Tuesday, May 3, 2016

True Rest - Learning the Lesson

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”” - Matthew 11:28-30 

Like just about everyone else I know, my family and I are struggling with some pretty heavy stuff these days; some life altering decisions. 
And that’s no exaggeration. 
To say that we are all a little on edge, burdened down and anxious is kind of an understatement. 

So, when my friend Shannon posted her monthly Scripture Writing Plan for May (click HERE to download it) the fact that she was feeling impressed to focus on verses that deal with anxiety and fear was a light bulb moment for me. 
Really, it shouldn’t have been, isn’t the answer always found in the directions? The instruction manual? My light bulb should be a big flashing neon sign pointing straight to my Bible…. 
Anyway, bottom line is that it’s time for me to get my act together and really lean in to scripture once again. It's hard to hear from God if I’m not reading his word. Or talking to him. And you can't either.

The verses I shared at the beginning of this post are ones I’ve read more times than I can count over the years I’ve been walking with Jesus. So much so, that in my first reading today, I was like, “Ok, yeah, know that, get that, you take my burdens, you give me rest, blah, blah, blah.” 
Sigh. Nothing new to see here….or was there? 

When I began to actually write the verses on the page of my journal (it’s a scripture WRITING plan for a reason), I changed the phrasing, and copied them down like this: 

Then Jesus said, 
“Come to me, 
      all of you who are weary 
      and carry heavy burdens, 
      and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you. 
      Let me teach you, 
      because I am humble 
      and gentle at heart, 
      and you will find rest 
      for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy to bear, 
      and the burden I give you 
      is light.” 

I love that the physical act of writing out scripture causes you to SLOW DOWN and really SEE it, to soak it in. Because honestly, if I hadn’t, I would have missed the most important words in these verses. 

“Let me teach you…” 

Jesus knows all about a crazy, stress-filled life. He knows about life altering decisions and he knows about our trust issues. 
Boy, does he ever know about our trust issues….. 

He knows because he’s walked this earth, he lived life among us and even though it was a long time ago, do you really think the people of his day were any less stressed and complicated than we are? 
I think no……they may not have had smart phones and Facebook, but they had their own problems that make me thankful for running water and the miracle of a flushing toilet….just sayin’. 

Anyway, point is, he gets it. Gets US. 
And what he knows about us is that we don’t often have a teachable attitude, a heart that wants to learn and live what really matters in this life. What it’s truly all about. 

What we are is prideful. And stubborn. And unteachable at times because of it. 
Because well, we are. Admit it.
We run and run and run and go and go and go and push and push and push and work and work and work and we. get. weary. 
And we carry. heavy. burdens. 
We worship the busy and idolize the work and look for satisfaction in the accomplishments. 
And because it’s not Jesus we are worshipping, it makes us tired to the bone. 

Then we read these verses and think 
“Ok, Jesus, I get it. Take this burden from me, give me rest, trade my yoke for yours (whatever a yoke is), give me the light one. So I can recover and do it all over again.” 
Yeah. We do. 
Because we forget once again that it’s not all about us. 
It’s about him. 
We as Christ-followers are supposed to be learning to be more like Christ, to reflect his character instead of our own. 
And he is “humble and gentle at heart”. 
In him we “will find rest for *our souls”. 

Jesus loves us SO MUCH! 
And he wants to teach us to breathe - to walk in humility; to reflect a gentle spirit, a kind heart; to receive true rest for our self-complicated lives. 
But we have to LET HIM. 
The true rest for our souls that he promises is found when we lay aside our pride and willfulness and the idol of our busy life and let him be our God again. 
Because if anything or anyone other than Jesus is sitting on the throne of your life, you will never find rest. 
Or peace. 
Or light. 

And don't be confused - He doesn’t want us to stop using our gifts and talents. 
He doesn’t want us to stop doing work we love or caring for people we love or even doing the work of living. 
But he does call us to put HIM first. 
To let him teach us that when we do - everything else will fall into it’s proper place. 

And our burdens won’t be burdens at all - they will be joy. 
And our souls won’t be weary - they will be at rest.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Place to Belong

I visited the Farmer's Market in Old Town this morning. 
My senses breathed in the fresh colors of Spring,  and I couldn't help but feel the newness around me, an awakening, a promise in the air. 

My hometown was coming to life and the sound of it filled my ears with a tune born of sameness and comfort. 

Ever the same, ever changing. 
Seasons and Years come and they go...and as much as this place I love is as familiar as the well-worn Nikes on my feet, it's also growing and blooming and reinventing itself. 
Always full of things to discover. 
Even if its as simple as finding the beauty in the purple redbud tree against the red of a vintage train caboose. 

Spring, as always, never fails to delight my eyes.

I made my few purchases of baby leaf lettuce, some wildflower honey and a loaf of fresh cheddar bread and found my way over to the gazebo to sit and finish my coffee and enjoy the sights and sounds of a new day. 

The tidal wave of nostalgia washed over me unexpectedly, forcefully, and I didn't quite know what to do with it. 
Silly me, I should have seen it coming. My heart was already full to bursting this morning. 
God knows that these past weeks have been full of head-on collision, knock me off my feet moments. Every time I turn around there's another 'last' to contend with, another reminder that this 18 year chapter in our family book is about to close.

We've come to another pivot point in our lives. 
One that reorders the days and hours of our routine (such as it is...). 
One that provides fresh challenge and purpose for my husband.

One that will carry our girl 11 hours away. 

Away to a new state, a new city, a new place to call home for the next 4 years... 
And sitting there with my thoughts and my warm cup of comfort, I couldn't help but wonder if it will give her the same sense of place, of belonging, of home that she's known her whole life thus far. 

I can't relate to a change like that. 
In a world where people change places all the time, I've never lived further than 15 miles from this place I was born and raised. The concept is foreign to me, the idea of leaving a place that's as much a part of me as the breath in my lungs. 
And truthfully, I pray that I never have to learn it. 

In talking with my sweet girl, who admittedly is sometimes unrecognizable in her overnight maturity, I know that she feels it. Feels the strain of her roots pulling on her heart as she knows she has to leave this place to pursue her passion, her dream. 

She said to me "Mom, if I could take everything about where I'm going and move it all here, I'd have everything I want. But I can't do that and I know I have to go."
I blinked and she grew up. Just like that. 
No way I was that mature at 18. 

But she is a different girl and she knows who she is and what she wants and accepts what she has to do to attain it. With a grace and a resignation that's far beyond my understanding. 

And the difference between us at 18, is that she has placed her trust and hope and future into the hands that made her. 
I could regret that I didn't do the same at her age, but I'll choose to be grateful instead. 
Grateful to our God, who in his abundant grace, taught me what I needed to learn in order to guide her. To direct her towards Him.

Our world will shift and change all the time. 
Sometimes it keeps you in a 15 mile radius. 
Sometimes it sends you 623 miles away. 

But when God is our life, He is our home.
Our place to belong.

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." - Colossians 2:6-7

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

They Are My Tribe

"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." - Proverbs 15:1

I've been struggling lately with what to write, what to share. 
Some days, there is so much in my head and on my heart, I truly don't know where to begin - so I don't. 
Other days, well, there's nothing. 
At least, it seems that way. 
A few months ago, my daughter told me to just write about what's going on in our life - in the wisdom of her 18 years, she figures that someone out there can relate. 
So today, I figure, why not? 

To be honest, things have been pretty volatile in our home lately. 
We're all on edge quite a bit, and conversations take on the appearance of soldiers avoiding land mines.
It shows itself in the simplest, most benign times - like packing a lunch for school or making breakfast or folding laundry or _______________. (Fill in the blank. I'm sure you've got some too.)

Maybe it's the stress of an almost ready to graduate senior in high school - and all that comes with it, good and bad. 
Maybe it's the stress of a Husband ready to retire, looking for his next career, finding the right fit, the cycle of resume and hope. 
Maybe it's the stress of a Mom seeing her main job of the past 18 years about to change dramatically, leaving her wondering where her place is gonna be in this world now. 

I'm pretty sure it's the combination of all of the above and then some. 
Throw in a little 'outside influence' and some 'whoa, I didn't see that coming' and it's the perfect storm of crazy and hurt feelings and disappointment. 

I really don't have the ultimate answers and I don't know very much, but what I do know is this: 

On the days that I don't like my family very much (or myself for that matter), 
I LOVE them fiercely. 
They are my tribe, my mess, my pain in the rear, my attitude adjustment and my greatest treasure. 

And I know that without question, God has a plan and a purpose in all of this mess. 
All of this change, all of this pulling away and pushing back, all of this crazy deadline-filled emotionally charged stress is shaping us for what's to come - and He's right there with us. 

So on the days - like today - that I want to scream and hold on to my anger and be the queen of passive-aggressive, I remember that God's got us and I run to him. 
My Abba-Father loves me and holds me and whispers in my ear that it's all gonna be ok - just trust him. 
And I do.
Can you relate?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Power of Our Pride

"Pride leads to conflict..." - Proverbs 13:10a

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." - James 1:19-20

I was reminded recently of how quickly a conversation can turn. 
One wrong word, one misinterpreted phrase, one negative assumption - all combine with lightning speed to create the perfect storm of anger and indignation. 

It comes out of nowhere - one minute you’re smiling and laughing and enjoying the moment with your loved one and the next - BOOM! You’re feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut, laid out on the floor, wounded and bleeding, because of one thing interpreted the wrong way. 

That’s the power of the tongue. 
But that’s also the power of our pride. 

And while I think the potential for a wounded heart is great when we consider how powerful our words can be - the Book of James has a lot to say about this - oftentimes, it’s our pride that causes the greatest hurt. 

And why is that? 

Maybe it’s because we spend too much time wrapped up in our own ideas of who we think we should be and not enough time resting in the truth of who God has created us to be. 

A heart that’s easily wounded by a poorly phrased statement from a loved one, is a heart that’s not fully trusting in the reality that they are greatly loved by the Creator of the universe. 

That’s huge. 

And it’s exactly what the Enemy wants us to believe. 
He’s a master at driving a wedge right through the heart of our relationships. The Enemy knows that if he can cause us to doubt the love of those we hold dear, he can cause us to doubt the unconditional love of the Father for us. 
For those of us whose identity is in Christ, that doubt chips away at our very foundation. The rock solid truth of the One in whom we’ve placed our faith. 

When we doubt our faith, when we don’t trust His love for us, we are completely ineffective in sharing that love with others. 
Which plays right into the Enemy’s hands. 

So, what can we do to guard against the sneak attacks of our pride? 
Well, a couple of things actually: 

  1. We can remember to always give the benefit of the doubt. To trust that if you’re hearing from someone who loves you, that you have a relationship with, that their intent is to be loving - even if their words ring awkwardly wrong to our ears. 
  2. We can read truth from God’s word. The Bible is full of reassurances that we are precious and greatly loved by God. The more we soak in those truths, the more we find our confidence in his love for us and we depend less and less on the opinions of the world. Resting our hearts in his truth helps us not misinterpret the words of others.
  3. We can pray. Actually, this is the BEST thing we can do. Before we spin out of control, before we get carried away by our harrumphs and our pride, we can ask God to step in and direct our thoughts, our hearts and our words. Because in truth, when God directs our conversations, we are most effective at living out his purpose and plan for us. To love him, and to love others. It’s that simple. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Don't Touch and It Won't Break

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” - 2 Corinthians 4:7

When my daughter was around 4 years old, she knocked a clay pot off a shelf in a craft store, shattering it in a hundred little pieces. She was mortified - well, as mortified as a 4 year old can be. The deer in the headlights look on her face told that story.

I remember that she didn’t quite understand what was going on when we had her tell the store clerk what happened and offer to pay for the broken pot. But she remember that moment even now, 14 years later. She remembers how upset and embarrassed she was, the fear of being punished, that she had to help clean up the pieces. 
It wasn’t a priceless heirloom, so it was a little easier to use it as an object lesson for her -  ‘don’t touch and it won’t break’. 

And isn’t that true of us every day?
Don’t touch and it won’t break.

2 Corinthians 4:7 makes it clear that we are like “fragile clay jars”. And inside of us we have the “great treasure” of God’s love, his “light shining in our hearts”. 
But the light can’t shine for others until our hearts are broken for them. 

There is so much brokenness in our world today. And it’s so easy to close ourselves off from it, to turn away from what we see of the pain and suffering of others - but as Christ followers especially, aren’t we supposed to see that? To be moved by it?
To let it break our hearts?   

Instead, so many times, we don’t let it touch us - we turn off the tv because the story is too sad - and in our 24 hour news cycle, it’s too much. And it invades our illusion of our safe little bubble. 
We close our hearts to the pain of others because it requires so much of us to absorb it; to feel it and be broken by it. 

Don’t touch and it won’t break.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s how Christ wants us to live - to keep his light and love locked up in our fragile clay hearts. Protected by the bubble wrap of our safe lives. 
We are called to touch others with his love, his hope, his grace, kindness and mercy. 
With his story of redemption and forgiveness. 
Our purpose here is to let our hearts break for the ones he himself was broken (and bled and died) for. 

You may not be called to a far away place to share his love, but there’s someone in your own backyard who is desperate for it today. 
Maybe it’s time to touch…and break…and shine the light of Christ into their dark place. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

You're 18 Today...

You're 18 today...
I'm not sure how I thought today was so far away, it's always seemed to be off in the distance somewhere. 
Maybe because I'm not ready for you to be grown. 
Everyone says time goes fast, but dear God, it really does. 
And nothing has really prepared me to see you fly. 

When I look at your beautiful face, I still see this face sometimes. 
It's always in my mind's eye - the precious, sweet smelling bundle of you curled up so tight into my chest. 
I can still feel the weight of you in my arms, your tiny hand holding my finger and your eyes locked onto mine. 
I've never loved someone so fiercely in my life. 

Your Dad and I had no idea how much you would change our lives; would expand our knowledge of love and life and faith and grace in abundance. 
But you have. 
You are the best thing we ever did. 
You made us a family. 
Not just because of your presence, but because of YOU. 

We've watched you grow, and in truth, we've grown alongside you. 
In trying to make your world a better place, you've taught us that it already is - because you're in it. 
We had a life before you joined us here, but honestly, it's hard to remember those years. 
We were missing you.

I wish for today that you could truly see yourself through our eyes, through the eyes of all who know and love you. 
Whatever words I write here will never be able to tell the story of how you make everything better in the world. 
But I will try...

In short, you are JOY personified. 
You carry light and breath and warmth with you wherever you go.
And yes, you make everything fun

You are the light in the center of the room that draws everyone in, knowing they will be loved and warmed and accepted.  
Your compassionate heart and fierce loyalty set you apart from the crowd and you've never, ever known a stranger. 

Em, you have a passion for life and a desire to make the world around you joyful and grace-filled. 
You are kind and caring and strong and funny and wise and have a sense of justice that simply floors me at times. 
You have a way of seeing the truth in someone's eyes and a heart big enough and wide enough to embrace them in their pain or distress or lostness and give them a place of peace. 
Your friends feel safe with you. 
Loved by you. 
No judgment from you, just safe. 

Even those who don't share your faith or value system know that they can trust you, can count on you, feel at home with you. 
Because Em, you know who you are and you know WHO you belong to and you are firm in your convictions and you don't back down when you are challenged. 
There's not enough of that in this world and you have it in spades. 
And you have the respect and love of your peers for it. 
Never change that my sweet girl. 

When I think about these 18 years, the memories flood my heart and it's just overwhelming, this love I feel for you.
You know, I've been winging it all these years. 
You didn't come with that handbook everyone talks about so your Dad and I have been kinda making it up as we went along. 
But we watched you, and learned you and loved you every day.

And we prayed for you. 
Every. Day. 

We still do. 
Because it's how we can love you best. 

To pray to the God who loves you more than anyone else ever can or will be able to. 
To pray that you love Him with all your heart. 
To pray that He gives you direction and purpose and meaning and ability and a heart that longs to serve Him with whatever you choose to do in life.

We pray for your friendships, that they will be strong and lasting and real. 
We pray for the man who will eventually be your husband. 
That he will love Jesus more than anything and that he will love you with every fiber of his being and that he will always be true to you. (Find someone like your Dad - if he's 1/2 the man your Father is, you'll have a keeper.)

Emma my love, today is your day.
Embrace this moment as you do all others in your life - with passion, with courage and with JOY

You are our greatest joy and most precious treasure. 
And I love you baby girl. 
I simply love you. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Words in the Middle

I've been reading in Galatians 5 this week - if you've been a Christ-follower for longer than 10 minutes, you know this as one of the 'Fruits of the Spirit' passages, or the 'impossible to live up to' passages.
And as much as I've been convicted by those wonderful Christ-like traits, I was more convicted today by a few words we easily (and conveniently) skip over because they are buried in the middle of another verse. 

"Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another." Galatians 5:26

Conceited, check. 
Jealous, check. 
Both are bad behaviors and most of us work hard at keeping them at bay.
But look at the three little words in the middle - "provoke one another". 

"Provoke one another".
I have to confess that as much as I don't like arguments or confrontation and the unpleasantness that comes along with them, I don't shy away either. In fact, for me, I'd much rather confront the elephant in the room than ignore it. The way I process my feelings, good, bad or indifferent, is to DEAL with them.
Get them out in the open so I can examine them and work through them and learn the lesson and move on.
But for those I love, my dealing with things becomes their dealing with things when their personalities are exactly the opposite of mine.
So what do I do when I'm bubbling up inside? When I'm spilling over the edge with unresolved emotion? 

I pick a fight.
I provoke my others in to engaging with me so I can work through whatever is crushing me at the moment.
In other words, I become the selfish, prideful bully that demands her own way (1 Corinthians 13:5 anyone?) and steamrolls her way into 'getting it off my chest'.
Not very Christ-like is it?
Not much love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness there is it?
Definitely no self-control.
That's a big "Fruit of the Spirit" FAIL. 

And usually the biggest reason for my failure is that I didn't run to the One who can heal my hurt and my heart and redirect my anger and pain over whatever the situation may be.
Thank goodness my sweet family loves me in spite of myself, but the One who loves me most is the only One that can carry my burden for me. And He can handle my anger and self-righteous indignation and pride.
After all, He nailed it to the cross and died for it.
For me. 

Dear Jesus,
Let me remember to always bring my hurt, pain, anger and tears to YOU. You are the only one who can calm my unsettled heart and wipe my cheeks dry and comfort me in my distress.
Remind me that instead of provoking my loved ones to join me in my anger, to pray for peace in my relationships. To hold my tongue until sweet, encouraging words can roll off it. To love them as you have loved me.

With a Courageous Heart,