summer Nights!


Are summer nights not magical? Ah. I love them so much. I’m not much of a night owl—okay, okay, I’m not even close to a night owl. Ask any member of my family, my eyes droop around 9PM and it's all downhill from there. Don’t judge me.

But summer nights.

Something different about those. Special. And, sure, we live in Florida where it really does feel like summer all year. But when the days are longer and the stars are out and you can hear the crickets and it's just sticky enough outside, then you have yourself a great summer night.

The world seems more expansive, somehow. Maybe God seems closer. To me, anyway. I just feel different on summer nights! All this to say, if you know me at all and have taken an even cursory glance at this blog—I feel all the different feelings in all the different seasons. God is a God of seasons! He made them all and even told us in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

So I revel in the summer nights! Just like I will revel in all the fall activities and smells and sounds when that season comes. I hope you will, too. Both the summer and the fall—they are equally important, equally full of feels.

I don’t know what season of life you are going through right now. Maybe it’s a spring season full of new hope and possibilities and growth everywhere. Maybe it is the other extreme of winter, seemingly full of barrenness. I can tell you without a single doubt that God is with you wherever you are, whatever season you may be in. He said so. “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.

To the end of the age.

In spring, in summer, in fall, in winter.

In all the in-betweens that seem to sneak in somehow.

And He’s here in all these magical summer nights. Breathe them in. Breathe Him in. I would say imagine Him out there with you, with the stars and the crickets, but it's really not imagination at all—it is faith. Faith that He is what He says He is. And He says He’s with you! Even now. Even tonight.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Happy June!


Happy June, people! Do you love summer like I love summer?
 
I keep a list of words in my phone that I look at or add to from time to time to remind me of summer. Words to invoke that feeling of happy happy joy joy that I get from summer. Here are some of them: fireworks, lemonade, salty water, sand, barefoot, laughter, beach umbrellas, shimmering ocean, sparklers, concerts. So many good things happen in summertime! I’m in for all of them.
 
Whatever your list is, be in for all of them. This is the one and only Summer 2017 that you will get. I know in advance I will have a great pull to stay on my couch and watch Netflix these next few weeks. (Netflix and I are BFF's, so no judgment here.) But I know if I do that, I will be watching other people experience all the fireworks, lemonade, salty water, sand, barefoot, laughter, beach umbrellas, shimmering ocean, sparklers, and concerts. I don’t want all those spectacular things to pass me by! I don’t want to look back at Summer ’17 and say, ‘hmmm. I don’t really remember much about it’. I know if I sink into couch and comfort-land that will happen.
 
I DO want to look back on Summer ’17 and have it come alive in my mind and hear it like a Bryan Adams song. “Oh, when I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever…and if I had the choice, yeah, I’d always wanna be there…those were the best days of my life”. So I’m gonna make my summer a melody. A melody of fireworks, lemonade, salty water…you get the idea.
 
May this be the best June of your life.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

He Gets The Job Done


I’m still thinking about confidence and it got me thinking back to the first Bible Verse I ever memorized—Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has a begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  

I remember hearing that and loving it. Loving the promise and possibility in it. I was a fairly new follower of Christ and I knew that I knew that I knew that He had begun this great work in me. This work of change and transformation and restoration. I could feel myself coming more alive. I never wanted that feeling to end.
 
So when I found this Verse, I thought “Yes! This is for me!”, and I clearly remember writing it out with a purple pen on yellow paper and sticking it on the front of my fridge. My kids were littles then, so I was in that kitchen often. I read that sentence over and over and over. It became a part of me.
 
And of course life happened and business barged in and my mind was preoccupied, and that “feeling” of being more and more alive sort of faded. But this Verse was in me by this point. The Word of God is living and active (see Hebrews 4:12), and it would rise up right inside of me and seem to whisper “remember….” I put that Verse on my fridge 20 years ago, and it still lives in my heart.
 
Can I encourage you to memorize Bible Verses? God is His Word, we are told in  John 1:1, and when you are thinking on His Word, the Bible, you are thinking about Him! And since it is living, and since it is active, it is actually doing something in you as you think about it. It’s a miracle.
 
The miracle, for me, from this single Verse was probably more extensive than I can put into words. But I know this happened: As I read those words over and over “being confident of this…”, I really did become confident. In Him. In His Work. In His faithfulness. And that confidence keeps growing. This Verse has really been a gift that has kept giving to me on my journey with the Lord.
 
Maybe that’s when God began to show me that though I can’t always be confident in myself, because I am a human and I make mistakes and as bad as I may not want to, I do still sin and fall, I can certainly be confident in Him. My confidence in Him is never misplaced because the One Who started the work is well able to finish it. The Artist Who began drawing this new life of mine certainly knows what colors to add when, what to highlight where, what to erase when I get my own pencil involved.
 
I challenge you to pick a Verse to memorize this week. If you aren’t reading your Bible right now and “picking a Verse” seems overwhelming in such a big Book, then I challenge you to start reading the Bible in the Book of John (last half of the Book, just check the table of contents) and as you read through it this week, this month, I bet a verse leaps off the page for you. That’s a good place to start cause it tells all about Jesus. Or, you can just take this verse I’ve written about today! 
 
Whatever you choose, I know God will make it alive in your heart!
 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Two Sides of Confidence


Confidence seems to be a theme lately. In my own heart, in discussions I’m having, in things and people I’m reading about. Courage, too. How do you define courage? What about confidence? I wonder if I don’t get them mixed up sometimes! I view confidence as more of who I am—when I learn I am worthy because I belong to God, then I become confident. I see courage as more the “how” to walk out the “who”. If I live out my everyday destiny for God, leaning on Him daily for the smallest to the biggest things, then I’m living courageously, in my mind.
 
I love both words. I want to live both. I want to be a woman of confidence and I want to be a woman of courage. I know I need God for both.
 
Let's talk a bit about confidence.
 
The confidence I want comes from seeing myself through the eyes of God’s Word. Because that is true, that is possible. I really am what it says I am! It is not a burden to carry, it is more a destiny to live out.
 
In a merely earthly sense, confidence becomes a burden when it is all about “living up” to some image, or “proving” our worth, or sustaining some reputation. That all comes from self-effort. 
 
But real confidence, in my view, isn’t based on personal effort at all—it is based solely on faith. Faith that I am who God says I am. And then it transforms me, because I am no longer confident in me; rather, I am confident in God in me.
 
Let me tell you from personal experience, the difference in the two makes all the difference! Life becomes more beautiful and freeing when we realize it isn’t about us, but about Him. In our pursuit “Everyday Glow”, we aren’t endeavoring to shine our own light for ourselves, by ourselves, but we are shining God’s light in us. Bringing Matthew 5:14 to pass: “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.”
 
It is a mind shift that goes from culture thinking to Kingdom thinking. Look at it like this:
 
You are beautiful. But you are not valuable because you are beautiful. You are valuable because you are God’s.
 
You are intelligent. But you are not valuable because you are intelligent. You are valuable because you are God’s.
 
You are sassy and witty and hilarious and the best storyteller and a fashion queen and a fabulous chef and a hands-on mommy and a thrilling wife and a straight A student…and on and on…and hooray for all those things! Celebrate these things! Cause God is gifting you with those things! But you are not valuable because of the gifts—you are valuable because of the Giver. You are valuable because you are God’s masterpiece. And it is because you are God’s masterpiece that you are beautiful and intelligent and sassy…..you see what I’m saying.
 
Cause the day may come when beauty fades and intelligence dims and sassiness has left the building. But you are still oh so valuable. Because being His never changes.
 
I hope you have a wonderfully confident day! Confident in knowing Whose you are! 
Love you all!